Foreign Affairs

Senators Scrap Russia Trip After Kremlin Snubs Shaheen

“Two Republican senators have called off a planned trip to Russia after the Kremlin denied a visa to a Democratic colleague, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen,” Politico reports.

“Shaheen, an outspoken backer of a Russia sanctions bill that Congress approved overwhelmingly earlier this year, had been scheduled to visit Russia along with GOP colleagues Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Barasso of Wyoming. But a Shaheen spokesman said the senator believes the Kremlin has placed her under a travel sanction, prohibiting her visit.”

Haley Tricked by Russian Crank Call

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley “may have been fooled by a pair of Russian pranksters pretending to be the prime minister of Poland. The duo, known as Vovan and Lexus, claims to have arranged a crank phone call Thursday with the former South Carolina governor,” the Charleston Post and Courier reports.

“The pair, whose real names are Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, posted a nearly 22-minute video clip this weekend in which a woman who sounds like Haley speaks to a man who she thinks is the new Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Between questions about Ukraine and Russia, the fake prime minister asked Haley about Binomo — a fake island that does not exist.”

“You know Binomo?” the prankster said.

“Yes, yes,” Haley responded.

“They had elections and we suppose Russians had its intervention,” the joker said.

“Yes, of course they did, absolutely,” Haley said.

Trump Breaks With 70 Years of American Foreign Policy

New York Times: “Nearly a year into his presidency, Mr. Trump remains an erratic, idiosyncratic leader on the global stage, an insurgent who attacks allies the United States has nurtured since World War II and who can seem more at home with America’s adversaries. His Twitter posts, delivered without warning or consultation, often make a mockery of his administration’s policies and subvert the messages his emissaries are trying to deliver abroad…”

“Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures.”

Trump’s Ambassador to Netherlands Caught Lying

When a Dutch journalist asked new U.S. Ambassador Pete Hoekstra why he said there are “no go” areas in the Netherlands, where radical Muslims are setting cars and politicians on fire, Hoekstra denied it, and called the claim “fake news,” the Washington Post reports.

The reporter then showed Hoekstra a video clip of himself at a congressional hearing in 2015 saying exactly that.

When the reporter pressed, Hoekstra denied using the term “fake news,” which he’d uttered moments before.

Clapper Says Putin Is Managing Trump as ‘an Asset’

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN that Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be handling President Trump like “an asset.”

Said Clapper: “I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer Vladimir Putin is. He knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he’s doing with the president,” clarifying that he means this “figuratively.”

He added: “You have to remember Putin’s background. He’s a KGB officer, that’s what they do. They recruit assets. And I think some of that experience and instincts of Putin has come into play here in his managing of a pretty important account for him, if I could use that term, with our president.”

Exchange of the Day

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a media availability with the French foreign minister earlier today:

REPORTER: Secretary Tillerson, have you already submitted a resignation letter with an effective date in January?

TILLERSON: That’s ridiculous.

REPORTER: Thank you.

TILLERSON: It’s a ridiculous question.

REPORTER: Thanks.

Tillerson Slip Reveals Secret Planning on North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “let slip last week a few tantalizing details about one of the nation’s most secret military contingency plans: how the United States would try to race inside North Korea to seize its nuclear weapons if it ever saw evidence that Kim Jong-un’s government was collapsing,” the Washington Post reports.

“For years, American diplomats have been trying to engage their Chinese counterparts in a discussion of this scenario… And for years the Chinese have resisted the conversation… The Chinese feared that if news of a conversation leaked, Beijing would be seen as conspiring with the United States over plans for an eventual North Korean collapse, eroding any leverage that Beijing still held over Mr. Kim.”

Tillerson Goes Off Script Again

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “seemed focused this week on rebooting his image as a beleaguered Cabinet member on the outs with his boss and his own employees — holding a rare town hall with employees, promising foreign trips into 2018 and saying he is ‘learning’ to enjoy his job,” the Washington Post reports.

“But then he went off script by offering another invitation for diplomatic talks with nuclear-armed North Korea, putting him at odds once again with President Trump and senior White House officials, who are increasingly exasperated with the secretary of state and say he cannot remain in his job for the long term.”

Graham Sees 30% Chance Trump Attacks North Korea

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told The Atlantic that there’s a 30% chance that President Trump initiates war against North Korea.

Said Graham: “I would say there’s a three in 10 chance we use the military option.”

He added that if the North Koreans conduct an additional test of a nuclear bomb — “I would say 70 percent.”

More from Graham: “War with North Korea is an all-out war against the regime. There is no surgical strike option. Their [nuclear-weapons] program is too redundant, it’s too hardened, and you gotta assume the worst, not the best. So if you ever use the military option, it’s not to just neutralize their nuclear facilities—you gotta be willing to take the regime completely down.”

Diplomat Writes Scathing Resignation Letter

Elizabeth Shackelford, who was seen as a rising star at the State Department, wrote a scathing resignation letter, “accusing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump administration of undercutting the State Department and damaging America’s influence in the world,” Foreign Policy reports.

Shackelford “wrote to Tillerson that she reluctantly had decided to quit because the administration had abandoned human rights as a priority and shown disdain for the State Department’s diplomatic work.”

“Her former colleagues said her departure — and the sentiments expressed in her letter — reflect a wider exodus of midcareer diplomats who have lost confidence in Tillerson’s management and the Trump administration’s approach toward diplomacy.”

Trump Held Secret Talks on Election Meddling

“The Trump administration has rejected a sweeping Russian proposal seeking a mutual ban on foreign political interference,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“Putin dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Washington for a July 17 meeting with Under Secretary Tom Shannon, the No. 3 official at the State Department. … [T]hree U.S. administration officials, including one inside the meeting, said Ryabkov handed over a document containing a bold proposal: A sweeping noninterference agreement between Moscow and Washington that would prohibit both governments from meddling in the other’s domestic politics.”

Brexit Deal Paves Way for Trade Talks

British prime minister Theresa May has struck a last-minute deal with the EU in a bid to move Brexit talks on to the next phase, the BBC reports.

“There will be no ‘hard border’ with Ireland; and EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, will see their rights protected.”

“The European Commission president said it was a ‘breakthrough’ and he was confident EU leaders will approve it.”

North Korea Says Nuclear War Is Inevitable

“North Korea says a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has become a matter of when, not if, as it continued to lash out at a massive joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea involving hundreds of advanced warplanes,” the AP reports.

“In comments attributed to an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman, North Korea also claimed high-ranked U.S. officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have further confirmed American intent for war with a series of ‘bellicose remarks.'”