Trump opens ar­mistice visit to France with jab at Macron

Yuma Sun - - OPINION -

PARIS — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wasted no time tak­ing a poke at his French host Fri­day as he ar­rived in Paris for events mark­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the ar­mistice that ended World War I, tweet­ing as he landed that Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron had made an “in­sult­ing” pro­posal to build up Eu­rope’s mil­i­tary to counter the U.S., China and Rus­sia.

It was a clear sign that the “Amer­ica first” pres­i­dent was ready to chart his own course yet again as world lead­ers gath­ered to re­mem­ber the coali­tion that brought an end to the first global war. Trump’s visit comes on the heels of midterm elec­tions in which Amer­i­cans de­liv­ered a split ref­er­en­dum on his pres­i­dency, keep­ing the Se­nate in his party’s con­trol but ced­ing the House to op­po­si­tion Democrats.

He planned to meet with Macron on Sat­ur­day for talks on top­ics ex­pected to in­clude Euro­pean se­cu­rity, Syria and Iran. As he ar­rived, Trump tweeted that Macron “has just sug­gested that Eu­rope build its own mil­i­tary in or­der to pro­tect it­self from the U.S., China and Rus­sia. Very in­sult­ing, but per­haps Eu­rope should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. sub­si­dizes greatly!”

Trump’s brief visit to Eu­rope comes amid un­cer­tainty about the U.S. re­la­tion­ship with the con­ti­nent. Trump has railed against trade deals with the Euro­pean Union and has crit­i­cized some EU na­tions, in­clud­ing France, for not spend­ing enough to de­fense to sus­tain NATO, the decades­old West­ern al­liance formed as a bul­wark to Moscow’s ag­gres­sion.

Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, said Fri­day in Paris that the U.S. was con­cerned about sta­bil­ity in Eu­rope and that Trump was not shirk­ing from global en­gage­ment. “I think the en­dur­ing les­son (of World War I) for the United States is that when you be­come a global power ... you have global in­ter­ests to pro­tect,” Bolton said. “Great world lead­ers,” he said, are “driven by na­tional in­ter­ests.”

For Sun­day’s ar­mistice an­niver­sary, Trump was to join world lead­ers at a cer­e­mony in the shadow of the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

“It should be a very beau­ti­ful pe­riod of time, the 100th an­niver­sary of the end­ing of World War I. We have many coun­tries — the lead­er­ship from many coun­tries will be there, es­pe­cially since they heard the United States will be there. And we look for­ward to that,” Trump told re­porters Fri­day be­fore leav­ing the White House. “I’ve seen what they have planned, and I think it’s go­ing to be some­thing very, very spe­cial.”

Trump orig­i­nally wanted to cel­e­brate Vet­er­ans Day on Sun­day with a grand mil­i­tary pa­rade in Wash­ing­ton, as he was in­spired by the tanks and fly­overs he saw dur­ing France’s Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tion when he vis­ited Paris in July of last year. Trump or­dered the Pen­tagon to come up with plans for his own ver­sion, but they were even­tu­ally scrapped over con­cerns about costs and the dam­age tanks weigh­ing many tons would do to the streets in Wash­ing­ton.

Trump and Macron’s early re­la­tion­ship was marked by kisses, fre­quent meet­ings and marathon power hand­shakes. Early on, Macron tried to po­si­tion him­self as a sort of “Trump whis­perer” and Trump re­turned the fa­vor, host­ing Macron at the first and only state din­ner of his pres­i­dency. But the re­la­tion­ship-build­ing failed to per­suade Trump to re­main in the global cli­mate change or Iran deals and did noth­ing to pro­tect France from U.S. tar­iffs.

The div­i­dends of Macron’s cul­ti­va­tion of Trump are “mod­est at best,” said Stew­art M. Patrick, a fel­low at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions.

At the same time, Macron has in­creas­ingly been po­si­tion­ing him­self as a bul­wark against the ris­ing tide of Trump­style pop­ulism across Eu­rope, speak­ing out loudly against the dan­gers of na­tion­al­ism and iso­la­tion­ist re­treat.

“He’s start­ing to be­come the an­tithe­sis of Pres­i­dent Trump’s pub­lic mes­sag­ing,” said Heather Con­ley, di­rec­tor of the Eu­rope pro­gram at Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

The pres­i­dent and first lady Me­la­nia Trump were ex­pected to visit sev­eral memo­rial sites in France that are ded­i­cated to Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers. Not on Trump’s sched­ule, de­spite ear­lier dis­cus­sions about the pos­si­bil­ity, was an ex­tended meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

“I don’t know that we’re see­ing each other in Paris, but we may,” Trump said. “There may be a lunch for the lead­ers.”

Whi­taker led group that may have vi­o­lated tax-ex­empt sta­tus

WASH­ING­TON — Matthew G. Whi­taker, the na­tion’s new act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral, re­peat­edly chided pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton in pub­lic state­ments dur­ing 2016 while he was speak­ing for a group that is barred by its tax-ex­empt sta­tus from sup­port­ing or op­pos­ing po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates dur­ing a cam­paign.

Be­fore com­ing to the Jus­tice Depart­ment in 2017, Whi­taker was pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Foun­da­tion for Ac­count­abil­ity and Civic Trust, a char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion that styles it­self as non­par­ti­san gov­ern­ment watch­dog pro­mot­ing ethics and trans­parency. The tax­ex­empt group — known by its ini­tials, FACT — is sup­posed to serve the pub­lic in­ter­est un­der Sec­tion 501c3 of the U.S. tax code, with­out di­rectly or even in­di­rectly sup­port­ing or op­pos­ing spe­cific can­di­dates for of­fice.

Yet the group has en­gaged in one par­ti­san pro­nounce­ment af­ter an­other, mostly di­rected at Democrats. Dur­ing the last pres­i­den­tial race, Whi­taker ar­gued in July 2016 news­pa­per opin­ion pieces that Clin­ton should be pros­e­cuted for her han­dling of her pri­vate email server — a fa­vorite talk­ing point of Don­ald Trump. The opin­ion pieces iden­ti­fied Whi­taker as FACT’s leader.

In Septem­ber 2016, Whi­taker ar­gued that Clin­ton had acted shame­lessly by ap­point­ing her char­ity’s donors to boards of the State Depart­ment when she was sec­re­tary of state.

“I don’t think any­body in the his­tory of our coun­try that served in the ad­min­is­tra­tion has been this bold in their pri­vate fundrais­ing and their sort of giv­ing fa­vors,” he said in a ra­dio in­ter­view posted on YouTube by his group.

Florida finds it­self again at cen­ter of elec­tion con­tro­versy

FORT LAUD­ERDALE, Fla. — Florida is once again at the cen­ter of elec­tion con­tro­versy, but this year there are no hang­ing chads or but­ter­fly bal­lots, like in 2000. And no an­gry mobs in suits — at least not yet.

The deeply pur­ple state will learn Sat­ur­day whether re­counts will be held in the bit­ter, tight U.S. Se­nate race be­tween Repub­li­can Gov. Rick Scott and in­cum­bent Demo­crat Bill Nel­son; and in the gover­nor’s race be­tween for­mer Repub­li­can U.S. Rep. Ron DeSan­tis and the Demo­cratic mayor of Tal­la­has­see, An­drew Gil­lum. The state’s re­count pro­ce­dures have been re­vised since Florida held the coun­try hostage for a month 18 years ago, when Ge­orge W. Bush edged Al Gore for the pres­i­dency. Among other things, the in­fa­mous punch-card bal­lots are no longer.

Yet, Scott and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day al­leged fraud with­out ev­i­dence, even as the of­ten-la­bo­ri­ous process of re­view­ing bal­lots in a close race

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