Trump’s Golf Course Diplomacy Trolls Putin




True to his promise to be unpredictable, Donald Trump had an unpredictable reaction to Russia’s decision to expel 755 of approximately 1,200 U.S. diplomatic staff in retaliation for the passage of the new Russia sanctions bill. In response to the largest expulsion of diplomats in modern times, President Trump did something that he rarely does: He publicly thanked Vladimir Putin for his help in reducing the State Department payroll.

Russia ordered the U.S. to reduce the number of its diplomats in Russia to 455, the same number of Russian diplomats in the U.S. after President Obama expelled 35 in retaliation for Russian meddling in the election. In a statement, Russia said that the new sanctions showed “the extreme aggression of the United States in international affairs.”



In an example of “golf course diplomacy” from his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. where he is on a “working vacation,” President Trump told reporters, “I want to thank him [Putin] because we’re trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”

Trolling level: Above average. The president is obviously drawing on years of experience as a Twitter troll in this response.

The typical response from a leader that is an experienced diplomat would be to issue a sternly worded statement to the effect that Russia had better straighten-up-and-fly-right. The Russians would have responded with another stern communique in a tit-for-tat. Instead, Trump has rewritten the playbook with a sarcastic personal message aimed directly at President Putin.

Putin and most of the rest of the world know that Trump’s statement was utter BS, to use an appropriate, but impolitic term, but it still comes across as a slap in the face to Putin. Inside, we all know that Donald Trump, the egomaniac who cannot stand to be disrespected, must be seething. The president typically has a strong reaction to much smaller and less formal slights. Take, for instance, his blistering attacks on Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest and strongest supporters.

Beyond the emotional reaction that Trump is undoubtedly repressing, there is the fact that Trump’s statement is blatantly false. Few people would expect that these diplomats are going to be fired because Russia sent them home. They will likely be retrained and reassigned to other posts. The savings on living expenses of having fewer U.S. diplomats in Russia would be negligible in terms of the entire State Department budget.

The expulsions also represent difficulty for U.S. intelligence. An unknown number of the diplomats are almost certainly spies. Although spies will remain, their increased workload will mean that they accomplish less. Fewer Americans also means that it will be easier for Russian counterintelligence to watch and track those who remain.

The cuts will also affect the ability of the U.S. embassy to conduct legitimate business. Vladimir Frolov, a foreign affairs analyst, told the Independent, “It will create an enormous inconvenience for the US Mission here, essentially slowing down the work but not affecting its core functions.” The cuts could affect the ability of U.S. businesses to work in Russia.

By cutting the U.S. foreign service staff by about two-thirds, Vladimir Putin is playing mind games with President Trump. Trump’s sharp, albeit transparent, response, returned the ball to Putin’s court in one of the few examples of the president standing strong against Putin.

A Valid Question Deserves an Answer About Trump-Putin Dinner Talk

At the G20, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had another tête-à-tête during an exclusive dinner set aside for leaders and their spouses. The New York Times reported this as “a second, undisclosed, private conversation.”

Just about everything in that headline, and the accompanying photo, is disingenuous.

  • The two presidents spoke in full view of all the other leaders; it was hardly “private.”
  • Their conversation wasn’t something to disclose–or hide–because it happened in plain view and was indeed reported by Buzzfeed on July 8, when it was ignored.
  • The photo used by the NYT was of the first private meeting between Trump and Putin, but this was more akin to speaking at a banquet table, where Trump’s wife Melania was seated next to Putin.

It seems the only part of “undisclosed” the NYT got right is that the paper itself had not disclosed the meeting in a story, until they did. The conversation on Russia was getting cold, and they needed something to heat it up–some wood for the fire.

The White House, denying it was a “second meeting,” called the story “absurd.” Trump tweeted that it’s “Fake News.”

 

But really, is it a “nothingburger?”

  • Trump used Putin’s translator, so presumably the only person in the room who knew exactly what each president said is that one man, who works for Putin.
  • Other G20 leaders in the room expressed puzzlement at “the odd spectacle” of the American president singling out the Russian president for one-on-one conversation.
  • What was discussed? We know the Trumps have less than a passing relationship with the truth, especially dealing with Russia.

These are troubling points. It’s certainly worth pursuing them. But I wouldn’t call this a “bombshell.” The timing and breathlessness of the report is just more of the NYT keeping Russia in the news.

On the other hand, Mr. President, what did you and Putin talk about? It’s a perfectly valid question, and you should answer it.

The Most Laughable Part of the Trump-Russia Story

You guys know the story — Trump campaign staffers spoke to someone in Russia who had damaging information on Hillary Clinton. That story has morphed into a new story that has no evidence, i.e. Trump campaign staffers colluded with Russians to steal the election.

What is so laughable about this is everyone forgetting Christopher Steele. Steele is the British spy who compiled the dossier on Donald Trump with information designed to hurt Trump.

The left is now screaming, when I point this out, that the British are not the Russians. The British are our friends and the Russians are our enemies.

And there is the punchline. I remember distinctly all the open ridicule from the left when Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin both warned of Russia. To the extent Russians became an enemy, it would have happened under Barack Obama’s watch at the exact same time the Democrats were telling us there was nothing to worry about.

That makes the whole situation laughable now.

Putin Is Offering James Comey Asylum

Speaking at his annually televised answer-and-question session to the Russian public, Vladimir Putin made the shocking offer on Thursday to give former FBI director James Comey political asylum if he needs it.

“If Comey will be under the threat of political persecution, we are ready to accept him here,” Putin stated during the speaking engagement. “It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend.”

Watch the quick exchange below.

In the clip, you can see where Putin actually compares Comey to famous NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia under asylum protection. The Russian president builds a narrative that Comey is somewhat of a civil rights activists for leaking information to the public.

There is no doubt in my mind Putin has the audacity to give Comey asylum should the former FBI director seek it. Of course, we know that would never happen. Putin knows this, too.

So then what is the Russian leader doing exactly? What he is doing is trolling the United States. He is trolling us at epic proportions.

There is no real free press in the Russian Federation. Major news outlets are state-run and manipulated by the Kremlin. Putin critics in the media are regularly killed. The idea of press freedom in Russia is a joke.

We know this. And Putin knows we know this

Putin clearly sees the irony in giving people like Edward Snowden and James Comey asylum in the name of government transparency. However, he does this to simply troll our own institutions – if his people are somehow fooled into thinking things are just as bad here as it is there, then that’s just a plus for the Russian president.

You don’t believe he enjoys trolling just for the fun of it? How else can you explain his answer to Oliver Stone earlier in June when asked if he ever has “off” days:

“I am not a woman, so I don’t have bad days,” Putin responded. “I am not trying to insult anyone. That’s just the nature of things. There are certain natural cycles.”

 

NEW: Putin Defends Trump On Secret Sharing Scandal

President Vladimir Putin of Russia is coming to the aid of President Trump in the controversy over Trump’s sharing of classified information with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister last week. Putin says that he can prove that President Trump did not do anything wrong.

On Wednesday, speaking at a press conference in Sochi, Russia, Putin denied that Trump had shared secrets with the Russian delegation. “I spoke to him [Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] today,” a smiling Putin said in Reuters. “I’ll be forced to issue him with a reprimand because he did not share these secrets with us. Not with me, nor with representatives of Russia’s intelligence services. It was very bad of him.”

Putin also offered to hand over a Russian transcript of the meeting as evidence to support the American president. According to Kremlin officials, the Russians made a written transcript of the meeting, but did not make an audio recording.

Putin also took the opportunity to criticize the opposition to President Trump as “political schizophrenia.” The “schizophrenia” is a result of what the US intelligence community said was interference in the US presidential election by Russia on behalf of Donald Trump.

“What surprises me is that they are shaking up the domestic political situation using anti-Russian slogans,” Putin continued. “Either they don’t understand the damage they’re doing to their own country, in which case they are simply stupid, or they understand everything, in which case they are dangerous and corrupt.”

Even though President Putin denies that Trump shared classified information, President Trump himself seemed to admit to the breach. In two tweets on Tuesday, the president said, “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining… to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” Administration denials do not answer the accusation by the Washington Post that Trump shared information that was so closely held that it was not even given to US allies.

Putin is obviously enjoying the chaos in America immensely.

A Russian goal during the election was to destabilize American democracy and faith in government. Putin seems to be continuing along those lines by stirring the pot with his comments. His offer of a written transcript should not be taken seriously and any transcript he provided would not be reliable.

There is a better solution, however. In a May 12 tweet, President Trump alluded to “tapes” that may exist of his conversations with FBI Director Comey. Since then, former associates have come forward to say that Trump frequently recorded conversations.

An easy solution would be for President Trump to turn over any recordings of the meeting with the Russians to Congress. Let the bipartisan House Intelligence Committee listen to the conversation and determine if the president’s comments were out of line or jeopardized national security.

And, by the way, it would probably be a good idea to turn over the Comey tapes to the House Judiciary Committee as well.

 

 

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/864436162567471104″>May 16, 2017</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS &amp; terrorism.</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/864438529472049152″>May 16, 2017</a></blockquote>

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Stop Trying to Make Hillary Clinton Happen (Again). It’s Not Going to Happen (Ever).

NEW INTERVIEW. NEW PAC. SAME OLD HILLARY.

She’s baaaaaaack (I mean, did she ever really leave?). After six months of perpetually coming out of the woods and then hiking back in, Hillary Clinton seems to have re-emerged from the forest for good like some pantsuited Big Foot, ready to throw some blame around for her stunning loss in November and apparently eager to assume her position as Shadow-President-in-Waiting and as leader of #TheResistance in anticipation of 2020 – if they’ll let her. It’s a turnaround that, to many, seemed unthinkable just a few months ago, but it’s not at all surprising if you’ve been paying attention. By early January 2017, before President Trump had even been inaugurated, Hillary’s assorted supporters, aides, sycophants, & hangers-on were already keeping her name out there by pushing the absurd idea that she’d challenge Bill DeBlasio and run for mayor of New York City later in 2017. This was, of course, a ridiculous idea, but it was an idea that Hillary Co. refused to let die a natural death, with the story continuing to spill tons of digital ink well into February & March as well — all to maintain the idea that she still has a Final Act left. At the same time, a coordinated media effort emerged to prop up the uninteresting & unaccomplished former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton. (Okay, maybe calling her unaccomplished isn’t entirely fair, since her interview of the Geico Gecko is truly a pièce de résistance.) The stilted effort to foist yet another member of the Clinton clan upon us drew, shall we say, some mixed reviews (even some at Vanity Fair would turn on the idea). And so six months of random trial balloons came to an inglorious end – and Hillary Clinton herself finally jumped back into the thick of things with a May 2nd interview with Christiane Amanpour followed swiftly by the (I’m sure purely accidental and not at all coordinated) May 4th leaked announcement that Hillary would be forming yet another political group to take yet even more money from yet even more gullible Democrats. Both the Hillary interview and the new Hillary PAC developments are worth exploring in brief.

 

THE NEW CLINTON INTERVIEW:
HILLARY JOINS “THE RESISTANCE”

Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton sat down with Christiane Amanpour in her first major interview since losing the election last November. It was the very definition of a soft ball interview, but Hillary still managed to make some interesting comments in spite of herself. The most interesting was regarding the responsibility that she herself bore for losing the race, and she answered thusly: “Of course. I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate, I was the person who was on the ballot, and I am very aware of the challenges, the problems, the shortfalls that we had … It wasn’t a perfect campaign – there is no such thing – but I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28th and Russian Wikileaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off … “As [stats guru] Nate Silver … has concluded, if the election had been on October 27, I’d be your president.” It must’ve been devastating when she found out that the date upon which presidential elections are held is based on Article II, Section 1, Clause 4 of the Constitution, and not on when is most convenient for Hillary Clinton.

Wikileaks revealing that Clinton’s aides were a bunch of sniping, backbiting, conniving hacks certainly didn’t help the campaign. And James Comey revealing that emails had been found on a laptop that was in the FBI’s possession because Clinton right hand gal Huma’s husband Anthony Weiner was under investigation for his sexual conversations with underage girls certainly didn’t help. And now, of course, we know that Huma had been using this same device to send classified information — directly to Anthony Weiner himself! So those things hurt Hillary, no question. Yes, being a corrupt person and having that surreptitiously leaked hurts you. And yes, surrounding yourself with corrupt people whose spouses are themselves under criminal investigations doesn’t help. Pro-tip: don’t be corrupt and don’t surround yourself with corrupt people.

But let’s get real here. Vladimir Putin & James Comey very likely did have some effect on the election. But did Vlad & Jim force her to break federal rules and to handle classified information on an unsecured server? Or did Vlad & Jim force her to essentially cut Republican campaign ads by screaming “What possible difference at this point does it make?” at the Benghazi hearings or by calling a huge swath of the population “Deplorables”? And did Vlad & Jim force her to skip campaigning in Wisconsin & Michigan? Ultimately, when Hillary Clinton points one finger forward, three fingers point right back at her. Or, as CNN’s Jake Tapper snarkily put it, ““Hillary Clinton today accepting full responsibility for the election loss. Except for the part when she blamed Comey, Putin, Wikileaks, misogyny, and the media.”

To sum up her future plans, Hillary told Christiane: “I’m back to being a private citizen – and part of the resistance.” But, as we will see, Hillary Clinton’s idea of “being a private citizen” means asking you for bunches of money and Hillary Clinton’s idea of being “part of” the resistance means, as is always the case with her, being in charge of it.

 

THE NEW CLINTON PAC:

GIVE HILLARY MORE MONEY. SHE SWEARS SHE WON’T WASTE IT THIS TIME.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign (when combined with pro-Hillary PACs) spent around $1.2 billion dollars to lose to Donald Trump in embarrassing fashion. And now, according to Axios, it looks like Hillary has decided that she’s ready to get back into the family business of spotlight-chasing, influence-peddling, and collecting & spending other people’s money again (you know, just like any “private citizen”): “Hillary Clinton soon will launch a PAC as a way of ‘acting as a quiet catalyst’ for organizations she cares about, and eventually will help 2018 congressional candidates – but with no intention of making it a vehicle to run for anything herself [editorial note: riiiiight]. According to a source familiar with the planning, the initial focus will be on lifting up organizations that are the product of the energy and activism she has seen since the election, and existing groups that have been reignited and reinvigorated by that energy. She has met with some of these groups, and it’s something she’s become increasingly passionate about with each meeting, the source said.”

POLITICO provides further details regarding the set-up, structure, & mission of the nascent Clinton operation: “The former secretary of state is building a new political group to fund organizations working on the resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda, spending recent weeks in Washington, New York City, and Chappaqua, N.Y., meeting with donors and potential groups to invest in, and recruiting individuals for the group’s board of directors, multiple people close to the two-time White House hopeful and people familiar with the group’s planning told POLITICO … She is looking to launch the group, expected to be called Onward Together — a nod to her campaign slogan, Stronger Together — as soon as next week, they say … The effort is starting to come together as its leader is increasingly stepping back into the public spotlight — and while her party is still searching for its path ahead. After going quiet for a stretch after the campaign, Clinton has started publicly supporting groups aligned with her main goals, and is now not hesitating to jab at Trump when asked about him.”

In a newly released book, Shattered, we get an inside look at the type of manager Hillary Clinton is by examining her disastrously run Clinton presidential campaign. The same confidants who assisted with the campaign are now among the same people setting up the new Clinton PAC and asking for the new Clinton money. The New York Times review of the book is both fair & damning: “It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and ‘spirit-crushing’ campaign that embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) and that failed, repeatedly to correct course. A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected to act on warning flares sent up by Democratic operatives on the ground in crucial swing states, and that ignored the advice of the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and other Democratic Party elders, who argued that the campaign needed to work harder to persuade undecided and ambivalent voters (like working-class whites and millennials) instead of focusing so intently on turning out core supporters.” Dysfunctional? Check. Spirit-crushing? Check. Passive-aggressive? Check. Incompetent? Check. Great, now let’s give those same people millions of dollars for their new PAC. What could possibly go wrong?

After years of scandal after scandal being uncovered at the Clinton Foundation, I think it’s fair to say that the one thing that America really doesn’t need is another elaborate Clinton money scheme. And after seeing the criminally incompetent political campaign that Hillary Clinton ran, it’s utterly astonishing that anyone would consider giving a penny to the group (although we all know it’ll be awash in tens of millions soon enough). But at a certain point, enough is enough. I think we reached that “certain point” with the Clintons about a decade ago – and it’s time that the Democrats realize that the Clintons are not only bad for the nation, but they’re nothing but bad news for the Democratic Party too.

 

“I’M WITH HER”? “STRONGER TOGETHER”? “ONWARD TOGETHER”?

HARD PASS.

 

As one recent scathing New York Post op-ed put it: “Clearly, Hillary still sees herself as the leader of the Democratic Party. And why shouldn’t she? Democrats have been locked in an abusive relationship with the Clintons for decades, enabling, explaining, convincing themselves that next time will be different. Party faithful hew to Hillary’s excuses for losing to Donald Trump: It’s James Comey’s fault, plus the Russians, white supremacists, misogynists, the deplorables and immobilized millennials, among other things … Her losses in 2008 and 2016 have been framed as things that happened to Hillary — not one, but two Black Swan events that stymied her historic destiny … How is it that Democrats have fealty here, let alone sympathy? How is it that Hillary routinely walks into standing ovations at Broadway theaters? Where is the realization that Hillary is to blame or the rational rejection of a two-time loser?”

 

In some sense, it really would perfect for #TheResistance to give Hillary one last try. Sure, she lost to Obama in 2008. And sure, she just lost to Donald Trump in 2016. But that makes them a natural fit for eachother. I mean, so far the stunning successes of #TheResistance have included: losing the Kansas special election; coming up short in the Georgia special election (while running a carpetbagger who, mind you, couldn’t even vote for himself in said election, with Democrats spending a cool $5.3 million just to fall flat); getting crushed in the fight over Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch (it’s still fun to write that — Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch); rioting at Berkeley; somehow letting the GOP push the AHCA through the House; and generally seeming like they are totally right on the verge of impeaching Trump just as soon as they manage to make their way out of the paper bag they’re stuck in.

 

Hillary Clinton is a woman who had to rig the DNC process and get debate questions ahead of time (or, in other words, this is a woman who had to cheat) to beat Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. This is a woman who couldn’t even make the infamous Hollywood Access tape stick because of who her husband is, because of the terrible ways in which he himself has treated women, and because of terrible things Hillary herself did to attack & denigrate Bill’s accusers. This is a woman who treated our national security like a joke as she conducted top-secret business on an unsecured, private, hidden server. And this is a woman so devoid of charm, so robotic, and so unlikable that she could never seal the deal against the real estate mogul & reality TV star. But sure. Give even more of your money to the woman who just burned through $1,200,000,000 of it – and lost to Donald Trump anyway. Go ahead. Run Hillary again.

 

Seriously, Democrats: Do you want Trump? Because this is how you got Trump in 2016, and this is how you’ll get him again in four years. So stop trying to make Hillary happen. It’s not going to happen. Ever.

Report: Megyn Kelly Lands Interview With Vladimir Putin

Megyn Kelly will interview Vladimir Putin in June, according to a report by Page Six.

NBC News released a statement:

Megyn Kelly of NBC News will moderate the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on stage with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. The conversation will cover a wide range of global political and economic topics, including international trade agreements, cyber-security and the impact of rising military tensions. The annual conference will take place from June 1 to 3, 2017. The exact time and date of the plenary session will be announced in the coming weeks.

This comes the same week it was learned Kelly’s first major interview for NBC (after signing an $18 million deal to leave Fox News) would be with the Kardashian family. The news was met with much derision and humor, as well it should.

Still, interviewing Putin is a rare opportunity for a western journalist. No other foreign leader has challenged America’s foreign policy or inspired as much controversy in its domestic politics. One can expect Kelly will touch on Syria and Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election, and hope that she will do it with the ferocity and wit that brought her to fame at Fox News.

Putin was interviewed by Charlie Rose for CBS’s 60 Minutes in 2015, with topics ranging from ISIS and gay rights. Rose went on to receive an Emmy nomination for the exchange.

Putin will also be interviewed by Oliver Stone in an upcoming Showtime special. (Apparently, Showtime wanted to get two people who think the Soviet Union wasn’t all that bad in the same room. Mission accomplished. )

Kelly’s new show on NBC premieres Sunday nights in June.

Putin Was In St. Petersburg During Metro Attack, How Will He Respond?

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in St. Petersburg conducting talks with Belarusan leader Alexander Lukashenko when a bomb killed 10 and injured at least 20 on a metro train, according to multiple media reports. A second device was discovered by authorities, unexploded, as the subway has been shut down.

This has to be an embarrassment for Putin, who has cracked down on opposition groups and arrested his critics. The Telegraph reported Alexei Navalny–a leader in a recent wave of anti-Putin protests–predicted more discontent.

“You can’t detain tens of thousands of people,” Alexei Navalny told reporters in the court room. “Yesterday we saw the authorities can only go so far.”

More than 1,000 people were arrested in cities across Russia on Sunday following dozens of demonstrations demanding that prime minister Dmitry Medvedev resign over corruption allegations released in a dossier compiled by Mr Navalny.

Now the stakes have risen, and it’s fair to assume Putin’s reaction will also be more severe. This won’t be handled like a U.S. case like the Boston Marathon bombing. The perpetrator will likely be found (the Washington Post reported that Russian authorities already have video of a suspect), but the blowback won’t stop with the suspects. Whatever group initiated the attack will be mercilessly pursued.

The Russians have previously shown no mercy to Chechen rebels, political rivals, and others who challenge the authority of Putin’s autocracy.

If even the most tenuous connection surfaces between the attackers and Navalny’s anti-corruption group, look for more than just 17 arrests and a few weeks in jail. Over 1,000 were arrested during the anti-Putin protests. This will be nothing compared to Putin’s political sweep that’s coming.

This is the man President Trump praised as a “leader.” Putin is as ruthless as Stalin. I think we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg of his cold, frozen heart.