TrumpWatch, Day 236: Trump Again Threatens Over North Korea

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Donald Trump welcomes Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak to the White House. September 12, 2017 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Trump: New UN sanctions “not a big deal” over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests

Developments on Day 235 of the Trump Administration:

Trump Returns to Tough Rhetoric, Overtaking His Own Administration

After days of relative quiet, amid the headlines over Hurricane Irma hitting Florida, Donald Trump returns to his warning of tough action against North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

Trump overtook his own Administration on Tuesday, dismissing new UN sanctions as “just another very small step, not a big deal”.

The US had pressed for the measures — the most extensive restrictions on North Korea to date, including the first limits on its imports of oil — which were supported 15-0, including a Yes vote from China.

But speaking along the visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Trump said he did not know “if it has any impact” and continued ominously that the sanctions pale in comparison to “what ultimately will have to happen” to North Korea.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert maintained later that the UN resolution is “the strongest set of sanctions” so far: “That’s significant”. She said Trump was suggesting that tougher measures can still be taken because the international community is not “at the ceiling” of its options.

But Trump’s latest comments appear to be in line with the hawkish position of some Republican legislators, who are aiming at Beijin as well as Pyongyang.

“We don’t threaten China, even a little bit, with country sanctions because that would be difficult, politically,” complained Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California Democrat.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ed Royce of California, agreed, calling for punishment of Chinese banks, “It’s been a long, long time of waiting for China to comply with the sanctions we pass and, frankly, the sanctions the United Nations passes.”

But other Democrats were wary. “[Trump] talked about the response of the United States of ‘fire and fury’,” said Representative Gerald Connolly of Virginia. “Frankly, the policy looks more like fecklessness and failure.”

The North Korean Foreign Ministry dismissed the UN sanctions as a “heinous provocation aimed at depriving the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name] of its legitimate right for self-defense.”

The Ministry criticized, “The ‘resolution’ was fabricated by the US employing all sorts of despicable and vicious means and methods.”


White House: Comey Should Be Investigated for Lying

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says former FBI Director James Comey should be investigated by the Justice Department.

The statement is the latest White House attempt to put pressure on Comey, fired by Donald Trump in early May in an attempt to limit the Trump-Russia investigation, and to divert from the inquiry.

Sanders said on Tuesday, “I feel if there was ever a moment where we feel someone has broken the law, particularly if they are head of the FBI, I think that’s something that should be looked at.”

Normally the Executive does not comment on the Justice Department’s activities. Sanders couched her intervention with the declaration that she was “not here ever to direct the DOJ into action”.

However, the Press Secretary has recently hinted that Comey committed perjury when he testified to Congressional committees about Trump and the Russia investigation.


Flynn Refuses to Speak to Senate Committee

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn refuses to appear as a witness before the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a “Congressional source”.

Flynn initially rebuffed a Senate subpoena in May, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. However, he subsequently handed over more than 600 pages of documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, including business records and personal documents “based on…narrowed requests”.

The former Trump advisor is a central figure in the Trump-Russia investigation because of ties to Russian entities through his consultancy, his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, and his misleading answers to the FBI in late January, which eventually led to his dismissal.

Donald Trump’s attempt to halt the investigation of Flynn, made to FBI Director James Comey in mid-February, is likely to be under consideration by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a possible obstruction of justice.

Flynn has also been subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee. He has offered to testify before both committees in exchange for immunity, but neither has accepted.


Trump Administration Considers Refugee Cut to Lowest Level in 37 Years

The Trump Administration is considering a reduction of the number of refugees admitted over the next year to below 50,000, the lowest number since at least 1980.

In his first days in office, Donald Trump — who promised during his campaign to deny admittance to refugees whom he viewed as a “terrorist threat” — capped the number admitted at 50,000 as part of his “Muslim Ban” barring entry to the US to citizens of seven mainly-Muslim countries. The total was less than half the 110,000 refugees President Barack Obama said should be admitted in 2016.

In recent weeks, as the deadline approached for Trump to issue the annual determination for admissions under the Refugee Act of 1980, some White House staff — led by Stephen Miller, a force behind the Muslim Ban and the rescission of the “Dreamer” program for young undocumented immigrants — have pressed For an even lower ceiling.

Normally the State Department leads the review of refugee policy, and it is coordinated by the National Security Council. But this year the Department of Homeland Security is in the, with the Domestic Policy Council — reporting to Miller — coordinating the process.

At one point, Miller argued for a drop to 15,000 refugees. In a White House meeting on Tuesday, Homeland Security officials recommended a limit of 40,000.

Organizations such as the International Rescue Committee are calling for the admission of at least 75,000 refugees next year.


Congress Blocks Trump Administration Over Seizure of Suspects’ Assets

The House of Representatives, by voice vote, curbs the seizure of cash and property from people who are suspected of illegal activity but who have not necessarily been charged.

A bipartisan group of legislators pushed through an amendment to a Government-spending package for 2018, prohibiting the Trump Administration from using funds to remove restrictions on the use of asset forfeiture.

Both Republicans and Democrats, from the conservative House Freedom Caucus to liberal progressives, sponsored the amendment.

In 2015, Attorney General Eric Holder issued orders restricting the Federal Government from taking assets from local authorities, with exceptions for public safety reasons.

But in July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed the Department of Justice in July to reverse the policy, saying that “asset forfeiture is one of law enforcement’s most effective tools to reduce crime and its use should be encouraged where appropriate”.

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