Trump: “I will not be happy” if North Korea conducts another nuclear test

President Donald Trump said Saturday he “will not be happy” if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, and he declined to rule out a U.S. military response to such a provocation.

“I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see,” Mr. Trump said of possible military action during an interview with CBS News’ John Dickerson that will air Sunday on “Face the Nation” and Monday on “CBS This Morning.”

The interview came just one day after North Korea test-launched a ballistic missile Friday from the western portion of the country. The launch, which failed shortly after lift-off, came after recent U.S. pressure on North Korea to cease its provocative behavior.

“Mr. President, you and the administration said to North Korea, ‘Don’t test a missile.’ They have tested a missile. Is the pressure not working?” Dickerson asked Mr. Trump.

“Well, I didn’t say, ‘Don’t test a missile,'” the president began. “He’s going to have to do what he has to do. But he understands we’re not going to be very happy. And I will tell you, a man that I’ve gotten to like and respect — the president of China, President Xi — I believe has been putting pressure on him also. But so far, perhaps nothing’s happened and perhaps it has. This was a small missile. This was not a big missile. This was not a nuclear test, which he was expected to do three days ago. We’ll see what happens.”


Dickerson followed up, “You say, ‘Not happy’ — what does that mean?”

“I would not be happy,” Mr. Trump repeated. “If he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy. And I can tell you also, I don’t believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either.”

“‘Not happy’ mean military action?” Dickerson asked.

“I don’t know,” the president responded. “I mean, we’ll see.”

Make sure you tune into “Face the Nation” this Sunday for the first part of John Dickerson’s interview with President Trump, taping at the White House and in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, April 29th, Mr. Trump’s 100th day in office. More of the interview will air in a live broadcast of “CBS This Morning” from the East Room of the White House on Monday, May 1.



North Korean threat to Hawaii is real now, commander says

“Kim Jong Un is clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today, in my opinion,” Adm. Harry Harris, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee. “I have suggested that we consider putting interceptors in Hawaii that … defend (it) directly, and that we look at a defensive Hawaii radar.”

The U.S. currently has anti-missile interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and in Fort Greely, Alaska.

Harris was repeatedly questioned by lawmakers from Hawaii on the threat posed to their state.

The current defense architecture “is sufficient to protect Hawaii today, but it can be overwhelmed,” he cautioned. “Somewhere, we would have to make a decision about which missiles to take out, and that’s a hard decision.”

Harris warned that North Korea’s testing is picking up speed and becoming more aggressive; the country conducted more than 20 ballistic missile tests last year.

“North Korea vigorously pursued a strategic strike capability in 2016,” he told lawmakers on Wednesday. “Kim’s strategic capabilities are not yet an existential threat to the U.S., but if left unchecked, he will gain the capability to match his rhetoric.”

The chief of U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees all military operations in the region, testified a few hours before the entire U.S. Senate was scheduled to go to the White House for a rare classified meeting to discuss the North Korean threat.

  The USS Carl Vinson strike group, which has positioned itself in the Philippine Sea, can now reach North Korea in a two-hour flight, he said.

“With every test, Kim Jong Un moves closer to his stated goal of a pre-emptive nuclear strike capability against American cities,” he said. “Defending our homeland is my top priority, so I must assume that Kim Jong Un’s nuclear claims are true.”

North Korea tensions: US installs missile defence system in S Korea

He dismissed North Korea’s threats to sink the aircraft carrier and its strike group, saying “if it flies, it will die.”

Echoing President Donald Trump, he said the military has to consider “every possible option” when dealing with North Korea, but also cautioned that the objective should be “to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, not his knees.”

After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump praised China’s willingness to help with North Korea, and expressed optimism that they would do more to deter Kim Jong Un from holding additional tests.

China has significant leverage with North Korea, with 80 percent of North Korea’s economy depending on ties to the country. But defense officials say Pyongyang is unlikely to abandon its nuclear weapons program no matter how much pressure its main ally applies.

“Denuclearization is unlikely at this point — at least in the near term and at least under this regime,” Kelly Magsamen, former principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Magsamen said that while military options should remain on the table, they should be considered the very last resort.

“We should not kid ourselves here, a conflict on the peninsula would be unlike anything we have seen in decades,” she said. “North Korea is not a Syria, it’s not an Iraq, the consequences could be extremely high.”

A U.S. advanced missile defense system that is being installed in South Korea will be operational in a few days, Harris said on Wednesday. The U.S. and South Korea agreed to deploy the $800 million system last July in a deal brokered under the now-impeached South Korean president, Park Geun-hye.

The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, can target short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in flight. China and Russia have opposed the defense system, saying it undermines their own security interests.

Harris said that the visit of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who made South Korea and Japan his first international trip, and Vice President Mike Pence sends the “right signal” to allies in the region.

After Trump’s election, there had been concerns that he would follow through on campaign threats to withdraw American troops if the two countries don’t pay a larger share of defense costs.


North Korea tensions: US installs missile defence system in S Korea

Protesters and police stand by as trailers carrying US THAAD missile defence equipment enter a deployment site in Seongju, early 26 April 2017.
Missile defense equipment was transported to a former golf club in Seongju on Wednesday

The US military has started installing a controversial missile defense system at a site in South Korea, amid high tensions over neighbouring North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions.

The Thaad system is designed to protect against threats from North Korea.

Hundreds of local residents protested against the deployment, as vehicles carrying equipment arrived at the site in the south of the country.

China argues Thaad will destabilise security in the region.

The US has in recent days deployed warships and a submarine to the Korean peninsula, amid fears North Korea could be planning further missile or nuclear tests.

The Trump administration, which has been urging China to rein in its ally, North Korea, is due to hold a classified briefing for senators on the situation at the White House later on Wednesday.

The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system is designed to intercept and destroy short and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.

“South Korea and the United States have been working to secure an early operational capability of the Thaad system in response to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threat,” South Korea’s defence ministry said in a statement.

The system – agreed last year under the Obama administration – is not expected to be operational until the end of 2017, it added.

The development coincides with China launching a new aircraft carrier – the first to be made domestically – in a bid to boost its own military presence in the region.

Protests at home

Television footage showed military trailers carrying what appeared to be defence equipment to a disused golf course some 250km (155 miles) south of the South Korean capital Seoul on Wednesday morning.

South Korean protesters shout slogans such as
There were protests last week as US Vice-President Mike Pence met with South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn

Dozens of police lined the road, trying to block hundreds of protesters, some of whom were hurling water bottles at the vehicles.

More than 10 people were injured in the clashes with police, activists said. Many of the protesters were local residents of the two towns closest to the military site.

“We will continue our fight and there’s still time for Thaad to be actually up and running so we will fight until equipment is withdrawn from the site and ask South Korea’s new government to reconsider the plan,” protester Kim Jong-kyung told Reuters news agency.

Police were unable to confirm the casualties.

What is the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (Thaad)?

  • Shoots down short and medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their flight
  • Uses hit-to-kill technology – where kinetic energy destroys the incoming warhead
  • Has a range of 200km and can reach an altitude of 150km
  • US has previously deployed it in Guam and Hawaii as a measure against potential attacks from North Korea

What impact will S Korea’s expanded missile defence system have?

China has expressed “serious concern” over the Thaad deployment and is urging the US and South Korea to withdraw the system, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Wednesday.

The deployment has caused significant tension with China – South Korea’s largest trading partner – and coincided with a number of economic measures imposed by China, including a ban on tour groups which saw a 40% drop in the number of Chinese visitors in the past month.

South Korea last month lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization, but China denies its recent moves are related to the Thaad deployment.

War of words

With tensions high in the region, North Korea and the US are continuing to exchange heated rhetoric over the scale of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programme.

US Vice-President Mike Pence warned North Korea not to “test” President Donald Trump, after it conducted a failed ballistic missile test on 16 April.

Media captionThe USS Michigan arrived in South Korea on Tuesday

On Tuesday, a US submarine – the USS Michigan – joined a group of warships in the Korean peninsula led by aircraft carrier Carl Vinson.

US President Donald Trump had earlier vowed to send an “armada” to the region over North Korea’s missile tests.

North Korea meanwhile threatened to sink the aircraft carrier and launch a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike” against what it called US aggression.

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged “restraint” on North Korea in a telephone call with President Trump on Monday.


State removes post highlighting Trump Mar-a-Lago resort

State Dept. website highlights history of Trump's Mar-a-LagoA State Department website has removed a blog post about President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort following criticism over ethical concerns.

The blog, initially posted on ShareAmerica, a State Department platform used for sharing what it describes as “compelling stories” detailed the history of Trump’s “Winter White House.”

FACT CHECK: Trump ignores 100-day high achievers

It immediately led to concerns that the U.S. government was promoting Trump’s private resort.

“The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders,” the web page now reads. “We regret any misperception and have removed the post.”

Ethics groups have warned about the potential conflict of interest presented by the private Florida resort.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tweeted asking the State Department on Monday, asking, “Why are taxpayer $$ promoting the President’s private country club?”

“Well, they’re just shamelessly promoting his products on U.S. government, taxpayer-financed websites. And we know that Mar-a-Lago has benefited from President Trump being elected president,” he said on CNN’s “The Lead” on Monday.

The blog post was still live on the site for the State Department’s embassy and consulates in the United Kingdom as of Monday evening




Ryan promises to keep government open — and makes no promises on health care

President Trump appeared at the Treasury Department this week.House leaders told GOP lawmakers Saturday that they plan to devote their energy this week to keeping the federal government open, conspicuously avoiding an immediate commitment to take up health care despite pledges to do so by conservatives and the White House.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), speaking on a conference call with GOP members, offered no specific plan on how or when lawmakers might see details of a new proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which White House officials promised would receive a vote by Wednesday.

Ryan also made clear that his top priority was to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep government open past April 28, an objective that requires Democratic support. “Wherever we land will be a product the president can and will support.” Ryan said, according to a senior GOP aide on the call.

The call comes as GOP leaders find themselves trapped between proving that they can complete basic tasks of governing such as funding the government, while also meeting the demands of President Trump, who is looking for a legislative win ahead of his 100th day in office next Saturday.

Ryan’s comments suggested that he and other House Republicans have made the choice to focus on the former. He said, for instance, that the House will vote on a health-care bill when Republicans are sure they have the support to pass it, according to several GOP aides on the call — suggesting that he does not believe that to be the case currently, despite renewed negotiations between House conservatives, moderates and the White House.

Ryan encouraged members to continue discussing ideas, but he did not open the call for questions, leaving members to wait until Wednesday morning before they can weigh in on spending or health care.

Trump and his top aides have been calling on Congress to take dramatic action in the coming week: vote on health care, take up tax reform and demand that Democrats agree to a stopgap spending measure that includes funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ryan attempted to calm the disorder Saturday by telling members that repealing the Affordable Care Act remains a priority but urging them to focus on the immediate task of the budget negotiations, according to the aides on the call. Ryan has vowed for weeks that there will be no government shutdown, and many Republicans and Democrats have said in recent days that negotiations are proceeding apace.

At the same time, Trump has publicly downplayed the significance of achieving a victory in the coming week. He dismissed the symbolism of the 100-day mark — despite his repeated promises on the campaign trail that he would meet many of his goals by that date.

He also began walking back the health-care promise after signs emerged that GOP leaders were not prepared to take it up because of the risk that it would anger Democrats.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said on Friday. “No particular rush, but we’ll see what happens.”

Then, on Saturday, Trump added to the confusion with a promise to release details of a tax overhaul next week.

“Big TAX REFORM AND TAX REDUCTION will be announced next Wednesday,” he tweeted.

Less clear was what will come of Trump’s desire to include funding for a border wall in the stopgap measure.

On Saturday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper scheduled to air Sunday morning that Trump may demand the funding.

“I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall,” Kelly said. “So I would suspect, he’ll do the right thing for sure, but I would suspect he will be insistent on the funding.”

The comment is likely to further threaten bipartisan budget talks, which were jostled after Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, announced last week that the White House would demand border wall funding in the upcoming spending bill. Such a demand would almost certainly prompt Democrats, whose support is needed to pass the budget bill in the Senate, to vote no.

Aides on the Hill and inside the White House, who spoke candidly on condition of anonymity, said they believe Trump sees a demand for wall money as the best way to prove that his most controversial proposals can be fulfilled.

“This president should be allowed to have his highest priorities funded even though the Democrats rightly have a seat at the table because of the Senate rules,” Mulvaney said Friday in an interview with Bloomberg Live. “You cannot expect a president who just won election to give up very easily on his highest priority.”

That demand came as a surprise to Democrats who have been working for more than a month with GOP leaders to craft a bipartisan spending bill that would keep the government open through the end of the fiscal year on September 30. The bipartisan talks were seen as a rare bright spot in an otherwise acrimonious, bitter relationship between Republicans and Democrats in Washington. One particular area of agreement was not to include border-protection funds in the stopgap budget, which, it was agreed, should be debated separately, after government is kept open.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said leaders in Congress could reach a spending agreement, but only the White House stays out of the negotiations.

“I want to come up with an agreement,” Schumer said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “Our Republican colleagues know that since they control, you know, the House, the Senate and the White House, that a shutdown would fall on their shoulders, and they don’t want it.”


Report: Russia tried to infiltrate Trump campaign through advisers

Report: Russia tried to infiltrate Trump campaign through advisers Russia tried to infiltrate Trump campaign through advisersMoscow attempted to infiltrate President Trump’s 2016 campaign by using his advisers, CNN reported on Friday.

U.S. officials told the news network that the Russian government attempted to use advisers, including Carter Page, in their strategy to infiltrate Trump’s political team during the campaign season.

The officials underscored that they were not aware of whether Page knew that he was communicating with Russian intelligence officials given the manner in which Russian operatives operate.

According to the report, Page could have made contact with the Russian intelligence officials without knowing their real identity.

The officials told CNN that Page’ s conversations with suspected Russian operatives are being analyzed as part of a broader Russia-related intelligence-gathering probe by U.S. authorities.

The officials also would not specify the content of the conversations.

Page has disputed the claims that he worked for the Russian intelligence services, maintaining that he always assumed that Russians might share information with Moscow.

“My assumption throughout the last 26 years I’ve been going there has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government … as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past,” he said, according to CNN.


Russian bombers again fly near Alaska

For the second consecutive night, Russia flew two long-range bombers off the coast of Alaska on Tuesday, this time coming within 36 miles of the mainland while flying north of the Aleutian Islands, two U.S. officials told Fox News.

The two nuclear-capable Tu-95H bombers were spotted by U.S. military radar at 5 p.m. local time.

Unlike a similar incident Monday night, this time the U.S. Air Force did not scramble any fighter jets.

Instead, it launched a single E-3 Sentry early warning aircraft, known as AWACS, to make sure there were only the two Russian bombers flying near Alaska, and not other aircraft flying underneath the large bombers.

U.S. territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from shore.

U.S. Air Force scrambled F-22 stealth fighters; Jennifer Griffin reports from the Pentagon© U.S. Air Force scrambled F-22 stealth fighters; Jennifer Griffin reports from the PentagonTwo Russian bombers flew within 100 miles of Alaska on Monday night.

The Russian bombers took off from an airbase in Petropavlovsk, Russia and returned five hours later to an airbase in Anadyr. Both locations are in eastern Russia, some 1,000 miles away.

Last week in Moscow, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said U.S.-Russian relations were at a “low point” during a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

While Tillerson was in Moscow, a trio of Russian bombers flew near the east coast of Japan, forcing the Japanese military to scramble 14 fighter jets at various times to intercept the bombers. A Russian spy plane traversed Japan’s west coast.

Before Monday’s flight near Alaska, the last time Russian bombers flew near the U.S. was July 4, 2015, when a pair of Russian bombers flew off the coasts of Alaska and California, coming as close as 40 miles to Mendocino, Calif.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called then-President Barack Obama to wish him a happy Independence Day while the bombers cruised the California coastline.

In February, a Russian spy ship sailed up and down the East Coast of the U.S. while remaining in international waters.


On Russia, Trump and his top national security aides seem to be at odds

A combination picture made shows President Trump at the White House on Feb. 9, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in St.Petersburg on April 3.The message was defiantly optimistic, like a suitor determined to hold a relationship together despite mounting obstacles.

“Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia,” ­President Trump declared on his Twitter account last week. “At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!”

Trump’s interest in achieving warm relations with Moscow has been a consistent theme since the earliest days of his campaign, and it stands now as one of the few major foreign policy positions that he has not discarded or revised since taking office.

But in his devotion to this outcome, Trump appears increasingly isolated within his own administration. Over the past several weeks, senior members of Trump’s national security team have issued blistering critiques of Moscow, using harsh terms that have led to escalating tensions between the countries and seem at odds with the president.

The harsh rhetoric — and the apparent lack of any rebuke from Trump — suggests that Russian skeptics have gained influence in the administration, making the rapprochement that Trump envisioned seem increasingly remote.

In a speech at the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley lashed out at Russia for its role in Syria, asking “how many more children have to die before Russia cares” enough to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from committing further atrocities.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Russia of being “incompetent or complicit” in the chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of Syrian civilians.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo went even further in an appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington last week, depicting Moscow as an unredeemable adversary. Though Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Pompeo described him as “a man for whom veracity doesn’t translate into English.”

The statements have created confusion about the Trump administration’s posture toward Russia and put senior officials, including Haley, in the awkward position of having to explain why Trump has yet to echo any of their harsh words.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Foreign policy experts close to the administration played down the apparent disconnect between Trump’s statements and those of his national security subordinates, saying that Trump’s words about Russia were often misinterpreted to signal he intended to be soft.

“There was never anything in the plan about being nice to the Russians,” said James Carafano, the vice president of foreign and defense policy at the Heritage Foundation, who served as an adviser to Trump during the campaign and post-election transition.

“I don’t think any of this is a U-turn, a reversal or a shift,” Carafano said. He noted that Trump’s decision to bomb an airstrip in Syria where the Russian military had worked with Assad’s forces and Trump’s recent vocal support for NATO demonstrate his willingness to defy Putin.

“Trump doesn’t have to do Russia bashing” and is probably seeking to leave an opening for Putin to pursue better relations with the United States, Carafano said. “The fact that [Trump’s officials] are not mimicking the exact same words doesn’t mean they’re not on the same sheet of music.”

In recent weeks, Trump has had opportunities to reinforce the messages of his subordinates. In a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg this month, Trump said relations with Moscow “may be at an all-time low” but described Russia as “a strong country” and said, “We’re going to see how that all works out.”

Asked about mounting concerns in Europe over alleged Moscow interference in elections and calls for bolstering Europe’s military defenses, Trump had no words of caution for the Kremlin.

“Right now there is a fear, and there are problems,” Trump said. “But ultimately, I hope that there won’t be a fear and there won’t be problems and the world can get along. That would be the ideal situation.”

Trump’s tack with Russia seems at odds with his approach toward other global powers and issues. He threatened to label China a currency manipulator and to cut off U.S. support for NATO, for example, before retreating from those positions in recent weeks.

His posture toward Moscow is also seen as a reflection of Trump’s reluctance to acknowledge that Russia interfered in the U.S. election and, based on the consensus view of U.S. intelligence agencies, sought to help him win.

Critics said the administration’s competing messages have caused concern overseas. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that he recently attended a security conference in Munich where there were “profound questions among our allies about just where this administration is coming from.”

“They don’t see the president yet willing to take on Putin or to criticize him directly,” Schiff said. “It doesn’t mater what others in his Cabinet said. If they didn’t hear it from the president they didn’t really believe it was administration policy.”

Senior administration officials have struggled to explain the disparity in their comments — including statements suggesting that Russia may have known that Assad was about to launch a chemical weapons attack — with those of the president.

“I think we’re both saying the same thing, it’s just being reported differently,” Haley said during an interview on ABC News this month. Pressed on why Trump has not condemned Moscow, Haley said, “This is what I can tell you: The president has not once called me and said, ‘Don’t beat up on Russia,’ has not once called me and told me what to say.”

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, faced similar questions in a separate ABC interview this week when asked how the president could be so confident that “things will work out fine” and predict “lasting peace.”

“Well,” McMaster quipped, “when relations are at the lowest point, there’s nowhere to go but up.”

McMaster has helped form the administration’s more combative stance toward Moscow. He replaced Michael Flynn, who seemed to share Trump’s interest in pursuing closer relations with Moscow before Flynn was fired for his misleading statements about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Juan Zarate, a former national security official who advised Pompeo during his confirmation as CIA chief, said that he sees Trump’s continued conciliatory messages toward Moscow as a means of preserving options for the administration in its dealings with Russia.

“I worry less about what appears to be some discordance because I think you can have flexibility in messaging,” Zarate said. “But you do have to have consistency in policy. For now it seems like we do. In fact the policy seems to be getting more vigorous and confrontational.”

But Zarate also noted Trump’s tendency to “double down on positions.” Trump was criticized for seeming lenient toward Moscow, “and low and behold he’s going to stick to his line.”

Moscow has also noticed the administration’s competing messages. After a series of sharp exchanges with senior U.S. officials, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week that Moscow would focus on signals from the president.

“We will be guided by what President Donald Trump once again confirmed . . . that he wants to improve relations with the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said. “We are also ready for that.”




FACT CHECK: Trump ignores 100-day high achievers

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up after signing an executive order to tighten the rules for technology companies seeking to bring highly skilled foreign workers to the U.S., Tuesday, April 18, 2017, at Snap-On Tools in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s claim Tuesday that he’s accomplished more than anyone at this point of a presidency flies in the face of history.

A look at a few of his statements at a Wisconsin tool company and an earlier interview with Fox:

TRUMP: “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.” — At Snap-on headquarters, Kenosha, Wisconsin.

THE FACTS: Trump’s legislative victories are minor, surpassed by those of a variety of high achievers in the White House. The concept of a president’s first 100 days (a benchmark Trump reaches next week) started with Franklin Roosevelt, because he got so much done.

Taking office in the Great Depression, Roosevelt quickly declared a banking holiday to quiet panic, called a special session of Congress and won passage of emergency legislation to stabilize the banking system. He came forward with a flurry of consequential legislation that set the pillars of the New Deal in place within his first 100 days, “the most concentrated period of U.S. reform in U.S. history,” say Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer in “The Reader’s Companion to the American Presidency.” No fewer than 14 historic laws were enacted in that time.

Trump’s big agenda items, like his promised tax overhaul and infrastructure plan, have yet to reach Congress. His attempt to secure the borders from people from terrorism-prone regions is so far blocked by courts. And his first attempt to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law failed in Congress.

Trump needn’t look as far back as FDR to see a president who got off to a consequential start. Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus package into law in his first month, while also achieving a law expanding health care for children and the Lilly Ledbetter bill on equal pay for women in that time.

Like FDR, Obama came to office in an economic crisis, the worst since the Depression. Lawmakers from both parties were inclined to act quickly and did, even as they fought over the details of the big stimulus package that defined Obama’s early days.


TRUMP: “I didn’t soften my stance” on China. “Nobody’s ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China, and then the fake media goes ‘Donald Trump has changed his stance on China.’ I haven’t changed my stance. China’s trying to help us.” — Fox interview.

THE FACTS: It’s hard to imagine a clearer switch in positions than the president’s abandonment of his campaign pledge to declare China a currency manipulator, a move that would have set the stage for trade penalties. China had once devalued its currency to make its exports artificially cheaper, crowding out other countries’ products, but in recent years has let market forces do more to shape currency exchange rates. Even as Trump railed against Chinese currency manipulation in the campaign, there already were signs that China was taking steps to keep the value of the yuan from sinking further against the dollar.

Trump didn’t let go of his accusation easily. As recently as April 2 he told The Financial Times that the Chinese are “world champions” of currency manipulation.


TRUMP, speaking about fellow NATO members, says he wants to “make sure these countries start paying their bills a little bit more; you know, they’re way, way behind.” — Remarks in Kenosha.

THE FACTS: That’s an oversimplification of NATO financial obligations. NATO members are not in arrears on payments. They committed in 2014 to ensuring that by 2024, they are spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their military budgets. Most NATO countries are spending less than that now, and Washington is putting pressure on them to do more.

In any event, the commitment is for these nations to spend more on their own military capabilities, which would strengthen the alliance, not to hand over money




Trump is flip-flopping on everything — and it may make him great again

President Trump 2.0.

There are more flip-flops in the Oval Office these days than at the beach on a hot summer’s day. President Donald Trump has switched positions on at least half a dozen major economic and foreign policy issues in the last week alone. The net result: Trump is emerging as a president more acceptable to the mainstream establishment that has been worried (if not terrified) of him — and less the outside bomb-thrower that many of his supporters thought he would be.

China. During his White House run, Trump skewered Beijing every chance he got, calling the Chinese currency manipulators who were ripping us off and siphoning away manufacturing jobs. On Wednesday, he told The Wall Street Journal “they’re not currency manipulators.” Behind Trump’s sudden decision to play nice with the communist hardliners in Beijing? He needs their help in reining in North Korea. The president’s now more worried about kooky Kim Jong-un and his nuclear and missile programs—which defense analysts say could one day result in Kim nuking Tokyo or our West Coast. His read on North Korea is right; China has leverage—but guess what? It may now have leverage over us on other issues, like the South China Sea and climate change—both of which matter deeply to the Chinese. Look for a possible Trump flip on climate change—he has always called it a “hoax” and talked down the Paris climate treaty, positions that have displeased Beijing.

Tax reform. After his healthcare plan sank quicker than the Titanic (the anniversary of that disaster is tomorrow), the president quickly distanced himself from it, saying he would just move on to overhauling the tax code. “We’ll be going right now for tax reform, which we could have done earlier,” he said three weeks ago. Problem: Trump was counting on his healthcare scheme saving about $1 trillion, which would have been factored into the tax numbers. But those savings no longer exist, which means tax reform—no lay up to begin with—will be trickier and more fought over than ever. So Trump has reversed himself and will now “do health care first,” telling Fox’s Maria Bartiromo that “We have a great health care plan that I think will happen, and if it happens, then I go immediately to tax reform. And that will happen. That will be easier than health care.” Easier said then done.

Delaying tax reform is a huge setback for investors, who saw the combination of a Republican president and Republican Congress as a sure thing for lower rates. When that happens now is anybody’s guess. The “certainty” that this would occur helped power the so-called Trump Trade after the election. But with that now up in the air, plus rising interest rates and growing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and Asia, the risk-off mentality is evaporating. The 10-year Treasury yield (BX:TMUBMUSD10Y)  has inched down to 2.28%, and the VIX (VIX) —the so-called fear gauge—has jumped to nearly 16 from 11.79 a week ago.

But wait, there’s more:

Janet Yellen and the Fed. “I like her, I respect her,” the president told the Journal, walking back vows he made as a candidate that she would not be reappointed in 2018 if he won. She’s “not toast,” he now says. The president added that he likes low interest rates, a huge change from a year ago, when he said that low rates were putting us “in a big, fat, ugly bubble,” and pushing debt up. He also accused Yellen of keeping rates low to boost Hillary Clinton. But that was then.

Export-Import Bank. Founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934, the “Ex-Im” helps American exporters sell good and services by providing credit for overseas customers. Sounds great, right? But some groups, like tea-party types (who say the feds have no business interfering with the free market) have fought to keep Congress from authorizing the bank’s continued operation. Its charter expired in 2015 and Trump railed against it, telling Bloomberg in 2015 that “it’s really not free enterprise.” But the president has gotten an earful for months from executives of companies big and small—from Boeing(BA)  and General Electric (GE)  on down—that Ex-Im is a huge plus for exports and jobs. Trump has gotten the message, telling the Journal “It turns out that, first of all, lots of small companies are really helped.” And big ones, too.

Surprised by all this? You shouldn’t be. Trump has always said he would be a flexible president, unpredictable and open-minded. He read the Electoral College map (which he also flip flopped on after winning it) and said what would close the deal in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Now—not quite three months into office—the new president is throwing those supporters under the bus. But he may win over new converts with his new, more mainstream positions.