Ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and amid economic and political attacks on US allies, Donald Trump berates members of NATO.
Trump’s volley came last month in a letter sent to leaders of countries such as Germany, Belgium, Norway, and Canada, soon after an acrimonious G7 summit that ended in the White House saying a “special place in hell” was reserved for those politicians.
Trump is due at a NATO summit in Brussels on June 11-12. After a brief visit to the UK, he will meet Putin in the Finnish capital Helsinki on June 16.
In the letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump threatened a cut in the US contribution to NATO:
As we discussed during your visit in April, there is growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised. The United States continues to devote more resources to the defense of Europe when the Continent’s economy, including Germany’s, are doing well and security challenges abound. This is no longer sustainable for us.
Growing frustration is not confined to our executive branch. The United States Congress is concerned, as well….
It will, however, become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries do not share NATO’s collective security burden while American soldiers continue to sacrifice their lives overseas or come home gravely wounded.
Trump has regularly issued misleading statements that NATO allies are ripping off the US by cheating on financial commitments and withhold money “owed” to Washington. In fact, NATO members have not violated any agreement but are moving towards a pledge, made at the Wales summit in 2014, to spend 2% of GDP on national defense. Germany is among those who have advanced towards the goal with increased budgets in recent years.
To back up Trump’s threats, the Administration is reportedly studying a large-scale withdrawal of US forces from Germany, with Trump surprised that 35,000 active-duty troops are stationed there.
Trump — who privately insulted and antagonized Merkel at the G7 summit, according to diplomats — said in his letter, “Continued German underspending on defense undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also do not plan to meet their military spending commitments, because others see you as a role model.”
Trump and his advisors entered office with a view to pulling the US out of international partnerships, quickly abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate change agreements.
But since March, Trump and hardline White House staff such as Stephen Miller and Peter Navarro have accelerated the departures and confrontations. The Administration has imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on allies and is threatening restricting on auto imports, including those from Germany. Trump is threatening to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, and ordered a proposal amounting to a US departure from the World Trade Organization.
Officials from NATO countries have expressed concern that Trump is now effectively carrying out the agenda of Putin, whom the US President admires, to disrupt alliances built since World War II and to sow discord.
On Sunday, National Security Advisor John Bolton did not push back when questioned about Trump’s reported desire to recognize Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, despite its possible violation of international law and international sanctions against Moscow over the act.
Dutch PM Rutte Slaps Down Trump Over Tariffs
Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of The Netherlands, rebuffs Donald Trump during a White House photo opportunity.
Rutte pushed back Trump’s assertion that US tariffs, in a confrontation with the European Union, can be welcomed:
TRUMP: “The EU… If we do work it out, that will be positive. And if we don’t, it will be positive also, because – ”
DUTCH PM RUTTE: “No.”
TRUMP: “— just think about those cars that pour in here.”
RUTTE: “It’s not positive. We have to work something out.” pic.twitter.com/KGDCkUKDSP
— Mick Krever (@mickbk) July 2, 2018
HHS Stops Providing Number of Detained Children Separated from Immigrant Parents
The Department of Health and Human Services has halted the provision of numbers of children who have been separated from undocumented immigrants and then detained.
Last week, HHS said 2,047 separated children were still in detention — a drop of only six from the previous week.
Of more than 2,500 children seized since the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy was launched in April, only 522 had been reunited with parents as of last week, according to HHS.
NEW: @HHSGov is no longer providing the specific number of migrant children held in its custody resulting from the family separation policy. HHS spokesperson says it currently has "11,871 minors in our care" — a number that includes those who crossed the border unaccompanied
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) July 2, 2018
US Chamber of Commerce: Trump Tariffs Will “Undo Economic Progress”
The US Chamber of Commerce warns that Donald Trump’s tariffs will stunt the American economic progress of recent years.
“The administration is threatening to undermine the economic progress it worked so hard to achieve,” Chamber President Tom Donohue said in a statement. “We should seek free and fair trade, but this is just not the way to do it.”
The Chamber published a state-by-state analysis of Trump’s protectionist measures, including steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the European Union and duties on $50 billion of Chinese goods, with surcharges on another $200 billion threatened.
It summarized that almost $4 billion worth of exports from Texas could be targeted by retaliatory tariffs, including $321 million in meat the state sends to Mexico each year and $494 million in grain sorghum it exports to China.
hite House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed aside the report, “The President is focused on helping protect American workers and American industries and create a fair playing field.”
Mexico imposed tariffs last month on US products, such as steel, pork, and bourbon, and the EU imposed duties of 25% percent on 2.8 billion euros ($3.26 billion) of US imports, including jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
On Sunday, Canada announced retaliatory measures on C$16.6 billion ($12.63 billion) of US goods such as coffee, ketchup, and whiskey.
EPA Head Pruitt Hides Meetings With Industry Reps
Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has hidden meetings and calls with industry representatives, with staff keeping “secret” calendars and schedules, according to a former EPA official.
Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff for operations, said personnel met routinely in Pruitt’s office to “scrub”, alter, or remove official records because they might “look bad”.
A comparison of Pruitt’s public calendar with internal EPA schedules and e-mails shows more than two dozen meetings, events or calls were omitted.
We would have meetings what we were going to take off on the official schedule. We had at one point three different schedules. One of them was one that no one else saw except three or four of us. It was a secret…and they would decide what to nix from the public calendar.
One of the deleted meetings was in June 2017 between Pruitt and Cardinal George Pell, who was charged weeks later with multiple charges of sexual offenses.
Legal experts said the secret calendars and scrubbing of records could violate federal law.
Eric Lipton of The New York Times:
Pruitt and Jack Gerard, head American Petroleum Institute (API)– the largest U.S. trade association for the oil and natural gas industry–had a nice back and forth chat via written letters, after Pruitt closed-door visit. "VERY MUCH ENJOYED OUR TIME TOGETHER!" pic.twitter.com/KAfDqOACm2
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) July 1, 2018
Official White House Twitter Account Attacks Democrat Senators
The White House Twitter account attacks Democrat Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California.
The White House account posted a smear of Warren, whom Trump has insulted repeatedly, because of her call to reform agencies handling border and customs enforcement, amid the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy separating and detaining undocumented immigrant children and parents:
.@SenWarren, why are you supporting criminals moving weapons, drugs, and victims across our nation’s borders? You must not know what ICE really does. Here is a link to help you out: https://t.co/5CiTKkIs4c
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 2, 2018
Harris received a similar tweet distorting her position:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 2, 2018
Last week Warren used social media for a video report of her visit to a children’s detention center. She was silent on Monday but Harris replied:
As a career prosecutor, I actually went after gangs and transnational criminal organizations. That's being a leader on public safety. What is not, is ripping babies from their mothers. pic.twitter.com/WyyHU3U7jE
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 2, 2018
Broadcast journalist Andrea Mitchell noted that the use of the White House account to disparage legislators may break the law.
Re: White House tweets attacking Senators: Section 1352(a) of Title 31: No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall..be used directly or indirectly to pay for any .. written matter… intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) July 2, 2018