Foreign Affairs

Trump Gave Merkel an Invoice

President Trump handed German chancellor Angela Merkel a bill — thought to be for more than £300bn — for money her country “owed” NATO for defending it when they met last week, the Times of London reports.

The bill — handed over during private talks in Washington — was described as “outrageous” by one German minister.

Said the minister: “The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations.”

Manafort Secretly Created Plan to Benefit Putin

Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics,” the AP reports.

“The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.”

“Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006… Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.”

Manafort Wanted for Questioning In Ukraine

“Ukrainian prosecutors want to question Paul Manafort in connection with a corruption investigation and have made repeated requests for assistance from US authorities,” CNN reports.

“Prosecutors in Kiev said they have made seven separate appeals over the past two years for help in questioning President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, including letters to FBI Director James Comey and US Justice Department officials. Ukrainian officials said the US has not responded to those requests.”

Tillerson Denies ‘Fatigue’ Reports

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “denied reports in South Korean media outlets that he did not dine with the country’s officials due to ‘fatigue’ on a leg of his Asia trip,” Politico reports.

Said Tillerson: “They never invited us for dinner, then at the last minute they realized that optically it wasn’t playing very well in public for them, so they put out a statement that we didn’t have dinner because I was tired.”

Britain Said to Be ‘Livid’ Over Trump’s Bogus Claim

President Trump “refused to back down on Friday after his White House aired an unverified claim that Britain’s spy agency secretly monitored him during last year’s campaign at the behest of President Barack Obama,” the New York Times reports.

“Although his aides in private conversations since Thursday night had tried to calm British officials who were livid over the claim, Mr. Trump made clear that he felt the White House had nothing to retract or apologize for. He said his spokesman was simply repeating an assertion made by a Fox News commentator.”

Trump Ignores Merkel’s Handshake Request

President Trump, “who made headlines for shaking hands with Japan’s prime minister in front of reporters for a full 19 seconds, seemed to ignore German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she suggested that they exchange the same courtesy during her White House visit Friday,” Politico reports.

“In an exchange caught on video, photographers gathered around Trump and Merkel in the Oval Office early Friday afternoon and suggested that the two leaders shake hands for the camera.”

Axios has a series of “headline grabbing moments” from the Trump-Merkel press conference.

Tillerson Rejects Talks with North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ruled out opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level, the New York Times reports.

“The secretary of state’s comments were the Trump administration’s first public hint at the options being considered, and they made clear that none involved a negotiated settlement or waiting for the North Korean government to collapse.”

Said Tillserson: “The policy of strategic patience has ended.”

U.S. Apologizes to Britain for Accusations

The United States has made a formal apology to Britain after the White House accused GCHQ of helping Barack Obama spy on Donald Trump in the White House, the Telegraph reports.

“Sean Spicer, Mr Trump’s press secretary, repeated a claim on Thursday evening – initially made by an analyst on Fox News – that GCHQ was used by Mr Obama to spy on Trump Tower in the lead-up to last November’s election.”

Tillerson Hopes Avoiding Conflict Will Lead to Influence

“While he has swallowed a big budget cut, had his chosen deputy vetoed, and been dismissed as invisible in his own building, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is playing a patient game to gain influence by avoiding public conflicts with the White House,” Reuters reports.

“The former Exxon Mobil Corp CEO faces multiple challenges in his unfamiliar role as chief U.S. diplomat, including a boss in U.S. President Donald Trump who makes unpredictable policy pronouncements and does not take kindly to criticism or contradiction.”

World Moves On Without U.S. On Trade

Politico: “Here’s what happens when the U.S. pulls out of a major trade deal [like TPP]: New Zealand seizes the opportunity to send more of its milk and cheese to China. Japanese consumers pay less for Australian beef than for American meat. Canadians talk about sending everything from farm products to banking services to Japan and India.”

“Other countries are ready to rush into the vacuum the U.S. is leaving behind, negotiating tariff-cutting deals that could eliminate any competitive advantage for U.S. goods.”