US Ambassador to UN Haley: “Time has come for us to exhaust all of our diplomatic means”

Developments on Day 228 of the Trump Administration:

Mattis, Haley Issues Warnings After North Korean Nuke Test

Senior officials take over presentation of the Trump Administration’s response to North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test, as Donald Trump falls silent on the issue.

Defense Secretary James Mattis set out the line of US resolve and protection of allies, promising a “massive military response” with “total annihilation” if Pyongyang launches an attack. His statement came as South Korea carried out its own test, targeting possible North Korean launch sites.

In the UN, US Ambassador Nikki Haley sought an escalation of sanctions, including a cut-off of oil and other fuels, with the declaration that North Korea is “begging for war”.

Beyond the tough words, the Administration response on Monday pointed to an emphasis on economic pressure and diplomacy rather than military operations, pushing back Trump’s Twitter proclamations throughout the past month of “fire and fury” against Pyongyang.

On Sunday, Trump not only fumed about the “great threat” of North Korea but also portrayed China as ineffectual and lashed out at South Korea for its supposed “talk of appeasement” — a jibe that came amid news of Trump’s intention to suspend the US trade deal with Seoul, America’s fifth-largest trade partner. He also made the empty threat of cutting off links with “any country doing business with North Korea”, which would mean an embargo on leading economies such as China, France, India, and Germany.

However, after announcing that he would “General Kelly” — John Kelly, the retired general who is now White House Chief of Staff — “General Mattis and other military leaders at the White House”, Trump did not say a word about North Korea on Monday. Instead, he marked Labor Day with “We are building our future with American hands, American labor, American iron, aluminum and steel” and closed the evening with “Big week coming up!”

Maneuvering in the UN

The US is preparing a draft resolution for the UN Security Council, seeking the expansion of last month’s sanctions that were passed unanimously.

Haley said on Monday, “We have kicked the can down the road long enough. There is no more road left….The time has come for us to exhaust all of our diplomatic means before it’s too late.”

She continued to criticize those still “doing business” with North Korea, albeit while avoiding Trump’s cut-off threat, and rejected a Chinese and Russian proposal for a “freeze” on the North’s nuclear and missile testing in return for limits on US military exercises.

While China — North Korea’s economic landline with 90% of Pyongyang’s trade and almost all of its imported energy — supported last month’s Security Council vote, it is unclear if Beijing would take the far tougher step of stopping fuel shipments. The Chinese worry that the cutoff could lead to regime collapse and the uncertainty of who would then take power, or alternatively an attempt by South Korea and the US to take over the North.

The White House said it is trying to arrange a phone call between Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Trump spoke with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday night about Seoul’s development of more powerful non-nuclear ballistic missiles.

Moon’s spokesman Park Soo-hyun, said, “President Trump reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to defend South Korea. The two leaders also agreed to push for maximum pressure and sanctions against North Korea.”

State Department Faces A Crisis Without Personnel

The Washington Post publishes a reminder that, as the US tries to deal with North Korea and other international issues, the Trump Administration has yet to fill 95 of 141 senior State Department positions.

Among the posts without a nominee after more than seven months are the Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs and the US Ambassadorship to South Korea.

Pushback on Trump’s Threat to Dreamers

Pushback continues over Donald Trump’s threat to the “Dreamers” program for undocumented young immigrants, even though Trump appears to be retreating from his promise of termination of the Obama-era initiative Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Activists from Washington state, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, and Virginia hold a vigil outsde the home of Trump’s advisors, son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka:


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promises a response in the courts:

The White House is expected to announce on Tuesday that Trump will defer action on DACA for six months so Congress can “fix” the program.

See Podcast: Trump and the Dreamers
TrumpWatch, Day 227: Trump Threatens to End “Dreamers”— But is He Retreating?

Trump Political Operative Vetting All EPA Grants

A Trump political operative is now vetting the Environmental Protection Agency’s distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in grants.

John Konkus, a former Trump campaign aide with no experience in environmental policy, reviews every award and grant solicitation. Staff says they have been told that he is on the lookout for “the double C-word” — climate change — and instructed grant officers to eliminate references to the subject in solicitations.

Konkus, who officially works in the EPA’s public affairs office, has canceled close to $2 million competitively awarded to universities and non-profit organizations.

Most of the scrutiny has been of priorities under the Obama Administration. However, during the summer — as Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined two other Republicans to defeat the GOP bill repealing ObamaCare, EPA staffers were instructed without any explanation to halt all grants to the regional office that covers Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The hold was soon narrowed just to Alaska and remained in place for nearly two weeks.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman insisted grant decisions “are to ensure funding is in line with the Agency’s mission and policy priorities”m with the number of awards denied amounting to 1% of those made this year.

“We review grants to see if they are providing tangible results to the American people,” she said.

The EPA, whose budget and staff are under threat of large cuts, has taken a series of steps away from environmental protection since Scott Pruitt — a foe of the EPA as Oklahoma Attorney General — was put in charge by Donald Trump.