Advisors and China replace Trump’s latest threat with invocation of “peaceful resolution”

Developments on Day 204 of the Trump Administration:

See also How Trump’s “Message Confusion” Could Lead to War with North Korea

Trump Continues War Threats on Twitter but Steps Back After Meeting

Donald Trump adds “locked and loaded” to his Twitter war threats against North Korea. However, after a meeting with top advisors and China’s intervention, Trump pulls back the rhetoric — and there is no indication of US preparations for attacks.

The Pentagon, led by Defense Secretary James Mattis, reported that no new forces are being mobilized or ships being sent toward the Korean Peninsula. No steps are being taken to begin evacuation of tens of thousands of Americans living in South Korea.

Since Tuesday, Trump has used Twitter and appearances, during his 17-day vacation at his New Jersey golf club, to promise “fire and fury” against Pyongyang over its missile and nuclear testing.

See TrumpWatch, Day 203: Trump Doubles Down on “Fire & Fury” Rhetoric v. North Korea
TrumpWatch, Day 201: Trump Threatens North Korea with “Fire and Fury”

Trump opened Friday morning, after retweeting his favorite TV show Fox and Friends, with his most provocative threat so far:

However, after a late-afternoon meeting with his national security team, Trump was more restrained: “Hopefully it’ll all work out. Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump, that I can tell you. Hopefully it’ll all work out, but this has been going on for many years.”

As he has done since Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to contain Trump’s bluster while presenting the the rhetoric as part of a coordinated US approach: “

It takes a combined message there if we’re going to get effective movement out of the regime in North Korea. I think the president’s made it clear he prefers a diplomatic solution. What the President’s doing is trying to support our efforts by ensuring North Korea understands what the stakes are.

The China Role

Trump’s late-afternoon shift also appeared to be the outcome of discussions between his officials and Beijing, orchestrating a message to the US President.

China added to its statements for restraint and dialogue — all parties should “speak and act with caution and do more things that are conducive to de-escalating the tense situation and enhancing mutual trust” — with the assurance that it would act against the US if Washington launched an initial strike against Pyongyang. At the same time, Beijing told North Korea that it would be on its own if it attacked the US.

The message came through an editorial in the State-run Global Times:

China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.

Chinese President Xi Jinping then spoke by phone with Trump. The White House said the two leaders “agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior” and that their “extremely close” relationship “will hopefully lead to a peaceful resolution of the North Korea problem”.

China State TV said Xi told Trump, “China and the US have a common interest in realising the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump: Possible Military Action in Venezuela

Trump offset his step back on North Korea with another warning, this time to a Venezuelan regime facing economic crisis and widespread protests.

The President told the press conference, “Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they’re dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”

Amid inflation of up to 1,000% and shortages of food and other essentials, President Nicolas Maduro has tried to override the Venuezuelan Parliament — in which the opposition has a majority — with a new Constitutent Assembly and Constitution. A referendum last month sanctioned the step, albeit with a low and disputed turnout after opposition boycotts.

The US and other countries, including some of Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors, have imposed sanctions on Caracas and promised further political isolation if Maduro proceeds. But no one except Trump has spoken of military intervention.

Trump’s statement followed a public attempt by Maduro to ease tension, in a Thursday statement, “Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand.” The White House responded on Friday night that Trump will speak with Venezuela’s leader “as soon as democracy is restored”.

Trump to Guam: My Nuclear War Threat “Will Boost Tourism Tenfold”

Donald Trump has hailed his threat of nuclear war for promising a ten-fold increase in tourism to Guam.

After North Korea responded to Trump’s “fire and fury” warning with the assertion that it would fire missiles on Guam, the Pacific island site of a strategic US airbase, Republican Governor Eddie Baza Calvo told Trump, “Mr. President, as the governor of Guam…and as an American citizen, I have never felt more safe or confident with you at the helm.”

Trump responded with the supposed good news:

[Americans] should have had me eight years ago….I have to say, Eddie, you’re going to become extremely famous. All over the world they’re talking about Guam and they’re talking about you.

And your tourism, I can say this, your tourism is going to go up like tenfold with the expenditure of no money, so I congratulate you.

Trump Announces Dispatch of Kushner to Solve Middle East

Donald Trump announces he is dispatching his son-in-law Jared Kushner to the Middle East to solve decades of turmoil, including “achieving a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians that would help usher in an era of greater regional peace and prosperity”.

A White House statement said Kushner will travel soon to the region, accompanied by Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Dina Powell of the National Security Council.

The statement listed meetings with “leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority”.

Named soon after the inauguration as Trump’s representative to bring Middle East peace, Kushner visited the region for one day in June, seeing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

Kushner’s Punishment for Late Financial Disclosure: $200 Fine

Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner is punished for his late filing of a financial transaction.

The penalty by the Office of Government Ethics was a $200 fine.

Kushner and 17 other White House staffers, including former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, did not file personal financial disclosure statements on time.

Fines were only imposed on 3.6% of more than 12,000 similar transaction reports in 2016. Walter Shaub, the former director of OGE who resigned earlier this summer over the ethic issues in the Trump Administration, said he never heard of OGE assessing a late fee for a non-OGE employee. He said fines are usually levied by the executive branch agency with whom an official files.

Kushner has been under scrutiny for his failure to reveal not only financial affairs but also more than 100 meetings with representatives of more than 70 countries, including Russia.

Navy Secretary Slaps Down Trump Over Attempted Transgender Ban

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer rebuffs Donald Trump’s attempt to ban transgender personnel in the US military.

Asked about Trump’s tweets last month declaring the ban, Spencer said:

We will process and take direction on a policy that will be developed by the secretary (with) direction from the President — and march out smartly. As I said before, on a fundamental basis, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military.

Trump surprised the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the July 26 Twitter announcement, which interrupted a one-year review of the 2016 initiation of transgender service by the Obama Administration. The Pentagon says it is still awaiting an official order before making a policy change.

Trump said Thursday, without giving any indication of if and when he would issue the order:

I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know it’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.

Trump’s Washington Hotel Profits with 57% Post-Inauguration Price Rise

Donald Trump’s Washington DC hotel boosts profits by raising rates by almost 60% after Trump took office.

The Trump International Hotel brought in about $18 million in revenue in the first four months of 2017 after raising its average daily room rate from $416 to $660.28. Comparable hotels charge an average of $495.91.

The hotel had expected a $2.1 million loss, but made a profit of nearly $2 million after Trump’s inauguration.