The Week on Planet Trump: Conflict in Middle East and Despair in Europe at Iran Deal Withdrawal

Monday: Tweets Fire Fake News and Threats at Mueller

President Donald Trump suggested Monday that "angry Democrats" on special counsel Robert Mueller's team could face legal action over alleged "conflicts of interest."

"The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice...and just wait 'till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!" Trump said.

Trump did not provide proof of the alleged conflicts. Although CNN has reported that several members of Mueller's team have donated to Democrats, Russia's meddling in the 2016 election also has been the subject of several Republican-led congressional inquiries. Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush, and the man who appointed him as special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was appointed by Trump.

The President also weighed in on other recent developments in the Russia investigation. He denied that he's obstructed the probe, instead defending his actions and rhetoric as "fighting back" against "the Russia Witch Hunt."

Karl de Vries, CNN

Tuesday: Obama Blasts Iran Deal Withdrawal

President Trump said Tuesday that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement and re-impose sanctions on Tehran, a decision that angered allies who fear the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the heart of the Middle East.

Declaring that "the decaying and the rotten structure" of the 2015 agreement does not block Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Trump said during a speech at the White House that "the Iran deal is defective at its core."

The decision drew criticism from Trump predecessor Barack Obama, who argued in a Facebook post that the deal is working and withdrawing from it is a serious mistake.

"The United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East," Obama said.

While European leaders said they would try to maintain the agreement with or without the United States, Iran's president said there is only a "short time" for renegotiations — otherwise his country could speed the process of enriching uranium, a component of weapons making.

David Jackson, USA Today

Wednesday: Kim Frees Americans Ahead of Summit

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that three American prisoners released from North Korea were headed home, a sign of potential good will ahead of Trump's planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In a tweet, Trump said, "the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting" were accompanying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his way back from a visit to North Korea.

The news of the release comes as U.S.-North Korea relations have reached a relatively constructive and warm phase. It marks a considerable de-escalation from last year, when Trump and Kim exchanged heated barbs that stoked fears about a possible nuclear conflict. The North also repeatedly tested missiles and threatened the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

South Korea hailed the release of the three U.S. prisoners as a development that would have a "positive effect" on the upcoming summit between Kim and Trump – and also called for the release of six South Korean prisoners to "reinforce reconciliation" efforts.

Mike Calia, CNBC

Thursday: POTUS Betrays Base on Drug Prices

President Trump will lay out on Friday a broad strategy to reduce prescription drug prices, but in a break from one of his most popular campaign promises, he will not call for Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers, senior administration officials said.

The White House will issue a blueprint that represents “the most comprehensive plan to tackle prescription drug affordability of any president,” a senior official told journalists on Thursday night.

Asked if the plan would include direct negotiations by Medicare, the official said, “No, we are talking about something different.”

As he campaigned for the presidency, Mr. Trump boldly broke with his party and embraced a longstanding Democratic proposal when he called for the federal government to use its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare recipients. The proposal was popular with voters but not with other Republican politicians, who had been battling it for years.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that drug companies are “getting away with murder.”

Robert Pear, The New York Times

Friday: Kelly Comments Embody White House Racism

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly sure doesn’t think very highly of immigrants.

When asked in a Friday morning interview with NPR’s Morning Edition about President Trump’s harsh new “zero tolerance” border policy — one that, among other things, literally takes children from undocumented parents and puts them in the government’s care — Kelly justified it by saying that undocumented people just can’t hack it in America.

Some critics were quick to point to the fact that these comments were broad, and arguably racist, generalizations about a group of heavily Latino immigrants. Kelly is asserting they don’t “assimilate,” when the best evidence suggests that undocumented immigrants integrate well and commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans.

The bottom line is that we should take John Kelly seriously but not literally. There’s no doubt that he’s an immigration hawk, but it’s hard to defend his position, or the Trump administration’s, on the grounds that he’s offering in this interview. There’s something else going on here, and it’s not hard to guess what it is.

Zack Beauchamp, Vox

Saturday: North Korea Begins Nuclear Disarmament

North Korea has announced that it will dismantle its nuclear test site. According to the Associated Press, North Korea's Foreign Ministry delivered a statement delivered through state media Saturday announcing the dismantling will occur between May 23 and 25.

The North Korean government will provide journalists with a charter flight from Beijing to Wonsan, North Korea. From there, a train will take them to the test site in the northeast part of the country.

Hours after North Korea announced plans for the dismantling ceremony, President Trump tweeted: "North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th. Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!"

The dismantling ceremony is planned for just under three weeks before June 12, the date Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim Jong Un in Singapore. The meeting will be the first time a sitting U.S. president meets with the leader of North Korea.

Jenny Gathright, NPR

Sunday: Iran Policy Sparks Global Backlash

President Trump has shifted the global order with his decision to pull the United States out of the Iranian nuclear agreement, causing a major rift with European allies and raising tensions in the Middle East.

Long-simmering turmoil over Syria between Israel and Iran, both seemingly emboldened by Trump’s decision, erupted this week when Iran targeted Israeli soldiers on the Golan Heights and Israel retaliated.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe could no longer depend on the United States, comments that were echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron. Both leaders had made eleventh-hour trips to Washington to try and talk Trump out of the leaving the Iran pact.

Trump and administration officials say withdrawing from the deal doesn’t preclude negotiations with the Europeans on a new deal to address not only Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but also other troubling activities, including its ballistic missile program and military activities throughout the Middle East.

Rebecca Kheel, The Hill

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