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At the White House

THE WATER'S EDGE: President Trump in Japan this weekend sided with North Korean’s authoritarian dictator over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his national security adviser John Bolton. And he broke with longstanding tradition not to attack a domestic political rival in a foreign country by slamming one of his 2020 foes, Joe Biden, by tweet and at a news conference.

It was just another Trumpian trip overseas -- but with rhetoric that could have long-term global ramifications and that plunged the president's rivalry with Biden onto even more personal turf.

Trump is by no means a stranger to diplomatic blunders and erratic behavior on the world stage. He’s done everything from skip a visit to a U.S. military cemetery in France; arrive late for a meeting with the queen of England; and push past the leader of Montenegro during a NATO photo op. More serious missteps include undermining NATO by initially refusing to support Article Vretracting U.S. support for a customary joint statement via Twitter after a G-7 summit in Quebec; and publicly contradicting U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian interference in the 2016 election while standing right next to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. 

But Trump's rhetoric while in Japan. seemed to veer into new territory — even for the president. Trump explicitly undercut Abe, one of his closest allies, by insisting  at a press conference “there have been no nuclear tests, no ballistic missiles going out, no long-range missiles going out,” and he was not “personally” bothered by North Korea’s short-range missile tests. In a tweet, he said he was “not bothered” by the “small weapons” test and that Kim Jong Un smiled after calling “swampman” Biden a “low IQ individual.”

  • Trump “on Monday denied that North Korea had fired any ballistic missiles or violated the United Nations Security Council resolutions, taking the word of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the assessments of his own national security adviser and his Japanese host. He praised the murderous dictator as a ‘very smart man,’" my colleagues Ashley Parker and Simon Denyer, reported from on the ground in Japan.
  • “He also again sided with Kim over former vice president Joe Biden, after his Democratic rival was branded a ‘fool of low I.Q.’ by North Korea’s state media for calling the North Korean leader a dictator and a tyrant …. Trump gave cover to Kim as he directly contradicted his national security adviser, John Bolton, as well as Abe, by arguing that Pyongyang had not launched ballistic missiles this month nor violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.” 

North Korea was quick to add to Trump’s Bolton pile on, calling him a “war monger” and “human defect,” after Bolton described the short-range missile tests as violations of U.N. resolutions, per the Associated Press's Kim Tong-Hyung. 

  • In the statement carried by the North’s Korean Central News Agency, a Kim spokesperson said North Korea was exercising its right to self-defense. North Korea has never recognized the U.N. Security Council resolutions, which it views as denying its “rights to existence and development of a sovereign state,” the statement said.

Not so fast: Despite all that, Abe and Trump made a show of unity — with a packed schedule including golf, selfies, sumo wrestling and mutual flattery. But the policy gulf between the two leaders was hard to paper over.

  • “This is violating the Security Council resolution,” Abe said, adding that Japan feels threatened because of it's proximity to North Korea. “It is of great regret. But at the same time between Kim Jong Un and President Trump a certain new approach was taken and that is something that I pay tribute to.”  

Critics of Trump — including at least one of his Republican allies — condemned the president's assessment of the missile tests, expressing concern that Trump's rhetoric encouraged North Korea's bad behavior. 

  • “I find them very disturbing, and certainly wouldn't trust Kim Jong Un,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said Sunday CNN's "State of the Union.” “I think we need to keep our eyes on North Korea. I understand the president wants to maintain a relationship with North Korea, so that we can work with them; however, those strikes are disturbing.”
  • “Trump clearly was incorrect when he said North Korea didn’t violate U.N. resolutions — any missile test of any type violates them,” Harry Kazianis, the senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest told Power Up. “It seems clear Trump only cares about Pyongyang testing long-range missiles that can hit the U.S. homeland. My worry is that Trump just gave Kim a green light to test anything less than that — which is the bulk of his arsenal. If North Korea does read it that way, then we are in for a hot summer riddled with missile test after missile test.”
  • “I can never remember such a moment in modern American diplomacy,” Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, told the New York Times's Annie Karni of Trump's visit. “It’s completely unprecedented, especially in the vulgar ways that President Trump chose” to speak in Japan.

On Tuesday, on the final day of Trump's Japan visit, Biden was still clearly on his mind. 

  • “Well, Kim Jong Un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual,” Trump said when asked about his tweet during his a news conference. “He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that.”

And he hit Biden for supporting the 1994 crime bill as senator, which has been blamed for ramping up incarcerations of minority communities.

  • “Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!," Trump tweeted. “ . . . Super Predator was the term associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so heavily involved in passing. That was a dark period in American History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!” 

Trump tweeted? What tweet? 

 

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Outside the Beltway

HOW THE CANDIDATES SPENT MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND: The Democratic presidential field spent Memorial Day weekend swarming the four-early states by participating in ice-cream socials, barbecues and solemn remembrances just weeks before the field for the first debate will be set.

But the biggest story of the weekend may have been the one candidate who was nowhere in sight: Biden, the current leader in both national polling and endorsements.

  • “ . . . Former vice president Joe Biden’s agenda for the holiday weekend, according to his campaign: ‘Joe Biden has no public events scheduled,’ our colleagues Annie Linskey and Chelsea Janes report. “Those seven words are becoming familiar for the Biden team. Aside from a campaign swing right after announcing his candidacy, Biden has kept his head down while his rivals rush from state to state to state.”
  •  Team Biden’s defense: “The light public schedule reflects the unique position of his campaign, advisers say: With near universal name recognition and high favorability ratings among Democrats, the former vice president does not need to introduce himself to voters like nearly every other candidate. And as the leader in early polls, he can attract media attention without splashy events.”
  • “Some Democratic strategists say Biden, 76, may be limiting his participation in freewheeling campaign sessions partly to play down the fact that he is older than the figure they may remember,” per Linskey and Janes. 

Out on the trail, roughly half of the sprawling 23-candidate field was in either Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Bernie Sanders returned to Vermont on Saturday for his first event in the state since his announcement in February. He emphasized his foreign policy views: “Recently, I have been attacked in the media because of my views, actions and votes on foreign policy issues,” he said, according to the New York Times's Sydney Ember's report. ‘I make no apologies,’ he repeated several times.” He later held ice cream socials in New Hampshire.
  • Elizabeth Warren traversed rural Iowa, talking about her personal background, per the Iowa City Press Citizen’s Isaac Hamlet.
  • Cory Booker, who was also in Iowa, warned against presidents and politicians who speak of themselves as saviors, per the Des Moines Register’s Tony Leys' report.
  • Pete Buttigieg slammed Trump in New Hampshire for using bone spurs to avoid the Vietnam war draft. He also talked about his own military service: "I've got more experience in government than the president, more executive experience than the vice president, and more military experience than anybody who's come into that office since George H.W. Bush,” he said, per CBS News’ Nicole Sganga and Jack Turman’s report.

To mark the holiday itself, 14 Democratic candidates spoke in a joint NowThis and VoteVets video about one specific fallen soldier they were remembering:

Global Power

THE CENTER HOLDS: Voters across 28 countries turned out in record numbers at nearly 51 percent — the highest since 1994 — to deliver wins to the anti-establishment parties seeking to chip away at the European Union’s power from within. Far-right populists, Liberals and Greens made big gains over centrist groups who still managed to cling to power.

Some highlights from the world’s biggest multicountry vote determining the direction of the European Parliament for the next five years along with new representatives: 

Euroskeptic, hard-right parties topped the polls in the U.K. Italy, Poland, and Hungary:

  • “In Italy, the right-wing Lega Party, led by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, took victory with 33.64 percent of the vote. Euroskeptic Salvini said that he will try to form an anti-EU bloc with Marine Le Pen and Hungary's Viktor Orban. It's unclear if that will materialize,” per CNN’s Jack Guy and Helen Regan.  
  • In Britain: “Nigel Farage’s single-issue Brexit Party was the clear winner of the elections, with the potential to impact the race over who becomes the next British prime minister,” per The Post’s Karla Adam. 
  • In Hungary: “The ruling Fidesz party won the election in Hungary, as predicted. It took 13 seats and 52.33 percent of the popular vote. Currently suspended from the center-right European People’s party, Fidesz’s future in Brussels is unclear,” per Politico. “Speaking to supporters after the results were announced, Viktor Orbán offered a hint. The prime minister said that he has got a mandate from Hungarian voters to do three things: stop migration in Europe, defend the Europe of nations, and defend Europe's Christian culture. 'We will work together with everyone who wants to stop migration,' Orbán said.”

Angela Merkel’s party faced a serious challenge from the left:

  • “Germany’s left-right grand coalition faced a potentially significant electoral shock, with the Green party making a historic breakthrough, taking 20.7 percent of the vote. This pushed the centre-left Social Democratic Party into third place for the first time in nationwide elections, raising pressure on party leaders to rethink their federal alliance with the center-right,” per the Financial Times’s Alex Barker, Mehreen Khan, Jim Brunsden and Michael Peel. 

Greens FTW: "European Green parties on Monday were cheering E.U. elections that vaulted them into a kingmaking position of power, as voters abandoned traditional political parties in favor of climate-focused activists in a green wave that swept several countries," per my colleagues Michael Birnbaum, Griff Witte and James McAuley. 

  • What this means: "In Germany, France and elsewhere, a good night for the Greens indicated the rising priority of environmental issues for European voters. It also suggested an awareness that the E.U. as a bloc, not the individual nation-state, is the best level for effective action to tackle the climate crisis,” per  for The Guardian. 

Bad news for France's Macron: "President Emmanuel Macron of France lost his bet that he would defeat the far right, not only losing the election to the European Parliament but getting beaten by the populist firebrand he roundly defeated only two years ago, Marine Le Pen," per the New York Times's Adam Nossiter. 

  • “There’s a split between the two Frances,” Jean Garrigues, a political historian at the University of Orleans, told Nossiter of Macron’s France, “and peripheral France, which considers itself a victim of globalization.”

     

The Investigations

WE MAY SEE MORE OF THE MUELLER REPORT THIS WEEK: “Sought-after parts of the Mueller investigation may be made public this week, thanks to a federal judge who's taken an unusual approach in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn's case,” CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reports.

  • What we might see: “Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in DC set a Friday deadline for the Justice Department to make public unredacted portions of the Mueller report that pertain to Flynn, plus transcripts of Flynn's calls with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and of a voicemail during which someone connected to Trump referenced Flynn's cooperation,” Polantz writes.
  • ICYMI on Trump’s taxes: “[Trump] and the House Intelligence and Financial Services Committees reached a deal to delay congressional subpoenas requesting Mr. Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One,” CBS News reports.

In the Agencies

CLIMATE DENIALISM REACHES NEW HEIGHTS: Trump has pulled out of the Paris climate accord, rolled back Obama-era efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, refused to sign a statement to protect the Arctic region unless it didn’t include the word “climate change,” and has rolled back countless environmental regulations.

But the New York Times’s Coral Davenport and Mark Landler report there’s more to come:

  • “…in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.”
  • “…parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.”
  • Big picture: “What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics,” said Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the government’s most recent National Climate Assessment. “It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”

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