The Week on Planet Trump: Diplomacy Thaws with North Korea but Hardens against Iran
Monday: White House on Edge over Cohen Case
President Trump has not been tweeting like a man with nothing to fear.
Over the weekend, he tried to project confidence that his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen — under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations — will not flip to avoid legal trouble. But in doing so, and skipping a denial of wrongdoing, the president implied two things.
One is that Cohen would need to strike a deal with prosecutors to avoid charges or prison time. Trump's tweet did not even entertain the idea that the investigation will turn up nothing because Cohen committed no crimes.
The second is that Cohen possesses damaging information about the president. Trump said he believes Cohen will keep his mouth shut, not that Cohen can talk all he wants because there is no dirt to dish.
In fact, the White House appears to be leaving open the door to a presidential pardon for Cohen — which, of course, would be necessary only if there were a crime to pardon.
Trump seems clearly worried about Cohen, and he and his White House aren't doing anything to change that perception.
Callum Borchers, The Washington Post
Tuesday: Warm Words for Kim Ahead of Summit
After months of deriding Kim Jong-Un as "little rocket man," a "maniac," and a "madman," President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised the North Korean dictator as a "very open" and "very honorable" negotiator.
"We're having very, very good discussions," Trump said during a bilateral meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France in the White House Cabinet Room. "Kim Jong Un was — he really has been very open. I think very honorable, from everything we're seeing."
“I hope that we will be able to deal in a very open and honorable fashion with North Korea,” he said.
On Friday, North Korea announced it would immediately halt its nuclear and missile testing ahead of the summit, but Trump insisted Tuesday that total denuclearization is the ultimate goal of a meeting with Kim. “It means they get rid of their nukes,” Trump said when asked what he means by denuclearization. “It’s very simple.”
Quint Forgey, Politico
Wednesday: Poorest Hit with Rent Hike
Millions of families living in federally subsidized public housing would have to pay more for rent under a Trump administration proposal. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is asking Congress to raise the rent paid by public housing residents to 35 percent of income from the current 30 percent. The plan would also eliminate income deductions that could lower the rent.
Rents would be evaluated every three years instead of annually. According to a statement by HUD, rent increases will not effect the elderly or disabled.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson says the changes are necessary to revamp an archaic system that discourages public housing tenants from seeking better paying jobs.
But tenants' rights advocates are highly critical, with one calling the plan "a war on low-income people."
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, responded to Carson's proposals in light of past reports that he used tax payer money to purchase an elaborate dining set for his HUD office. Carson previously testified before the House Appropriations Committee that it was his wife who helped pick out the set.
Thursday: Macron Pessimistic on Iran Deal
One of French President Emmanuel Macron’s top priorities for his official state visit to the US this week was to persuade the US to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.
At one point, Trump literally referred to Macron as “perfect.” All of this suggested that Macron’s charm offensive on behalf of the Iran deal might have had a shot at working.
But the Wednesday interview indicates that the French president isn’t very optimistic. Macron said he believes the US will decide to impose “very tough sanctions” after pulling out of the deal on May 12, which is the deadline for renewing the Iran deal as required by US law.
Publicly, Trump has sent somewhat mixed signals on where he stands on the Iran deal recently. On Tuesday morning, he derided the deal as a “ridiculous” agreement that gives away too much to Tehran. But later that day, after Macron floated the idea of putting together a “new deal” that expands the terms of the agreement, Trump suggested the US could “be flexible” on the issue.
Zeeshan Aleem, Vox
Friday: Republicans Back Attack on Mueller
President Trump on Friday night touted a report authored by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, holding it up as evidence that his campaign did not conspire with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
In a tweet, Trump accused Democrats of perpetrating a "hoax" intended to undermine his presidency, and said that special counsel Robert Mueller should never have been appointed to investigate possible collusion between his campaign and Moscow.
"House Intelligence Committee rules that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump Campaign and Russia. As I have been saying all along, it is all a big Hoax by the Democrats based on payments and lies. There should never have been a Special Counsel appointed," Trump tweeted. "Witch Hunt!"
Trump's tweet on Friday night was his second within a matter of hours boasting about the congressional panel's report. In an earlier tweet, the president declared that the Russia investigation "MUST END NOW."
Max Greenwood, The Hill
Saturday: POTUS Threatens Shutdown over Wall Funding
President Donald Trump criticized Democrats and the media and touted what he described as his accomplishments in office during a campaign-style rally in Michigan on Saturday.
He said that he is in the process of "straightening out" what he referred to as "disastrous trade deals."
While Trump warned that in the pursuit of better trade deals, there might be some "problems" in the "short term," he vowed that in the "long term you're going to be so happy, we're going to get it opened up, or we're not doing business with these other countries."
The President floated the possibility of a government shutdown in the fall over funding for border security.
"We need security. We need the wall," he said, adding, "We come up again on September 28th, and if we don't get border security, we'll have no choice. We'll close down the country because we need border security."
Last month, Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending package that will keep the government funded through the end of September.
Clare Foran, CNN
Sunday: Pompeo Promotes Gulf Coalition
Mike Pompeo, on his maiden trip as U.S. secretary of state, is using the three-day visit in the Middle East to garner international support to pressure Iran to modify its nuclear program.
During a stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Pompeo urged unity among the Gulf states — saying cooperation and easing of economic tensions with Qatar is "necessary."
Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have halted trade with Qatar, accusing the natural gas-rich nation of aiding terrorism and maintaining close ties with Iran. The discord between the Gulf states has frustrated U.S. officials' attempts to weaken the influence of Iran in the region.
We've got a common challenge in Iran. I think they all recognize that," Pompeo said in remarks to reporters. "We're hopeful that they will in their own way figure out their dispute between them."
Alexis Diao, NPR
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