Trump takes his mes­sage to the world

Weekend Herald - - WORLD - Ten­sion in the air NY driver ‘ heard voices’ Har­ris ar­rives home

With tur­moil en­velop­ing his Ad­min­is­tra­tion at home, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was to head abroad today for a trip the White House hopes will shift fo­cus away from do­mes­tic con­tro­ver­sies and on to his for­eign pol­icy agenda.

Trump was to leave for Saudi Ara­bia today and will make stops next week in Is­rael, Bel­gium and Italy. The trip was billed as a chance to visit places sa­cred to three of the world’s ma­jor re­li­gions while creat­ing face time with Arab, Is­raeli and Euro­pean lead­ers.

But the po­lit­i­cal up­roar in Wash­ing­ton over Trump’s fir­ing of for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey, al­le­ga­tions that he pressed Comey to stop in­ves­ti­gat­ing for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn, and the sub­se­quent ap­point­ment of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller to look into al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion and poten- tial ties with Trump’s cam­paign threaten to over­shadow his trip.

“We look for­ward to get­ting this whole sit­u­a­tion be­hind us,” the Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent told a news con­fer­ence at the White House yes­ter­day.

The so­journ abroad, his first for­eign trip since tak­ing of­fice in Jan­uary, may or may not help.

Trump i s ex­pected to be wel­comed warmly by lead­ers in Riyadh and Jerusalem, but lin­ger­ing ques­tions over his views on the Iran nu­clear deal, com­mit­ment to Nato se­cu­rity and scep­ti­cism of the Paris cli­mate agree­ment could gen­er­ate ten­sion at meet­ings with Euro­pean coun­ter­parts in Brus­sels and Si­cily.

“It’s al­most al­ways true that when a pres­i­dent goes on a big for­eign trip, es­pe­cially one that has im­por­tant sum­mits . . . that dom­i­nates the news and knocks most other stuff out,” said Repub­li­can strate­gist Char­lie Black.

“Whether by ac­ci­dent or de­sign, this will help him in terms of Rus­sia news for a while.”

The White House laid out three pur­poses for the trip: reaf­firm­ing US lead­er­ship glob­ally, build­ing re­la­tion­ships with world lead­ers and broad­cast­ing “a mes­sage of unity to Amer­ica’s friends and to the faith­ful of three of the world’s great­est re­li­gions,” said na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H. R. McMaster.

“What Pres­i­dent Trump is seek­ing is to unite peo­ples of all faiths around a com­mon vi­sion of peace, progress and pros­per­ity,” he told re­porters.

Trump gen­er­ated con­tro­versy as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date with his call that Mus­lims be banned tem­po­rar­ily from en­ter­ing the United States. His Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posal to limit travel from sev­eral Mus­lim- ma­jor­ity coun­tries is tied up in court.

McMaster said Trump would de­liver a speech in Saudi Ara­bia ex­press­ing hope that a peace­ful vi­sion of Is­lam would res­onate world­wide.

The na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, who pub­licly de­fended Trump this week against al­le­ga­tions that he im­prop­erly shared in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion with Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov dur­ing an Oval Of­fice meet­ing, has a lot rid­ing on the trip him­self.

“He’s al­ready on thin ice af­ter his at­tempt to de­fend the Pres­i­dent’s dis­cus­sion of in­tel­li­gence with the Rus­sians, and he urged the Pres­i­dent to do this trip, which may have been a bad idea,” said one US of­fi­cial. “It’s too long and cov­ers too much ground and too many top­ics. If it goes badly, no mat­ter who’s fault it is, it will be H. R.’ s.”

Although he kept a busy sched­ule as a can­di­date, Trump is fond of be­ing home at night, of­ten fly­ing back to New York af­ter cam­paign events. The nine- day trip will be his long­est since be­com­ing Pres­i­dent. New video footage has sur­faced ap­pear­ing to show Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan look­ing on as mem­bers of his se­cu­rity team at­tack pro­test­ers out­side the Turk­ish am­bas­sador’s res­i­dence in Wash­ing­ton. The video, re­leased by Voice of Amer­ica’s Turk­ish ser­vice, shows the mo­ment be­fore the clashes taken from a dif­fer­ent an­gle. Demon­stra­tors can be heard chant­ing in the back­ground on the pav­il­ion. The video then seems to show a mem­ber of Er­do­gan’s se­cu­rity team bend down to speak to the Pres­i­dent in the back of a black Mercedes sedan. The body­guard then passes a mes­sage on to an­other aide who walks to­wards the group of sup­port­ers and out of the range of the cam­era. Sec­onds later, sev­eral men in suits run to­wards the pro­test­ers and con­front them be­fore clashes be­gin. Around 15 sec­onds af­ter that, Er­do­gan emerges from the car, briefly look­ing on at the brawl be­fore head­ing into the res­i­dence. Nine peo­ple were in­jured in the vi­o­lence, some of whom were kicked and stamped while on the ground. Some of the demon­stra­tors were car­ry­ing the flag of the Kur­dish PYD ( Demo­cratic Union Party) party. Two Chi­nese SU- 30 air­craft car­ried out what the US mil­i­tary de­scribed as an “un­pro­fes­sional” in­ter­cept of a US air­craft de­signed to de­tect ra­di­a­tion while it was fly­ing in in­ter­na­tional airspace over the East China Sea. “The is­sue is be­ing ad­dressed with China through ap­pro­pri­ate diplo­matic and mil­i­tary chan­nels,” said Air Force spokes­woman Lieu­tenant Colonel Lori Hodge. Hodge said the US char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of the in­ci­dent was based on ini­tial re­ports from the US air­crew aboard the WC- 135 Con­stant Phoenix air­craft “due to the ma­noeu­vres by the Chi­nese pi­lot, as well as the speeds and prox­im­ity of both air­craft”. “Dis­tances al­ways have a bear­ing on how we char­ac­terise in­ter­ac­tions,” Hodge said, adding a US mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ter­cept was un­der way. She said the WC- 135 was car­ry­ing out a rou­tine mis­sion at the time and was op­er­at­ing in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law. Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing de­clined to com­ment. A man ac­cused of steer­ing his car on to one of the busiest side­walks in the United States and mow­ing down pedes­tri­ans for three blocks be­fore a row of steel se­cu­rity bar­ri­ers fi­nally stopped him told po­lice he was “hear­ing voices”, law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said. Po­lice said 23 peo­ple were struck, in­clud­ing an 18- year- old tourist from Michi­gan who died, in yes­ter­day’s in­ci­dent. The driver, Richard Ro­jas, a 26- year- old Bronx man who had been dis­charged from the US Navy fol­low­ing dis­ci­plinary prob­lems, told po­lice he was hear­ing voices and ex­pected to die, two law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said. Af­ter the wreck he emerged from his ve­hi­cle run­ning, yelling and jump­ing be­fore be­ing sub­dued by po­lice and by­standers in a chaotic scene. Rolf Har­ris has re­turned to his home near Maiden­head in Berk­shire, Eng­land, af­ter be­ing re­leased from prison af­ter serv­ing al­most three years. The 87- year- old, who denies four charges of in­de­cent as­sault against three women be­tween 1971 and 1983, is cur­rently stand­ing trial at South­wark Crown Court and will have to ap­pear in per­son when the case re­sumes on Mon­day.

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