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At the White House
POLITICS DOESN'T STOP AT THE WATER'S EDGE ANYMORE: You know that American tourist — the one with the fanny pack and sock tan crunching Pringles while speaking much louder than everyone else in a quiet museum? Well, that tourist is starting to look a lot like President Trump when he travels abroad, said international observers, complete with some serious domestic baggage and eyebrow-raising behavior on the world stage.
“It’s become an embarrassment for Trump to go abroad . . . his recent travels have been boondoggles,” presidential historian and Post contributing columnist Douglas Brinkley told Power Up.
Trump’s trip to Buenos Aires for the G-20 summit, as Mueller mania ensued back at home, is already on the rocks. In what experts and historians described as unprecedented moves, Trump canceled an important bilateral meeting with Russia and downgraded meetings with Turkey and South Korea shortly after he boarded Air Force One.
- “I have never seen anything quite like this. You can have some volatility but I’ve never seen major meetings like with [Russian President Vladimir Putin] be canceled, allies being told they have formal meetings who now don’t,” Heather Conley, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told us.
- “Trump also will now speak informally with the leaders of Turkey and South Korea at the summit rather than in formal meetings,” the Associated Press reported yesterday. White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders did not provide reporters with any reason the meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and South Korean President Moon Jae-in were downgraded.
International trips have traditionally provided a booster for presidents. But Trump, who time and time again has eschewed presidential norms and protocol, has a track record of creating viral moments that then ricochet around the globe. To name a few:
- Trump and Putin in Helskinki: The president came across as “weakened and sycophantic,” Brinkley told Power Up after Trump handed Putin “a diplomatic triumph by casting doubt on U.S. intelligence agencies” assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, the Post reported in July.
- Trump, isolated, in France: The president skipped a scheduled tour of an American military cemetery during a trip to Paris a few weeks ago, and then “arrived separately from the 60 other leaders at a World War I remembrance at the Arc de Triomphe,” David Nakamura reported. “He had no speaking role, sitting stone-faced as [French President Emmanuel] Macron railed against the rise of nationalism — a rebuke of Trump’s professed worldview.”
Other presidents have seen their international trips go poorly. President John F. Kennedy went to Vienna to meet Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1961 and Khrushchev “demanded that the United States agree to Communist control over access to Berlin” and berated Kennedy about a number of Cold War issues.
But this weekend's Buenos Aires getaway is a reminder that “domestic issues follow you wherever you go,” Conley told Power Up. That's because special counsel Robert Mueller's probe — and its various players — seems to be reaching a crescendo:
- The Cohen factor: Shortly before Trump left, news broke that ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about the Trump Organization’s Moscow project on which he was working while Trump was running for president.
- The president angrily responded to reporters before leaving that Cohen was “a weak person” and “was lying about a project that everybody knew about.”
- Shortly thereafter, Trump tweeted that his meeting with Putin was canceled, “Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia.”
- But to others the timing was suspicious. “Taxpayers are paying millions to contain Russian expansionism and then Trump can’t express our national sentiment of frustration over the situation in Ukraine,” Brinkley said.
- NBC’s Monica Alba has a great rundown of the all of the times Trump’s foreign trips has been overshadowed by headlines from the Mueller probe.
- Still on the agenda: Meetings this weekend with China's Xi Jingping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
MUELLER UPDATE, FAST:
- 'Individual 1': “In two major developments this week, [Trump] has been labeled in the parlance of criminal investigations as a major subject of interest, complete with an opaque legal code name: 'Individual 1,'"The Post's Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey report. “Investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.”
- Michael Cohen redux: Cohen told a New York courtroom Thursday that he lied to Congress about the Moscow project out of loyalty to Trump, who has publicly denied such connections. “I was aware of Individual 1’s repeated disavowals of commercial and political ties between himself and Russia,” Cohen said. “I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1.”
- Rudy says the Cohen developments are not a problem for POTUS: Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told CNN the “latest revelations on Michael Cohen misleading Congress about his business dealings with Russia during the 2016 campaign on behalf of the Trump Organization have 'no contradiction' to what President Donald Trump has already said to special counsel Robert Mueller's team."
- About that Trump Tower-Moscow: Trump has pined for that Russian real estate since the 1980s, reported The Post's Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger. For the next 30 years, Trump pursued at least four ultimately unsuccessful plans to put his name on a Moscow skyscraper. From the story: “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” Trump said in a 2007 deposition. “We will be in Moscow at some point.”
- Oh, and its very special resident: BuzzFeed News reported that “Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to [Putin] as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign,” the deal now at the center of the Cohen plea agreement. It's unclear whether Trump knew about this plan, but, BuzzFeed added, “Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.”
- Perspective: Ken White, a former federal prosecutor, writes in the Atlantic, “The third remarkable thing about Cohen’s plea was its substance. The president of the United States’ personal lawyer admitted to lying to Congress about the president’s business activities with a hostile foreign power, to support the president’s story. In any rational era, that would be earthshaking... But these are the sorts of developments that would, under normal circumstances, end a presidency. They still might.”
Trump pushed back against the notion he did anything wrong just now on Twitter:
Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2018
....Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2018
And this happened:
Outside the Beltway
Fighting anti-Semitism in Europe: Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was in Ukraine when 11 were killed by a gunman at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Kelly was on a fact-finding mission assessing the state of anti-Semitism in Europe, a project commissioned by Ron Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress. Power Up chatted with Kelly about some of his findings:
- Anti-Semitism is “ingrained,” Kelly said after stops in Ukraine, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Hungary, emanating from far-right neo-Nazi movements and a leftist movement urging boycotting, sanctioning, and divesting from Israel, known as the BDS movement, because of their treatment of Palestinians.
- France is the biggest problem: “This week, new statistics on anti-Semitism in France from January through September 2018 were released. The number of anti-Semitic 'actions' ... increased by 71 percent over the same time period in 2017,” Kelly wrote in a New York Post column earlier in November.
- Of the contrast between the U.S. and Europe, Kelly said he saw “a lack of attention to the security problem on the part of the Jewish community in the U.S.,” he told us. “I think there was a feeling that it couldn't happen here. But well, it did. And in virtually every country we went to you could see much greater awareness about the threat.”
- In meetings with people close to Macron, Kelly and his team have already recommended that “the government enforce anti-Semitic hate speech more and even create a hate crimes regional operation.”
Back at home, a recent Post investigation found “a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups,” while, at the same time, “violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.” And 2018 has been an especially deadly year, reported Wesley Lowery, Kimberly Kindy and Andrew Ba Tran. In October, attacks killed 13 people:
- “A Kentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store.”
- “An anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an ‘invasion’ has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.”
- Both sides: “Terrorism researchers say right-wing violence sprouted alongside white anxiety about Obama’s presidency and has accelerated in the Trump era. Trump and his aides have continuously denied that he has contributed to the rise in violence. But experts say right-wing extremists perceive the president as offering them tacit support for their cause.”
- Just this week: A Columbia Teacher's College psychology professor found red swastikas and another anti-Jewish slur spray painted in red on her office walls. “I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” Elizabeth Midlarsky told The Post. “I’m usually not a fearful person, but they got me. I’m afraid.”
'NOT A DISEASE OF THE PAST': As the AIDS crisis continues, killing an estimated 2,500 people around the world daily, the Senate voted to reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (known as PEPFAR) that Trump is expected to sign into law, according to Vice President Pence, who hosted a World AIDS Day event on Thursday at the White House.
U.S. officials say PEPFAR, which is now 15 years old, has saved more than 16 million lives and is one of the largest-ever global health efforts. Ahead of 30th annual World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Power Up talked to Ambassador-at-Large Deborah L. Birx, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, about the state of the crisis abroad and at home:
- PEPFAR and partner efforts tested nearly 95 million people for HIV last year, Birx told us.
- Ideally, partner countries require less and less U.S. funding over time, Birx said. She cited Ethiopia as a successful example of a country that is "not only showing the epidemic can be controlled, but with control comes less and less requirements for resources."
- Nigeria and Ethiopia: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has repeatedly touted the success of PEPFAR, earlier this week: "I am also pleased to announce new and exciting progress toward achieving epidemic control in Nigeria and Ethiopia," he said. "... Ethiopia is on the verge of achieving HIV epidemic control – a remarkable accomplishment. And Nigeria may be closer to achieving HIV epidemic control than was previously thought, or even previously thought possible."
- Not just an overseas problem: In the United States, the disease has shifted "to young people and young people of color. And if you ask them, they would tell you they didn’t know they were at risk," Birx said. "No one talks about it anymore."
- PEPFAR is a good start, said Tom Hart, executive director at the ONE Campaign, which is fighting the disease's spread. "The fight against AIDS is far from over. AIDS is not a disease of the past," he said.
I think about this clip all the time.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) November 29, 2018
Important context for today's news.
Paul Manafort, asked in July 2016 if Trump has any business interests with Russian oligarchs pic.twitter.com/PnT2FKDyFq
@LIDEYLIKES WITH A POWER PLATE: We've got another holiday recipe. But this time something a little healthier than a mezcal negroni or a pecan pie. We touched base with one of our favorite chefs this week, Lidey Heuck, who works for Ina Garten doing recipe testing and social media. Lidey emailed us the recipe for her shredded brussels sprouts salad (see more of her recipes here):
- "This salad is one of my favorite new ways to use Brussels sprouts. I love the contrast between the crunchy Brussels sprouts and the crumbles of creamy blue cheese, and the dried cranberries that add a hint of sweetness to each bite. I know blue cheese is one of those divisive foods, but I use a very mild one in this recipe - you might even be able to win over some blue cheese skeptics! This is such a fresh, colorful salad, and with a bright lemon dressing it’s the perfect accompaniment to a hearty holiday main course."