Category Archives: Foreign Relations

With Latest North Korean Missile Test, Biden Attacks Trump for Foreign Policy Failures

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea.  Foreign policy is Biden’s greatest strength among the Democratic rivals for 2020. Here is his statement:

This morning, North Korea fired two missiles in a deliberate attempt to provoke its neighbors and intimidate the United States — again. It was the 12th such test the regime has conducted since May in violation of UN resolutions, and which President Trump has down-played. After the latest round of denuclearization talks collapsed almost immediately in Stockholm earlier this month, these tests are a stark reminder that Donald Trump — a self-proclaimed deal maker — has achieved nothing but a string of spectacular diplomatic failures that are making the American people less safe.    

His “love letters” to murderous dictator Kim Jong Un have delivered little more than made-for-TV moments. North Korea today has more fissile material and more capability than when talks began, and Trump has given away our leverage — including suspending military exercises with our allies and granting Kim co-equal status at two summits with the president of the United States of America — for practically nothing in return. Now a more confident Kim is ticking up the pace of his violations because he believes he can pressure Trump to bend to his will. There is no deal, because there is no strategy and no patience for the kind of tough, hard diplomacy that actually produces results.

It’s a pattern we see over and over again. Donald Trump talks a big game, promises the greatest deal ever, then gives away America’s best negotiating tools in exchange for a photo op for himself. He only cares about his own self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. And every single time, it’s the American people who end up paying. 

He pulled us out of the successful Iran nuclear deal, promising he’d get a better one. He hasn’t. And now, Iran has taken its nuclear program out of the deep-freeze and ramped up its aggressive acts across the region — and Trump has no strategy to deal with these predictable responses.

He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord and dismisses climate change as a hoax. In less than a week, we will officially notify our departure from Paris, even as California is on fire and states throughout the Midwest are still recovering from record flooding over the summer.

He scuttled negotiations with the Taliban that might have opened the door to a peace settlement, reportedly because he didn’t get the Camp David moment of glory he wanted. Meanwhile he’s significantly weakened our negotiating position by imposing a possibly politically-motivated timeline for removing our troops from Afghanistan, without extracting any concessions from the Taliban in return.

His vaunted Middle East peace deal has yet to emerge. He gave away our strongest asset to take on ISIS by precipitously withdrawing our troops from Northeast Syria. He promised to get tough with China, saying trade wars were “good and easy to win.” But at more than a year in, what do we have to show for it? Nothing but pain for American farming and manufacturing, and vague promises that would only restore trade levels with China back to where they were before Trump’s irresponsible trade war.

The American people can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump’s art of no deals.

Biden: Baghdadi Was Win for National Security Professionals But Trump’s Reckless Foreign Policy Makes Nation Vulnerable to Terrorism

Vice President Joe Biden on the assassination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, praised the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals “beyond compare,” but criticized Donald Trump saying, “He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the 2020 candidate for President, issued a statement criticizing Trump’s “lack of strategy to secure our nation against terrorist threats.”

The successful operation to take Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi off the battlefield was a win for American national security. And it’s an important reminder of the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals. They are beyond compare. 
 
I’m glad President Trump ordered the mission. But as more details of the raid emerge, it’s clear that this victory was not due to Donald Trump’s leadership. It happened despite his ineptitude as Commander-in-Chief. 

It’s been reported that Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw our troops from northern Syria forced the planning for the mission to be accelerated and the timeline compressed. His erratic behavior made it harder and more dangerous for the special forces carrying it out. And they had to fly through territory that is now hostile to the U.S., taking fire along the way—including territory we controlled just weeks ago. 

Trump has also made it less likely we will be able to successfully replicate a mission like this in the future. The operation leveraged a limited presence of U.S. counterterrorism capabilities in the region, which he keeps trying to dismantle. It was made possible by the work of intelligence professionals, who he has relentlessly attacked. It relied on allies he has belittled, undermined, and in some cases betrayed and abandoned.  

Trump’s total disregard for our alliances and partnerships endanger any future intelligence sharing or cooperation. In fact, the first people he saw fit to thank after our brave troops were the Russians and the Iranian-backed Syrian government. All this makes us less safe and less prepared for whatever terrorist leader emerges next.
 
And make no mistake, the threat is not gone. One man does not constitute an organization, and Trump has opened a path for ISIS to reconstitute itself under new leadership by withdrawing troops from the region. In doing so, he has given up our best asset to keep the pressure on ISIS during a dangerous period of organizational chaos. His fixation on keeping troops in the region to defend the oil fields betrays his true priorities—profit seeking—and will surely serve as a tool for future terrorist recruitment. And with his decision to slash humanitarian assistance to the region, it’s more likely that ISIS will be able to insinuate itself back into areas where we had successfully rooted it out. 

There is a difference between deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East indefinitely, and keeping small numbers of special operations and intelligence assets in place to maintain local partnerships and keep pressure on terrorists. That’s the smart, strong, and sustainable strategy we pioneered during the Obama-Biden Administration. That’s the effective policy we put in place, which laid the groundwork to end ISIS’s territorial caliphate. That’s the way we built the very relationships that ultimately delivered this victory.
 
Now, Trump wants to tear it all down and walk away.
 
He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States. 

Trump at United Nations Goes it Alone with His Scheme of America First on Global Scale

Rest of World Embraces Multilateralism to Achieve Equitable, Sustainable Future

Secretary-General António Guterres and US President Donald Trump, give remarks at the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom briefing, on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Summit © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

There couldn’t be more divergently contrasting speeches between that of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US President Donald Trump, even more stark by coming virtually on heels of each other – or then again, between Trump and every other head of state and minister who came to the podium.

 “I have the privilege of addressing you today as the elected leader of a nation that prizes liberty, independence and self-government above all,” Trump declared. “The United States, after having spent over two and a half trillion dollars since my election to completely rebuild our great military, is also by far the world’s most powerful nation.”

Coming immediately after the Youth Climate March on Friday which brought out some 4 million people around the world to demand the world’s leaders act to save the habitability of the planet, and the United Nation’s Climate Summit in which over 100 nations (not the United States, but states and regions were represented) gave specifics on programs and achievements in order to prevent the earth from heating more than 1.5 degrees more, Trump boasted that the United States has become the world’s “Number One Producer of Oil and Gas.”

In a body created out of the ashes of two devastating world wars to prevent such global conflicts, Trump declared, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.”

Reprising and expanding upon his America First speech he delivered to the United Nations last year, he attacked anything that might smack of multilateralism, and urged the rest of the world to follow suit.

“If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. And if you want peace, love your nation,” he declared – a statement that defies any reading of history.

Donald Trump tells the United Nations General Assembly, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Yet, Trump insisted the nations of the world adopt the Trumpian view of “Freedom of Religion”.

“This fundamental right is under growing threat around the world. Hard to believe, but 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious liberty is in significant danger or even completely outlawed. Americans will never fire or tire in our effort to defend and promote freedom of worship and religion. We want and support religious liberty for all.

“Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life,” he said. “We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer funded abortion on demand right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life. Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child born and unborn is a sacred gift from God.”

Defend innocent life – except when it comes to guns.

“There is no circumstance under which the United States will allow international interests to trample on the rights of our citizens, including the right to self-defense. That is why this year I announced that we will never ratify the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which would threaten the liberties of law-abiding American citizens. The United States will always uphold our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. We will always uphold our Second Amendment. The core rights and values America defends today were inscribed in America’s founding documents.

“Our nation’s founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination. It protects not the interests of many, but the privilege of few. Our founders gave us a system designed to restrain this dangerous impulse. They choose to entrust American power to those most invested in the fate of our nation: a proud and fiercely independent people.”

Donald Trump tells the United Nations General Assembly, “Our nation’s founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination.” Later that day, House Democrats determined to start a formal impeachment inquiry. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Each year, Trump has to find a boogey-man to attack. In  his first address, he lambasted North Korea’s “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-Un; last year he went after Venezuela. This year, he declared “One of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations today is the repressive regime in Iran. The regime’s record of death and destruction is well known to us all. Not only is Iran the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, but Iran’s leaders are fueling the tragic wars in both Syria and Yemen.”

As the United Nations raises alarms about the greatest numbers of displaced people around the globe since World War II, Trump tripled down on his hostility and hatred for refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.

“To anyone conducting crossings of our border illegally, please hear these words: Do not pay the smugglers. Do not pay the coyotes. Do not put yourself in danger. Do not put your children in danger. Because if you make it here, you will not be allowed in. You will be promptly returned home. You will not be released into our country as long as I am president of the United States. We will enforce our laws and protect our borders. For all of the countries of the western hemisphere, our goal is to help people invest in the bright futures of their own nation. Our region is full of such incredible promise, dreams, waiting to be built, and national destinies for all, and they are waiting also to be pursued.” The United States rejected the United Nations Global Migration Compact.

Trump’s speech to the General Assembly, just as his remarks to the “Freedom of Religion” forum the day before, was tailored for his base (and helps explain his eagerness to pal around with India’s Prime Minister Modi, attending the 50,000-strong rally in Houston, despite Modi’s harsh assault on Muslim-majority Kashmir – it is his ticket to the Indian-American vote). In this context, his attack on Venezuela served as his foil for attacking Democrats and their radical ideas about income inequality and universal health care.

“One of the most serious challenges our country has faced is the specter of socialism. It’s the wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies. The events in Venezuela reminds us all that socialism and communism are not about justice. They are not about equality, they are not about lifting up the poor, and they are certainly not about good of the nation. Socialism and communism are about one thing only: power for the ruling class. Today I repeat a message for the world that I have delivered at home: America will never be a socialist country. The last century socialism and communism killed 100 million people.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells the 74th General Assembly, “In the 21st century, we must see human rights with a vision that speaks to each and every human being and encompasses all rights.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Guterres began his speech noting that the United Nations Charter’s first words are “We the Peoples” “It puts people at the center of our work, everyday, everywhere…. people with rights. Those rights are an endowment.”

“Machines take their jobs.  Traffickers take their dignity.  Demagogues take their rights.  Warlords take their lives.  Fossil fuels take their future”, he declared. “And because people still believe in the United Nations, we, the leaders, must deliver. They believe as leaders we will put people first, because we the leaders must deliver for We the Peoples…People have a right to live in peace.”

He cited promising developments, such as peaceful elections in Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the Greece-North Macedonia name dispute resolution; political dialogue in Sudan; and an agreement in Syria. But he spoke of persisting conflicts, terrorism and “the risk of a new arms race growing” across the world, and lamented unresolved situations in Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan; an evasive solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; Venezuelan displacements; and “the alarming possibility of armed conflict in the Gulf”. 

Members of Trump’s cabinet on hand to listen to his United Nations General Assembly address: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, in the post since September 12, 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And without actually naming the United States and China, he raised alarm over “a new risk looming on the horizon: the possibility of a great fracture, the world splitting in two, with the two largest economies on earth creating two separate and competing worlds, each with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence capacities, and their own zero sum geopolitical and military strategies”. 

“We must do everything possible to avert the Great Fracture and maintain a universal system…with strong multilateral institutions”, he stressed.

Guterres encouraged the world leaders to take advantage of the Sustainable Development Goals Summit to “ramp up ambition”.

And he, like every other leader, pointed to the need to aggressively confront Climate Action. Referencing Monday’s Climate Action Summit, the UN chief underscored the importance of adaptation.

“Even our language has to adapt: what was once called ‘climate change’ is now truly a “climate crisis” … and what was once called ‘global warming’ has more accurately become ‘global heating’,” he said.

Guterres referred to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas as he spoke of “unprecedented temperatures, unrelenting storms and undeniable science”.

Though “not fast enough”, the world is starting to move “in the right direction” – away from fossil fuels and towards a green economy, he said.

Turning to fundamental freedoms, the UN chief said, “we are at a critical juncture where advances made across the decades are being restricted and reversed, misinterpreted and mistrusted”.

The Secretary-General pointed to new forms of authoritarianism; narrowing civic spaces; the targeting of activists, human rights defenders and journalists; and expanding surveillance systems that are “shredding the fabric of our common humanity”. 

And in direct contradiction to the Trumpian vision of the world order, Guterres said that anything that is done to uphold security and human rights “helps deliver sustainable development and peace”.

“In the 21st century, we must see human rights with a vision that speaks to each and every human being and encompasses all rights”, lauding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a tool for social protection, a sustainable environment, education and decent jobs.

These themes were echoed by just about every other leader and representative – except for Donald Trump. Indeed, the rest of the world seems more resolved than ever to work together – basically ignoring the United States.

That is fine with Trump, who thinks of the rest of the world as children trying to tap their Dad for money.

See also:

Youth Climate Activist Greta Thunberg to UN Climate Summit: ‘If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you’

Trump Uses United Nations as Paid Political Promotion to Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Biden attacks Trump as G7 Opens: ‘Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure’

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, stated Trump’s “incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the “Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, issued this statement:

“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world.  He has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the United States and our allies in Europe. 

“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique, because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation. No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.

“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most important strategic alliance.

“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren’s Plan to Transform America’s Approach to Trade

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade.  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan to transform America’s approach to trade: “Trade can be a powerful tool to help working families but our failed pro-corporate agenda has used trade to harm American workers and the environment. My plan represents a new approach to trade — one that uses America’s leverage to boost American workers and raise the standard of living across the globe. The President has a lot of authority to remake trade policy herself. When I’m elected, I intend to use it.” Here are the details, as provided by the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade. 

America enters trade negotiations with enormous leverage because it is the world’s most attractive market. A Warren Administration won’t hand that leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes. Elizabeth will use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. Under Elizabeth’s plan, America will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families. 

The plan is the third pillar of Elizabeth’s 
economic patriotism agenda. Read more about her plan here and below:
 

Last month, I released my economic patriotism agenda — my commitment to fundamentally changing the government’s approach to the economy so that we put the interests of American workers and families ahead of the interests of multinational corporations. I’ve already released my ideas for applying economic patriotism to manufacturing and to Wall Street. This is my plan for using economic patriotism to overhaul our approach to trade.

For decades, big multinational corporations have bought and lobbied their way into dictating America’s trade policy. Those big corporations have gotten rich but everyone else has paid the price. We’ve lost millions of jobs to outsourcing, depressed wages for American workers, accelerated climate change, and squeezed America’s family farmers. We’ve let China get away with the suppression of pay and labor rights, poor environmental protections, and years of currency manipulation. All to add some zeroes to the bottom lines of big corporations with no loyalty or allegiance to America.

We need to completely transform our approach to trade. America enters into trade negotiations with enormous leverage because America is the world’s most attractive market. As President, I won’t hand America’s leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes — I’ll use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. We will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families.

A New Approach to Trade

My plan is a new approach to trade — one that is different from both the Washington insider consensus that brought us decades of bad trade deals and from Donald Trump’s haphazard and ultimately corporate-friendly approach.

Unlike the insiders, I don’t think “free trade” deals that benefit big multinational corporations and international capital at the expense of American workers are good simply because they open up markets. Trade is good when it helps American workers and families — when it doesn’t, we need to change our approach. And unlike Trump, while I think tariffs are an important tool, they are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this Administration clearly lacks.

To ensure that American families benefit from international trade in the decades to come, I want to invest in American workers and to use our leverage to force other countries to raise the bar on everything from labor and environmental standards to anti-corruption rules to access to medicine to tax enforcement. If we raise the world’s standards to our level and American workers have the chance to compete fairly, they will thrive — and millions of people around the world will be better off too.

Achieving this vision isn’t about tough talk or tweets. We must do the hard work of transforming every aspect of our current approach to trade: from our negotiating process to the negotiating objectives we pursue to the way we enforce agreements. That’s what I intend to do.

A Trade Negotiation Process that Reflects America’s Interests

Our current approach to negotiating trade agreements works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. The negotiating text is kept confidential from all but a small set of advisory groups comprised mostly of corporate executives and industry trade group representatives. Once those corporate interests are finished whispering in the ears of our negotiators, the completed text is released. Then, under the expedited “Fast Track” procedure Congress typically uses to approve trade agreements, our elected representatives must vote up or down on the agreement with no ability to propose and secure any changes to it. Meanwhile, the negotiators who constructed it often breeze through the revolving door to take jobs with the corporations whose interests underlie the deal.

This is undemocratic and obviously corrupt. In a Warren Administration, we will negotiate and approve trade agreements through a transparent process that offers the public a genuine chance to shape it:

Trade negotiators will publicly disclose negotiating drafts and provide the public with an opportunity to comment. When federal agencies write new rules, they typically must publish a proposed version of the rule and permit the public to submit comments on it. I will adopt a similar approach for our trade deals. Prior to negotiations, our negotiators will publish a draft of their proposals in the Federal Register, let the public offer comments on the draft, and take those comments into consideration during negotiations. And then as talks proceed, they will publish drafts of the negotiating texts so the public can monitor the negotiations.
 

Trade advisory committees will prioritize the views of workers and consumers. I will ensure that there are more representatives from labor, environmental, and consumer groups than from corporations and trade groups on every existing advisory committee. And I’ll expand the current list of advisory committees to create one for consumers, one for rural areas, and one for each region of the country, so that critical voices are at the table during negotiations.  

The US International Trade Commission will provide a regional analysis of the economic effects of a trade agreement. Trade agreements can hollow out communities and transform regional economies. Yet the report the ITC provides before Congress considers a trade agreement only includes a nationwide analysis of a trade deal’s economic impact. I will push for the agency to provide a region-by-region analysis so the public and Members of Congress can understand how an agreement is likely to affect the places they live and represent.  

The congressional approval process will offer more opportunities for the public and elected representatives to shape trade agreements. I will seek expedited congressional approval of trade agreements only when every regional advisory committee and the labor, consumer, and rural advisory committees unanimously certify that the agreement serves their interests. I will also expand the list of congressional committees that must review any agreement before it is eligible for expedited consideration.

Together, these changes will ensure that our negotiations reflect the views of American families, not corporate interests.

Using Our Leverage to Demand More for American Families and to Raise the Global Standard of Living

While a better process will produce better agreements, we also must fundamentally shift the goals of our trade agenda so they are aligned with the interests of America’s families.

With certain important exceptions, we live in a low-tariff world. Modern trade agreements are less about the mutual reduction of tariffs and more about establishing regulatory standards for everything from worker rights to pollution to patent protections.

My approach to trade reflects that reality. For too long, we have entered into trade deals with countries with abysmal records on laborenvironmental, and human rights issues. In exchange for concrete access to the American market, we get vague commitments to do better, which we then hardly enforce. The result is that millions of people in our trading-partner countries don’t gain the benefits of higher standards — and companies can easily pad their profits by shifting American jobs to countries where they can pay workers next to nothing and pollute the air and water freely.

That will end under my Administration. I am establishing a set of standards countries must meet as a precondition for any trade agreement with America. And I will renegotiate any agreements we have to ensure that our existing trade partners meet those standards as well.

My preconditions are that a country must:

Recognize and enforce the core labor rights of the International Labour Organization, like collective bargaining and the elimination of child labor.  

Uphold internationally recognized human rights, as reported in the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights, including the rights of indigenous people, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups.  

Recognize and enforce religious freedom as reported in the State Department’s Country Reports.  

Comply with minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  

Be a party to the Paris Climate agreement and have a national plan that has been independently verified to put the country on track to reduce its emissions consistent with the long-term emissions goals in that agreement.  

Eliminate all domestic fossil fuel subsidies.  

Ratify the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  

Comply with any tax treaty they have with the United States and participate in the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project to combat tax evasion and avoidance.  

Not appear on the Department of Treasury monitoring list of countries that merit attention for their currency practices.

A country should only be considered an acceptable partner if it meets these basic standards. Shamefully, America itself does not meet many of these labor and environmental standards today. I am committed to fixing that as President. And to help bring other countries up to these standards, I’ll revitalize our commitment to providing technical assistance to help countries improve.

I will also go beyond these minimum standards in key areas to promote the interests of American workers and families.

LaborI will ensure trade agreements protect Buy American and other programs designed to develop local industry, contain strong rule-of-origin standards to promote domestic manufacturing, protect worker pensions, promote equal pay for equal work for women, and prohibit violence against workers. Unlike previous trade deals agreements that have put labor standards in side agreements that are difficult to enforce, I will make labor standards central to any agreement.

Climate Change and the Environment. Climate change is real, it’s man-made, and we’re running out of time to address it. America should be leading this fight, but we have turned our backs on our responsibilities — with communities of color in the U.S. and developing countries bearing a disproportionate amount of the harm.

Trump is moving us in the wrong direction — withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, renegotiating NAFTA without even a mention of climate change, and handing special carve outs to oil and gas companies.

Beyond requiring implementation of the Paris Climate accord and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies as preconditions for any trade agreement, I have already proposed a Green Marshall Plan to dedicate $100 billion to helping other countries purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology.

But we must do more. I will push to secure a multilateral agreement to protect domestic green policies like subsidies for green products and preferential treatment for environmentally sustainable energy production from WTO challenges. And because big corporations will move their production to the countries with the weakest greenhouse gas emissions standards — undermining global efforts to address climate change and penalizing countries that are doing their part — I will impose a border carbon adjustment so imported goods that these firms make using carbon-intensive processes are charged a fee to equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules.

Prescription Drugs. Last year, Americans spent more than $500 billion on prescription drugs. That’s a 50% increase since 2010. Nearly 3 in 10Americans report not taking their medicine as directed because of costs. And yet, one of the core elements of America’s current trade agenda is guaranteeing pharmaceutical firms monopoly protections so they can avoid competition from generic drugs — driving up costs and reducing access to necessary medicine abroad, and undermining our efforts to reduce drug prices here at home. That’s exactly what the Trump Administration has done as part of their failed effort to renegotiate NAFTA.

While medical innovation is important, there is no link between extremely long exclusivity periods and pharmaceutical innovation. These are giveaways to drug companies, plain and simple, which allow them to maintain ludicrously high drug prices.

As President, I will fight to bring down the costs of prescription drugs here and around the world. I will never use America’s leverage to push another country to extend exclusivity periods for prescription drugs. I will support efforts to impose price controls on pharmaceuticals. And I will actively seek out opportunities to reduce exclusivity periods in our existing trade deals in exchange for securing other changes that will help America’s working families.

Agriculture. For decades, trade deals have squeezed family farmers, with Black farmers losing their land particularly quickly. Between the trade fights incited by Trump’s haphazard tariffs and a series of natural disasters, America’s farmers are now facing the worst crisis in almost 40 years. They are also facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and instability. Trump’s tariffs have reduced crop prices, threatened farmers already operating on razor-thin margins, and opened up new non-American markets against which our farmers are now forced to compete. Like trade deals of the past, Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 is written to help giant multinational agribusinesses at the expense of family farms, and it will do nothing to solve the newly created market insecurity Trump’s tariffs have caused.

As President, I will fight for trade agreements that reward American farmers for their hard work by negotiating for fair prices for goods, breaking up the monopolies in grain trading and meat packing, and protecting domestic markets to create stability for America’s family farms. And I will impose Country-of-Origin Labeling rules to protect American producers and provide transparency to consumers.

Consumer protection. We must ensure that the food we eat is high-quality and safe. But our trade agreements have limited safety standards and the inspection of imported foods, while simultaneously enabling a new flood of food imports that overwhelm food safety inspectors. In my Administration, our trade pacts will require imported food to meet domestic food safety standards, including enhanced border inspection requirements.

As with imported food, our current trade deals require us to allow imports of other products and services that do not meet domestic safety and environmental standards. My trade agreements will ensure that imported products and services must meet the same standards as domestic products and services.

Antitrust. We are in an era of massive consolidation across many sectors of the economy. One of the reasons why is that we have a narrow, permissive approach to mergers that looks only at economic efficiency and consumer welfare instead of assessing the impact that a merger will have on competition itself.

In recent years, we have added this problematic standard into trade agreements and proposed it as the defining objective for competition policy in new and renegotiated agreements. Under my administration, we will not propose this standard in any new agreement, and we will work to renegotiate agreements to remove it.

Delivering for American Families with Stronger Enforcement

Our approach to enforcing trade agreements drives down standards worldwide and undermines American families. We offer big corporations fast and powerful methods to enforce the provisions that benefit them but make it nearly impossible for Americans to enforce labor and environmental protections. Foreign governments only fear a challenge to strong rules that might hurt corporate bottom lines, not to weak rules that might not adequately protect workers, the environment, or public health.

I will entirely reorient our approach to enforcement so we drive standards up, not down. I’ll start by ending “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, the favorable enforcement approach we offer corporations. Under ISDS, a company that believes that a new law violates some aspect of a trade agreement can skip the courts and challenge the law before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company wins, the panel can order that country’s taxpayers to pay out billions in damages — with no review by an actual court. What’s worse, the arbitration panels handing out these binding rulings are often made up of corporate lawyers whose day jobs are representing the very same companies that seek judgments before them.

Companies have used ISDS to undermine laws intended to benefit the public interest. A French company challenged Egypt when it increased the minimum wage. A Swedish company challenged Germany when it decided to cut back on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. These cases have real effects across the globe: an ISDS panel’s decision to hear a challenge that Philip Morris brought against Uruguay’s anti-smoking campaign prompted several other countries to abandon similar public health efforts.

As President, I will not include ISDS in any new agreement and will renegotiate existing agreements to remove ISDS from them.

And I’ll strengthen our approach to enforcing labor and environmental standards. Unlike a corporation under ISDS, a labor union seeking to enforce labor standards can’t bring a claim on its own — it must convince the federal government to bring a claim on its behalf. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, our government can refuse to act for diplomatic or other unrelated reasons.

As a result, the federal government has only pursued one such claim in the last 25 years. In that one case, the American government, AFL-CIO, and Guatemalan unions spent nine years trying to challenge the Guatemalan government for violating the labor chapter of one of our trade deals because Guatemalan workers were being murdered for trying to join a union. In the end, we lost because the trade agreement required a showing that the violations had affected trade.

I will replace this broken process by creating independent commissions — made up of experts in the area — to monitor potential violations, respond to complaints, and investigate claims. The commissions must review and investigate claims promptly so that claims don’t languish for years. If one of these commissions recommends that the United States bring a claim against another country, the United States will be required to do so, without exception.

I will also fix the problem that arose in the Guatemala case by pushing to remove language from our deals that require us to show that a violation of rights was “sustained or recurring” and “affecting trade or investment.” A violation is a violation, and I won’t let another case like Guatemala happen ever again.

I will strengthen our enforcement approach in other ways as well:

Under WTO rules, a country designated as a “non-market economy” can face more serious trade penalties. I will push for a new “non-sustainable economy” designation that would allow us to impose tougher penalties on countries with systematically poor labor and environmental practices. We cannot allow countries that treat their workers and the environment poorly to undercut American producers that do things the right way.  

I already have a plan to move the lead American trade negotiator — the Office of the United States Trade Representative — within my new Department of Economic Development. That will ensure that America’s trade policy supports our broader economic agenda of defending and creating good American jobs. I will also create a new labor and environment enforcement division at the USTR to more effectively enforce obligations, and embed a labor attache at U.S. embassies to monitor compliance with our labor standards.  

Unlike the current approach that lets our government ignore unfair trade practices, my administration will create automatic triggers to initiate investigations into unfair trade practices. If those investigations produce compelling evidence of a violation, the Department will impose trade remedies immediately until the offenders show they are no longer engaging in an unfair trade practice. These automatic triggers will also apply to violations of labor and environmental standards.  

Finally, when we impose duties to support particular domestic industries, I want to ensure that the money we collect actually goes to American workers, instead of being sucked up by executives and shareholders. I will fight to change our trade laws so that we review duties every six months and lift the duties if companies can’t demonstrate the benefits of the duties are going to their workers.

Trump Says is Standing with Saudi Arabia as Ally Which Promises to Spend $450 Billion in US: ‘America First!’

Citing Saudi Arabia’s promise to spend $450 billion in the US and its oil production and ability to raise or lower oil prices, Donald Trump says he will stand by his ally and ignore the allegations of culpability of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the savage murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “Very simply it is called America First!” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump issued a statement unequivocally standing with Saudi Arabia, declaring “America First!,” and stressing that Saudi Arabia “agreed” to spend a record $450 billion in the US, while throwing darts at Iran to defend Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen that have contributed to the most severe humanitarian crisis on the planet, and all but dismissing any accountability for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump declared. 

“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.” 

Here is his statement, highlighted —Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

 The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!

Trump Separates Friends (North Korea, Japan) From Foes (Canada, China, Iran) at Press Conference During UN Visit

Donald Trump press conference, Lotte Hotel, NYC, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

To really get a sense of who Donald Trump is as president, listen to his responses to a wide-ranging press conference, held on the day he chaired a Security Council meeting at the United Nations and the day after he delivered his address to the General Assembly, rejecting multilateralism in favor of America First sovereignty. 

In his press conference, he addressed everything from the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s handling of sexual assault charges, to North Korea, Iran, trade agreements. He accused China of meddling in the 2018 election (by imposing retaliatory tariffs targeting farmers and Red States). He continued to boast about historic gains in the economy while attacking Democrats, Obama, and sniping at Hillary Clinton. (“If others got in, it would have been just the opposite because they were going to put restrictions on.  They were going to put regulations on.  They were going to choke the economy as it was already choking, but it would have been worse.  And they were going to raise your taxes.  That’s what they want to do now if they ever got control, which I don’t think they’ll have control for a long time.”) 

He attacked Justin Trudeau of Canada while praising Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and anyone else who registered adoration. 

He dismissed any suggestion that members in the General Assembly laughed at his boast of accomplishing more in his time in office than any US president in history. 

So the fake news said, ‘People laughed at President Trump.’  They didn’t laugh at me.  People had a good time with me.  We were doing it together.  We had a good time.  They respect what I’ve done. The United States is respected again.  The United States was not respected.  Everybody was taking advantage of us.  From jobs, and taking our companies, and not paying the price — to so many other things, even military protection.” 

And he managed to get a hit at “fake news” and the “failing” New York Times. 

Here, then, is a minimally edited transcript of the press conference.  — Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

 

PRESS CONFERENCE

BY PRESIDENT TRUMP

Lotte New York Palace New York, New York

September 26, 2018

4:57 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much everybody.  We’ve had a great three days at the United Nations in New York.  And this is quite a gathering.  Wow.  It’s a lot of people.  A lot of media.  (Laughter.)

We’ve covered a great deal of territory.  Just left, as you know, Prime Minister Abe of Japan.  We’re starting trade talks with Japan.  They were not willing, for years, to talk trade, and now they’re willing to talk trade.  And I’m sure we’ll make a very good deal.

Just concluded, as you know — two days ago, signed a deal with South Korea — a trade deal.  A tremendous deal with South Korea.  It means a lot of business for our farmers.  We’re opening up for farmers.  We’re opening up for a lot of different groups.

We’re going to be able to sell much more than double the number of automobiles that we were allowed under a deal that was totally defective that was there before.  And so we’re very happy with that.  That deal is actually concluded.

We’re very well along the way with Mexico.  The relationship is very good.  And with Canada, we’ll see what happens.  They’re charging us 300-percent tariffs on dairy products.  We can’t have that.  We can’t have that.

With China, as you know, we put out an announcement today.  They would like to see me lose an election because they’ve never been challenged like this.  But I want to open up China to our farmers and to our industrialists and our companies.  And China is not open, but we’re open to them.  They charge us 25, 35, 55 percent for things, and we charge them nothing in terms of coming into the country.

Cars, they’re at 25 percent.  And we’re at 2 percent and 2.5 percent, and don’t even collect it.  But we collect it now.

So we’re doing very well in our situation with China on trade.  I have a great relationship with the President of China, President Xi.  But it’s got to be a two-way street.  It — for 25 years and longer, it was not.  And trillions and trillions of dollars was taken out of the United States for the benefit of China.  We just can’t have that.  We have to make it fair.

So we’re at $250 billion now, at 25 percent interest.  And a lot of money is coming into our coffers.  And it’s had no impact on our — absolutely, by the way, no impact on our economy, which I said it wouldn’t.

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In fact, steel is like the hottest industry there is.  If you look at what happened with steel, we’re charging a 25 percent tariff for the dumpers.  They dump massive amounts of steel.  They want to put the steel companies out of business.  And after they’re out of business, they’ll come in and charge five times more than you ever thought possible.  And we need steel and we need aluminum.  And those industries are doing well.

But steel is incredible.  U.S. Steel is opening up a minimum of eight plants.  Nucor is opening up plants.  And these are big plants — $750 million and a billion dollar plants, in some cases.

So what’s happening with the steel industry is very exciting to me.  It’s being rebuilt overnight.  If you look at the miners in coal, if you look at energy, LNG — Japan just gave us some numbers that are incredible.  They’re doubling the amount that they are going to be buying for Japan.  They’re taking the LNG and they’re doubling it up.

I said, “You have to do me a favor.  We don’t want these big deficits.  You’re going to have to buy more.”  They’re buying massive amounts of equipment and military equipment, and other countries are doing the same thing.  Because we have trade imbalances with almost everybody.  It’s a rare exception that we don’t.

So we are doing great as a country.  Unfortunately, they just raised interest rates a little bit because we are doing so well.  I’m not happy about that, because I know it’s going to be a question.  I am not happy about that.  I’d rather pay down debt or do other things, create more jobs.  So I’m worried about the fact that they seem to like raising interest rates.  We can do other things with the money.  And — but they raised them.  And they’re raising them because we’re doing so well.  You know, we’re doing much better than I had projected in terms of — when I was campaigning, I said we were going to do this and we’re doing much better than anybody ever thought possible.

And, I will say, if others got in, it would have been just the opposite because they were going to put restrictions on.  They were going to put regulations on.  They were going to choke the economy as it was already choking, but it would have been worse.  And they were going to raise your taxes.  That’s what they want to do now if they ever got control, which I don’t think they’ll have control for a long time.

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Kavanaugh Confirmation

Q    In 1991, when Joe Biden passed along to the Bush 41 White House the allegations that Anita Hill had raised against Clarence Thomas, the Bush White House asked the FBI to look into it as part of Judge Thomas’s background investigation — not a criminal investigation, but the background investigation. When these allegations were raised, why didn’t this White House do the same thing?  And with all of the allegations that are coming out now about Judge Kavanaugh, was there an opportunity missed here to have investigators look into this and get some sort of clarity one way or the other?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the FBI told us they’ve investigated Judge Kavanaugh six times, five times, many times over the years.  They know him very well.  But here, there was nothing to investigate from at least one standpoint.  They didn’t know the location.  They didn’t know the time.  They didn’t know the year.  They didn’t know anything.  And it’s like, where do you go?

Also, it’s not for the FBI.  If you look at what Joe Biden said, he said, “They don’t do this.”  And he said it very clearly.

So I think when you really look at it all, it’s not going to change any of the Democrats’ minds.  They’re obstructionists.  They’re actually con artists because they know how quality this man is and they’ve destroyed a man’s reputation and they want to destroy it even more.

And I think people are going to see that in the midterms.  What they’ve done to this family, what they’ve done to these children — these beautiful children of his — and what they’ve done to his wife.  And they know it’s a big, fat con job.

And they go into a room and, I guarantee you, they laugh like hell at what they’ve pulled off on you and on the public.  They laugh like hell.      So, it wouldn’t have mattered if the FBI came back with the cleanest score.  And you understand that very well, John.  If they would have come back with the most perfect — “We found everything, and he’s perfectly innocent of everything.”  It wouldn’t have made a difference.  You wouldn’t have gotten one vote.

Now we will get votes from the Democrats if we win.  You’ll have three, four, or five Democrats giving us votes, because they’re in states that I won by 30 and 40 points and they’re going to give us votes. 

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Q    Mr. President, there are now three women accusing Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.  Are you saying that all three of those women are liars?  Is there anything that can be said at this point tomorrow that could cause you to withdraw the nomination?  Anything at all that —

THE PRESIDENT:  I won’t get into that game.  I’ll only tell you this: This is one of the highest quality people that I’ve ever met, and everybody that knows him says the same thing.  And these are all false — to me, these are false accusations in certain cases.  And certain cases, even the media agrees with that.

     I can only say that, what they’ve done to this man is incredible.  You know, it’s very interesting — I pick a lot of judges.  I have 145 judges I will be picking by the end of a fairly short period of time because President Obama wasn’t big on picking judges.  When I got there, I said, “How is this possible?”  I have 145 — including court of appeals — judges.  And they just didn’t do it.  You know why?  They got tired.  They got complacent.  Something happened.  I have 145 judges. 

     Everybody wants to be a federal judge.  Not just a Supreme Court judge, I’m talking about court of appeals; I’m talking about district court.  I don’t think they’re going to want to so much.  I’ll be calling people, and we’ll have people calling people that do this.  And people are going to be scared because we could say it about you, “Thirty-five years ago, you met some…” — and you might know — you might not know what’s going on. 

What is going on?  Why did they wait so long?  Why did Senator Feinstein wait until the hearings were over and make this case?  Why didn’t she bring it right at the beginning?  When you ask about, as an example, the FBI — why didn’t they bring this right at the beginning, during the hearing?  You would have had all the time in the world for the FBI.  It would have been fine.

Now the FBI, as you know, did investigate this time, as they have five or six other times.  And they did a very thorough investigation.  But this is a big con job.  And I would love to be in the room with the Democrats, close the door — you guys are all away, outside, waiting.  And Schumer and his buddies are all in there laughing how they fooled you all.  Let’s just stop them.  A big fat con.

Q    But, Mr. President, if I could follow up.  You have daughters.  Can you understand why a victim of sexual assault would not report it at the time?  Don’t you understand —

THE PRESIDENT:  People are going to have to make a decision.  Thirty-six years, there’s no charge.  All of a sudden, the hearings are over and the rumors start coming out.

And then you have this other con artist, Avenatti, come out with another beauty today.  I only say that you have to look at the facts.  The senators are very capable people.  They’re very good people.  I know many of them.  They’re friends of mine.  These are very talented, very good people.  And they’re going to vote.  They’re going to believe what they believe.I can — when I look at what’s happened to the reputation of a great gentleman — a great intellect; a brilliant man; somebody that has a chance to be one of our great Supreme Court Justices in history, intellectually — I think it’s a shame.

Donald Trump press conference, Lotte Hotel, NYC, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuba

Q    Mr. President, yesterday at the speech at the U.N., you spoke about how Venezuela’s problem was because of Cuba and the Castros — how they went in there and they brought socialism and communism to Venezuela, and now to Nicaragua as well. Mr. President, are you going to be more proactive now against Cuba as well?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve been very proactive against Cuba.  I don’t like what’s happening in Cuba.  As you know, President Obama gave them a pass and I didn’t like it.  Neither do Cuban people based in Miami and based in our country that came from Cuba and suffered in Cuba. 

     I don’t like what he did.  I’ve ended much of it — most of it.  I don’t like what’s happening in Cuba, and I certainly don’t like what’s happening in Venezuela.

Q    You said also that you had a call-to-action to ask the leaders around the world to also end socialism.  Would you like to be recognized as —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I wouldn’t say that socialism has been working really well around the world, okay.  You can take a look at Venezuela as your number one — your number one — I guess, the one that is most obvious.  But you take a look around the world, socialism is not exactly riding high.

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Standing By His Men

Q    Why is it, Mr. President, that you always seem to side with the accused and not the accuser?  You have three women here who are all making allegations, who are all asking that their stories be heard.  And, you know, if you look at the case of Roy Moore, if you look at the case of one of your staffers, you seem to, time and again, side with the accused and not the accuser.  Is that because of the many allegations that you’ve had made against you over the years?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I wasn’t happy with Roy Moore.  Let’s get that straight.  But Roy Moore was a Republican candidate —

Q    But you stood by him.

THE PRESIDENT:  — and I would have rather had a Republican candidate win.  I was very happy with Luther Strange, who was a terrific man from Alabama, but Luther Strange had a lot of things going against him.

As far as women, whether it’s a man or a woman, these are — you know, it can happen the other way.  Allegations can go the other way also.  You understand that.  And whether it was a man or a woman, 30 years ago, 36 years ago — in fact, they don’t even know how many years ago because nobody knows what the time is.  That’s a long time.

And I could pick, as an example — hopefully I won’t have to do it as a replacement because hopefully this is going to go very well on Thursday.  It’s going to go very well on Monday, or Saturday, or Sunday, or whenever they vote.  But I could pick a woman and she could have charges made from many years ago also.

Q    First of all, do you think these women — all three of them are liars?  Yes or no?

THE PRESIDENT:  I can’t tell you.  I have to watch tomorrow.  I have to read.  I just heard about one a little while ago.  I can tell you her lawyer is a low life, okay?  So I can’t tell you whether or not they’re liars until I hear them.

I don’t know what happened today because I’ve been very busy with Japan, with South Korea, with China, and about seven other countries, as you know — and I chaired the Security Council.

So I don’t know about today’s person that came forward.  I do know about the lawyer.  And you don’t get much worse — bad reputation, too.  Take a look at his past.

So, as far as the other women are concerned, I’m going to see what happens tomorrow.  I’m going to be watching — you know, believe it or not.  I’m going to see what’s said.  It’s possible that they will be convincing.

Now, with all of that being said, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been, for many years, one of the most respected people in Washington.  He’s been on — I guess you’d call it the second highest court.  And every single person knows him; a lot of people know him well. And those people don’t believe what’s going on.  I can always be convinced.  I have to hear it.

Q    It sounds like what you’re saying is, there is a situation, there is a scenario under which you would withdraw Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.  Is that correct?  And have you talked about that with him?

THE PRESIDENT:  If I thought he was — if I thought he was guilty of something like this, yeah sure.

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to watch.  I want to see.  I hope I can watch.  I’m meeting with a lot of countries tomorrow, but I will certainly, in some form, be able to watch.  And I’ll also rely on some very fair and talented Republican senators who — look, if we brought George Washington here and we said, “We have George Washington,” the Democrats would vote against him, just so you understand. 

And he may have had a bad past, who knows, you know.  (Laughter.)  He may have had some, I think, accusations made.  Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past?  George Washington would be voted against 100 percent by Schumer and the con artists.  I mean 100 percent.  One hundred percent. 

So it really doesn’t matter from their standpoint.  That’s why when John asked about the FBI — if the FBI did the most thorough investigation in the history of the FBI, and they found him to be 100-percent perfect, he would lose every single vote.

Now, if the Republicans win tomorrow, I think you’re going to get some votes from the Democrats.  You know why?  Because — we all know why — because it’s called politics.  Then you’ll probably get some votes.

Q    Has there ever been an instance when you’ve given the benefit of the doubt to a woman?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve known them.  Hallie, I’ve know them for a long time and — a lot of these people.  A lot of people.  And some I’ve been disappointed with.  I have been disappointed with some.  Others, like — you know, there are charges that are pretty weak. 

But I’ve known people for a long time.  I never saw them do anything wrong.  I never saw them do anything wrong.  And there are some that probably — I agree.  I can tell you there are some that I — I’ve been watching for a long time.  And in a couple of cases, they weren’t Republicans.  In a lot of cases, they were not; they were exactly the opposite.  

But I’ve been watching them for a long time.  And I knew for a long time these were not good people.  And they were never brought up. 

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I Was Accused…Fake News

Q    How have your personal experiences being accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct — 

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve been accused.  I’ve been accused.  False accusations. 

Q    — right, how have those — 

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me.  I’ve been accused.  And I was accused by — I believe, it was — four women.  You can check with Sean Hannity.  You can check with Fox, because they covered it very strongly — who got paid. 

Q    And how has (inaudible) — 

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me.  Excuse me.  I was accused by four or five women who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me.  We caught them, and the mainstream media refused to put it on television.  They refused to even write about it.  

     There were four women, and maybe more — I think the number is four or five.  But one had a mortgage paid off her house, $52,000.  Another one had other things happen.  And the one that reported it, I believe, was offered $750,000 to say bad things about me — and she is the one that reported it.  This woman is incredible.  She reported it, instead of taking the money.  

     So I’ve had numerous accusations about me.  

     Q    Right. 

     THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, they made false statements about me, knowing they were false.  I never met them.  I never met these people.  And, what did they do?  What did they do? 

     They took money in order to say bad things.  I’ve had stories written in the New York Times — front page — about four women.  The whole top center front page of the New York Times.  I think it was four big pictures.  

I said, “Wow.  That’s a big thing.  What’s that?”  These were women that were quoted saying bad things about me.  Not the worst things about me, but bad things.  And I said, “Gee, that’s too bad.”  I knew them a long time ago — 15 years ago, 20 years ago.  I said, “That’s too bad.  I’m surprised at them.”  

And then all of a sudden I see them on television — nothing to do with me.  The next day or a day later, they were incensed.  They said, “Donald Trump is a nice guy.  We never said this.  The New York Times did false reporting.  They’re fake news.”  And you know what?  The New York Times would not report that their story was fake.  

     These women said great things. Not only did they not say the bad stuff, they said great things about me.  Front page.  And those women — they’re incredible women — they went on television — and they didn’t want to, and I didn’t ask them.  And they said, “The New York Times made it up.  They gave false quotes.”  And they went on a lot of shows.  They were really incensed and they couldn’t believe it.  

That’s why people know that a lot of the news is fake.  And a lot of the people sitting here are fake.  But 20 percent of them are wonderful.  Okay? 

Q    If I could just actually ask my question, Mr. Trump.  I — you didn’t let me ask my question.  

THE PRESIDENT:  You’ve been asking a question for 10 minutes, all right?

Q    No, you interrupted my question.

THE PRESIDENT:  Please sit down. Please.

Q    I’m asking you —

THE PRESIDENT:  Go ahead.  Go ahead. 

Q    — how did those impact your opinions on the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it does impact my opinion.  You know why?  Because I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me.  I’m a very famous person, unfortunately.  I’ve been a famous person for a long time.  But I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me — really false charges.  

I know friends that have had false charges.  People want fame.  They want money.  They want whatever.  So when I see it, I view it differently than somebody sitting home watching television, where they say, “Oh, Judge Kavanaugh…” this or that.  

It’s happened to me many times.  I’ve had many false charges; I had a woman sitting in an airplane and I attacked her while people were coming onto the plane.  And I have a number-one bestseller out?  I mean it was total phony story.  There are many of them.  

So when you say, does it affect me in terms of my thinking with respect to Judge Kavanaugh?  Absolutely.  Because I’ve had it many times.  

And if the news would have reported these four people — I couldn’t believe it.  When I heard that they caught these four people, I said, “Wow.  That’s a big story.”  And it was — for Fox.  Okay. 

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Accuses China of Meddling in 2018 Elections

Q    Earlier today and just now, you made a significant allegation against the Chinese government.  You suggested that the Chinese had meddled in or are meddling in the 2018 midterm elections. 

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s what I hear. 

Q    What evidence do you have of that, sir?  Is there a national intelligence estimate, for example, that you’re prepared to put forward? 

THE PRESIDENT:  We have evidence.  We have evidence.  It’ll come out.  Yeah, I can’t tell you now, but it came — it didn’t come out of nowhere, that I can tell you.  

Now, if you — they’ve actually admitted that they’re going after farmers.  I mean, I think most of you can cover that. 

I like that you’re shaking your head, “yes.”  I’m going to ask you the next question because of that. Okay?  It’s probably going to be the killer of all questions.  (Laughter.)  But let me just explain —  

Q    But why make the charges now —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  Let me — 

Q    — if you’re not prepared to come forward with the evidence, sir? 

THE PRESIDENT:  China, now, put on $250 billion, and they’re paying 25 percent on that.  They’re paying billions and billions.  This has never happened to China.  And I like China.  And I like President Xi a lot.  I think he’s a friend of mine.  He may not be a friend of mine anymore, but he — I think he probably respects — 

From what I hear — if you look at Mr. Pillsbury, the leading authority on China — he was on a good show — I won’t mention the name of the show — recently.  And he was saying that China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain.  He said, “Donald.  Donald Trump.  They don’t know what to do.”  It never happened.

Well, one thing they are trying to do is they are trying to convince people to go against Donald Trump.  Because a normal, regular, political person that has no concept of what the hell he’s doing would let China continue to take $500 billion a year out of our country and rebuild their country.  

I mean, they were building 29 massive bridges like the George Washington Bridge.  They’re building things that we don’t build anymore.  But we’re starting to build them again.  

And our economy now is hotter than it’s ever been. I don’t know you if you saw the confidence levels this morning that just came out.  Fantastic.  

And in all fairness to the Fed raising rates, they’re raising rates because we’ve never done like we’re doing now.  And one of the things that is nice about the rates — the people that were hurt the worst by these zero interest rates and, you know — 

When President Obama had an economy that was — it was the worst comeback since the Great Depression and all that — you’ve all heard that.  But remember, he was playing with zero-interest money.  He was playing with funny money.  That’s easy.  I’m playing with fairly expensive money. 

So when he does that, the people that benefit are people that actually — in their whole life, they would save 10, 15, 20 percent of their salary and put it in the bank.  Those people got killed because they put their money in the bank.  They were going to live off the interest, and there was no interest.  

Now, those people are starting to get interest.  And those are the people, frankly, that deserve to — you know, they did a great job.  The people that did it right, the people that did the best job got hurt the most.  

So in one sense I like it, but basically I’m a low-interest-rate person.  I hate to tell you.  

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Fire Rod Rosenstein?

Q    Are you planning to fire Rod Rosenstein?  

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m talking to him.  We’ve had a good talk.  He said he never said it.  He said he doesn’t believe it.  He said he has a lot of respect for me, and he was very nice and we’ll see.  And he’s a member of the Trump administration, in that sense; it’s the Justice Department.  

I would certainly prefer not doing that.  There was no collusion.  There was no obstruction — I mean, unless you call obstruction the fact that I fight back.  I do fight back.  I really fight back.  I mean, if you call that obstruction, that’s fine. 

But there’s no obstruction.  There’s no collusion.  I’m going to meet with him tomorrow.  I may call Rod tonight or tomorrow and ask for a little bit of a delay to the meeting, because I don’t want to do anything that gets in the way of this very important Supreme Court pick.  So I don’t want it competing and hurting the decision — one way or the other decision.  Again, I want to hear what she has to say.  

But I want to do — so I may delay that.  I’m going to see.  I don’t want to do anything that’s going to conflict with that.  But my preference would be to keep him, and to let him finish up.  

You know, I call it a “witch hunt.”  And it is a witch hunt.  If you look at the FBI statements with Strzok and his lover Lisa Page.  If you look at all of the things that have gone on in the FBI.  If you look at McCabe taking $700,000 from a Hillary Clinton-PAC essentially run by Terry McAuliffe, who’s her best friend in the world, and he gives them hundreds of thousands of dollars.  And he’s in charge of her campaign, and his wife is getting all of this money to run — she lost — to run.  I mean, what’s going on?  

If you look at the horrible statements, like “Way to go, Page.  Great story you put into a newspaper.”  Essentially, now we’ll go and investigate that group.  It’s terrible.  We have caught people doing things that are terrible. 

I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein.  Much prefer.  Many people say I have the right to absolutely fire him.  He said he did not say it.  He said he does not believe that.  And nobody in this room believes it 

By the way, I deal with the people in this room.  I was with Mike Pompeo before, and we were dealing, at a very high level, with Japan. And I was saying things that nobody in the room even understood.  And I said them a long time ago, and I was right.  He said, “That’s not the 25th Amendment that I’m looking at.”  I think I can say that from Mike. 

Q    So you don’t think anyone in your administration has ever discussed using the 25th Amendment against you? 

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think so.  Well, yeah — enemies, sure.  You use anything you can.  

Q    Was it in your administration or your Cabinet? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, you use anything they can.  They’re not in love with me.  They’re not going to beat me in the election; they know that.  They’re not going to beat me.  The people that I’m looking at are total lightweights.  I dream of running against those people.  

Q    But within your administration? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Maybe they’ll come up with somebody that’s not — they’re not going to beat me. I’m against what they want to do.  I’m in favor of law enforcement.  I’m in favor of safety and security, and low taxes.  I want low taxes.  

I want borders.  We’re getting another $1.6 billion in borders.  I want borders.  We’ve spent $3.2 [billion] and we’re getting another $1.6 [billion].  And then eventually, we’re getting the whole thing and we’ll complete the wall.

They don’t want that.  They don’t want that.  They don’t want the things that I have.  

Now, I must say, I know many of the Democrats.  They’ll say things and then wink at me.  And again, it’s the same old story.  They’ll say things; they don’t mean it.  Its politics.  The reason they don’t want me is because they want to run the show.  They want it.  It’s power.  It’s whatever you want to call it.  But what they’ve done here is a disgrace.  A total disgrace.  

And what they do — I know, it’s sort of interesting — in one case, they say, “He’s a fascist.  He’s taking over the government.  He’s the most powerful President ever.  He’s a horrible human being.  He wants to take over the entire government, and he’s going to do it.  We can’t stop him.”  That didn’t work.  

The next week, he said, “Uh, he’s incompetent.”  I said, “Well, wait a minute.”  In one case, I’m taking over the world.   And in the other case, “He’s incompetent.”  They tried that for a week.  That didn’t work.  

Look, these are very dishonest people.  These are con artists.  And the press knows it, but the press doesn’t write it. 

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

No Timeline for North Korea 

Q    You’re getting letters from Chairman Kim.  Why do you need a second summit with the North Korean leader so soon?  And what do you — 

THE PRESIDENT:  Because he’d like it. 

Q    What would it be for? 

THE PRESIDENT:  So I’ve received two letters from Chairman Kim.  At some point, I’ll, you know, give these letters — they’re incredible letters.  They’re letters that are magnificent in the sense of his feeling for wanting to get this done.  I really believe he wants to get it done.  I may be wrong. 

I heard somebody on a certain network last night — I won’t mention which one — say, “Why has President Trump given so much to North Korea?”  I said, “Wait a minute.”  I asked Sarah Huckabee, “Please call this person.”  I gave nothing — other than I met.  What did I give them?  

I didn’t do what Obama did:  Give them $1.8 billion in cash to get back four hostages.  I got back our hostages; I never paid them anything.  I haven’t paid them 10 cents.  

But he wants to make a deal and I’d like to make a deal.  We actually have a very good relationship together — a lot different than the last time I was at the United Nations.  That was a little bit rough.  

Don’t forget, that time, they said, “Oh, Trump is saying these horrible things.  He’s going to get us into a war.”  You were going to have a war.  If I wasn’t elected, you’d be in war.  And President Obama essentially said the same thing. He was ready to go to war.  

You would have had a war, and you would have lost millions, not thousands.  You would have lost millions of people.  Seoul has 30 million people — 40 miles and 30 miles from this very dangerous border.  If I wasn’t elected, you would have had a war. 

President Obama thought you had to go to war.  You know how close he was to pressing the trigger for war?  Millions of people.  With me, nobody is talking about that.  Nobody is talking about that. 

We have a very good relationship.  He likes me.  I like him.  We get along.  He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters.  When I showed one of the letters — just one — to Prime Minister Abe, he said, “This is actually a groundbreaking letter.  This is an incredible — this is a historic letter.”  And it is a historic letter.  It’s a beautiful — it’s a beautiful piece of art.  And I think we’re going to make a deal. 

Will we make a deal, Steve?  I don’t really know.  But I think we’re going to.  

In the meantime — and I’ve said it a thousand — I don’t want to bore you: no rockets, no missiles, no nuclear tests — you know, for over a year, where you haven’t seen.  

Before I got here, everybody in this room thought you were going to war.  And then what happened — it was funny — they said, “He was terrible.  He was so rough with Chairman Kim — Kim Jong Un.  He was so rough.  It’s terrible.  He’s going to cause…”  

Well, I had a great meeting with President Putin.  And on that one, they said, “He was too soft with President Putin.”  I had a great meeting with the President.  It lasted for two hours.  We discussed everything: Ukraine, Syria, Israel and Israel’s protection.  We had a great meeting.  They wanted me to end up in a boxing match.  

And you know what?  If I was killer-tough with President Putin, they would have said, “He was too tough.”  You can’t win with these people, but you just keep going.  In the meantime, we’re doing well. 

Q    How long do you think it should take North Korea to denuclearize? 

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know.  I don’t want to get into — 

Q    We’ve seen estimates of one year, two year — 

THE PRESIDENT:  Steve, I don’t want to get into the time game.  You know why?  I told Mike Pompeo, I said, “Mike, don’t get into the time game.”  We stopped them.  They’re taking down plants.  They’re taking down a lot of different testing areas.  They’re going to take down some more.  You’ll be hearing about that very soon.  I don’t want to go ahead of myself, but you’ll be hearing about it soon.  They have no interest right now in testing nuclear.  

You know, we had a case just about when I was coming into office — you all remember it — where there was a massive — they thought it was an earthquake.  A mountain moved over an inch and a half.  We’re talking about mountains.  You know, North Korea is very mountainous.  Beautiful land.  Beautiful.  This mountain actually shifted.  It shifted.  And somebody thought it was an earthquake.  And then they found out, no, this was nuclear testing.  Shifted a mountain.  Now I’m talking about serious stuff.  Serious size. 

When I came in, and certainly before I came in — and even at the beginning of mine because when I was having rhetorical contests — you know, contests, really, I guess you could call it — with Chairman Kim, which we both smile at now and we laugh at.  But everybody thought that was a horrible thing.  

We’ve had — many Presidents were unable to do anything, anything at all with North Korea.  We now have a good relationship.  We have a good relationship.  And most importantly, all of the things that you’ve been hearing about –the horror stories — in my opinion, they’re gone.  

Now, could they start up again?  Yes.  I’m a deal guy.  Could they start?  Yeah.  Could be that we don’t work it out. 

I think — I have it right here — I think that what we’ve done behind the scenes, which nobody really knows about — and I don’t blame you for not knowing about, you know, personal letters, private letters.  But saying they want to get it done.  We know much more than the media for a change.  Much more.  But if you saw what’s going on behind the scenes, I think you’d very impressed.  

We were a country going to war.  I really believe that President Obama would admit that he said it’s by far his biggest problem.  When I sat with him, prior to going to office — going into office, he said to me that’s by far the biggest problem.  And he said to me that he was very close to going into war.  

And millions of people — not — you know, I — they say, “Oh, thousands of people…”  No, no, no, not thousands.  Millions of people would have been killed.  And that could have left — you’re right next to China.  You’re right — that could have been a world war very easily. 

Right now, we’re in a great position.  I don’t want to play the time game.  I told Mike Pompeo, “Don’t let them do that to you.”  I haven’t given anything.  

And all of a sudden — we got back, it was a few weeks ago.  I think we were back like two and a half months from the summit, which was a great success.  And people are screaming, “What’s taking so long?”  I said, “Oh, I get it.”  You got to understand the media.  I’ve been dealing with the media all my life.  Too much.  Too much.  

They’re screaming and I saw that.  And our guys were — and not Mike — but our guys were being, “Oh well, we’re working as fast…”  I said, “I got all the time in the world.  I don’t have to rush it.”  There’s no — you know, secession of sanctions.  We got the sanctions on.  I didn’t take any sanctions off.  

I did see a reporter last night — a guy I like, personally, a lot.  And he asked a question to President Moon of South Korea.  He said, “Why did the President give so much?”  I didn’t give anything.  I gave nothing.  What have I given, other than some time?  Yes, I flew to Singapore.  We had a meeting.  

Now, giving would be if I took the sanctions off.  I didn’t want to do — if you asked General Mattis, for a year and a half, I said, “Why don’t we stop these ridiculous,” in my opinion, “the military games?”  I call them the “military games.”  If I told you how much those games cost — and, frankly, I told South Korea, “You should be paying for these games.”  We pay for them. 

They say, “Well, we fly the planes in from a short distance away.”  I said, “Where is that?”  “Guam.”  “Oh, huh.  How long a trip is that?”  “Seven hours.”  “Oh, great.”  We’re flying these massive bombers and everything.  I’ve wanted to stop this for a long time.  I consider that an asset.  

But we’ve done — we’re saving, by the way — just for the taxpayer, we’re saving a fortune.  And if we need them, we can start them up immediately.  If I think we need them, I’ll start them before the generals will start them.  

The fact is, this reporter said that.  I said, “What have we done?  I haven’t given anything.”  And we’re really onto the cusp.  I think we’re really going to do something that’s going to be very important. 

But we’re not playing the time game.  If it takes two years, three years, or five months, it doesn’t matter.  There’s no nuclear testing and there’s no testing of rockets. 

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Democrats’ Con Job

Q    Are you at all concerned at the message that has been sending — being sent to the women who are watching this when you use language like “con job” in relation to allegations of sexual assault? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I’ve used much worse language in my life than “con job.”  That’s like probably the nicest phrase I’ve ever used.  I mean, con job — it is.  It’s a con job.  You know, confidence — it’s a confidence job.  But they short — it’s a con job by the Democrats.  They know it. 

Q    What about the message that’s being sent to women who are watching? 

THE PRESIDENT:  They did the same thing with the Russia investigation.  They tried to convince people that I had something to do with Russia.  There was no collusion.  

Think of it.  I’m in Wisconsin.  I’m in Michigan.  I say, “Gee, we’re not doing well.”  I won both those states.  “We’re not doing well.  Uh, let me call the Russians to help.”  Does anybody really believe that?  It’s a con job. 

And I watch these guys — Little Adam Schiff, and all of the guys.  He takes a call from a Russian who turned out to be a faker.  You know, he was a comedian or something.  “This is so-and-so calling for…” — he took the call.  Why is the taking a call from a Russian? 

Senator Warner took a call from a Russian.  He was a comedian or something, but he said, “We have pictures of President Trump.”  “Oh, where can I get them?”  If we ever did that, it would be like a big deal. 

Yeah, it’s a con job.  And it’s not a bad term.  It’s not a bad term at all. 

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll tell you one thing I can say: I’ve had a lot of people talking about this to me, with respect to what’s happening, because it’s a horrible precedent.  

I’m going to have to get other judges and other Supreme Court judges, possibly.  I could have a lot of the Supreme Court judges, more than two.  And when I called up Brett Kavanaugh — spoke to him and his family — and told them that I chose them, they were so happy and so honored.  It was as though — I mean, the biggest thing that’s ever happened.  And I understand that — U.S. Supreme Court.  

I don’t want to be in a position where people say, “No, thanks.  No, thanks.  I don’t want to.”  You know, “I spoke to somebody 38 years ago, and it may not be good.”  We have a country to run.  We want the best talent in the world. 

But I’ll tell you this:  The people that have complained to me about it the most — about what’s happening — are women.  Women are very angry.  

You know, I got 52 percent with women.  Everyone said, “This couldn’t happen — 52 percent.”  Women are so angry.  And I, frankly, think that — I think they like what the Republicans are doing, but I think they would have liked to have seen it go a lot faster.  But give them their day in court.  Let her have her day in court.  Let somebody else have a day in court. 

But the ones that I find — I mean, I have men that don’t like it, but I have women that are incensed at what’s going on.  I’ve always said women are smarter than men.  I’ve said that a lot and I mean it.  But women are incensed at what’s going on.

DDonald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I Like Kurds A Lot

Q    Rudaw Media Network from Kurdistan region, north of Iraq.  I’m a Kurd.  Sir —

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Good.  Great people. Are you a Kurd?

They’re great people.  They’re great fighters.  I like them a lot.  Let’s go.  I like this question so far.

Q    Mr. President, you always say you support your allies.  Kurds right now, after the defeat of ISIS, are under a lot of pressure in Syria and in Iraq by many adversaries.  

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s true.

Q    What will you do to elevate their position to support them in order — after they help the United States to defeat ISIS?  Thank you very much. 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we are helping them a lot and we’ve been very friendly with them.  And, as you know, we’ve fought side-by-side.  And we have defeated ISIS, essentially, a very short while ago, in the Middle East.  And we did it with a lot of help from the Kurds.  And they are — they’re great fighters.  

You know, some people are great fighters and some people aren’t.  The Kurds are great fighters.  And they’re great, great people.  And we’re going to be working — we’re discussing that situation exactly right now. 

Q    What will you do to support them, sir, (inaudible) Syria? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m just telling you, we’re going to be discussing that situation.  We have already started discussing that situation.  But we have tremendous support from the Kurds in defeating ISIS.  Okay? 

Q    And about Syria:  Sir, in your speech you did not mention —

THE PRESIDENT:  Uh, yes.  Go.  Uh oh.

Donald Trump press conference, Lotte Hotel, NYC, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Prospects for NAFTA

Q    Did you reject a one-on-one meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I did.  

Q    Why? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Because his tariffs are too high, and he doesn’t seem to want to move, and I’ve told him, “Forget about it.”  And frankly, we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada.  That’s the motherlode.  That’s the big one.  We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada. 

We don’t like their representative very much.  They’ve taken advantage — I love Canada, by the way.  I have so many friends.  I have everybody, and so many friends.  But that has nothing to do with this; I’m representing the United States.  

Mexico was totally — I mean, they were great.  By the way, the new President has been great.  The deal is done.  Now, it has to go through Congress and, you know, a lot things have to happen.  But we’ve done — Bob Lighthizer, who’s here someplace.  Where’s Bob?  Bob.  Bob Lighthizer has done a great job of negotiating, as they have.  But the deal is done.  It’s up to Congress. 

THE PRESIDENT:  But Canada has treated us very badly.  They’ve treated our farmers in Wisconsin, and New York state, and a lot of other states very badly.  

Dairy products — 300 percent.  Three hundred percent.  How do you sell a dairy product at 300 percent?  The answer is:  You don’t.  What it is, is a barrier.  It’s — basically, they’re saying, “We don’t have any barriers.  By the way, it’s 300 percent.”  So you don’t send it in, because you can’t compete.  

So Canada has a long way to go.  I must be honest with you, we’re not getting along at all with their negotiators.  We think their negotiators have taken advantage of our country for a long time.  We had people that didn’t know what they were doing.  And that’s why we had — over the last five or six years, if you average it out, we had $800 billion a year in trade losses.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s not going to happen. 

Q    What does that mean for NAFTA?  Will you be pulling out of NAFTA?     

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t like NAFTA.  I never liked it.  It’s been very bad for the United States.  It’s been great for Canada.  It’s been great for Mexico.  Very bad for us.  

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not going to use the name “NAFTA.”  I refuse to use it.  I’ve seen thousands of plants and factories close.  I’ve seen millions of jobs lost to auto companies that moved.  I mean, Mexico has 25 percent of our auto business now because of NAFTA. 

Under our deal, it’s not going to happen anymore.  I hate to tell you, it’s not.  We’re going to keep companies.  And I told the Mexicans, I said, “We have to keep companies.”  But they’re getting a lot, also.  They’re getting other things.  They’re getting a lot of good things.  Mexico made a very good deal. 

But with Canada, it’s very tough.  What we’re doing is if we made a deal with Canada — which is, you know, a good chance still.  But I’m not making anything near what they want to do.  We’re going to be fair.  

Q    But you’re — are you going to notify Congress of pulling out of NAFTA? 

THE PRESIDENT:  What we’re probably going to do is call it the “USMC.”  Like the United States Marine Corps, which I love.  General Kelly likes it even more.  Where’s General Kelly?  He likes that.  “USMC” — which would be U.S., Mexico, Canada.  But it’ll probably or possibly be just “USM.”  It’ll be United States and Mexico.  

Q    Yes or no, are you going to — 

THE PRESIDENT:  Canada will come along.  Now, if Canada doesn’t make a deal with us, we’re going to make a much better deal.  We’re going to tax the cars that come in.  We will put billions and billions of dollars into our Treasury.  And frankly, we’ll be very happy because it’s actually more money than you can make, under any circumstance, with making a deal.  Okay? 

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Kurds, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Turkey

Q    What will be the U.S.A. relations with the Kurds —

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I thought I just answered that.

Q    — post-ISIS.  Post-ISIS.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  We’re trying to get along very well.  We do get along great with the Kurds.  We’re trying to help them a lot.  Don’t forget, that’s their territory.

THE PRESIDENT:  We have to help them.  I want to help them.

Go ahead, what’s next?

Q    Then, what —

THE PRESIDENT:  They fought with us.  They fought with us.  They died with us.  They died.  We lost — tens of thousands of Kurds died fighting ISIS.  They died for us and with us.  And for themselves.  They died for themselves.  But they’re great people.  And we have not forget — we don’t forget — I don’t forget.  What happens someday later — but I can tell you that I don’t forget.  These are great people.

Q    About Iran, Mr. President.  About Iran, one question: What is your clear plan to stop Iranian influence in Iraq, in Syria, and especially in Iraqi Kurdistan? 

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there’s been no greater change — other than maybe China, because China — unfortunately, their markets have dropped — would you say, 30 percent in the last four months, right?  I think I watched you recently when you said that.  I said, “I think she’s wrong.  I think it’s actually 32.  But that’s okay.”  But a lot.  

There’s been no — other than maybe that, but even that.  Because China is a very special place.  And Iran is a very special place.  But I think there’s been no country that’s changed so much as Iran.  

In the last six months, since I took off the horrible, horrible Iran nuclear deal, as they called it — one of the dumbest deals ever made.  As an example, why didn’t they take care of Yemen in the deal?  Why didn’t they take care of Syria in the deal?  You know what Kerry said — the reason?  “It was too complicated.”  

We’re giving $150 billion, we paid $1.8 billion in cash — cash.  This whole room would be filled up with hundred-dollar bills.  And you’d need probably five rooms like this.  But you have $1.8 billion in cash.  Why didn’t we take care of Yemen?  Why didn’t we take care of Syria and other?  And he said, “Because it was too complicated.”  Well, you just gave all your cards.  You gave them $150 billion.  And now Yemen’s a mess, but it’s getting better.  

And Syria’s a mess.  And I was responsible — and I hope it stays that way — when I put out on social media, a few weeks ago, about Idlib Province.  I said, “Don’t do it.”  And I’ll tell you, it happened — where I was at a meeting with a lot of supporters, and a woman stood up and she said, “There’s a province in Syria with 3 million people.  Right now, the Iranians, the Russians, and the Syrians are surrounding their province.  And they’re going to kill my sister.  And they’re going to kill millions of people in order to get rid of 25,000 or 35,000 terrorists or enemies of theirs.”  But I think we can call them terrorists. 

And I said, “That’s not going to happen.”  I didn’t hear of Idlib Province.  And I came back to New York, and I picked up the failing New York Times — I hate to admit it was the New York Times, but it was the failing New York Times.  And I opened it up — not on the front page, but there was a very big story.  I said, “Wow, that’s the same story that the woman told me that I found hard to believe.”  Because why would — how would anyone do that with 3 million people?  And it said that they were being surrounded, and they were going in and starting — literally, the next day, they were going to drop bombs all over the place and perhaps kill millions of people in order to get 35,000 terrorists.  

And I put out on social media and elsewhere — I gave Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, everybody these orders: “Don’t let it happen.”  I said, “Don’t let it happen.”  That doesn’t mean they can’t be selective.  They can’t be — you know, go in and they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do with terrorists.  I assume they’re terrorists.  But don’t kill millions of people.  

And it stopped.  You saw that.  Nobody’s going to give me credit, but that’s okay.  That’s okay.  Because the people the people know. 

I have had more Syrians thank me for that.  This was about four weeks ago, I put that out.  I said, “They’re surrounding a city of 3 million people.  They’re going to start bombing the city.  Don’t let it happen.”  And I meant it, too.  I meant it.  And millions of people have been saved.  

And I gave, today, great credit to Iran.  I don’t know if you heard that.  I gave great credit to Iran, to Russia, and to Syria for not doing it.  

Now I hope it’s going to be surgical — meaning go in and do — it’s lengthy and everything else.  And they possibly have to do it.  But I think millions of people would have been killed.  And that would have been a shame.  

And hopefully — and I have to tell you, Turkey has been a big help.  Turkey has been great.  Turkey has helped us very much with that whole situation. 

Q    Touching back on Iran: Of course, this week, you put out a call to action to other countries to rally with America, to put pressure on Iran.  Rouhani is still calling for the U.S. to come back into the old deal.  But after meeting with world leaders this week, did you make any progress towards a potential new deal?  

THE PRESIDENT:  Doesn’t matter what world leaders think on Iran.  Iran’s going to come back to me and they’re going to make a good deal, I think.  Maybe not.  Deals — you never know.  

But they’re suffering greatly.  They’re having riots in every city, far greater than they were during the green period with President Obama.  Far greater.  When President Obama stuck up for government, not the people.  You probably would have had a much different Iran had he not done that.  But I’m sticking up for the people.  I am with the people of Iran.  

But here’s the thing:  They have rampant inflation.  Their money is worthless.  Everything is going wrong.  They have riots in the street.  You can’t buy bread.  You can’t do anything.  It’s a disaster.  At some point, I think they’re going to want to come back, and they’re going to say, “Hey, can we do something?”  

And I’m very simple; I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons.  That’s all.  Is that too much to ask?  I don’t want them to have nuclear weapons.  

I want them to have a great economy.  I want them to sell so much oil so that the oil prices — I’m not happy with OPEC.  I told them, “I’m not happy with OPEC.”  We take care of all these people, we defend them.  They wouldn’t be there for two weeks if it wasn’t for me, and the United States, and a much stronger armed forces than it was.  Because our armed forces was depleted.  We had old equipment.  

Now, we have — hey, you know better than anybody — $700 billion and $716 billion.  We have the most incredible new jets and everything.  We need it.  Not that I want to spend it, although it is jobs.  It’s all made in the United States.  

But Iran has to come back, and they have to talk.  And I’m not doing this from strength or weakness.  I’m just saying, at some point, I think they’re going to have to come back.  

If you look at what’s going on, companies are leaving left and right.  Mercedes Benz just left.  They’re all leaving.  They don’t want to be in Iran.  Because they have a choice: Do they want to be with Iran, or do they want to be with us?  

And we have, by — we picked up $10 trillion since my election.  We were being caught by China.  Now it’s going the other way.  People can’t believe it.  People have never seen this situation with China.  Everything’s always been — for 20 years, “Oh, China is so great.  China is so great.”  You don’t hear that so much anymore.  I love China; I think they’re great.  But you don’t hear that so much anymore.  You know who’s great now?  We’re great now.  

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Okay, how about just a couple more.  Now, I could be doing — I could be doing this all day long.  I could be doing this all day long.  Should we continue for a little while?  It doesn’t matter to me.  A couple of more.  I don’t care.

New York Times, come on.  New York Times.  The failing New York Times.  Stand up.  Go ahead.

Q    You’re talking about me, but (inaudible).

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I’m talking about the Times is failing.  You are far from failing.  Go ahead.

Q    Okay, but you’re not — you were pointing to me, so you meant me.  But I —

THE PRESIDENT:  The Times are very interesting, though.  The Times, I think they’re going to endorse me.  (Laughter.)  I think that ABC — I think — well, Fox — I like Fox.  I really do.

Q    Just to be sure —

THE PRESIDENT:  But I think ABC, CBS, NBC, the Times, the — they’re all going to endorse me, because if they don’t, they’re going out of business.  Can you imagine if you didn’t have me?

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Laughter in General Assembly? Fake News

Q    Yesterday, you were talking about your administration’s accomplishments at the United Nations, and a lot of the leaders laughed.  Why do you think they were laughing? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s fake news.  

Q    And what was that experience like for you?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  It was fake news.  And it was covered that way.  Okay.  So, I said that, since my election, our economy has become the hottest in the world.  Tax reductions, regulations, confidence levels are the highest in 18 years — really, soon to be historic.  Unemployment is the lowest in the history of our country.  You look at Black unemployment.  You look at Asian unemployment.  You look at women — 65 years.  The unemployment numbers are among the best we’ve ever had ever.  The numbers of new companies pouring into our country, which nobody thought was possible.  

And I said this.  And I was in front of a large group of highly professional people, most of whom are from either other countries or the United Nations — people that aren’t big into clapping, applauding, smiling.  And I heard a little rustle, as I said our country is now stronger than ever before.  It’s true.  I mean, it is true.  And I heard a little rustle.  And I said, “It’s true.”  And I heard smiles.  And I said, “Oh, I didn’t know there there’d be that kind…”  They weren’t laughing at me.  They were laughing with me.  We had fun.  That was not laughing at me. 

So the fake news said, “People laughed at President Trump.”  They didn’t laugh at me.  People had a good time with me.  We were doing it together.  We had a good time.  They respect what I’ve done.  

The United States is respected again.  The United States was not respected.  Everybody was taking advantage of us.  From jobs, and taking our companies, and not paying the price — to so many other things, even military protection.  

I told a number of countries over the last few days, I said, “Listen, you’re a very rich country.  We protect you.  Without our protection, you would have real problems.  You would have real problems.”  

THE PRESIDENT:  I said, “You should reimburse us for this protection.  Why are we protecting you?”  And do you want to know what they said after about two minutes of talking?  They agreed with me.  And you can ask this group of very talented people — they agreed with me.  

But they said — one of them said, “But Mr. President, nobody ever asked us for that.  They never asked us for that.”  Nobody has ever said, “You should pay.”  These are really wealthy countries.  

I mean, I’ll be honest, I just asked Japan.  I said, “We’re defending you.  You’re a very wealthy country.  You’re sending us millions of cars.  You’re making a fortune.  We have a tremendous trade deficit with you.  And we’re defending you, and we’re subsidizing your military with a massive amount of money.” 

I said it to South Korea.  We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea.  They’re a very wealthy — these are great countries.  These are very wealthy countries.  I said, “Why aren’t you reimbursing us for our costs?”  

And you know what?  They look at me, and they can’t even answer it, because there’s no answer.  If they’re a poor country and they needed protection, and people were going to die, I’m all for protecting them; I don’t want 10 cents.  But when wealthy countries that have massive trade surpluses with us — massive — and then on top of that, we’re paying for their military?  Or we’re paying for a lot of their military?  That doesn’t work.  

 

Kinship with Kavanaugh?

Q    Mr. President, you said you feel a kinship — you said you feel a kinship with Brett Kavanaugh and you — Mr. President, really quickly, you said you felt a kinship with Brett Kavanaugh.  You said that you also — your false allegations that you feel like were made against you make you feel like you don’t want to believe these women.  What message do you think that – 

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I didn’t say that.  Why do you say that? 

Q    So, please explain —

THE PRESIDENT:  Fake news.  

Q    Please explain — 

THE PRESIDENT:  Why — did I say that?  

Q    Well, can you please explain then what you’re talking about in your own false allegations?

THE PRESIDENT:  I said, exactly, “I look forward to watching her.”  I do want to hear what she says.  And maybe she’ll say — I could be convinced of anything.  Maybe, if she’ll say something — but in the meantime, I have to tell you, he’s one of the highest quality human beings.

He’s a tremendous man.  He’s a tremendous genius.  He’s a great intellect.  He was, I believe, number one at Yale.  Is that a correct statement?  Number one in his class at Yale.

Q    So you don’t feel a kinship with him?

THE PRESIDENT:  He was a great student in law.  He was — you know, I’ve heard his name.  I didn’t know him.  Didn’t know him.  Until this whole thing, I didn’t know him.  But I heard his name for 10 years.

And you know how I heard his name?  Everybody was saying he should be on the Supreme Court.  I said, “Who is he?”  “His name is Brett Kavanaugh.  And he should be — he’s the most brilliant person.  He’s the most brilliant lawyer.”  They were talking about him on the Supreme Court 10 years ago.  With all of that, I want to hear what she has to say.  Okay?

Q    But you said that you don’t feel — but you said that you feel like there have been numerous false allegations against you, and that because of that–

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I’ve had many false —

Q    — you feel that you understand what he might be going through.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve had many false statements against me.  And if the press would have reported it, I would have been very happy.  I think John Roberts would tell you that — you covered the story where the women were paid to say bad things about me.  Sean Hannity covered it.  

I will tell you, when I saw that on Sean Hannity, I actually called him.  Believe it or not, I don’t speak to him very much, but I respect him.  I called him.  I said, “This is the biggest story.  This is a big, big story.”  He agreed with me.  The next day, I picked up the papers.  There wasn’t one word about it.  The next day, I watched ABC news.  John, I watched NBC.  I watched CBS.  I didn’t watch CNN, but, next time, I’m going to.  (Laughter.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  I watched everything.  There wasn’t one story other than Fox.  And it’s a big story.  It’s a shame.  Okay.  Enough.  Thank you, though.

Jared Kushner has been Trump’s key representative on the Israel-Palestine issue. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Israel & Two-State Solution: US Embassy in Jerusalem a Bargain

Q   Today, you met with Bibi Netanyahu, from Israel.  And you brought up, actually, that you support a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli crisis there. 

THE PRESIDENT:  I do. 

Q    Can you give us any more preview of what this great deal, the peace deal (inaudible) — 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’d love to be able to make a deal with the Israelis and the Palestinians.  You know, my whole life, I was told that’s the toughest deal.  And I disagree.  I think healthcare is probably tougher, okay?  You want to know the truth.  But it is tough.  But we’re going to take care of that, too.  And that’s going to get taken care of.  We’ve already taken care of a lot of it. 

But the whole — my life, I’ve always heard the deal between, as you know, Israel and the Palestinians, that’s like the toughest deal.  Every possible thing is tough about that.  I think we’re going to make a deal.  I think we’re going to make a deal.  

So, at one of our many meetings today, I was with Bibi Netanyahu, a man who I have a lot of respect for.  A man who has been extremely nice to me — very happy that I did the whole thing with Jerusalem and the embassy, which, by the way, we’re going to open in four months for less than $500,000.  And the budget was over $1 billion, right? 

Q    Yes.  That’s correct. 

THE PRESIDENT:  So we saved, let’s say, a billion dollars.  That’s not so bad.  And it’s open.  And it’s beautiful, by the way.  Jerusalem stone, one of my favorite stones. 

I will tell you, the question — somebody said today, “Well, this is the first news conference in a long time.”  I said, “What do you mean?  I did like, five today.”  Every time I sit, I take a lot of questions from people that are screaming like maniacs in the back of the room — meaning, reporters.  

And one of the reporters — I won’t say that it was John Roberts that said that, I refuse.  But one of the — it was, but that’s okay.  Don’t feel guilty, John.  But of the reporters that was screaming asked about the one-state, two-state.  And I said, “I think the two-state will happen.  I think it’s, in one way, more difficult because it’s a real estate deal — because you need metes and bounds, and you need lots of carve-outs and lots of everything.  It’s actually a little tougher deal.  But in another way, it works better because you have people governing themselves. 

So, they asked be about that.  I said, “Well, I think the two-state will happen.  I think we’re going to go down the two-state road.”  And I’m glad I got it out.  And Jared, who is so involved — he loves Israel.  He loves Israel.  But he’s also going to be very fair with the Palestinians.  He understands it takes two people to be happy — two groups of people to be happy.  Everybody has got to be happy.  And that’s why it’s so tough, because there’s been so much hatred and anger for so many years.  That’s what, probably, the number-one ingredient of toughness is.  But they asked me — I said I think it’s going to be a two-state.  

And you know what I did today?  By saying that, I put it out there.  And if you ask most of the people in Israel, they agree with that.  But nobody wanted to say it.  It’s a big thing to put it out.  It’s a very big thing to put it out.  

Now, the bottom line: If the Israelis and the Palestinians want one state, that’s okay with me.  If they want two states, that’s okay with me.  I’m happy if they’re happy.  I’m a facilitator.  I want to see if I can get a deal done so that people don’t get killed anymore.  

When we had — in Saudi Arabia, we had one of the great conferences in history.  Many of you were there; probably all of you were there.  It was one of the most beautiful two days.  That, and China — two of the most incredible events I’ve ever seen.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  

And we had, I believe, 58 Muslim countries — the leaders.  The kings, the emirs, the absolute leaders from every — there was nobody in second place.  They were the leaders of the whole thing.  

And unbeknownst to anybody else, people would come up to me, individually — it wasn’t a setup.  They’d come up to me and say, “Sir, you can’t have peace in the Middle East without peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”  I said, “Why?  What difference?  Why does that matter so much?”  They said, “It just is impossible to make peace in the Middle East unless you have between the Israelis…”  

So, I heard that from one — the King of Saudi Arabia, who is a great guy — King Salman.  And then, somebody else came up.  And he wasn’t told, “Oh, go up and say it.”  I know where they’re coming from.  And I must have had 12 leaders say it.  And they just said it.  

And I started to realize that peace between Israel and the Palestinians, for the Middle East, is a very important thing.  And we’re trying very hard to get it.  I think, probably, two-state is more likely.  But you know what?  If they do a single, if they do a double, I’m okay with it if they’re both happy.  If they’re both happy, I’m okay with either.  I think the two-state is more likely. 

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Okay, how about one — go ahead.

Q    New York Times?  New York Times?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, okay.

Q    Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  I would have gotten bad story in the New York Times.  But I will anyways, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Q    We’re — we’re kind of, uh —

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, we’ll do you after that.

Q    We’re kind of, uh —

THE PRESIDENT:  And then we’ll call it quits.

Q    We’re kind of thriving, not failing these days.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re doing very well.

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Say, “Thank you, Mr. Trump.”  (Laughter.)

Q    (Laughs).  I think I’ll stop short of that.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I wonder how you do — you know, all my life, I’ve had very few stories — but I’ve had some on the front page of the New York Times.  Now, I think I think I average about three or four a day, right?

THE PRESIDENT:  And, of the three or four, they’re all negative.  No matter what I do, they’re negative.  But you know what?  That’s okay.  I still love the paper.

Go ahead.  (Laughter.)

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

China Trade War

Q    I wanted to come back to China, because I think what you announced today was really important.

THE PRESIDENT:  I agree.

Q    You talk about this friendship you have with Xi Jinping, and yet, essentially, what you did today is accused his government — 

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right. 

Q    — of interfering in our internal affairs — 

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right. 

Q    — subverting our Democratic process, and doing it to hurt you, the Republican Party — 

THE PRESIDENT:  Doing it to help them. 

Q    — and your backers. 

THE PRESIDENT:  You know what?  Yeah.  Doing it to help them. 

     Q    So how can a guy who does that be your friend? 

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think that we are able to — and maybe he’s not anymore.  I’ll be honest with you, I think we had a very good friendship.  I think we had a very good relationship; we understand each other.  They are doing studies on Donald Trump.  They’re trying to figure it all out because this has never happened to them before.  It’s never happened.  

     Think of it, you’ve never seen — you’ve covered very well — you’ve never seen this happen.  They’re having big problems.  I don’t want them to have problems, but they got to make a fair deal.  Just like Canada has got to make a fair deal.  

     I believe that he and I have a very good chemistry together.  And I can tell you that about many leaders.  I can also tell you a few where I don’t feel I’ll ever have a chemistry with them.  I don’t want to have a chemistry with them.  And for those people, I’ll have Pompeo, Nikki, Bolton, Jared.  I can go — our general; I’ll have our general.  Or if they can’t do it, I’ll have Sarah Huckabee do it.  Right? 

     But for the most part, I have very good — very good with Prime Minister Abe.  Very good with President Moon.  

     By the way, what President Moon said last night — I know you won’t report it — but Bret Baier interviewed him last night and he asked him about me.  I can’t say — because you would say I’m too braggadocios — but what he said about me last night was an unbelievable thing.  “Couldn’t have happened without President Trump, and it never would happen without President Trump.  And nobody else could do it.”  You know, I mean, you’ll take a look.  

But I will tell you, China is very special.  Very special.  They’re incredible people.  It’s an incredible country.  What they’ve done is unbelievable.  

Q    How would — 

THE PRESIDENT:  And it all started with the WTO.  It was a defective deal.  And it all started — without the WTO, China is not China as we know it today.  

And then it started also by — our people that are standing right in this position, that are in the Oval Office — another way of saying it — allowed them to get away with murder.  Allowed a lot of countries to get away with murder. 

I think we still probably have a very good relationship.  But you know what?  In honor of you, I will, tomorrow, make a call to him.  Say, “Hey, how you doing?”  Okay?  

Q    Can I — can I just ask — 

THE PRESIDENT:  “You don’t mind paying billions of dollars a month in tariffs.” 

Q    I just had two small follow-ups.  One is, how would you compare the level of interference you see today from the Chinese to what Russia did in 2016? 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it’s different.  If you look at the Des Moines Register, I mean, they have ads that are made to look like editorials.  Saying about, “Oh, you got to stop Trump.  You got to stop him.  You got to vote against him.”  My farmers are so incredible.  These are patriots.  

     You know, on a network that doesn’t like me very much — which is most of them — but a network that didn’t — doesn’t really treat me very good, they interviewed farmers.  And they got hurt because, you know, all of a sudden China stops buying.  

By the way, they’ve started buying again.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed.  And soybeans are going up, and things are going up.  And we’ve had very little hurt from what I’ve done.  In fact, the markets have gone up.  And the farmers are going to do great.  

But, ultimately — but they had farmers, and these guys are amazing; I love them.  And they voted for me and they love me.  And they said, “We don’t care if we get hurt.  He’s doing the right thing.”  And, you know, a lot of people — it’s a complex game.  A lot of people don’t know exactly what it is.  They don’t know how to define “tariff.”  They don’t know it is really different than a tax, although it’s getting close. 

But they know that for the first time in many, many years, they have a President that’s fighting for them; that’s not letting their jobs be taken to other countries; that’s not allowing the kind of abuse that we — I mean, when you look at what happened, as an example, with NAFTA.  And for years — because it was never changed — NAFTA was defective deal the day it was signed.  

You know why?  Because they had a VAT tax of 17 percent and nobody from this country knew that.  And by the time they found out, which was about a week later, nobody went and changed it.  So you went many years and they never changed it.  There was a VAT tax that Mexico got.  So we were 17 or 16 points behind, before we even started.  NAFTA was a horrible thing. 

So the farmers and — by the way, the steel workers — you know, I stopped the dumping.  The dumping was horrible.  And now if they want to dump, that’s okay, but they’ve got to pay the United States of America 25 percent on everything they dump.  That’s okay.  But as I told you before, steel is doing phenomenally well. 

But the farmers say, “This man is fighting for us.  No President has ever fought for us before.”  And you really have to study what’s happened over the 15 years with the farm.  The farmers have been decimated over a 15-year period.  They’ve been decimated.  The farmers are going to come out great.  These are great people.  They’re great, great patriots.

Donald Trump at press conference during visit to United Nations, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

What Message Kavanaugh Hearings Sending Young Men? 

Q    You were asked earlier in the news conference by my friend from Sky News about the message that you are sending to the women of the country. What about the message that you may be sending to young men?  You’re a father.  What does this moment that we’re in — the cultural moment — 

     THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a very big cultural moment.  

Q    Right.  So what messages do you for young men of America? 

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a very big — it’s also — you’re right.  I think it’s a great question. 

     This is a very big moment for our country because you have a man who is very outstanding, but he’s got very strong charges against him — probably charges that nobody is going to be able be — to prove.  

So I could have you chosen for a position.  I could have you, or you, or you — anybody.  And somebody could say things.  And it’s happened to me many times, where false statements are made.  And honestly, nobody knows who to believe. 

     I could pick another Supreme Court judge — Justice.  I could pick another one.  Another one.  Another one.  This could go on forever.  Somebody could come and say, “Thirty years ago, twenty-five years ago, ten years ago, five years ago, he did a horrible thing to me.  He did this.  He did that.  He did that.”  

And honestly, it’s a very dangerous period in our country.  And it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people.  Some of them are Democrats, I must say.  Because some of them know that this is just a game that they’re playing.  It’s a con game.  It’s at the highest level.  We’re talking about the United States Supreme Court.  

This can go on forever.  I can pick five other people.  At a certain point, the people are going to say, “No, thank you.”  This is the most coveted job, probably, in the world.  

And you know what?  I would honestly say — because I interviewed great people for this job.  He’s great, but I interviewed other great people for this job.  I could conceivably imagine going to one of them and saying, “It’s too bad what happened to this wonderful man, but I’m going to choose you, number two.  I want you to go.”  And I could conceivably be turned down by somebody that desperately wanted this job two months ago. 

     THE PRESIDENT:  So this is — this is — and this is beyond Supreme Court.  

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s nothing beyond Supreme Court; this is beyond Supreme Court.  This has everything to do with our country. 

     When you are guilty until proven innocent, it’s just not supposed to be that way.  Always I heard, “You’re innocent until proven guilty.”  I’ve heard this for so long, and it’s such a beautiful phrase.  In this case, you’re guilty until proven innocent.  I think that is a very, very dangerous standard for our country.  

     With that being said, I look forward to what she has to say.  I also look very forward to what Judge Kavanaugh has to say.  I think it’s going to be a very, very important day in the history of our country.

 END                 6:19 P.M. EDT

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

United Nations Ambassador Haley Asserts US Stance of ‘Sovereignty’ over “Multilateralism’

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, previewing the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week, says, “We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

To hear Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, preview US priorities for the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week which gets underway Monday September 24, the United Nations is merely a stage and the rest of the world’s ministers mere players for American interests, otherwise the US doesn’t want to take part, asserting its “sovereignty.” While the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made strengthening “multilateralism” a key objective this year (which includes addressing climate change, refugees, nuclear nonproliferation, and financing and mobilizing private investment for sustainable developing economies “without which, sustainable goals are not feasible”), in the US definition, “multilateralism” is getting other countries to do America’s bidding – whether sanctioning North Korea or Iran –  but nothing that “mandates” the United States to do what it doesn’t want to do.

“We’ve said from very beginning almost two years ago when we came in that we were going to try and see what we make out of the United Nations,” Haley said at a press “stakeout” on Thursday, September 20. Issues like the Global Migration Compact, the Paris Climate Accord, “all these things that we felt were mandating things on the US, those aren’t things we want to be involved in…We really value sovereignty. We think every country should. That’s the conversation we want.

“We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.”

Add to that list the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017, with 122 states voting in favor (but with none of the nine nuclear powers, including the United States, as signatories) and opened for signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations exactly a year ago. The nuclear weapons prohibition would become international law once 50 nations ratify the treaty. (Commemoration and promotion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will take place on Wednesday, September 26, the same day as Trump chairs the Security Council meeting.)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations.: © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The focus next week, when some 84 heads of state will be in New York, she said, “will be very much on the United States, what our role is in the world, the relationships we want to continue to build and what we can do about that. I think the goal we all have in this administration: how to make the American people proud and what actions we can show that make us proud.” (Sounds like a campaign rally for the midterms, more than taking advantage of face-to-face meetings with the heads of state to address issues of war and peace, life and death.)

“The US presidency has been one that has been full of substance, full of issues,” she said. “We are very proud of what we have done. We raised alarm bells on Venezuela, Nicaragua, how the international community must pay more attention. We held the first-ever discussion in front of the Security Council on corruption and how corruption relates to conflict. [We focused on] accountability – a good next step forward on what we’re trying to do on peacekeeping.

“We held multiple meetings on applying pressure on the crisis we hope doesn’t happen in Idlib and the humanitarian situation that can happen. And we are meeting to intensify the need for enforcement of sanctions on North Korea – reminding Security Council members we are all responsible making sure those are enforced properly.”

Last year, Trump’s big initiative in the United Nations General Assembly was about “reform” – as in getting other nations to pay what he considers their fair share, as he did at NATO. This year, the US big initiative is “a global call to action on the global drug problem. We already have 124 countries signed up and the number is growing. It shows that the world drug problem affects so many countries. The focus is on reducing use of illicit drugs, on cutting supply off, expanding treatment, and more than that, international cooperation… I look forward to more signatories.” Apparently, the US is okay with “multilaternalism” when it comes to curbing the drug problem.

There was no mention of the United States withdrawing from the Human Rights Council (ostensibly over perceived bias over Israel but likely also in protest over a report that pointed to 40% of Americans living in poverty, and perhaps to avoid condemnation over its inhumane, even criminal treatment of separating children as young as infants from their parents at the southern border), or its defiance of the International Criminal Court (to which the US has never joined). Instead of mobilizing private investment for sustainable development, the United States is focused on scoring foreign policy successes through tightening screws with sanctions and slashing foreign aid.

Donald Trump addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. This year, he is expected focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Haley said that Donald Trump’s speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, will focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.”

The America First policy – really a way of reducing issues to dollars and cents – extends to foreign aid: Haley said the United States’ “generosity” will be confined to those who do what the US wants.

“We will lay down a marker that while the US is generous, we are generous to those who share our values, who want to work with us, and not those who want to stop the US or say ‘death to America’.”

That has already been made clear in the US action to shut down aid to Palestinians– nearly $200 million – prompting members of the Security Council to raise alarms over a looming humanitarian crisis there. The action coincided with the administration shutting the Palestine Liberation Office in Washington DC.

With the US chairing the Security Council this year, Trump will chair the Security Council meeting on Wednesday. “That will be the most watched Security council meeting ever,” Haley quipped.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will take over the chair to lead a Security Council meeting on North Korea.

“The importance is the fact that every single foreign minister will be attending this Security Council meeting. It is a conversation we think needs to be had, chance for us to look at what we’ve achieved, in progress in North Korea – progress – chance to look at commitment to peace, but also to have conversation that if we don’t enforce sanctions, all this can go away.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, previewing the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week, says the US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East – as Haley did during a Security Council meeting that was 99% devoted to bashing Israel over settlements and “disproportionate” reaction to Palestinian protests and rocket attacks on Israel, and its plans to demolish a Bedouin village. She, instead, devoted her comments to Iran, and not on salvaging the nuclear agreement, but in trying to amass international support for renewed sanctions.

“Iran continues to be a problem – every dangerous spot, Iran seems to have their fingerprints in it. … their proxies, what they doing to destabilize the Middle East.” But she was vague in terms of whether Trump would agree to meet with Iran President Hassan Rouhani, who reportedly requested a meeting.

“Certainly if Rouhani requested a meeting, that would be for the president to decide.”

She said that Trump has scheduled bilats with South Korea, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom but “others could come up.” She held out the possibility he might agree to meet with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“If Erdogan requests a meeting… next week not set in stone. Certainly a head of state could request a meeting and the president would have prerogative” to accept.

The plight of the Myanmar Rohingya is also of concern, she said. “That is a hot topic now. We have to figure out how we going to bring Rohingyans back to Burma in a way it’s safe. I have expressed my view that I don’t think the government has done enough, I don’t think the military has accepted responsibility, Myanmar leader] Aung San Suu Kyi basically acknowledged the fact the reporters were right to be detained and imprisoned, is a real problem. What they’re saying, we’re not understanding and what we’re saying they are not hearing..and at some point the international community ahs to speak with one voice. It’s not okay with them just being in Bangladesh.”

Among the administration officials who will be coming to the United Nations and participating in meetings: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Emmet Lighthizer, USAID Administrator Mark Green, and special adviser Ivanka Trump.

“This is week we all wait for, where we can really put American interests in the spotlight, make it a really prominent thing –with all the administration coming in, they will come in and do their thing. All try to get some good peace and security.”

Interestingly, there was no mention of taking up the issue of one nation’s (Russia) interference in the elections of another (United States), which is a direct attack on sovereignty.

Security Council representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish a Palestinian village © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Haley’s remarks, which preceded a Security council meeting devoted to the Middle East, were followed by  representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, which, they said not only created a humanitarian crisis but exacerbated the conflict and further eroded the possibility of a two-state solution.

They were followed by Arab State representatives, including the representative from Palestine, who expressed gratitude to the Europeans, but said that the proposed resolution censuring Israel would likely be blocked by the United States.

In contrast to Haley’s declaration of “sovereignty”, Secretary-General António Guterres, in his press conference earlier that day, said, “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations.  The United Nations is the world’s indispensable forum for international cooperation.  The presence of 84 Heads of State and 44 Heads of Government is eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations.”

Asked whether the Secretary General considers Trump “a threat to multilateralism,” he replied, “First, I don’t like to personalize things.  I think we are facing a situation in which, in different areas and for different reasons, the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded and that multilateralism has been in the fire.  And so, this is a concern, and that is the reason I said today and I will say it again in the General Assembly, that it’s essential to preserve multilateralism.”

The question that wasn’t asked of Ambassador Haley or Secretary General António Guterres was this: if the US were not (temporarily at least) the largest economy in the world and the UN’s biggest donor (temporarily at least), would the various UN councils and committees prosecute or seek sanctions for: unleashing climate catastrophes by reversing course of spewing heat-trapping gas emissions at five times the proportion of population (the US has 5% of the world’s population but accounts for 25% of carbon emissions)? For unleashing economy-crippling tariffs on countries in defiance of existing treaties in the absence of a true “national security” issue, while bestowing $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, in violation of World Trade Organization rules? For violating the Global Compact on Migration by shutting down virtually all access to refugees and asylum seekers? For violating human rights of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America by taking away children as young as infants and incarcerating parents and children for an indeterminate time without hearing, and deporting parents leaving children orphans in custody in the US?

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

As Senate Considers Gina Haspel Confirmation to CIA, Foreign Policy Expert Says US Should Disclose, Apologize, Make Reparations for Torture

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, spoke about “America Needs a Future: What A Sound Foreign Policy Would Look Like,” in March at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island. Wilkerson began his remarks challenging the United States to acknowledge and make reparations for its commission of torture in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. 

His remarks are especially timely in light of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearings underway for Gina Haspel to become CIA Director. Haspel’s confirmation is controversial because she has been associated with running a rendition site in Thailand in 2002 and three years later, ordering the destruction of videos purportedly showing CIA officers using “enhanced interrogation techniques” which now are acknowledged to be torture. Haspel has refused to state unequivocally that torture is immoral, that it was wrong, only pledging not to restart an enhanced interrogation program again. But she sidestepped direct questions as to whether she would authorize torture if ordered to do so by the President – not a hypothetical question given Donald Trump’s repeated declarations that not only would he condone waterboarding, but waterboarding did not go far enough; Trump even proposed assassinating a suspected terrorist’s family as a method of discouraging recruitment. 

Several Senators, including Senator John McCain – the only person in Congress who knows firsthand about being tortured as a Prisoner of War – have said they would not support Haspel’s confirmation because of her refusal to own up to her responsibility and condemn the use of torture. 

In contrast, Wilkerson (not Haspel) stated that critical to a positive way forward in American foreign policy is to “right that wrong – and right it in the world’s eyes—opening up the courts, the legal system. Reparations are due. An apology is due. And a pledge we will never do that again.”

(See: Until Gina Haspel Denounces Torture, She Shouldn’t Lead the C.I.A., and I Have a Few Questions for Gina Haspel)

Here is an edited transcript of Lawrence Wilkerson’s remarks, which were delivered before Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, before he threatened to unleash a trade war against China.- Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, discusses “America Needs a Future: What A Sound Foreign Policy Would Look Like” at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Usually with enlightenment, there is strength. It is difficult to be enlightened today, to feel the world is sane, sober, bent toward peace rather than war –

At a press conference on November 7, 2005, the question of torture was raised. “We do not torture,” George W. Bush stated. The president was lying. Presidents have lied since time immemorial.

There are 119 people –that we know of – who have been tortured at the hands of the United States – documented in a 6000 page report (under the control of Senator Burr who chairs the Intelligence Committee). Failing to destroy the report, distribution is restricted; there are only 6 copies left.

One thing Trump is correct about: under the Constitution, the president is responsible for foreign policy in conjunction with Congress. Presidents forget that: both bodies are entrusted with foreign policy. From time to time, [a president’s unilateral action] is challenged: like Iran-Contra (Reagan). They almost impeached Reagan, had it not been for his incredible communicative skills.

When we destroyed the report, we have lost the accountability for 119 people, at minimum (about 30 had coroners write off their deaths as murder). Murder is ultimate torture.

There are 3-5 billion people in world, many in countries that are signatory allies, who think the number one security threat to their life is the United States.  You won’t find MSNBC CNN, Fox, or New York Times, Washington Post reporting on this. They won’t report on Yemen we are so horribly, brutally involved in, at the behest of greatest (terrorist) in the world, Saudi Arabia – It’s against the War Powers act [to conduct war without Congressional authorization. This is illegal participation in a Saudi war, yet Congress does nothing.

I would erase this incredible blot on reputation by not only releasing that [torture] report, but by recognizing those who we improperly treated – in violation of war crimes; pay reparations and make apologies. Canada and France have done so; we are the only ones who haven’t.

It is so egregious because the rest of world knows, knows we captured one individual and tortured him for 5 months simply because his name was the same as one on the watch list but was not the same person. Then, after we kept him in prison, tortured him for almost half year, we put him in a helicopter, flew him to a mountain in Albania in his underwear and dumped him and said nothing to him or his family.

We should right that wrong – and right it in the world’s eyes—opening up the courts, the legal system – reparations are due, apology is due – and a pledge we will never do that again.

We were the country who led the world, some kicking and screaming – like the king in Saudi Arabia – to the United Nations convention against torture. We were the ones who wrote most of that, ratified that – made domestic law conform – that under no circumstances, even extreme circumstances (national security) will we torture. Yet we did.

Part of our very real power in the world is our myth. Myth is not all bad – humanity, in many respects is based on myth – that is, partly true, partly hyperbole, in middle is true. There is the myth of the United States being Exceptional Nation, but it helps us maintain our cohesiveness – which we would register as part of that exceptionalism.

The myth that we are the number one protector of dignity and human rights in the world has as much truth as hyperbole. We violate it a lot, but it is a real part of our power in the world.

[In past diplomatic dealings] our first talking point was human rights, freedom of religion – that’s real power. We’ve diminished that. Now we’re just another big bully in the world.

[We must] change that image right away – before anything else.

In America, domestic politics has as much to do with national security as anythingPeople make these decisions – to go to war, to mount a covert operation and overthrow another country’s leader – usually from the perspective of bad decisions – we pick the least bad one. That’s the nature of power, but even with that comprehension of power, you can back away in foreign policy in both image and reality, in order to give image more robustness.

The Powerful Rule; those without power get ruled. 

‘Because I can’ – that’s power.

How do you take that kind of power, which the US has had possession of since World War II, and make it work on your behalf and a much as possible on others? 

Consider: the Number One world power is not us but China – economically, in terms of potential. [China is undertaking] two Marshall plans, and contemplating a third – Chinese money outstrips American spending in constant dollars by 15 to 16 to 1 – China’s initiative through central Asia, $2 trillion, initiative in South China Sea, around India, to Iran and pipelines up into Europe from Iran – one of richest gas countries in world. Those are two initiatives. The third they are thinking about: eliminating Russia as a possible threat to China.

Two possibilities, good or bad: if smartly carried out and others cooperative, these initiatives could lift more people out of poverty, could do more good than probably anything going. But how do you get that to happen and make sure what the Chinese are doing with their vast amount of money is beneficial, rather than detrimental? We have got to cooperate. We have to recognize world is changing, power is changing, shifting under our feet so fast. There are other templates at work in the world. 

[Which is why Trump’s foreign policy, trying to make America and the world of the 1950s, is to destructive as it is absurd.] 

The Chinese are already at purchasing power parity with the United States and in 10-15 years time, will be bigger than us in GDP. 

The first foreign policy initiative [should be to] establish some understanding of how we will help them and how they will help us help them, so those major initiatives – the major initiatives in the world today, affecting far more than anyone else is doing, including us (we’re probably killing far more people than the Chinese) – prosperity to as many as you can. 

That’s the number one foreign policy for the US – beyond shadow of doubt – because if not handled properly, things could go to hell in a handbag so fast and take so many – think World War I, World War II.

What we are doing is very dangerous. Trump said he would elevate the rank level, therefore the recognition diplomatically, of visitors to Taiwan. This is a red line to China. There are generals salivating at sinking a US carrier, so let’s continue encouraging Taiwan to take advantage of our support and extend middle finger to Beijing.

We should be joining things like Asia Development Bank, not spurning, so we could have our influence at work at various problems the Chinese could bring – don’t care if enlightened self-interest, as long as managed to help more than harms.

I haven’t seen China invade a country, fly drones, kill people in conjunction with Saudi Arabia. This is something that must happen if the world is to prosper and do relatively well, as it has since 1950.

Second: We need diplomats with finesse, extraordinary capabilities – like John Quincy Adams as a young man in Catherine the Great’s court, then as James Madison was as a diplomat to Russia. Adams was so smart and adept at reporting back to his president about what was going on in Europe (Napoleon), at a time when we still had 3 empires that would have loved to sever us – Spain, France, Britain.

Russia. Here’s where that framework comes back to play. What is preventing us from dealing with Moscow as we should – domestic politics. Even if we hate our president – despise, think he’s crazy – he can’t deal with Moscow as he should because of domestic politics.

One of the bloodiest conflicts on the face of earth is in Syria. What does it take to fix? The answer is simple, but complex: We need exquisite, capable diplomats, for Russia to bring pressure on Damascas, Tehran, Ankara.

[But Putin’s interest is not the greater good of Russia or the world, but a return to a Soviet Empire; his tactic is to sow chaos among the Western democracies, including the United States and he sees Syria as providing Russia with a base in the Middle East. Putin has no interest in solving the problem for the United States.]

If Russia and Washington make their mind up – Russia has a foothold in Mideast – will stay there as great power umbrella over Assad, and Assad will stay there – killing people just because we’re mad, is stupid..That’s the only way to bring requisite power on all the capitals concerned and stop the bloody civil war in Syria – threatening Israel, threatening Turkey in NATO, threatening western Asia.

The Chinese figure that’s their number one region. That’s why China building what they are: Djibouti, critically strategic, is occupied by as many Chinese troops as Americans. The leader there is counting renminbi dollars – playing both sides. There is no more intense example of the competition – other than the Taiwan Strait. Chinese are there to  “help” – plowing in $600 million with no strings while we give $50 million with [requirements of ] human rights, rule of law. We have to face reality: whose country leaders are we most likely to deal with?

That’s why [we should] talk about cooperation between world’s preeminent power: Russia– 10 time zones, enormous debt, and strategic problems with China.

If you’re going to deal with the energy needs of the globe – 9.5-10 billion people by mid-century – you have to cooperate, you have to get that energy delivered in a way that doesn’t cause conflict – you have to have Russia.

All Russia is today is a gas station – a lot of gas and oil. Those are the number one priorities in my foreign policy book.

[Shouldn’t the priority be to transition away from dependence on fossil fuels, therefore less dependence on Middle East, Russia, and toward self-sufficiency in decentralized, renewable, clean energy?]

The next country in the world we have to think about is Japan. What they doing under Prime Minister Abe – contemplating the loss of US [relationship], the untrustworthiness of the United States, contemplating what we just did with TPP [Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal which Trump pulled out of]; the arms market.

Of the 2017-18 Arms Merchants of the Year, US is so far in front, Russia just behind [recall that the big trade deal Trump returned from Saudi Arabia with was a deal for billions in arms]. … Between Russia and us, over $200 billion worth. But Japan could be the 2nd or 3rd biggest arms merchant – manufacturing submarines, fighter jets, ships. If you are Prime Minister Abe, Article 9 in Constitution (dating from Douglas MacArthur), the prohibition against nuclear weapons is a real inhibition. Japan probably has a latent capability that would allow it to become full nuclear power within 6-18 months. [And Trump has suggested that he would like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan to get nuclear weapons; he probably has already teed up sales, as Michael Flynn was doing, making deals for nuclear plants in the Mideast by cell phone during Trump’s inauguration.]

Korean Peninsula: The number one strategic objective of [North Korea’s] Kim dynasty for 40 years has been to sit down with the president of the United States and talk and begin the process of dividing the US from South Korea. Recognizing that they are a state to be reckoned with, we should begin a dialogue that would lead to a peace treaty. (The Korean War began in 1950, we never had a peace treaty.)

Does that mean the foreign policy developing now. [Trump is scheduled to go to meet with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore on June 12]– is a riveting change that might bring enormous success to this administration?  Not necessarily. This is the number one objective of Kim dynasty: to be recognized.

At the end of Clinton’s administration, the foreign policy of US was about to do the same thing; Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang [in 2000] and danced with Kim. Clinton had every intention when Al Gore would be president of making a visit himself in January – the promise was almost in the air. It didn’t come about principally because Clinton got cold feet – given circumstances- George w. Bush was president, and the policy changed. But we were very close in 1999-2000. There was an agreed framework, negotiated, North Korea froze the only nuclear program they had – plutonium – were on a good trajectory to check their nuclear program, make sure inspectors on board, and have increasingly normal relationship – not like Trump just pulled out of head of Zeus – this is where we were. But how many Americans know that? We don’t do history in America. But this is very different moment than is anticipated by Trump.

It takes very detailed, exquisite, sophisticated diplomatic plan to do this right – there are so many holes you can fall in, not the least of which is alienating your South Korea ally – President Moon, disposed to be more liberal minded, is the right person to get on wrong foot.

We don’t know if [South Korea’s] national security minister reported accurately to Trump.

There could be some confusion – I wouldn’t put it past the White House to amplify confusion as long as it is positive for them with their base – because it’s really all about domestic politics, not about foreign policy or security policy.

To sum up: Don’t be an imperial hegemon, even if you are. Don’t be arrogant, Cheney-ish about it – be Dwight Eisenhower, Lincoln, George Washington about it. Know what the heck you are doing; have humility; use your bureaucracy [the career diplomats] they are not Deep State, they do more than issue visas and protect US citizens overseas, much more.

Recognize where the power is. That doesn’t mean you take away humanitarian efforts –economic, financial, but concentrate critical analytical thinking on where the real power problems are.

Be humble. Be magnanimous. Lose every now and again.

[Exactly the opposite of Trump’s foreign policy approach.]

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Foreign Policy Experts Nance, Stavridis Warn of Global, Domestic Threats to Democracy as Authoritarians Rise

Malcolm Nance (left), a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridi (right)s who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, engage in a dialogue on foreign policy moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.” 

Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:

Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we? 

Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.

Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.

We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.

Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.

We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.

We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]

Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,

So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.

Louis: Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity? 

Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.

When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.

It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.

Admiral Stavridis: “Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.

What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.

Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?   

Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.

Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.

Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.

Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.

Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)

Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?

Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a  global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you  lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).

Malcolm Nance: “Trump thinks diplomacy is a big stick. His way of negotiating is threatening..A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.”
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.

Louis: Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?

Nance:  It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.

Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.

What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.

Louis: How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?

Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.

Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was  broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.

Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia. 

Louis: China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?

Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)

Errol Louis: What is Putin’s end game? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Louis: What is Putin’s end game?

Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power.  All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.

Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.

Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture.  Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin  and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”

Q&A

Is climate change a national security issue?

Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.

What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?

Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.

Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm Nance, Errol Louis, Admiral James Stavridis and Rabbi Stephen S. Widom who hosts the Cultural Arts events at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?

Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft  power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)

Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.

Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?

Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen.  Where the president violated his oath of office,  you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.

What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy? 

Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.

Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.

We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.

The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.

Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?

Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.

Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.

To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?

Nance:  Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick.  They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’

What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?

Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.

The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?

Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.

Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached? 

Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue

Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.

In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?

Stavridis: Yes.

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