President Donald Trump delivered a sharp rebuke of multinational authority at the United Nations on Tuesday, drawing headshakes and even laughter from fellow world leaders as he boasted of America’s economic and military might.
Trump arrived late, forcing a last-minute scheduling switch, then received polite applause but also blank stares as he took his blustery brand of “America First” policies to the annual General Assembly.
Speaking in triumphal terms, Trump approached the address as an annual report to the world on his country’s progress since his inauguration. He crowed that in “less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”
Rather than applaud or indicate they were impressed, the audience began to chuckle and some broke into outright laughter. Trump appeared briefly flustered before joking that it was not the reaction he expected but “that’s all right.”
The moment only reinforced Trump’s isolation among allies and foes alike, as his nationalistic policies have created rifts with erstwhile partners and cast doubt in some circles about the reliability of American commitments around the world.
Trump seized his opportunity to assert American independence from the international body. He was unapologetic about his decisions to engage with the erstwhile pariah North Korea, remove the U.S. from the international Iran nuclear accord and object to U.N. programs he believes are contrary to American interests.
“We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” Trump said.
He referenced a long list of U.N. initiatives, from the International Criminal Court to the Human Rights Council, that his administration is working to undermine.
“As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority,” he said. The U.S. is boycotting the Human Rights Council, arguing it overlooks abuses by some and serves as a venue for anti-American and anti-Israeli action.
Trump’s denunciation of globalism drew murmurs from the room that stands as the very embodiment of the notion.
Other tense moments included his criticism of Germany’s pursuit of a direct energy pipeline from Russia, which drew a dismissive headshake from a member of the U.S. ally’s delegation. His mention of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar all in one breath, was received by stone-faced Saudi officials. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been boycotting Doha since last year as part of a political dispute tearing apart the typically clubby Gulf Arab nations.
The laughter in the first moments of the address evoked a campaign line Trump frequently deployed against his predecessor Barack Obama — who embraced international engagement — suggesting that due to weak American leadership, “the world is laughing at us.”
In 2014, Trump tweeted “We need a President who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire World. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!”
In addition to the keynote speech, Trump is to chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the topic of countering nuclear proliferation on Wednesday. His four days of choreographed foreign affairs were to stand in contrast to a presidency sometimes defined by disorder.
Appearances on the global stage tend to elevate the stature of presidents both abroad and at home. But even before his arrival for the annual gathering of world leaders and diplomats, the desired image was being overshadowed at home by domestic political troubles, with Trump forced to confront the salacious and embarrassing.
The fate of his second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, was cast into fresh doubt over the weekend amid a second allegation of sexual misconduct, which Kavanaugh denies.
Drama also swirled Monday around the status of his deputy attorney general. Rod Rosenstein was reported last week to have floated the idea of secretly recording Trump last year and to have raised the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. The man overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe and a frequent target of Trump’s ire offered to resign and perhaps expected Monday to be fired. He received a stay of punishment at least until Thursday, when he is to meet with Trump at the White House.
With cable news chyrons flashing breathless updates about both Beltway dramas, news of Trump’s foreign policy moves from the U.N., led by a new trade deal with South Korea, struggled to break through and disappointed White House aides.
A year ago, Trump stood at the international rostrum and derided the North Korean leader as “Little Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.”
“It was a different world,” Trump said Monday of his one-time moniker for Kim Jong Un. “That was a dangerous time. This is one year later, a much different time.”
Trump praised Kim as “very open” and “terrific,” despite the sluggish pace of progress toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered a personal message to Trump from Kim after their inter-Korean talks last week in Pyongyang.
“You are the only person who can solve this problem,” Moon said to Trump, relaying Kim’s words.
The president said the location for a second summit with Kim is still to be determined, but officials have said Trump is holding out hope it could take place on American soil. Such a move would present a complex political and logistical challenge for the North Korean leader. Trump has often fondly invoked the Singapore summit, a made-for-TV event that attracted the world’s media attention and largely received positive marks from cable pundits — reviews that were not repeated for his summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki the following month.
Trump and Moon on Monday signed a new version of the U.S.-South Korean trade agreement, marking one of Trump’s first successes in his effort to renegotiate economic deals on more favorable terms for the U.S. Trump labeled it a “very big deal” and said the new agreement makes significant improvements to reduce the trade deficit between the countries and create opportunities to export American products to South Korea.
In both venues, U.S. officials say, Trump is expected on Tuesday and Wednesday to offer a contrast between the path of negotiation chosen by North Korea and that of Iran. Trump earlier this year bucked allies and removed the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, citing Iran’s malign influence in the region and support for groups like Hezbollah. The next round of tough sanctions on Iran is set to go into effect in November.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is in New York to attend U.N. meetings. U.S. officials said Trump is not seeking a meeting with him but is not opposed to talking if Iran requests a session.
Melania Orders Deputy National Security Director Fired
Normally, the First Lady of the United States has no say in National Security decisions, but Melania Trump has decided that won’t keep her from expressing publicly what she believes.
First Lady Melania Trump has weighed in on an ongoing dispute between her husband’s Chief of Staff and his National Security Advisor.
According to Stephania Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, the First Lady no longer feels that Mira Ricardel, national security advisor John Bolton’s deputy, “no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”
Melania Trump’s statement comes as reports swirl that her husband is considering dismissing his Chief of Staff John Kelly. Kelly has reportedly clashed with Bolton and Ricardel over policy in recent weeks.
NBC News reported earlier on Tuesday that Kelly had “gotten on the wrong side” of Melania Trump over staffing issues and travel requests.
Just asked the First Lady’s office about deputy national security advisor Mira Ricardel : “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Stephanie Grisham The First Lady’s communication director to @ABC
— John Santucci (@Santucci) November 13, 2018
From the WSJ: The president has also decided to remove Mira Ricardel, the top deputy for national security adviser John Bolton, officials said. A National Security Council spokeswoman declined to comment.
The president became involved in that decision at the urging of first lady Melania Trump, whose staff battled with Ms. Ricardel during the first lady’s trip to Africa last month over seating on the plane and requests to use National Security Council resources, according to people familiar with the matter.
AG Whitaker Alleged to Have Served on Board of WPM
The FBI is reportedly conducting a criminal investigation related to World Patent Marketing, a company that was shut down in 2017 after the Federal Trade Commission alleged that it operating “an invention-promotion scam” that tricked “thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.” According to recent reports, new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker served on its advisory board.
Alleged WPM Conduct
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission charged the operators of an invention-promotion scam, World Patent Marketing, with deceiving consumers and suppressing complaints about the company by using threats of criminal prosecution against dissatisfied customers. At the FTC’s request, a federal court temporarily halted the Florida-based scheme and froze its assets pending litigation.
“This case is about protecting innovators, the engine of a thriving economy,” said then Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen. “The defendants promised to promote people’s inventions and took thousands of dollars, but provided almost no service in return. Then they added insult to injury by threatening people who complained.”
According to the FTC, consumers paid an individual and various corporate entities thousands of dollars to patent and market their inventions based on bogus “success stories” and testimonials promoted by the defendants. But after they allegedly strung consumers along for months or even years, the defendants purportedly failed to deliver what they promised. Instead, many customers allegedly ended up in debt or lost their life savings with nothing to show for it.
WPM Threats of Legal Action
The FTC also alleged that the defendants used various unfair tactics, including threats of legal action, to discourage consumers from publishing truthful or non-defamatory negative reviews about the defendants and their services. According to FTC attorney Richard B. Newman, the agency reported that one customer who sought a refund and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau allegedly received a letter from the defendants’ lawyer. According to the FTC, the letter stated that seeking a refund was extortion under Florida law and, “since you used email to make your threats, you would be subject to a federal extortion charge, which carries a term of imprisonment of up to two years and potential criminal fines.”
WPM Settlement Order
In 2018, the defendants agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that bans them from the invention promotion business. Under the settlement order, the defendants are also banned from misrepresenting any good or service, and suppressing the availability of truthful negative comments or reviews by consumers. They are also prohibited from profiting from consumers’ personal information collected as part of the challenged practices, and failing to dispose of it properly.
A $25,987,192 judgment was imposed, which was partially suspended when $78,670 in frozen funds were transferred to the Commission and the individual defendant Cooper paid $976,330.
Whitaker’s Alleged Involvement
According to media reports, court filings indicate that Whitaker received regular payments of $1,875 from the company while serving as a member of its advisory board. It has also been reported that Whitaker sent a strongly worded email to a former customer in 2015 that had complained about the company. Whitaker is not a named as a defendant in the case against the company.
In a statement, a Justice Department spokeswoman said, “Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has said he was not aware of any fraudulent activity. Any stories suggesting otherwise are false.” In fact, FTC investigators did not obtain evidence or internal communications showing Whitaker knew about the company’s alleged bogus promises, according to those with firsthand knowledge of the matter. The receiver that oversaw the settlement confirmed, recently stating to The Washington Post that he has “no reason to believe that [Whitaker] knew of any of the wrongdoing.”
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Trump-Putin Crush Continues in Paris
Trump’s crush of Putin continued in Paris, captured by the camera with a weird goofy grin like a teenage virgin on his first date.
The pair came face-to-face at the Arc de Triomphe as the French capital hosted events to mark 100 years since the Armistice came into force.
Putin is seen greeting French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then Trump, adding a sign of approval before moving onto US First Lady Melania. Although both leaders were late to the ceremony, they appeared to be happy to see each other upon their arrival. Putin and Trump were seen nodding at each other, with the Russian leader even tapping his US counterpart on the shoulder and offering up a thumbs up sign.
It comes after the US leader said he will also not hold a bilateral meeting with Putin in Paris.
They are instead expected to have formal talks later this month when both attend a G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Trump’s relationship with Putin is under scrutiny as an investigation continues into Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in the US presidential poll in 2016, which saw the billionaire elected to the White House.
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