Is the US/NK summit on or off? Nobody knows…

Donald Trump briefly called off next month’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, calling the original cancellation a “tremendous setback” for peace and stressing that the US military was ready to respond to any “foolish or reckless acts” by the North. They are still communicating but the meeting may still not happen on June 12th but another later date.

Trump first announced his decision in a letter to Kim released by the White House, in which he cited “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent statement by the North, adding that it was “inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.”

A top Foreign Ministry official referred to Vice-President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” for his comments on the North and said it was up to the US whether they will “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”

Considering the comments made [well those made public] were not as harsh compared to their trading of comments earlier this year, was this an excuse for Trump to cancel?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was “very hopeful” the summit will take place on June 12 in Singapore, but said “that decision will ultimately be up to Chairman Kim.”

Trump said there was still a “substantial chance” it will be called off amid concerns Pyongyang is not prepared to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Pompeo said the United States is prepared to walk away from nuclear negotiations with North Korea if an upcoming meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un heads in the wrong direction. Or this is a way for Trump to back away with an excuse and lay the eventual blame on Kim.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani said that special counsel Robert Mueller is aiming to finish the probe into potential wrongdoing by Trump by September 1. Giuliani claims that Mueller’s office shared its timeline with him about a month ago and also claims that this would happen if Trump does an interview with Mueller by July 1st. The Trump camp is worried that an investigation beyond September 1st could cause problems with the mid-term elections.

A Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, who was questioned by  Mueller and recently sanctioned by the US visited Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen in Trump Tower during the presidential transition in January 2017. This adds to the questions swirling over the payments to Cohen, which Mueller’s team questioned Vekselberg about after the FBI stopped his private jet at a New York-area airport earlier this year.

Trump demanded that his Justice Department look into whether it or the FBI spied on his presidential campaign for political reasons. “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The tweet comes after it was reported that the FBI dispatched a confidential source to speak with some aides to Trump’s presidential campaign about its possible ties to Russia. According to one report, confidential intelligence source interacted with Trump campaign advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.

Then the Justice Department asked its inspector general to expand its review of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application process to include whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

At least 18 Republican lawmakers [and closest allies to Trump] signed onto a resolution calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Department of Justice and the FBI, accusing them of misconduct as Trump campaigned two years ago against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump railed against Mexico and Canada’s efforts in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying both neighbors have been “very difficult” and “spoiled”. Trump told reporters at the White House. “We will win, and we’ll win big.” Wonder how the people will know what a win is considered like.

“There will be big news coming soon for our great American Autoworkers. After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!” Trump said in a tweet. Other than a NAFTA agreement, Trump is as usual vague. Come back to this blog “soon” and we’ll see.

The United States imposes a 2.5 per cent tariff on cars assembled in Europe and a 25 per cent tariff on European-built vans and pickup trucks. Europe imposes a 10 per cent tariff on U.S.-built cars. The EU pushed their own tariffs on the US. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was initiating an investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to determine “whether imports of automobiles and automotive parts threaten to impair” US national security.

Another major shooting in the US, this time in Texas, and very little has been done. Trump gave the standard political condolences. But Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he blamed the tragedies on a litany of other reasons, including abortions and violent video games. Shootings related to abortions? Seriously?

Drawing sharp contrasts with the 2015 deal, Pompeo said a stronger pact should require that Iran stop enrichment of uranium, which was allowed within strict limitations under the previous deal. Iran would also have to walk away from core pillars of its foreign policy, including its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Pompeo’s list of 12 requirements included many that Iran is highly unlikely to consider.

Under a new agreement, if Iran agrees to the US’ demands, the US would be willing to lift all sanctions, restore full diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran, and even support the modernization of its economy, Pompeo said.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons resigned last week because of an “ideological turf war” between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner over prison reform. After less than a year on the job, Mark Inch offered his resignation to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week, telling Rosenstein he was tired of the administration disregarding “departmental norms”.

The House of Representatives voted to reauthorize funds for the military a massive bill that greenlights a base budget of roughly $640 billion for national defense in the next fiscal year. It includes Trump’s request to hold a military parade in the nation’s capital to honor veterans. The bill would give a large amount of latitude to the secretary of defense to decide which “small arms and munitions” are appropriate for display in such a parade. The Pentagon would also have discretion in determining “the participation of military units” that can perform in the parade. The parade will “include wheeled vehicles only, no tanks.”

Over the last 30 days, the Trump White House has held only 10 on-camera press briefings — and those briefings have averaged just more than 17 minutes each. Looks like the White House is increasingly disinterested in answering questions from reporters in any sort of structured environment. Sean “Garlic” Spicer, former press secretary, said “The briefing has become more of a show than an outlet of information for the media.”

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake gave some of his harshest criticism of Trump to date in a commencement speech to Harvard Law students, where he shared his concerns for the integrity of politics in the United States. “At all. Our presidency has been debased. By a figure who has a seemingly bottomless appetite for destruction and division. And only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works….. Well, simply put: We may have hit bottom.”

A federal judge in New York ruled that Trump is in violation of the Constitution when he blocks users on Twitter. A Justice Department spokeswoman said “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and are considering our next steps.”

Another failed Trump program. S&P 500 companies showered Wall Street with at least $178 billion of stock buybacks during the first three months of 2018. That’s a 34% bump from last year and tops the prior record of $172 billion set in 2007, just prior to the start of the Great Recession. The buyback bonanza occurred during the first full quarter after Trump signed into law a massive corporate tax cut that was supposed to lift business spending on job-creating investments.

The tax law reduced the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% and gave companies a break on taxes owed when returning foreign profits. That one-two punch allowed companies to reap huge profits, a sizable chunk of which have been returned to shareholders. Profits had already been on the rise thanks to the accelerating economy.

More than 5.5 million employees received a tax cut bonus, pay raises or 401(k) hikes, according to the White House. But business spending — the stated goal of the tax law — has not significantly accelerated, at least not yet. But the tax cut bonus are tiny compared to the stock buyback.

In one of the few positive things to come out of this administration, Trump intends to sign separate measures in the coming weeks to give people with deadly diseases access to experimental treatments and to provide veterans greater access to private medical care at taxpayer expense.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt confirmed at a Senate hearing last week that people he did not identify have created the legal defense fund in his behalf, but he gave no specifics on its operation. Officials typically use such funds to help cover any legal bills for themselves and sometimes for others. Pruitt is the subject of probes by the EPA’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office, Congress and others investigating allegations about his spending, relationships with lobbyists and other matters.

The Commerce Department informed lawmakers of the outlines of a tentative deal that could save sanctioned telecommunications company ZTE, a key priority for Chinese President Xi Jinping. News of the deal was met with public backlash from members of both parties. The deal would include a roughly $1.3 billion fine and require the company to install a new compliance regime and make management changes. Both Senate and House are considering bills to restrict ZTE and any other company that were found “guilty” previously.

The Republican National Committee has paid nearly $451,779 to a law firm representing former White House communications director Hope Hicks in the ongoing Russia investigation, Federal Election Commission records show. The two payments were made to Trout Cacheris & Janis for “legal and compliance services.” Hicks is represented by the firm’s founder, Robert Trout.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (Republican from Texas) told Judicial Watch that Mueller has “protected radical Islamists for his whole career.” Sure Louie.

 

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About ebraiter
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