Foreign Affairs

Trump Aides Hired Spy Firm for ‘Dirty Ops’ on Iran Deal

Aides to President Trump “hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a ‘dirty ops’ campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal,” The Observer reports.

“People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to ‘get dirt’ on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.”

Trump Really Wants to Meet with Putin

Susan Glasser: “This coming Monday, Putin, already Russia’s longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin, will be inaugurated to a new six-year term. In March, Trump defied his own advisers to congratulate Putin in a post-election phone call, then surprised them again by inviting Putin to Washington for a summit meeting. It seems implausible and politically insane to imagine that Trump would even consider a chummy one-on-one with Putin now, especially when the risks to Trump from the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s Russia ties appear so significant. And yet the invitation, I’m told, was real, and reflects the President’s strongly expressed personal preference.”

“Will Trump follow through with it—and add yet another high-drama plotline to the already oversubscribed Trump show?”

Ukraine Halts Cooperation with Mueller Investigation

New York Times: “In the United States, Paul Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.”

“But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.”

Trump Promised Paul He’d Pull Troops from Afghanistan

In trying to secure his vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, President Trump told Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that he was prepared to end the war in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reports.

Said Paul: “The president told me over and over again in general we’re getting the hell out of there. I think the president’s instincts and inclination are to resolve the Afghan conflict.”

“The two men discussed no exit dates and did not strike a written agreement… It is unclear just how much Trump’s private conversations signal a public shift in policy or, rather, if they are just maneuvering by a famously transactional leader who often says what he needs to say to make a deal and then reverses himself.”

What Happened to the Trump-Macron Tree?

“A mystery is brewing at the White House about what happened to the oak tree President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted there last week,” the AP reports.

“The sapling was a gift from Macron on the occasion of his state visit. News photographers snapped away Monday when Trump and Macron shoveled dirt onto the tree during a ceremonial planting on the South Lawn. By the end of the week, the tree was gone from the lawn. A pale patch of grass was left in its place.”

However, France’s ambassador to the U.S. explains in a tweet: “It is in quarantine which is mandatory for any living organism imported to the US. It will be replanted afterwards.”

Kim Will Give Up Weapons if U.S. Won’t Invade

“North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, told President Moon Jae-in of South Korea when they met that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States would agree to formally end the Korean War and promise that it would not invade his country,” the New York Times reports.

“In a faith-building gesture ahead of a summit meeting with President Trump, Mr. Kim also said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown next month of his country’s only known underground nuclear test site.”

Korean Leaders Pledge to End War

“Smiling and holding hands, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met at the heavily fortified demilitarized zone between the countries on Friday, pledging to pursue peace after decades of conflict,” Reuters reports:

“Kim became the first North Korean leader since the 1950-53 Korean War to set foot in South Korea after shaking hands with his counterpart over a concrete curb marking the border at the truce village of Panmunjom.”

President Trump sent a congratulatory tweet: “Korean war to end! The United States, and all of its great people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!

Pompeo Easily Confirmed as Secretary of State

“The Senate on Thursday easily confirmed Mike Pompeo as the nation’s 70th secretary of state, elevating the current C.I.A. director and an outspoken foreign policy hawk to be the nation’s top diplomat,” the New York Times reports.

“His agenda is already packed, with crucial deadlines in the coming weeks involving Russia, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. And he must face these challenges while trying to a repair a State Department damaged under the tenure of Rex W. Tillerson, his predecessor, and with crucial alliances frayed during the Trump presidency.”

Macron Says Trump Will Pull Out of Iran Deal

French President Emmanuel Macron believes President Trump will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal as part of “a strategy of increasing tension,” BuzzFeed News reports.

Said Macron: “My view — I don’t know what your president will decide — is that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons.”

He added: “It can work in the short term but it’s very insane in the medium to long term.”

John Bolton Chaired Anti-Muslim Think Tank

“John Bolton, President Trump’s new national security adviser, chaired a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news, some of which was amplified by a Russian troll factory,” an NBC News review found.

“The group’s authors also appeared on Russian media, including Sputnik and RT News, criticizing mainstream European leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron.”