Foreign Affairs

Germany Supplants U.S. In Global Reputation Rankings

“America’s brand has taken a major hit in the age of Trump,” CNN reports.

“At least that’s according to a survey that ranks the world’s best nation brands. The United States lands with an overall No. 6 ranking in the Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index, which measures 50 nations in multiple categories, including governance, exports, culture, people, tourism and immigration/investment. The United States was the overall No. 1 in 2016, but Germany took the top spot this year.”

North Korea Says Trump Should Die

“North Korea gave its version of a diplomatic verdict Wednesday on President Trump’s recent trip to Asia: He’s a coward who deserves to die,” USA Today reports.

“Pyongyang’s state media slammed Trump for insulting North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un while on a five country tour of Asia. It said the American president, who Kim has feuded with for months, deserves the death penalty.”

Quote of the Day

“I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”

— Former CIA Director John Brennan, quoted by the Washington Post, on not confronting Russian president Vladimir Putin over his election interference.

Trump Careens Off Message After Talking to Putin

President Trump “stayed on script for more than a week as he crisscrossed Asia — and then Russian President Vladimir Putin showed up,” Politico reports.

“After chatting with Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here, Trump abandoned the diplomatic tone the White House had carefully scripted for his five-country tour, once again contradicting the overwhelming consensus among current and former U.S. officials that the Russian leader tried to manipulate the 2016 election.”

Trump Team Begins Drafting Middle East Peace Plan

“President Trump and his advisers have begun developing their own concrete blueprint to end the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a plan intended to go beyond previous frameworks offered by the American government in pursuit of what the president calls ‘the ultimate deal,'” the New York Times reports.

“After 10 months of educating themselves on the complexities of the world’s most intractable dispute, White House officials said, Mr. Trump’s team of relative newcomers to Middle East peacemaking has moved into a new phase of its venture in hopes of transforming what it has learned into tangible steps to end a stalemate that has frustrated even presidents with more experience in the region.”

Trump Says He Believes Putin Didn’t Interfere In Election

President Trump suggested “he’s done confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin over his country’s election meddling since it’s insulting to the Russian leader,” CNN reports.

“Trump said he took Putin at his word that Russia did not seek to interfere in the U.S. presidential election last year, despite a finding from US intelligence agencies that it did. The fraught relations between the two leaders was underscored anew when Putin’s spokesman said election meddling did not come up when they spoke, even though Trump said it did.”

Said Trump: “He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it. I think he is very insulted by it.”

Mueller Probes Flynn’s Role in Plan to Deliver Cleric

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating an alleged plan involving former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government.”

Top Ranks of Diplomats ‘Depleted at Dizzying Speed’

The U.S. has lost more than half its career ambassadors and a significant proportion of other senior diplomats since Donald Trump took office, the Guardian reports.

“Barbara Stephenson, a former ambassador to Panama and charge d’affaires in London, said that the top ranks of US diplomacy were being ‘depleted at dizzying speed,’ and the state department was under ‘mounting threats.'”

“The depletion in the strength of US diplomacy has been highlighted during Trump’s Asia trip. Despite the urgency of the looming confrontation on the Korean peninsula, the administration has yet to nominate an ambassador to Seoul.”

Quote of the Day

“I don’t blame China. After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.”

— President Trump, quoted by Axios, at an event with Chinese officials.

Quote of the Day

“Lemme tell you, the one that matters is me. I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be.”

— President Trump, in an interview on Fox News, about unfilled State Department positions.

Trump Heads to Asia with a Weak Hand

“The president heads overseas during a time of what some experts see as a decline of U.S. influence in the region and they suggest that it is unlikely that Trump will be returning home with any clear wins,” NBC News reports.

“While Trump battles on multiple fronts and faces low approval ratings at home, some of the world leaders he will encounter on his swing through Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines find themselves emboldened — and playing with a home turf advantage. Chinese President Xi Jinping, for instance, has been buoyed in recent weeks by his further consolidation of power and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political party enjoyed a landslide election victory last week.”

First Read: “Trump heads into this Asia trip carrying about as weak of a hand as we can remember for any president visiting Asia.”

The Russians Stole the U.S. Presidency

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Politico that no matter how much President Trump rants about the “Russia hoax,” the 2016 hacking was not only real and aimed at electing Trump but constituted a major victory for a dangerous foreign adversary.

Said Clapper: “The Russians have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.”

He added that the investigation of whether Trump’s team colluded with Russia constitutes a “cloud not only over the president, but the office of the presidency, the administration, the government and the country” until it is resolved.