Trump shows will­ing­ness anew to break­ing norms

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Most US pres­i­dents use their for­eign trips to pro­mote the virtues of Amer­i­can democ­racy. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump did some of that, too. But he didn’t hes­i­tate to use his quick visit to Poland to air some pointed griev­ances, blast­ing his pre­de­ces­sor, cast­ing doubt on his own spy agencies and un­load­ing on news out­lets by name. Trump’s news con­fer­ence with Pol­ish Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda on Thurs­day of­fered a fresh win­dow into how a new pres­i­dent, not yet six months in of­fice, has shown a pen­chant for chang­ing the un­writ­ten rules of the White House.

Trump thumped for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for fail­ing to do more to ad­dress al­le­ga­tions that Rus­sia med­dled in the 2016 election. At one point, Trump as­serted that Obama had stayed silent be­cause he ex­pected his Demo­cratic heir ap­par­ent to win. “I think he thought Hil­lary Clin­ton was go­ing to win the election, and he said, let’s not do any­thing about it,” Trump said. “Had he thought the other way he would have done some­thing about it.”

Trump was pressed about the con­clu­sion by the US na­tional in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor last year that Rus­sia was be­hind the hack of Demo­cratic Party email sys­tems and oth­er­wise at­tempted to in­flu­ence the 2016 election to aid Trump. Trump vol­un­teered that US spy agencies had once been con­fi­dent that Iraq had weapons of mass de­struc­tion. “They were wrong and it led to a mess,” he said, mean­ing the Iraq war.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin often makes the same ar­gu­ment about faulty US in­tel­li­gence when crit­i­ciz­ing US mil­i­tary ac­tion, most re­cently in re­sponse to Trump’s de­ci­sion to bomb a Syr­ian air base in re­tal­i­a­tion for a chem­i­cal weapons at­tack blamed on the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment. Rus­sia dis­puted that find­ing. All of it came on the eve of Trump’s meet­ing with Putin and as in­ves­ti­ga­tors look into con­tacts be­tween Trump’s as­so­ciates and Moscow dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign and tran­si­tion.

Rep Adam Schiff, the top Demo­crat on the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, said Trump’s com­ments in Poland “con­tinue to di­rectly un­der­mine US in­ter­ests. This is not putting Amer­ica first, but con­tin­u­ing to prop­a­gate his own per­sonal fic­tion at the coun­try’s ex­pense”. While many US pres­i­dents have pointed to a free and independent press as a pil­lar of democ­racy, Trump re­peated his long­stand­ing cri­tique of CNN and sin­gled out NBC News, com­plain­ing it was “equally as bad de­spite the fact that I made them a for­tune with ‘The Ap­pren­tice’ but they for­got that.”

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