Trump: Bested by Putin and an even-shorter fingered autocrat?

President Trump is notoriously overconfident, a trait that doesn’t work well when negotiating on highly complex and often nuanced topics with any country, let alone an adversary with nuclear-capable missiles. Donald Trump and N. Korean President Kin Jung-Un’s last handshake lasted 13 seconds (video), and the U.S. president may have been gloating inside thinking “and some people say I have short fingers.”

Considering the breaking news about Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who has shown up in Hanoi, we have to wonder whether Trump will be representing the best interests of the United States in negotiations, or those of Vladimir Putin. TASS says Putin and Trump did not discuss forthcoming US-North Korean summit, however, they don’t say that Lavrov didn’t convey Putin’s wishes to Trump. In fact, Lavrov contradicts the TASS report:

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday said that the U.S. asked for Moscow’s advice in approaching this week’s summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Associated Press reported that Russian state media revealed comments from Lavrov in which he said Moscow believes the U.S. should offer “security guarantees” to Pyongyang in exchange for a deal to abandon its nuclear arsenal.

Lavrov said the U.S. “is even asking our advice, our views on this or that scenario” ahead of the summit. From The Hill

We can’t be confident that the final handshake between Kim and Trump won’t be taking place with a Russian flag in the background.

Donald Trump is very sensitive about the fact that his shorter-than-average fingers have become the subject and in some instances derision and jokes. Republican presidential debate, Trump asked the audience Republican presidential debate asked the audience, “Look at those hands. Are those small hands?” and this joke from Vanity Fair “O.K., you, in the third row… Yes, you… I’m calling on you… Yes, that’s why I’m pointing… I’m pointing with my finger… My FINGER. This one… Why would you think I’m holding up a cocktail frank?” Here’s the Vanity Fair history of how the appellation “short-fingered vulgarian” was added to the list of pejorative descriptions of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump brings to his discussions with Kim the most overblown ego of any American president in modern history and the pressing desire to achieve self-aggrandizing goals first, political goals that will play well in the next elections second, and last and least to achieve goals that are both realistic and the best for the country.

Trump may probably didn’t run this tweet by North Korea experts:

Nothing like reminding the president of another country that they are an economic backwater in dire need to obtain American’s help in order to become an economic powerhouse and major player on the world stage. He might as well have told Kim that his country would always be a shithole nation without his help.

Trump also said on Sunday in remarks to the nation’s governors.“It’s a very interesting thing to say, but I’ve developed a very, very good relationship. We’ll see what that means. But he’s never had a relationship with anybody from this country, and hasn’t had lots of relationships anywhere.” True enough, but rubbing it in that Kim hasn’t had lots of relationships anywhere isn’t particularly diplomatic.

Not known to be a deep thinker Trump may be under the misapprehension that a diminutive leader is not a strong leader to be reckoned with and to be approached as an equal. After all, the president had handlers who photoshopped an image of him to lengthen a finger and whose latest medical report lists him as being 6′ 3″ tall though as Rachel

Maddow proved with photo comparisons of Trump standing next to other world leaders, he is really an inch or two shorter. If you look closely at the photos of Trump and Kim shaking hands their fingers seem to be the same length and only the North Korean’s palms are obviously smaller.

This would all be a ridiculously irrelevant exercise if we had a president whose compulsion to be the biggest and best impinges on some many aspects of his reasoning and hence his governing.

This is some of what Phillip Rucker and Josh Dawsey said about the summit in The Washington Post:

He sees his summits with Kim as television-ratings gold, aides said.

Aides have discussed with Trump that Kim is not a rational actor, and that he could be mentally unstable, according to a person present for those private conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them.

In 2017, when the two leaders traded insults, White House officials explained to Trump that there was no predicting or controlling how Kim might respond or possibly retaliate, the person said. At the time, Trump mocked Kim as “Little Rocket Man,” while Kim said Trump was a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” a word suggesting senility.

The president’s position then, according to the person, was “you have to deal with a bully by bullying them — and if someone is going to be tough, you’ve got to be more tough back.”

The last sentence here is not reassuring.

Neither is the last sentence in this quote from the OpEd by political economist and North Korea specialist Nicholas Eberstadt describing the challenge of this meeting succinctly in The New York Times: 

Mr. Kim bested Mr. Trump at their first meeting in Singapore in June last year. And he is poised to do so again.

The reason is simple: He has a strategy and the Americans do not. The United States hopes to somehow keep the world safe from North Korea. But Mr. Kim has an actual plan to make the world safe for North Korea.

Mr. Kim’s plan — the same as his father’s and grandfather’s, and one breathtakingly revisionist — is nothing less than unconditional reunification of the Korean Peninsula under the control of his government in Pyongyang. Nuclear weapons are indispensable to achieving his vision. And rational actors do not bargain away their core interests; only fools or traitors do.

This one should give Americans chills: “… rational actors do not bargain away their core interests; only fools or traitors do.”

Update 02/26/19 7PM EST

“A bad deal for the United States”: top South Korean official, Moon Chung-in, a special adviser for foreign affairs and national security to South Korea’s president slams proposed Trump-Kim pact – VOX

A proposed agreement for President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to sign during their Vietnam summit this week “is a bad deal for the United States.”

That’s not the view of a cynical expert, or a Democrat. It’s the view of a top national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

For one of his (S. Korean Pres. Moon Jae-in) top advisers to trash the proposed agreement is more than surprising, because it could drive a major wedge between US negotiators and their South Korean counterparts. That matters for the North Korea talks as the South Koreans have proven to be important conduits in certain diplomatic moments.

Still, a top adviser of a critical ally in the US-North Korea talks just trashed the general outline of what Trump and Kim may sign in two days. And if South Korea isn’t happy, it’s possible Trump’s negotiators may have to scramble to either satisfy their ally or change the proposed deal altogether.

Final thought: “Why is everyone looking so happy” think a befuddled president.

Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Trump ignored his generals, didn’t tell Congress but Putin approved Syria withdrawal

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/Nati Harnik/Photo montage by Salon)

Donald Trump originally packed his administration with retired generals and bragged about “my generals.”

Like so many of Trump’s favored aides, the generals found loyalty is a one-way street with the president who demands it but offers nothing in return.

Latest example:  Retired four-star Marine general Jim Mattis, the last remaining member of the once-large “my generals” group of aides to Trump.

As Defense Secretary, Mattis runs the Pentagon and the armed forces of the United States — at least in title.

Trump ignored Mattis’ advice and warnings that the president’s sudden pull out of Syria would lead to chaos and serious problems for the United States but the man with no prior government or military experience ignored him.

Mattis, in recent months, found himself left out of meetings and discussions with Trump on national security issues.  Mattis opposed Trump’s decision to deploy troops to America’s border with Mexico.

Trump used to brag about his cadre of retired military brass.  He said it proved he was serious about a get-tough national security approach.

But all but Mattis is either gone or on the way out, including former national security advisers Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Mattis may be gone soon.  He rarely meets with Trump — a change from his early days in the post — and seldom attends key white house meetings.

But he and others within the military says America’s job in Syria is “far from done.”

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” Trump said in his surprise announcement for withdrawal.

Says Pentagon Dana W. White: “The coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, bt the campaign against ISIS is not over.”

Administration special envoy on Islamic State affairs, Brett McGurk, adds: “It would be reckless if we were just to say, ‘Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now. I think anyone who’s looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton say the goal in Syria “is broader than simply countering the Islamic State.”

Republican members of Congress reacted with anger when they learned about Trump’s decision — not from him but in news reports.

“I don’t know what it is. I haven’t been briefed. I am completely blindsided, and I think there will be a lot of bipartisan concern,” responded Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). ““ISIS has been dealt a severe blow but are not defeated. If there has been a decision to withdraw our forces in Syria, the likelihood of their return goes up dramatically.”

At a Republican lunch Wednesday, Senators angrily confronted Vice President Mike Pence and demanded to know why they were left in the dark.  Pence appeared unaware of the withdrawal, announced by Trump in a Twitter tweet.

“We did not appreciate reading about this decision in the paper,” Graham told Pence.

Trump, however, did get public support from Russian president Vladimir Putin, who called the withdrawal “the right decision.”

“Donald’s right, and I agree with him,” Putin said.

Given Trump’s embrace of Russia and its dictator, that may have been the only approval he wanted.


Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue



America’s traitor sells out his country

Donald Trump sold out America Monday in a press conference before a stunned world, shocked American leaders and saddened aides.

“One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” declared Vietnam war hero John McCain.

“Bizzare and flat-out wrong,” said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

“Shameful,” said GOP Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.

“The Russians are not our friends,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.  “I’ve said that repeatedly, I say it again today.  And I have complete confidence in our intelligence community and the findings that they have announced.”

“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Notes Mark Landler of The New York Times:

President Trump made one thing clear after his meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday: He is willing to take Mr. Putin’s word over those of his own intelligence agencies about whether the Russians tried to fix the 2016 election.

Such an admission by a president sworn to be the principal defender of the Constitution and America’s sovereignty in the world is extraordinary enough. But it was only one of several statements made by Mr. Trump, the likes of which no other American president has ever uttered on foreign soil.

He condemned the Justice Department’s investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia as a “disaster for our country.” He suggested that the F.B.I. deliberately mishandled its investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee. And he labeled an F.B.I. agent who testified about that investigation before Congress as a “disgrace to our country.”

After a one on one meeting with Putin, who denied any Russian involvement in hacking servers, posting fake messages and using leaked materials to discredit Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, Trump stood before the cameras in Helsinki and declared:

I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.

Former CIA director John Brennan responded quickly:

“Donald Trump’s news conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Adds McCain, a Republican stalwart fighting brain cancer:

No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.

As has become the norm among the spineless GOP that controls both houses of Congress, most Republicans sat quietly and let Trump debase America while applauding Putin.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was not quiet and said:

A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: What could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said even more:

This is a disgraceful moment. The president’s party knows better. I know they do. I served with many of them. America needs them to speak out with clarity and conviction not just in this news cycle, but until there’s common sense governing America’s foreign policy.

McCain, in a statement from his home in Arizona, said what other Republicans have no guts to say:

It is tempting to describe the news conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.

No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.

Trump’s actions Monday, called treasonous by an increasing number, even brought criticisms from his steadfast cheering section at Fox News:

Fox Business News host Neil Cavuto called Trump’s actions “disgusting.  I’m sorry, it’s the only way I feel.  It not a right or left thing to me, it’s just wrong.”

From Fox’s senior political analyst Brit Hume:

Because Trump is unable to see past himself, he sees the Russia meddling investigation as only about him and the collusion claim, and thus calls it a witch hunt.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly than I’ve ever seen.

Editorial by The Washington Post:

In Helsinki, Mr. Trump again insisted “there was no collusion” with Russia. Yet in refusing to acknowledge the plain facts about Russia’s behavior, while trashing his own country’s justice system, Mr. Trump in fact was openly colluding with the criminal leader of a hostile power.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, retiring chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he “did not think this was a good moment for our country.”

Adds Ryan:

There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.

What Ryan did not say was that the best way to accomplish that is to remove Donald Trump, immediately, from the presidency and charge with the ultimate high crime: Treason and punish those crimes to the full extent of the law.

If Ryan and his other compliant Republican psychopaths don’t have the guts to do what needs to be done, they should stand trial for treason along with Trump.


Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue


Unmasking treasonous traitor Donald Trump

The headline said it all:  “Trump, Treasonous Traitor” in Sunday’s New York Times.

column by Charles M. Blow Detailed the actions of the traitor-in-chief:

Trump is right now, before our eyes and those of the world, committing an unbelievable and unforgivable crime against this country. It is his failure to defend.

Blow concludes:

This is an incredible, unprecedented moment. America is being betrayed by its own president. America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it.

Simply put, Trump is a traitor and may well be treasonous.

Blow is not alone among the increasing number of Americans who feel that the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a traitor who seeks to destroy the nation he swore to protect and defend.

While Trump, who lies so much as President (nearly 4,000 documented lies since becoming president) claims he nor his campaign had anything to do with the Russian attempts to undermine the 2016 election, the indictment shows that Russian hackers attempted to break into the servers in opponent Hillary Clinton’s personal offices immediately after Trump said in a news conference:

I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

To date, the team of special counsel Robert Mueller has either indicted or obtained guilty pleas from 32 people: Four Trump advisers, 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, a California resident and a London lawyer. Three former Trump aides have already pleaded guilty.

Recent disclosures show close Trump associate Roger Stone is a “man of interest” to Mueller and was closely involved with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who served as a pipeline of hacked information from Clinton to the Trump campaign and the press.

So what is Trump doing about this?  Oh, he is cozying up this week to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, a leader who kills his political enemies.  At a press conference in London last week, Trump said:

I think I would have a very good relationship with Putin if we spend time together. After watching the rigged witch-hunt yesterday, I think it really hurts our country and our relationship with Russia. I hope we can have a good relationship with Russia.

The “witch hunt” is Trump’s name for Mueller’s investigation and the indictment last week of 12 Russian intelligence agents for their involvement in the plan to discredit Clinton and turn the election over to Trump.

Reported the Times:

The 29-page indictment is the most detailed accusation by the American government to date of the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election, and it includes a litany of brazen Russian subterfuge operations meant to foment chaos in the months before Election Day.

From phishing attacks to gain access to Democratic operatives, to money laundering, to attempts to break into state elections boards, the indictment details a vigorous and complex effort by Russia’s top military intelligence service to sabotage the campaign of Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said the indictment is “further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win.”

In light of the new information, Schumer urged Trump to cancel his meeting with Putin because “glad-handing with Vladimir Putin” is “an insult to our democracy.”

Republican Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse agrees that Trump meeting with Putin is stupid.

“Putin is a murderer. He has ordered the assassinations of political adversaries and used outlawed chemical weapons to do it,” Sasse tweeted. “He oversees Russian military units that shot down Malaysian flight 17 and murdered almost 300 civilians.”

The indictment says the Russian hackers communicated with “a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign.”  That person was Roger Stone, who also met regularly with Trump.

The indictment paints “a portrait of a coordinated and well-executed attack that targeted more than 300 people affiliated with the Clinton campaign, as well as other Democratic Party organizations. They implanted malicious computer code into computers, covertly monitored their users and stole their files that led to a series of disastrous leaks.”

Notes Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at John Hopkins University:

Even from a historical perspective, I can’t think of a case when someone went into this level of naming and shaming. This is really significant.

It was a blatant attack against democracy and the government of the United States and one that served the personal lust and greet of one man: Donald J. Trump, the traitor who committed treason against the United States of America.


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