Foreign Affairs

Trump Asked to ‘Dummy Visit’ to the U.K.

“Donald Trump has been asked to make a ‘dummy’ State visit to Britain this year to show he can avoid embarrassing the Queen,” the Daily Mail reports.

“He has been invited to come for brief talks with Theresa May – but with none of the Royal pomp and circumstance he wanted.”

“The decision will be hailed as a victory by nearly two million people who signed a petition calling for the trip to be downgraded to spare the Queen’s blushes because of Trump’s ‘misogyny and vulgarity’… As a face-saving measure, the US President will be offered a State visit next year – but it won’t take place unless the low-profile trip is a success.”

Congress Reaches Deal on Russia Sanctions

“Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on sweeping sanctions legislation to punish Russia for its election-meddling and aggression toward its neighbors, they said Saturday, defying the White House’s argument that President Trump needs flexibility to adjust the sanctions to fit his diplomatic initiatives with Moscow,” the New York Times reports.

“The new legislation sharply limits the president’s ability to suspend or terminate the sanctions. At a moment when investigations into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian officials have cast a shadow over his presidency, Mr. Trump could soon face a bleak decision: veto the bill — and fuel accusations that he is doing the bidding of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — or sign legislation imposing sanctions his administration abhors.”

Putin Suggests He Might Not Leave Office

“Asked what he plans to do when he leaves the presidency, Vladimir Putin paused and smiled. ‘But I haven’t decided yet if I will leave the presidency,’ the Russian leader replied, to laughter and applause from an audience made up almost entirely of Russians who were born after he first became president in 2000,” the Guardian reports.

“Presidential elections will take place next March and Putin is widely expected to stand and win another six-year term.”

Trump’s Embrace of Russia Makes Advisers Wary

President Trump’s “persistent overtures toward Russia are placing him increasingly at odds with his national security and foreign policy advisers, who have long urged a more cautious approach to dealing with the foreign adversary,” the AP reports.

“The uneasy dynamic between the president and top aides has been exacerbated by the revelation this week of an extended dinner conversation between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the recent summit in Germany. The previously undisclosed conversation, which occurred a few hours after their official bilateral meeting, raised red flags with advisers already concerned by the president’s tendency to shun protocol and press ahead with outreach toward Russia, according to two U.S. officials and three top foreign officials.”

Trump Ends Covert Program to Arm Syrian Rebels

“President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia,” the Washington Post reports.

“Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.”

U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Outlaw Support of Israeli Boycott

The Intercept: “A group of 43 Senators – 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats – want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio.”

“Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: anyone guilty of violating its prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.”

Trump Nearly Killed Iran Nuclear Deal

Eli Lake: “Trump’s State Department in the spring certified Iran was in compliance. On Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was supposed to certify Iranian compliance again. Talking points were sent to columnists. Senior administration officials briefed analysts on a conference call. The Treasury Department was set to announce new sanctions against a number of Iranians to soften the blow for the Republican base. Allies in Congress were given a heads up.”

“There was just one problem: Donald Trump. In meetings with his national security cabinet, the president has never been keen on Obama’s nuclear deal. What’s more, Iran’s regional behavior has only been getting worse since his inauguration.”

“So just as Tillerson was preparing to inform Congress on Monday that Iran remained in compliance… Trump called it off, according to administration officials. He wanted to know his options and what would happen if Tillerson didn’t make the announcement.”

Jonathan Swan: “The vast majority of the principals — led by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — were in favor of the U.S. staying in the deal. But Trump hates the deal, and the decision goes against Trump’s gut instincts.”

Trump Wants Better Coverage In Britain Before Visit

President Trump urged British prime minister Theresa May to “fix it” for him to get a warm welcome in Britain, The Sun reports.

“The US President made his shameless plea in a private conversation with Theresa May to plan his state visit — now postponed until next year. Two million people signed a petition calling for Mr Trump’s proposed trip to be axed.”

A transcript of the chat, seen by senior diplomats, reveals his touchiness. Mr Trump says: “I haven’t had great coverage out there lately, Theresa.”

Tillerson Talks About Frustrations on the Job

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not mean to criticize the U.S. government but that, on a whole, “it’s largely not a highly disciplined organization.”

Said Tillerson: “Decision-making is fragmented, and sometimes people don’t want to take decisions. Coordination is difficult through the interagency process.”

Who Is Jim?

“The way Trump tells it — Jim is a friend who loves Paris and used to visit every year. Yet when Trump travels to the city Thursday for his first time as president, it’s unlikely that Jim will tag along. Jim doesn’t go to Paris anymore. Trump says that’s because the city has been infiltrated by foreign extremists,” the AP reports.

“Whether Jim exists is unclear. Trump has never given his last name. The White House has not responded to a request for comment about who Jim is or whether he will be on the trip.”