The Washington Post - 22.08.2019

(Joyce) #1


his full embrace of Netanyahu to
advance both policy and
political goals.
The controversy over Tlaib
and Omar’s visit and their
posture toward Israel has taken
it to another level, and the
president has sought to brand
the entire Democratic Party with
their criticism and their support
for the boycott, divestment and
sanctions movement.
Most of what he said Tuesday
was a repetition of previous
comments about the two
lawmakers and about two other
first-term congresswomen,
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-
N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-
Toward the end, however, he
veered into dangerous territory.
“Where has the Democratic
Party gone?” he said. “Where
have they gone where they’re
defending these two people over
the state of Israel? And I think
any Jewish people that vote for a
Democrat, I think it shows
either a total lack of knowledge
or great disloyalty.”
Trump allies characterized
what he said as a poor choice of
words, but those words, whether
deliberately chosen or spoken
without any sense of historical
context, brought quick and
strong condemnations as
echoing anti-Semitic stereotypes
used in the past. Whatever the
motivation, they are now words
spoken by a president of the
United States sitting in the Oval
Asked Wednesday what he
meant, Trump left ambiguity. “In
my opinion, you vote for a
Democrat, you’re being very
disloyal to Jewish people,” he
said, “and you’re being very
disloyal to Israel.”
After the past two days, there
is only one thing to say: Be
braced for Thursday.

among Republicans,
independents and Democrats.
He had climbed this hill
before, after previous mass
shootings, only to roll back
down, so there was plainly
skepticism about whether he
would ever follow through,
particularly as he had married
the idea of background checks
with an immigration policy
overhaul. Internally he faced
resistance to moving forward on
gun legislation.
In recent days, his language
changed as he indicated that the
current background checks were
working. On Tuesday, in a
telephone call he initiated with
Wayne LaPierre, CEO and
executive vice president of the
National Rifle Association,
Trump made clear that those
background checks are no
longer in his sights. That news
was first reported by the
Atlantic’s Elaina Plott.
On Wednesday, he denied that
he had indicated to LaPierre
that background checks were no
longer on the table. “I have an
appetite for background checks,”
he said, without explicitly saying
what changes he supports or
how far he is willing to go to get
a bipartisan agreement. But he
hedged, suggesting that
Democrats could want more
than he’s prepared to give.
At his Oval Office photo
opportunity with Romanian
President Klaus Iohannis on
Tuesday, the president renewed
his feud with Reps. Rashida
Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar
(D-Minn.) over their planned
trip to Israel that was blocked by
Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s government.
U.S. support for Israel has
long been a bipartisan
enterprise, but that
bipartisanship has been strained
in recent years. Those strains
have grown as Trump has used

pleaded for optimism about the
future. Navarro assured viewers
that China is absorbing the full
cost of the trade war that has
been stalemated for some time.
The president buttressed
those statements with
comments about the strength of
the U.S. economy, which many
economists say could be slowing
down. Trump also said he is
prepared for anything. Other
administration officials
dismissed any cause for
On Monday, The Washington
Post’s Damian Paletta reported
that, with concerns rising about
a possible recession,
administration officials were
discussing options, including a
cut in the payroll tax. A White
House official publicly denied
the report.
On Tuesday, in the Oval
Office, the president made that
denial inoperative, confirming
that in fact, administration
officials were considering a cut
in the payroll tax, along with
other possible changes,
including in the capital gains
tax. “Payroll tax is something
that we think about, and a lot of
people would like to see that,” he
On Wednesday, he took it
back: “I’m not looking at a tax
cut now; we don’t need it. We
have a strong economy.” Despite
the claim of a strong economy,
he once again pushed Federal
Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell
to cut interest rates, saying, “If
he does it, you’ll see a rocket
ship; you’ll see a boom.”
After the horrific shootings in
El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, the
president made a point of saying
he was keenly interested in
doing something about guns. He
spoke specifically about
expanding background checks
for firearm purchases, an idea
that has overwhelming support

that he was interested in having
the United States purchase
Greenland from Denmark. The
president confirmed those
reports and said there were
strategic reasons to be interested
in that kind of a deal. But he
played down the idea that this
was an urgent issue on his
agenda. “It’s not number one on
the burner, I can tell you that,”
he said.
Roll forward 48 hours, when
he tweeted that he was
scrubbing his upcoming visit to
Denmark because Danish Prime
Minister Mette Frederiksen had
“no interest in discussing the
purchase of Greenland.”
That caught Carla Sand, the
U.S. ambassador to Denmark, by
surprise, as she had tweeted
earlier in the day: “Denmark is
ready for the POTUS... Partner,
ally, friend.” By Wednesday
morning, she was trying to
assure everyone that Trump
“values & respects [Denmark]
and looks forward to a visit in
the future.”
Rufus Gifford, who was
ambassador to Denmark under
Barack Obama, offered a more
caustic view of the decision to
cancel the visit. “He is a child,”
he wrote in a tweet.
In his conversation with
reporters Wednesday, the
president indicated he had
canceled the trip because he was
upset with the Danish prime
minister’s dismissal of the sale of
Greenland, calling her reaction
“nasty” and adding, “You don’t
talk to the United States that
way, at least under me.”
On Sunday, Larry Kudlow and
Peter Navarro, two of the
president’s economic advisers,
appeared on talk shows with the
message that all was well with
the economy, despite unsettling
signs in previous days. Kudlow


ernment ministers, who
slammed Trump’s behavior as
juvenile, undiplomatic and in-
“It’s an insult from a close
friend and ally,” Michael Aastrup
Jensen, a member of the Danish
Parliament with the influential
center-right Venstre party, told
The Washington Post. He said
Trump’s interest in purchasing
Greenland took the country by
surprise and was initially widely
considered to be a joke, before
Danes realized the full extent of
“this disaster.”
Jensen said Danish lawmakers
felt misled and “appalled” by the
president, who “lacks even basic
diplomatic skills,” he said. “There
was no word [ahead of time]
about: ‘I want to buy Greenland,
and that’s why I’m coming.’ ”

Dan Lamothe and Josh Dawsey in
Washington and Jennifer Hassan in
London contributed to this report.

presence and footprint up there.
Thule is not a combatant base. It
doesn’t have aircraft. It could
have aircraft, if they’re able to
operate in an inhospitable cli-
mate up there. So they’re prob-
ably looking at that.”
Speaking at a news conference
in Copenhagen before Trump’s
appearance in Washington, Fred-
eriksen said Trump’s decision to
cancel his trip would not “change
the character of our good rela-
tions,” adding that an invitation
“for stronger cooperation on Arc-
tic affairs still stands.”
On Wednesday evening, hours
after Trump’s remarks, the Dan-
ish prime minister told public
broadcaster DR: “I think we have
answered very nicely from the
Danish side.”
She was “not going to go into a
war of words” with Trump, Fred-
eriksen added in an interview
with the TV2 network.
Her measured remarks stood
in strong contrast with Danish
lawmakers from across the polit-
ical spectrum and former gov-

But it is probably prompted in
part by a growing realization
across the U.S. government that
more attention needs to be paid
to the Arctic, in light of both
climate change and Russia and
China’s interest in the region, he
U.S. officials involved in
Greenland issues have long dis-
cussed the island in national
security terms, and the Air
Force’s use of Thule Air Base on
the northwestern coast already
gives Washington a foothold
there, said Townsend, now an
adjunct senior fellow with the
Center for a New American Secu-
rity. Melting sea ice raises the
prospect that Greenland could be
more centrally involved in tran-
siting waterways to the north, he
“I am certain that they want to
expand Thule,” Townsend pre-
dicted of the Pentagon’s long-
term plans. “For sure for a while
now, there has been interest in
the Pentagon on what can we do
to make sure we have our own

ident was annoyed at planned
back-to-back trips to Europe in
the coming days and the exten-
sive flying involved and that the
comments by Frederiksen gave
him a reason to cancel the Den-
mark leg. Trump is scheduled to
leave later this week for a Group
of Seven summit in France.
“He is not looking forward to
any of it,” said the adviser, who
spoke to Trump this week and
requested anonymity to share a
private conversation.
It remained unclear whether
Trump will still go to Poland, as
he had been scheduled to do for
two days ahead of his trip to
Copenhagen in early September.
U.S. Arctic experts said there is
strategic value in Greenland, but
they questioned how the Trump
administration is handling U.S.
interests there.
Jim Townsend, who handled
Arctic and Europe issues in the
Pentagon under the Obama ad-
ministration, said proposing to
buy Greenland from Denmark at
this point is “foolish and stupid.”

ing so direct.”
There were signs of damage
control Wednesday as Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo spoke with
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe
Kofod. In a tweet, Kofod said the
two had a “frank, friendly and
constructive” talk affirming the
strong bond between both coun-
The United States and Den-
mark “are close friends and al-
lies” with a “long history of active
engagement across the globe,” he
said, adding that the two “agreed
to stay in touch on [a] full range
of issues of mutual interest.”
But Trump continued to lash
out. In his remarks to reporters,
the president noted that others
had also floated the idea of a U.S.
purchase of Greenland, includ-
ing President Harry S. Truman.
Later, after departing on a trip
to Kentucky, Trump took a shot at
Denmark, writing on Twitter that
despite being “a wealthy coun-
try,” it was falling short of a
NATO goal for defense spending.
A Trump adviser said the pres-

while also reiterating comments
that have already sparked several
rounds of controversy this week.
The president defended his
trade war with China despite
worries that his tariffs have be-
come a drag on the economy
while chastising his predecessors
for not taking a tougher line with
“Somebody had to do it,” he
said before looking skyward and
proclaiming: “I am the chosen
He said he still wants to end
birthright citizenship through an
executive order — an idea that
was dismissed by most legal
experts as unconstitutional when
he floated it late last year — while
also disputing reports that he is
backing away from a plan to
expand background checks fol-
lowing recent mass shootings.
Trump denied he is consider-
ing a payroll tax cut to head off a
recession, arguing that there is
no need to do so even after he
confirmed it was under consider-
ation the previous day.
He intensified his criticism of
Jewish voters who support Dem-
ocrats, calling them “very disloy-
al to Israel.”
And Trump continued to serve
as the loudest cheerleader for his
own record, while dismissing any
criticism of his actions or rheto-
“I was put here by people to do
a great job, and that’s what I’m
doing,” he said. “And nobody’s
done a job like I’ve done.”
His recent comments on Den-
mark and Greenland, including
his decision to ratchet up ten-
sions Wednesday, have con-
founded allies and critics, who
have called his rhetoric an un-
necessary provocation with a
trusted NATO ally.
“It doesn’t take a member of
the Intelligence Committee to
know that canceling meetings
with our foreign allies over the
momentary whims of the Presi-
dent is absurd,” Rep. Mike Quig-
ley (D-Ill.) wrote on Twitter. “We
can’t keep making foreign policy
decisions based on this Presi-
dent’s fantasy world.”
The announcement of Trump’s
change of plans Tuesday night
came two days after he told
reporters that owning Greenland
“would be nice” for the United
States strategically, even though
the island’s status was initially
not publicly cited as a scheduled
topic for his planned visit to
Trump’s public comments
Wednesday also struck a differ-
ent tone than on Tuesday night,
when he said in a tweet that
Denmark is “a very special coun-
try with incredible people” and
he thanked Frederiksen for “be-


Denmark’s prime minister tries to avoid ‘a war of words’

Icebergs float off Kulusuk in Greenland, which has become more geopolitically valuable as global warming opens routes for trade and resource exploration in the Arctic.


A federal judge Wednesday al-
lowed President Trump to appeal
rulings in a lawsuit that accuses
him of violating the Constitution
by doing business with foreign
governments, putting the case on
hold in the meantime.
The ruling by District Judge
Emmet G. Sullivan effectively
pauses a lawsuit brought by more
than 200 congressional Demo-
crats, who say Trump’s compa-
nies, which include hotels, should
be prohibited from taking pay-
ments from foreign states. Trump
has argued that the Democrats do
not have legal standing to sue him
in the first place.
Sullivan’s ruling was not a sur-
prise. In July, an appeals court in
Washington had strongly sig-
naled to Sullivan that he should
allow this unusual appeal — rul-
ing that Sullivan had probably
“abused his discretion” when he
denied an earlier attempt.
In his ruling, Sullivan noted
that this sort of appeal — done in
the middle of a district court case
instead of at its end — is warrant-
ed when there is “substantial
ground for difference of opinion”
on a key matter of law. The
appeals court had indicated that
this was such a case, so he agreed
to let the appeal go forward.
One effect of Sullivan’s ruling
will be to keep on hold the “dis-
covery” process, a pretrial fact-
finding period in which the Dem-
ocrats wanted to serve 37 subpoe-
nas on Trump businesses, asking
about their foreign customers.
Sullivan had paused that proc-
ess in July after the appeals
court’s ruling.
Earlier, attorneys working with
the Democrats said that subpoe-
nas delayed would, in effect, be
subpoenas denied — that Trump’s
first term might run out before

the plaintiffs could get any an-
swers. They also questioned
Trump’s lawyers’ argument that
the suit was a distraction.
Sullivan rejected that argu-
The decision is another set-
back for those who hoped to use
the courts — and the Constitu-
tion’s emoluments clauses — to
stop Trump’s private business
from taking money from foreign
Those clauses — intended to
prevent U.S. leaders from being
corrupted through their wallets
— prohibit presidents from tak-
ing payments from foreign states,
U.S. states or the federal govern-
ment. Until Trump’s presidency,
they were seen as dusty footnotes
from another era.
But then Trump chose to keep
ownership of his private busi-
nesses, including a D.C. hotel that
has hosted embassy galas and
visiting foreign leaders.
Three plaintiffs filed suit —
seeking to prohibit Trump from
doing business with foreign
countries, or at least require him
to give details about who paid
So far, his businesses have not
done either.
Two of the cases have been
dismissed, as courts ruled that
those plaintiffs — a nonprofit
watchdog group in one case, and
the attorneys general of the Dis-
trict and Maryland in the other —
did not have the legal right to sue
The attorneys general have
said that they are considering
asking for a rehearing of the case
and that they expect the issue
eventually to reach the Supreme

Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this

Trump cleared to appeal

emoluments suit rulings


President provides another taste of a new ‘normal’

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