BREAKING: CIA Director Pompeo May Replace Tillerson Over Moron-gate

Axios is reporting that Mike Pompeo, currently the director of the CIA, may be set to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Tillerson became embroiled in controversy this week after reports surfaced that he had referred to President Trump as a “moron” and had threatened to resign earlier this year.

Per the report, Pompeo, who was a Republican congressman from Kansas before taking the lead at the CIA, and the president have a good relationship and the Trump trusts Pompeo. The CIA director briefs the president daily and Trump has asked his opinion on numerous issues.

Trump’s relationship with Tillerson has reportedly been strained. Over the weekend, the president shocked observers by undermining the Secretary of State’s efforts at diplomacy with North Korea in a series of tweets.

There has been no word of when Tillerson’s departure might be announced, but the White House has traditionally fired staffers on Friday. A week ago, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had used taxpayer funds to pay for charter airplane flights.

The Resurgent’s Susan Wright speculated this morning that Pompeo might soon be tapped to replace Tillerson.

 

Is There a Major Shakeup Coming at the State Department?

Perhaps there is more to the stories of simmering tensions between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Trump, after all.

To recap: On Wednesday, NBC News ran with a story detailing Tillerson’s anger over the president’s highly politicized and wholly inappropriate speech at this year’s Boy Scout Jamboree.
Reports are that Tillerson, a former Eagle Scout and national president of the Boy Scouts, not only threatened to resign, but called Trump a “moron.”

Later on Wednesday, Tillerson actually gave a press conference, where he disputed the reports of his having threatened to resign, although he blew off questions of whether he’d called the president a moron.

Then came the most ominous report of all –
President Trump was said to have full confidence in Tillerson.

At any time during the administration that that phrase, “full confidence” has been uttered, it is almost immediately followed by a resignation or a firing.

Does this mean we can look forward to a coming Rexit?
(See what I did there?)

Well, if there’s any validity to a new report from Axios, maybe.

According to the report, another Cabinet shuffle is forthcoming, with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo being considered to replace the disgruntled Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State.

The desire is to have as smooth of a transition, as possible. Pompeo is already around the table in the Situation Room, has Trump’s trust, and even delivers the daily briefings to him, personally. With that in mind, he’s seen as a perfect fit.

Also from the Axios report:

Sources tell us Trump recognizes that a Cabinet shuffle would bring bad press. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wants stability, and so is discouraging high-level departures before next year.

And yet, insiders say Trump’s relationship with Tillerson is broken beyond repair. We’re told Trump was furious that Tillerson didn’t try to blunt the story about him calling the president a “moron,” by just going out and denying it (whether or not it actually occurred).

Trump was reportedly furious that what he considered a successful trip to Las Vegas, hoping to up his profile as a “compassionate leader” was overshadowed by news that his Secretary of State thought of him as a moron and had considered walking away from the dumpster fire known as the Trump administration.

Another element to the story is that chief of staff John Kelly was set to travel with the president on Air Force One on Wednesday, the same day the “moron” story broke, but was abruptly pulled from the flight. Some are saying it was so he could stay back and work on the chaos the story caused. A later report stated that Kelly called Defense Secretary James Mattis and Tillerson to the White House, in order to work through the tensions.

Mattis and Kelly are said to be firm allies of Tillerson in the administration, so there may be something to this.

Until an official announcement of a change at the head of the State Department, we can only watch the moves as they happen and put the pieces together, one by one.

Trump Gets North Korea to Back Down From Threat to Hit Guam

NBC Nightly News reported that while Kim is said to be “reviewing plans for the missile strike to launch toward . . . Guam,” if North Korea “actually goes through with it, Defense Secretary Mattis promised swift military action.”

The Los Angeles Times reports North Korean looney leader Kim Jong-un has “decided not to launch missiles toward Guam. According to the Times, the North Korean announcement appeared in Pyongyang’s state media Tuesday shortly after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that an attack could quickly escalate to war:

Mattis said Monday that if North Korea follows through on its threats to fire a missile at the United States, “it’s game on.”

 

Speaking to reporters, Mattis added that the U.S. military would “take out” any North Korean missile it detects is heading for American soil, including Guam, a U.S. territory. Mattis said the U.S. would detect a missile of that nature heading toward Guam “within moments.”

 

Mattis added that if North Korea fires at the U.S., “it could escalate into war very quickly . . . yes, that’s called war, if they shoot at us.”

 

Asked how the U.S. would respond, Mattis initially declined to say. When pressed, he said that if U.S. radars and other detection and tracking systems determine that a missile was going to fall into the sea, short of Guam, then the matter would be taken to President Donald Trump for a decision on how to respond.

The Washington Examiner reports North Korea backed down on its threat to launch a missile attack on Guam after Trump threatened it last week with “fire and fury” on North Korea if it threatened the U.S. again.

North Korea’s decision to back down is a yuge victory for President Donald J. Trump and the United States.  The North Koreans backed down after a sustained “Twitter war of words” with President Trump. Trump’s cabinet members deserve credit here as well. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley got Russia and China to agree to harsh United Nations Security Council economic sanctions against North Korea. Sanctions China actually seems to be willing to implement.  China even warned North Korea that it would be on its own if it launches missiles threatening the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and  National security adviser H.R. McMaster did a great job calming the waters, saying that an attack from North Korea is not imminent And Mattis made it clear the U.S. military was “ready to fight tonight.” NPR reports that Guam and the U.S. air and naval forces based there have been under alert since it was named by North Korea as a potential target

In addition, Sunday the Trump administration announced the end of Obama’s failed do nothing “Strategic Patience” so-called strategy for dealing with the rogue state. Under President Trump the U.S. will hold North Korea to account as we pursue a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Unfortunately the North Koreans could always change their minds about attacking the U.S. The Los Angeles Times reported the statement in the North Korean state media warned that Kim could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions,” in which case the country’s artillerymen would “wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks.”

Rex Tillerson Justifies Increased Aid to Palestinians by Promoting a Falsehood

Whose side are they on, anyway?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to say the Trump administration is a true friend to Israel, one of the selling points to Evangelical voters during the run up to the election.

At best, the Trump administration is just as duplicitous in their dealing with our only true allies in the Middle East as every other administration has been. The apparent misconception is in that Trump’s administration is somehow more of a friend because where the Obama administration was openly hostile to Israel, Trump smiles in their faces before an act of betrayal.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to justify a Trump budget proposal that would increase payments to the Palestinian government, in spite of the fact that the Palestinian government uses a portion of those funds to pay terrorists and their families – a reward for attacks against Israel.

Tillerson made the false claim that the Palestinian government had assured him that their practice of paying off terrorists was over. Almost immediately, not only did Israel dispute the claim, but the Palestinian government, themselves, scoffed at the notion.

In other words, the ones who would know best are saying Tillerson is full of it. The Palestinians are dedicated to the continued death of Israeli school children, and they will use U.S. tax dollars to fund it.

Tillerson, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was asked to explain his remarks earlier this week claiming that the Palestinian government had stopped its longstanding policy of paying terrorists salaries using aid granted by the U.S. government, a claim that was almost immediately rebutted by Palestinian and Israeli officials.

To be specific, the Trump budget proposal increases aid to the Palestinians by almost 5 percent, bringing payments up to $215 million.

The increase in aid to the Palestinians, who continue to sponsor and incite terror attacks on Israel, drew opposition from Democrats and Republicans who criticized Tillerson for seeking to increase this aid while cutting the overall State Department budget by more than 30 percent. This includes a massive funding cut to overseas security for U.S. facilities, a move that has prompted security concerns.

The Palestinian Authority has “not complied with their commitments under U.S. law, yet all potential sanctions were waived,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) said during the hearing. “How can you justify and increase [the aid], when so many things in the budget were cut, but the PA has an increase in your budget request.”

Tillerson, to date, has not offered a coherent explanation. He chose not to directly address the question as it was presented to him.

“We’re in active discussion with the Palestinian Authority,” Tillerson said. “These discussions are around issues of how they manage terrorism and how they manage violence in the West Bank and Gaza but it’s also hopefully setting the stage for a reengagement in the peace process with the Israelis.”

Giving them more resources for terror is probably not the way to go about achieving peace.

In fact, there has been nothing but concessions put on Israel. Trump blindsided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year, when he turned to him during a joint press conference and asked him to stop further construction on the West Bank.

Netanyahu seemed caught off guard.

Later, Trump’s administration pulled plans to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would show the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel.

This was another broken promise, compounded by Trump’s later comments that moving the capital would depend on that elusive “peace process.” You can take that to mean, specifically, how much more is Israel willing to give up?

When Trump made those promises on the campaign trail, they didn’t come with qualifiers.

Yet, here we are. Israel is, once again, left with a lap full of empty promises, and the Trump administration is adding insult to injury by attempting to increase aid to the very ones who are trying to kill them.

“There have been talks about making the payments in a different way, but not ending them,” one Palestinian official was quoted as telling Reuters. “They could perhaps be labeled differently,” but they “are not going to be stopped.”

Remember that.

Nobody is trying to pass off the long boiling conflict between Israel and Palestine as an easy fix. Many have come before Trump and his equally inexperienced secretary of state, attempting to find common ground that cannot be held.

What we shouldn’t do is allow for our lawmakers to mislead us, as well as our allies about where our taxes are being allocated, especially if those funds are going to terrorists.

5 Arab States Quarantine Qatar: What’s America’s Move?

Led by Saudi Arabia, five Arab countries have broken ties with Qatar.

Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE and Yemen, along with the Saudis not only broke diplomatic relations, but also acted to isolate the gulf state, which sits on a peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf between Bahrain and UAE, with Saudi Arabia to the south.

Saudi Arabia has closed all commercial shipping and land borders to its gulf neighbor, and called for its citizens and companies to leave immediately. This action stems from simmering problems between the Arab states over Qatar’s funding of the Muslim Brotherhood, and ownership of the Al Jazeera news organization.

Egypt, in particular, considers the Muslim Brotherhood a threat to its stability, having ousted the group with a military coup. The other states have bristled at Qatar’s use of its news network to spread discord and negative reports about their rulers.

This break creates a bit of a conundrum for U.S. interests and efforts to fight ISIS, although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis deny that it will be an impediment. The New York Times reported:

Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Mattis, who appeared in their first joint news conference, in Sydney, after talks with their Australian counterparts, insisted that the rupture in relations among the Arab states would not undermine the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“I am confident there will be no implications,” said Mr. Mattis, who was privately informed of the decision earlier in the day.

Qatar has been a close ally in American military efforts in the gulf region, and hosts the forward headquarters of CENTCOM. U.S. Air Force jets fly missions from Al Udeid Air Base, and U.S. soldiers frequently spend their R&R at Camp As Sayliyah outside of Doha.

Over the last 25 years, the U.S. has made an enormous investment in facilities in the gulf state that’s now on the outs with other gulf Arab allies with which President Trump seeks to build a coalition for stability and peace.

In total, there are 27 warehouses with about 1.6 million square feet or 36.3 acres of enclosed storage space. The US Army also installed 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of roads and almost four kilometers (2.48 miles) of fencing. Support structures provide for a group headquarters, administration building, community center, dining facility, and enlisted and officers quarters. The site also has open storage areas, sunshades, and all associated utilities.

(This information might be dated, and in fact there are likely a lot more facilities around Doha in support of U.S. military requirements.)

While the U.S. Army and Air Force have a large presence in Qatar, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, with more coalition air missions launching from UAE facilities. Balancing these locations when the countries have broken off all diplomatic activity puts a great burden on U.S. logistics, diplomatic assets, and military planners.

American corporations do business in all the Arab states. Will they now have to choose where to place business or personnel? This becomes a rats’ nest for American interests and a threat to the global cooperation sought by President Trump.

In fact, it could completely overshadow his historic visit to Saudi Arabia and fray the fragile ties of the Gulf Cooperation Council. “If there’s any role that we can play in terms of helping them address those, we think it is important that the G.C.C. remain unified,” Tillerson said.

A valid question arises from this: are the gulf states acting out of a desire to bully Qatar out of funding terror, or are they acting out of fear?

If they’re acting to reduce the footprint and funding of terror, this isn’t really a bad thing, and in fact, the U.S. should laud it and apply diplomatic pressure to Qatar. But it’s probably not the true motive.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the other gulf states fear the Muslim Brotherhood. They fear the access Qatar’s Al Jazeera network has to foreign capitals, journalists and diplomats. They fear the Arab Muslim group, that traces its ties to the Nazi sympathizer Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, and Sheikh Hassan al-Banna.

Egypt and Israel cooperate on anti-terror operations in the Sinai, and enjoy a (sometimes strained) peace treaty. Saudi Arabia has found shared interests with Israel against Iran. The UAE, although officially banned from doing business with Israel, has many commercial interests in common.

Qarar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, allegedly called for improving ties with Iran, which Qataris later denied and attributed to “hackers.” That’s likely a spurious explanation, and the Saudis didn’t buy it.

So where do we go from here?

Qatar will surely suffer. Losing shipping and land route access to its neighbors is going to hurt, and Qatari businesses will lose money and value. The rift cannot continue indefinitely, so the pressure is definitely on Qatar to do something conciliatory, or to get the U.S. to intervene on its behalf.

America is placed in an awkward situation, but in the end, anything that can be done to move Qatar away from funding terror is a good move. We should use our friendship and trust with the Qataris to encourage them to heal this split.

Tillerson’s Israel Comments Have Angered One Billionaire GOP Donor

You heard it right here at The Resurgent: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Meet The Press this past weekend that President Trump’s promise to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv comes with a condition that the move won’t happen if it is deemed to be a detriment to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

While it is true that moving the embassy to Jerusalem could disrupt the region’s fragile peace, the same is true of many other actions. Sudden outbreaks of fighting could also be caused by a missile attack by Hamas, a kidnapping by Hezbollah, a crazed gunman or even an auto accident. Moving the embassy might bring war, but not moving the embassy won’t bring peace.

Tillerson’s statement doesn’t sit well with one of the GOP’s biggest donors. Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who along with his wife contributed $80 million to Republicans in 2016, isn’t happy with what he heard – in fact, word is that he’s “furious” at what he sees as an about-face from the administration.

The sources say the Las Vegas billionaire doesn’t buy the argument that the embassy move should be contingent on the peace process. He has told Trump that Palestinians are impossible negotiating partners and make demands that Israel can never meet.

It’s clear that the Trump administration – or at least Tillerson – is utterly tone deaf to Israel policy. The Palestinians aren’t going to be happy with anything the United States does that puts Israel first, so why even worry? If all our decisions take the peace process under consideration, we may as well do nothing.

And it’s pretty obvious that Trump shouldn’t want to make enemies of Sheldon Adelson either. The GOP can’t afford for Adelson to close up his deep pockets or take his money elsewhere. He’s probably not the only donor who is angry at the administration’s bait and switch on the embassy.

Many conservatives – including those who, like me, didn’t put a whole lot of faith in Donald Trump – thought that his promise to renew our friendship with Israel was refreshing. After eight years of treating Israel like an annoyance, the idea of viewing Israel as a cherished ally again served as an encouragement. Sure, moving the embassy was just a symbolic gesture, but it seemed significant.

A promise is a promise, and the president told us before the inauguration that he doesn’t break his promises. Here’s hoping that trusting a frustrating peace process won’t lead him to change his mind on Israel.

Trump Administration Seeking Release Of Jailed American Pastor In Turkey

Christian Pastor Andrew Brunson has been in custody in Turkey for the past six months, and the charges remain unclear.

But now the Trump administration is getting involved in seeking answers – and eventually Brunson’s release.

In 2013, Trump was critical of then-President Obama’s handling of the case of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor who eventually went free in 2016 as part of a prisoner swap deal between the Obama administration and Iran.

Back then, Trump said of the Abedini case:

“This is negotiation 101. This would have been so simple,” Trump said. “All you had to do is, before they even started (negotiations with Iran), say, ‘Do us both a favor — allow the Christian pastor out of jail for being Christian. He’s in jail because he’s a Christian.”

“I’d say with proper word usage, which is possibly not so easy for them … and proper negotiating skill, they would let him out in a heartbeat. Ask that he be released,” Trump said. “The way you do it is say, ‘This is good for both of us. It just works for both of us.’”

Until recently, some wondered if Trump would take his own advice in Brunson’s case, and it looks as though he finally has.

In late March, Brunson issued a message pleading with the White House to stand up for his freedom, which spurred a meeting between Brunson’s wife Norine and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“PTL, I just had a 20 min meeting with Sec of State Tillerson,” she wrote. “I do not know what will come of it, considering the sensitive period Turkey is in, but was grateful for the opportunity.”

Tillerson has also apparently met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who reportedly informed the secretary that Turkish authorities would unseal the records of Brunson’s case soon, allowing the pastor’s lawyers to see the evidence against their client.

This case will be worth watching, and hopefully we’ll have positive developments to share about it soon.

North Korea Clings to Nukes After Syria Strikes

In response to the recent U.S. missile strikes against Syria, North Korea has expressed their trust in their nuclear weapons as a deterrent to U.S. action against them.  North Korean officials have dismissed the Syrian airstrikes, acknowledging that they are meant to be a warning to North Korea but instead stating, “We will bolster up in every way our capability for self-defense to cope with the U.S. evermore reckless moves for a war and defend ourselves with our own force.”

This is consistent with previous statements by North Korea in which the government increases its hostile rhetoric whenever it feels threatened.  Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, in particular has much to worry about.  Over the past decade and a half, the U.S. has removed leaders from Iraq and Libya and is currently working to remove Assad from power in Syria, to say nothing of past and current intervention in other countries such as Afghanistan.

To what lengths would Kim Jong-un go in order to remain in power?  Would he use one or more of the couple dozen estimated nuclear weapons he possesses?  It is hard to say for certain, although a recent high-level defector says that Kim “would not hesitate” to do so.

Nuclear activity on the Korean peninsula is, of course, in no one’s best interest.  For Kim to actually use nuclear weapons would seal his fate, for not only would the U.S., Japan, and South Korea (the countries Kim sees as enemies) respond in force, China would likely do so as well.  China has acted for decades as a check on North Korean volatility.  They do not want to see the country descend into chaos and have to deal with the mess on their borders.  Nor do they want to see a war, much less a nuclear one, in their backyard.

In fact, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State, said yesterday that China has agreed that North Korea and it’s nuclear program is a problem and “… that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken.”

What this action will be is, as of yet, undetermined.  The U.S. is sending a carrier strike group to the region as a deterrent to North Korea.  Perhaps the combination of U.S. overt pressure and Chinese back-room pressure on Kim can reduce the present tensions.

A long term solution is elusive, however, especially since an end goal is not clearly stated by all parties (U.S., South Korea, Japan, China).  Nor is the same goal likely shared among them.  Is the goal to remove Kim and allow another dictator-in-waiting to take over?  Is the goal to coax North Korea into the modern era and have it open up (this probably involves removing Kim as well)?  Is the goal to simply contain North Korea and let it continue to determine its own destiny?  The problem of North Korea has existed since 1953 and is likely to continue for some time.