Biden hits Trump on race: ‘There is no place in America for hate groups’

Biden hits Trump on race: ‘There is no place in America for hate groups’

Former Vice President Joe Biden went after President Trump during a speech late Saturday while emphasizing the U.S. has no place for hate groups.

Biden said at a centennial fundraising dinner for the Charleston, S.C., branch of the NAACP that Trump has “publicly proclaimed the moral equivalency of Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and those who oppose their hate,” according to Politico.”

This is a moment for this nation to declare what this president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or vision: there is no place in America for hate groups,” Biden added.

Biden also said that heads of state during a recent trip to Europe wanted to talk with him about what happened at a white nationalist rally earlier this year in Charlottesville, Va.

“The whole world saw the crazed, angry faces illuminated by torches,” he said, the news outlet reported.

Trump faced backlash when he blamed both sides for the deadly violence earlier this year in Charlottesville.

During his address, Biden also went after Trump for his decision to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“We saw the truth of this president when he pardoned Joe Arpaio of Arizona,” Biden said, according to Politico.

“It’s moments like these that each of us has to stand up and declare with conviction and moral clarity that the Klan, white supremacists, neo-Nazis will never be allowed to march in the main street of American life. That we will not watch this behavior and go numb when it happens,” he continued.

“We will not allow what’s happening along this landscape of America to be normalized, because we all know it represents the minority.”

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Pressure builds on Trump at home over pledge for closer Moscow ties

In this June 23, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

During his presidential campaign, Republican Donald Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “strong leader” with whom he would like to reset tense U.S.-Russian relations.

But as Trump heads to his first face-to-face meeting as president with Putin on Friday at the G20 summit in Germany, he is under pressure at home to take a tough line with the Kremlin.

Allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. election have alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who are pushing to extend tough sanctions placed on Russia following its 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula belonging to Ukraine.

Former U.S. attorney: ‘Absolutely evidence’ to begin obstruction of justice case

Lawmakers including Republican Senator Cory Gardner are also concerned Russia has prolonged the civil war in Syria by backing its President Bashar al-Assad, a strongman whose forces have used chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians. The chaos has fueled instability in the region and a flood of migrants to Europe.

“President (Trump) needs to make it clear that the continued aggression by Russia around the globe … is unacceptable, and that they will be held accountable,” said Gardner, who was among six lawmakers invited by the White House last month to discuss foreign policy with Trump over dinner.

Meanwhile, the appointment of a special counsel who is investigating potential links between the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign has weakened the president’s ability to maneuver with Russia, foreign policy experts say.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded Russia sponsored hacking of Democratic Party groups last year to benefit Trump over his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Russia has denied those allegations while Trump has repeatedly dismissed the idea of any coordination between his campaign and Russia as a “witch hunt.”

Still, just the optics of Trump meeting with Putin, a former KGB agent, are fraught with risk, foreign policy experts say.

“If (Trump) smiles, if he wraps his arm around Putin, if he says, ‘I’m honored to meet you, we’re going to find a way forward,’ … I think Congress is going to react extremely negatively to that,” said Julie Smith, a former national security aide in the Obama administration.

EVOLVING U.S. POLICY

Trump has signaled an interest in cooperating with Russia to defeat Islamic State in Syria and to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

The White House has been mum on what Trump would be willing to give Russia in exchange for that help. But there has been speculation he could ratchet down sanctions, or even return two Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and Long Island. President Barack Obama seized those facilities and expelled 35 Russian diplomats just before he left office as punishment for the election hacks.

While some administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also support engagement, others, such as Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, have taken a hawkish line on Russia.

The lack of a unified strategy has left U.S. allies anxious. And it has lowered expectations for American leadership to help resolve crises in Syria and Ukraine, where Russian cooperation would be critical.

“Trump is like a horse with his front legs tied,” said a German diplomat, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity. “He can’t make any big leaps forward on Russia. If he tried people would immediately suspect it was all part of some big conspiracy.”

Trump’s administration is still reviewing its Russia policy, a process that may not be wrapped up for a couple of months, a U.S. official said.

Speaking with reporters last week about Trump’s upcoming meeting with Putin, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said his boss would like “the United States and the entire West to develop a more constructive relationship with Russia. But he’s also made clear that we will do what is necessary to confront Russia’s destabilizing behavior.”

THIRD TRY AT A RESET

Trump is just the latest president to grapple with the complicated U.S.-Russia dynamic.

George W. Bush and Obama sought to improve the U.S. relationship with Russia early in their administrations only to see relations deteriorate later.

Among the concerns for this president is Trump’s apparent lack of interest in policy details and his tendency to wing it with foreign leaders.

McMaster told reporters that Trump has “no specific agenda” for his meeting with Putin and that topics would consist of “whatever the president wants to talk about.”

Michael McFaul, who was U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama, said he feared Trump might be headed to the meeting without clear objectives.

“I hope that he would think about first: what is our objective in Ukraine? What is our objective in Syria? And secondarily, how do I go about achieving that in my meeting with Putin?” McFaul said.

Other Washington veterans say Trump won’t be able to make meaningful progress with Russia on anything until he confronts Putin about the suspected election meddling.

“(Trump) really has to raise the Russian election hacking last year, and has to say something like, ‘Vladimir, don’t do this again. There will be consequences,'” said Steve Pifer, a long-time State Department official focused on U.S.-Russia relations.

So far Trump has shown little inclination to do so, a situation that has heightened speculation about the potential impact from his coming encounter with the Russian leader.

“The shadow of all these investigations hangs over this,” said Angela Stent, a professor at Georgetown University and former National Intelligence Officer for Russia.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Arshad Mohammed, Warren Strobel, Richard Cowan, Jonathan Landay, John Walcott in Washington; John Irish in Paris; Noah Barkin in Berlin; Christian Lowe in Moscow; Editing by Caren Bohan and Marla Dickerson)

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It’s far from case closed on Trump, Russia

FILE - In this May 10, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump talks to reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Trump, in an apparent warning to his fired FBI director, said Friday, May 12, 2017, that James Comey had better hope there are no "tapes" of their conversations. Trump's tweet came the morning after he asserted Comey had told him three times that he wasn't under FBI investigation. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) President Donald Trump is decidedly premature in claiming everyone’s convinced his presidential campaign and Russia did not collude before the election.Investigations into contacts between Russians and people with the Trump campaign are still going on, so there’s no exoneration to be found.

Over the past week, Trump stretched a variety of facts on trade, taxes and economic theory. But his firing of FBI Director James Comey was far and away the source of the most tumult. Contradictions cascaded from the White House.

Here are some statements by the president and his spokespeople on the FBI, Russia, economics and more:

TRUMP, on whether people in his campaign and Russian officials were in any way in cahoots: “Clapper is convinced, other people are convinced … Everybody’s convinced. … They’re all saying, there’s no collusion. There is no collusion.” — Fox interview broadcast Friday

THE FACTS: That’s untrue both generally and with respect to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence until Trump took office Jan. 20. Clapper has not said he’s satisfied there was no wrongdoing. In a report published at the end of the Obama administration, Clapper said no coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia had been established from a review of evidence available to him by that point. But his report focused on what was known by then about Russia’s cyber actions and propaganda against Hillary Clinton, not about contacts between Trump associates and Russia.

Clapper expanded on that point Sunday, saying he did not know at the time that the FBI was digging deeply into “potential political collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” and he was unaware of what the bureau might have found.

“There was no evidence of any collusion included in that report,” he told ABC’s “This Week,” meaning his report. “That’s not to say there wasn’t evidence.”

More broadly, it’s obvious on its face that not everyone is convinced that Trump and his people are vindicated in the matter. Senate and House investigations continue, as does the FBI’s, which Comey wanted to intensify before his dismissal last week. Acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe said the probe remains a high priority for the agency.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not convinced of anything in his panel’s inquiry, except that “boy, oh, boy, there’s an awful lot of smoke. I’m not saying there’s fire at this point, but we’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

___

WHY FIRE COMEY?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, White House counselor, on the reason for firing Comey: “This has nothing to do with Russia.” — Tuesday on CNN

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, White House spokeswoman, on the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government: “We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity … and we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.” — Thursday White House briefing

THE FACTS: The initial White House explanation for the firing, that Comey had bungled the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices, persuaded no one. Trump was delighted with Comey’s disclosures about the Clinton investigation during the campaign and praised him.

Sanders, though, acknowledged in general terms what was obvious — that by firing Comey, the White House hoped to hasten the conclusion of an aggressive FBI investigation.

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WHO INITIATED THE DISMISSAL?

TRUMP, in letter firing the FBI chief Tuesday: “I … concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

WHITE HOUSE statement Tuesday: “President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

SEAN SPICER, White House spokesman, laying the impetus for the firing on Rosenstein and his memo building the case against Comey: “It was all him. No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision.” — Tuesday

SANDERS, Wednesday: “People in the Justice Department made a very strong recommendation, the president followed it and he made a quick and decisive action to fire James Comey.” — MSNBC interview

TRUMP, Thursday: “Oh, I was going fire regardless of recommendation.” — NBC interview

THE FACTS: The early attempts to deflect responsibility on to others were a diversion; Rosenstein had been asked by the White House to put the memo together. Trump’s unvarnished assertion that he wanted Comey gone has the ring of truth, even without the whole story known.

He appeared to consider himself his own best spokesman in a tweet Friday that raised the prospect of discontinuing the long White House tradition of daily press briefings.

“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” Trump tweeted. “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”

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TRUMP UNDER FBI INVESTIGATION?

TRUMP: “First of all, when you’re under investigation you’re giving all sorts of documents and everything. I knew I wasn’t under and I heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level, that I wasn’t.” — NBC interview

THE FACTS: An absence of document requests can’t be read as an indication that he isn’t under investigation, as Trump suggests. Investigations begin with interviews and document searches that are steps removed from the subject of the probe. Direct contact with the subject wouldn’t become known to that person until late in the process.

___

TRUMP’s letter to Comey: “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.” In an NBC interview Thursday the president elaborated, saying Comey had told him this at a dinner and in two separate phone calls. “I said, if it’s possible would you let me know, ‘Am I under investigation?’ He said, ‘You are not under investigation’.”

THE FACTS: Comey hasn’t responded publicly to Trump’s claims. But even if he did make such assurances, those answers months or weeks ago would be ephemeral because the investigation into Russia’s meddling in U.S. presidential election continues and hasn’t reached conclusions.

That’s why investigators make it a practice not to circumscribe a probe in that fashion. It would also breach protocol for an FBI chief and president to discuss an investigation bearing on the president. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told senators Thursday it’s not standard practice for the FBI to tell people they’re excluded from an investigation.

In congressional testimony March 20, Comey refused to say whether Trump himself was under investigation when asked directly. “I’m not gonna answer that,” he told the House Intelligence Committee. “I’m not gonna answer about anybody, in this forum.” He added that he had privately briefed the top Republican and Democrat on the committee “in great detail on the subjects of the investigation and what we’re doing.”

Publicly, he said, he would not identify those being investigated “so we don’t end up smearing people” who may end up not being prosecuted. But he described casting a wide net, “investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

___

COLLEGE DAZE

TRUMP: “The Electoral College is almost impossible for a Republican to win. Very hard.” — NBC interview

THE FACTS: History disagrees. Over the past century, the party victory split is dead even: 13 for Democrats, 13 for Republicans. If you add the total electoral votes amassed by the candidates of each party over that time, Republicans actually come out ahead — 7,159 to 6,607.

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TAX TALK

TRUMP: “We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world.” — interview with The Economist magazine

THE FACTS: Trump has repeatedly made variations on this false claim. The overall U.S. tax burden is actually one of the lowest among the 32 developed and large emerging-market economies tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Taxes made up 26.4 percent of the total U.S. economy in 2015, according to the OECD. That’s far below Denmark’s tax burden of 46.6 percent, Britain’s 32.5 percent or Germany’s 36.9 percent. Just four OECD countries had a lower tax bite than the U.S.: South Korea, Ireland, Chile and Mexico.

Trump qualified his claim later in the interview by saying the top marginal corporate tax rate, specifically, is higher than in similar industrialized countries. That’s more or less true, although the higher rate is moderated by tax breaks not available in some of those other countries.

___

TRADING PLACES

TRUMP: “Right now the United States has … about a $15 billion trade deficit with Canada.” — Economist interiew

THE FACTS: His numbers are upside down. The United States actually ran an $8.1 billion trade surplus with Canada last year, according to the latest numbers available from the Census Bureau. A $24.6 billion U.S. surplus with Canada in the trade of services, including tourism and software, outweighed a $16.5 billion deficit in the trade of goods, including autos and oil.

Trump, who regularly decries the loss of American manufacturing jobs, tends to emphasize trade in goods and ignore trade in services. His comment about Canada came as his administration seeks a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The U.S. last year ran a deficit of $750 billion in goods with the rest of the world but recorded a $249 billion surplus in services.

___

ECON LINGO

TRUMP: “You understand the expression ‘prime the pump’? … I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do. We have to prime the pump.” — Economist interview

THE FACTS: He didn’t coin that phrase. It’s a well-worn metaphor for generating faster growth, first made popular as an economic analogy more than 80 years ago during the Great Depression.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary people quickly tweeted that the phrase “priming the pump” has been around since the early 1800s. Literally, it’s about pouring water into a pump to allow it to create suction. The phrase was commonly used by mining publications during the 1920s, but it took on new significance after the economy cratered during the Depression.

By 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had promoted the idea of flushing money into the economy to stimulate stronger growth with his New Deal policies. Such policies rankled Roosevelt’s predecessor, Herbert Hoover. “One of the ideas in these spendings is to prime the economic pump,” Hoover said in a 1935 post-presidential speech. “We might abandon this idea also, for it dries up the well of enterprise.”

___

WEEKENDS AWAY

TRUMP tweets, concerning his May 5-7 weekend: “Rather than causing a big disruption in N.Y.C., I will be working out of my home in Bedminster, N.J. this weekend. Also saves country money!” ”The reason I am staying in Bedminster, N.J., a beautiful community, is that staying in NYC is much more expensive and disruptive. Meetings!”

THE FACTS: True, less disruption in the New Jersey countryside than in the metropolis and almost certainly less cost to taxpayers.

But his weekends away, whether at his Florida resort or in New Jersey, are much more expensive than weekends at the White House, where security is already in place.

The White House doesn’t make it easy for taxpayers to know anything about these costs. The administration is mum when asked for an accounting, and past attempts by government auditors to gauge the costs of presidential travel are sketchy, fragmentary or outdated.

A law Trump signed provides nearly $120 million to reimburse law enforcement agencies for their costs of protecting his homes outside Washington and to house Secret Service agents in New York and Florida through September.

Bedminster town officials estimate local costs of $12,000 a day for heightened security when Trump stays there. Palm Beach County, Florida, spends more than $60,000 a day when the president visits, mostly for law enforcement overtime. The New York City Police Department has said it spends up to $146,000 a day to protect first lady Melania Trump and son, Barron, living at Trump Tower until the school year ends. That cost at least doubles when the president is there.

Those comparisons are inexact but they suggest a Manhattan weekend would be pricier to taxpayers.

Local enforcement is only one segment of costs, though. It costs roughly $200,000 an hour to fly Air Force One, the president’s armored limousine is flown separately to his destinations, and the Secret Service faces multiple other expenses associated with his travel. Trump has spent about half his weekends away since becoming president.

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Paul Wiseman, Josh Boak, Jill Colvin and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

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Trump defends ‘absolute right’ to share ‘facts’ with Russia

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2-L) during a meeting at the White House in Washington DC on 10 May

US President Donald Trump has defended his “absolute right” to share information with Russia, following a row over classified material.

Mr Trump tweeted that he had shared “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety” and wanted Russia to do more against so-called Islamic State.

He met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office last week.

US media said Mr Trump had shared material that was passed on by a partner which had not given permission.

In his tweet early on Tuesday, Mr Trump said: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.

“Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against [IS] & terrorism.”

A report in the Washington Post said Mr Trump had confided top secret information relating to an IS plot thought to centre on the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

Mr Trump’s move is not illegal, as the US president has the authority to declassify information.

The action drew strong criticism from Democrats and a call for an explanation from his own Republican party.

But the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher in Washington says this was a carefully constructed defence of the meeting, in which President Trump frames any revelation of intelligence information as a calculated move to advance US national security priorities.

After all, the controversy that swirled around the White House on Monday night was never legal, it was political, and this defence may be enough for Republicans to rally around, he adds.

What happened in the Oval Office?

In a conversation with the Russian foreign minister and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office, the president revealed details that could lead to the exposure of a source of information, officials told the Washington Post.

The intelligence disclosed came from a US ally and was considered too sensitive to share with other US allies, the paper reported.

Others at the meeting realised the mistake and scrambled to “contain the damage” by informing the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), says the Post.

The meeting came a day after Mr Trump fired his FBI chief, James Comey, sparking criticism that he had done so because the FBI was investigating his election campaign’s alleged Russian ties.


How did the White House initially respond?

National Security Adviser HR McMaster told reporters the story, “as reported”, was “false”.

“At no time – at no time – were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”

The statement was echoed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But the Washington Post said this did not amount to a denial.

Speaking to the BBC, Post reporter Greg Jaffe said the story made it clear the president did not disclose sources or methods.

But he added: “Our story says that the nature of the information provided would have allowed the Russians to ‘reverse engineer’ to discover the sources and methods. He said so much that they could figure it out.”


Golden rule: Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

Despite the denials issued by the White House that any actual intelligence sources were revealed to the Russians, whatever was said in that Oval Office meeting was enough to alarm certain officials and, reportedly, to alert the CIA and NSA.

They in turn will have needed to warn the country that supplied the intelligence. There is a golden rule in the world of espionage that when one government supplies intelligence to another it must not be passed on to a third party without permission of the original supplier. The reason is simple: it could put the lives of their human informants at risk.

In this case it appears to relate to the discovery of plans by jihadists in Syria to devise a way of smuggling viable explosive devices on board a plane inside a laptop computer. Given the well-publicised ban on laptops in cabins on certain Middle Eastern routes, whoever revealed that information is unlikely to be still in place.


What has the reaction been?

The Senate’s second-highest ranked Democrat, Dick Durbin, said Mr Trump’s actions appeared to be “dangerous” and reckless”.

A spokesman for Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, said: “We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount.

“The Speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”

Donald Trump tweet from 2016
Image captionDonald Trump was highly critical of Hillary Clinton on the issue of handling classified information during the election campaign

One senior Nato diplomat quoted by Reuters said: “If true, this is not going to instil confidence in allies already wary of sharing the most sensitive information.”

In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down the incident, saying: “We generally do not want to have anything to do with this nonsense.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova urged people not to read US newspapers.


Levels of US classification – from lowest to highest

  • Confidential: Information that reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security if disclosed to unauthorised sources. Most military personnel have this level of clearance
  • Secret: The same wording in the first sentence above, except it substitutes serious damage
  • Top Secret: Again, the same wording except to substitute exceptionally grave damage
  • Codeword: Adds a second level of clearance to Top Secret, so that only those cleared with the codeword can see it. Administered by the CIA. The material discussed by Mr Trump with the Russians was under a codeword, sources told the Washington Post
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Senate’s Russia investigation is moving faster than its Watergate counterpart 44 years ago

Analysis | Believe it or not, Senate’s Russia investigation is moving faster than its Watergate counterpart 44 years agoSen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), left, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) confer during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday.

“What did the president know, and when did he know it?” was the famous question posed by Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) early on in the Watergate hearings, a defining phrase still invoked today when a politician is caught in scandal.

Since those hearings, just about every congressional committee conducting a high-profile investigation has had to live up to the legacy of Baker and Sen. Sam Ervin (D-N.C.), the leaders of the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. It’s an almost impossible standard to meet — and also one that often gets lost in myth rather than facts.

Comey willing to testify, but only in public

Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are the latest to stand in the long shadows of the Watergate committee. They regularly face questions about why they aren’t moving faster to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

In fact, they’re moving more quickly than Ervin and Baker did 44 years ago. If it doesn’t seem that way, that’s got more to do with the insatiable appetites of social media and cable news than with reality.

Back in December, as revelations mounted about Russian hacking, there were bipartisan calls to sidestep the intelligence panel and create a select committee modeled on the one that Ervin and Baker led in the investigation of President Nixon. After President Trump’s stunning dismissal Tuesday of James B. Comey as FBI director, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reiterated his demand for a such a committee, contending that Burr and Warner weren’t able to meet the gravity of this moment.

Yet, when you talk to experts in congressional oversight, they have quite different advice for the Intelligence Committee: Slow down, hold on, don’t get tricked into rushing yourself just because we live in an era of instant gratification through social media.

“It’s a huge mistake to get going too soon,” said Loch Johnson, who served as a top adviser to what was known as the “Church Committee”, a special panel in 1975-76 that investigated intelligence abuses and led to the creation of the Intelligence Committee.

He worries that Burr and Warner might be moving too quickly in the probe. “I was a little surprised Burr got his start off so quickly,” Johnson, a distinguished professor of international affairs the University of Georgia, said.

Despite the sometimes carefree demeanor that Burr gives off, his panel is off to a fast start compared to other major congressional investigations.

Burr — who holds the same Senate seat once occupied by Ervin — has already led three public hearings focused largely on Russia meddling. Committee members have reviewed thousands of pages of raw intelligence material, according to aides to Burr and Warner. Investigators have now completed interviews with more than 30 individuals involved in the intelligence community’s analysis of Russian attempts to tip the election to President Trump.

Members of the Trump campaign and transition team have been put on notice to deliver documents, and last week the committee issued its first subpoena since 2005, for records from former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The Watergate Committee was created in early February 1973, after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose brother defeated Nixon in the 1960 presidential election, offered legislation to investigate what began as a mere break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

It took another 3 1/2 months for Ervin and Baker to hold public hearings. They spent that time hiring their lead counsels, Samuel Dash and Fred Thompson, fully staffing up and conducting interviews. Baker didn’t utter his immortal “when did he know it” line until late June 1973.

And the committee didn’t issue a final report until June 27, 1974, more than two years after the initial DNC break-in.

The House investigation into Nixon also moved at a slower pace than today’s on-again-off-again-on-again probe by the House Intelligence Committee. Only after the “Saturday Night Massacre” — Nixon’s October 1973 firing of top Justice Department officials and the special prosecutor conducting the criminal investigation — did the House Judiciary Committee agree to begin hearings that would lead to its July 1974 votes to recommend impeachment.

The committee investigating the CIA, led by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) in the mid-1970s, took shape in January 1975 and didn’t hold a public hearing for another seven months. Church put together a staff that poured through documents and interviewed witnesses in private.

“The hearing will be 10 times more authentic and informative if you’ve done your research ahead of time,” said Johnson, who has written more than 30 books on the CIA and national security. “Otherwise you won’t know what questions to ask.”

Those investigators, digging through unrelated documents, happened upon information about CIA-directed assassination attempts of foreign leaders, Johnson said. The implication is clear: If Burr and Warner rush to meet the demands of the 24-7 cable news age, such evidence could be overlooked.

McCain took this long-game approach himself overseeing a corruption investigation involving lobbyists bilking tribal casino clients. A few days after The Washington Post broke the initial story in February 2004, McCain pushed the Indian Affairs Committee to launch an investigation. But the first public hearings came seven months later.

Now, however, Burr and Warner face a very different climate driven by social media. Even Trump took to Twitter recently to mock the Russia investigations as a “taxpayer funded charade.”

There’s always the risk that by moving deliberatively, Senate investigators will allow witnesses to conceal documents. But the Comey firing appeared to light a small fire under Burr, who spent the next several days defending the ousted FBI director, vowing to ramp up the investigation and issuing the panel’s first subpoena.

“We’re willing to go to whatever basket of tools we feel is necessary,” Burr told reporters Thursday.

And Warner defended questions about the “pace” because the committee is in the “uncharted territory” of prodding the intelligence community to share such critical information, which takes a lot of time.

Johnson approves of that sentiment. Getting it right often requires patience. He also noted that during the Church Committee’s dark period, when there were no cable news outlets or social media, they faced some of the same pressures.

“’What’s wrong with these guys?’” Johnson recalled thinking about one headline. “Even in 1975 we had our critics.”

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There is “whole lot of interfering” in Russia investigation

Director of the FBI James Comey testifies to the House Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington October 22, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTS5O7D: jamescomeyrts5o7d.jpg

Although President Trump has now stated and written that fired FBI Director James Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not the subject of an investigation, sources cast doubt on that claim.

It would be out of character for Comey to have made that statement even once, much less three times, to the president, one law enforcement source told CBS News. Along with his firing, the source noted a high level of “interfering” in the Russia probe.

Watch: Comey asked for more Russia investigation resources

As for the White House assertions that “countless” FBI rank-and-file employees wanted Comey out, the source said that was a “load of cr*p” to think that agents wanted to see him ousted. That sentiment is shared by acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in less colorful language. He told a congressional panel Thursday, “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. We are a large organization. We are 36,500 people across this country, across this globe. we have a diversity of opinions about many things, but I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

This was the case in spite of the divi

ded opinion within the agency over Comey’s July 2016 announcement that he would not recommend Hillary Clinton be charged for mishandling classified information, in the investigation into her use of a private server for her email.

Within the FBI, the Russia investigation is considered to be “a crisis,” the source said, and “there is a whole lot of interfering.” The succession of events surrounding Comey’s firing is not considered to be a coincidence by the agency. In the week before he was terminated, Comey asked Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein for additional resources to pursue the Russia investigation.

Further, his firing came a day after former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had testified before a Senate panel that she had warned the White House that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed” because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Russian Envoy Sergey Kislyak.

On the same day that Comey was fired, federal prosecutors probing Russian meddling issued grand jury subpoenas for business records of Flynn associates.

And a day later, President Trump held his highest-level meeting with a Russian official, an Oval Office sit-down with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Also present — Sergey Kislyak — who was at the center of the conversations leading to Flynn’s firing in February. No U.S. press were allowed into the meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak. U.S. reporters were forced to look at the Kremlin’s social media feeds for posted photos of the president conversing with Lavrov and shaking hands with Kislyak.

The images, especially the photo of Kislyak and Mr. Trump shaking hands, “were laughed at” by law enforcement, the source said.  Even without Comey, the Russian investigation continues at a heightened pace. “FBI Agents are good at keeping their heads down and taking the evidence where it leads,” the source said.  I asked, “Even now” are they working at this? The response came back:  “Yes, they are now.”

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Top Senate Intel Republican ‘Troubled’ By Comey Firing

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., ranking member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014.

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), released one of the most critical statements yet from any member of his party on Tuesday’s shocking announcement that President Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey.

Burr, who is leading the Senate’s investigation into alleged coordination between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government, called Comey a “public servant of the highest order,” and said his firing was “a loss for the Bureau and the nation.”

Burr said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination,” and noted that he “has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intel committees.”

Like many other lawmakers, Burr expressed concern about the future of the investigation into Russian influence in the U.S. election that Comey was leading at the time he was fired.

Trump has been sued 134 times in federal court since inauguration

This article was written by Alice Ollstein from Talking Points Memo and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says he told President Trump that his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey was a “big mistake.”

“Earlier this afternoon President Trump called me and informed me he was firing Director Comey,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. “I told the president, ‘Mr. President with all due respect you are making a big mistake.'”

During an appearance on MSNBC, Senator Elizabeth Warren made her opinion of Donald Trump firing James Comey very clear.

She took aim at the Trump administration’s claims that it was Comey’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation that led to his ouster, making mention of how he praised Comey for it a few months ago. Comey was helming an investigation into Trump’s possible Russian ties.

“Comey was not fired because of Hillary. Comey was fired because of the Russians,” she asserted. “The timing makes this, I think, entirely clear. The fact that all during the campaign, Donald Trump kept citing Comey and using Comey — once he was elected, he embraced Comey — and now to turn around months later and say, ‘Oh yeah, that was just terrible.’ There’s nobody left in America who believes Donald Trump fired James Comey in order to try — because James Comey was mean to Hillary Clinton.”

She’s not alone in being suspicious, either. Twitter users, government officials, and political commentators have all spent the last few hours opining about the shocking events out of the White House.

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Trump has been sued 134 times in federal court since inauguration

President Donald Trump.

President Trump, who has struggled to press his agenda in Washington but has shown a knack for unsettling opponents and triggering protests, has also become an unprecedented lightning rod for federal lawsuits filed by plaintiffs across the country seeking court relief on an unusually broad array of issues.

Trump has been sued 134 times in federal court since he was sworn into office, according to a Globe tally based on federal court databases, nearly three times the number of his three predecessors in their early months combined.

Trump condemns CIA Russia hacking report

The lawsuits include green card holders trying to get into the United States after his travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries; cities like San Francisco, Richmond, and Seattle suing over a plan to withhold funds from ”sanctuary’’ cities; and even a woman from Quincy, Mass., who went to court contending that the president’s actions have caused “loss of enjoyment of life.”

The dramatic uptick in litigation – Barack Obama faced 26 suits at this point in his first year, while George W. Bush had seven, and Bill Clinton, 15 – is further evidence of the unsettled era ushered in by Trump’s election and the intense fallout stemming from his early executive actions. Court filings may not be as visible as demonstrations on the National Mall, but they ultimately could exert a more lasting check on his executive power.

“In a courtroom, its not the loudest voice that prevails. You can’t tweet your way out of the courtroom,” said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat who achieved one of the biggest legal victories against Trump by halting a travel ban targeting the seven majority-Muslim countries.

Almost all presidents become targets for litigation after implementing controversial policies. What’s different now is how widely and often Trump is being challenged, and so soon in his administration. Besides the novelty of the sheer volume of cases, the nature of these actions also spans a broad gamut of grievances, some based on his unique position as a real estate titan who also occupies the Oval Office.

A wine bar near the Trump hotel in Washington has sued him, saying he is exercising an unfair competitive advantage because diplomats and lobbyists are booking functions at his hotel to curry favor with him. A group of prominent lawyers filed a separate suit, saying Trump, by retaining ties to his family firm, which operates his hotels and other properties, was violating a constitutional clause that prevents presidents from accepting money from foreign governments.

Mostly, though, major constitutional issues dominate the burgeoning docket. With Republicans in control of the executive and legislative branches of government, interest groups, attorneys general, and individuals have been increasingly turning toward the judicial branch to impede a president they believe is pushing the legal limits of his office.

The result is a series of fierce court battles that raise strong constitutional questions but which Trump and his allies — as they have been handed a series of defeats in the early rounds — have portrayed as partisan bias in the courts.

The frenzied court action also highlights the stakes for any future Supreme Court nominations. Trump has appealed several of the early federal District Court decisions against him, which could wind up before the high court. His selection of Justice Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia maintained the status quo in the court’s ideological balance; future vacancies may present him with an opportunity to tilt the balance further to the right.

“You have a Republican executive branch, and Republicans control Congress,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, a Democrat who successfully challenged Trump’s revised travel ban. “Right now it seems like the courts are the only place we can go to uphold the Constitution or the laws of the United States.”

The lawsuits have been filed from every corner of the United States. The biggest driver was Trump’s move, in his first week in office, to try to ban immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Attorneys flocked to airports in Boston and New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and began filing lawsuits on behalf of Iranians, Syrians, and Iraqis who were trying to get into the United States.

The lawsuit Ferguson filed in Washington state — which his staff was preparing for even before Trump took office, given his threats of a Muslim ban during the campaign — resulted in a judge’s order that halted the travel ban.

For civil rights attorneys, it was a moment that mobilized them in a way that they haven’t seen even in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Bush administration expanded its use of surveillance, torture, and no-fly lists.

“While there was some pushback then, there wasn’t the level of pushback we’re seeing right now, both in terms of the number of courts and people willing to go to the courts and file challenges,” said Ajmel Quereshi, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “I don’t think it’s going to die down.”

Even conservative legal specialists are concerned that Trump’s early moves may have resulted in a legal morass that will tie a big part of his agenda up in the courts for months, if not years.

“They rolled out an executive order that was poorly drafted, then poorly executed, then poorly defended,” said Jonathan Turley, a conservative legal scholar who was the lead counsel in a suit filed by the US House challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s health care law.

“It was a perfect storm and it caused lasting damage to the administration,” he added. “And because of the lack of a strategy it triggered more lawsuits. It was a target-rich environment . . . and the Justice Department was thrown into court with very little warning.”

Several cities challenged an executive order Trump signed aimed at denying federal grants to so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse local cooperation to federal immigration authorities from going after undocumented immigrants.

A federal judge in San Francisco last month issued a temporary ruling that blocks the Trump administration from moving forward with the policy, finding merit in the cities’ argument that Trump was exercising power beyond the legal authority of his office.

“This is why we have courts — to halt the overreach of a president and an attorney general who either don’t understand the Constitution or chose to ignore it,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, a Democrat, said after the ruling.

The White House and the Department of Justice both declined to comment for this article. But previously, administration officials have minimized the decisions from the courts, and in some cases they are continuing to pursue appeals. After the sanctuary cities ruling, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said the Ninth Circuit in California was “going bananas.”

Presidents are often forced to defend their actions in court, challenges to their interpretation of executive powers, enforcement of regulations, and laws passed by Congress. Obama was challenged on the constitutionality of his health care law by well-organized groups of Republican lawyers and attorneys general.

“I go to the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go Mr. Trump’s 100th day in office home,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who was previously attorney general of Texas, used to frequently say.

Scott Pruitt, when he was attorney general of Oklahoma, led challenges to a series of Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to combat climate change. He is now the Trump administration’s head of the EPA.

One key distinction is that while Obama often used executive powers to expand rights to more Americans, many of Trump’s policies have taken them away. That makes it easier for groups and individuals to have legal standing in a courtroom to allege that they are being harmed.

“The Obama litigation, there were fewer cases but they tended to be more substantive. They tended to be brought by states,” Turley said. “Trump is facing a different situation. It’s death by a thousand paper cuts. Every group, every aggrieved person, is filing lawsuits.”

Some of the lawsuits filed against Trump are frivolous, and will likely be tossed out by the courts. So far, 69 out of the 134 lawsuits have been dismissed, although nearly half of the dismissed cases were related to the travel ban. Many of those cases became moot when the Trump administration said the executive order would not apply to those with green cards.

“Courts sometimes play the role of a Hail Mary pass in football,” Turley said. “Once people lose an election some people try to achieve the same results through the courts.”

One Maryland resident filed a suit saying that the new president was going to prevent him from getting the health care he needs to treat a wide range of ailments.

A prisoner in Oregon filed a suit saying that, as a result of the election, “my health has deteriorated, I now have anxiety issues, depression, can’t sleep through the night.” He wants $1 billion from Trump “so as to act as a deterrent towards this type of behavior by the defendant or others like him that want to make a mockery out of the United States of America, its Constitution and laws, and its political process.”

“The person occupying the White House is a Russian spy,” Jordan J. Glogau of Nanuet, N.Y., charges in a suit filed in March. “I want the election overturned.”

Rossi Wade of Quincy, Mass., accused Trump of violating her rights with “mental cruelty, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional damages and abuse of power.” She has gone from sleeping four hours a night to two, she claims.

“I have experienced loss of enjoyment of life,” she wrote, in her complaint filed six weeks ago in federal court. “I have been tormented by the thought of him, as well as sight and the sound of his voice frightens me. I am unable to sleep, focus, or believe in a secure future for myself and daughter.”

Wade has requested a jury trial. She did not return several messages seeking comment.

A notable absence from the list of plaintiffs is Trump himself. He came into office as the most litigious president in history. He was involved with nearly 4,100 lawsuits, according to a USA Today tally, and often used the courts as an arm of his business empire. He sued journalists for challenging his net worth, fought off allegations of sexual misconduct, and even sued two brothers who were using their own last name — Trump — for their business.

“When I get sued, I take it right — just take it all the way,” Trump said during the campaign. “You know what happens? If you settle suits, you get sued more.”

Some of the suits filed since his inauguration have challenged his business ties. A suit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics alleges that Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits presidents from accepting payments from foreign governments. Trump has called their case “totally without merit.”

“We’ve never had a president with the kind of foreign financial entanglements that we have with Donald Trump,” said Deepak Gupta, one of the lead attorneys on that case. “And then you compound that with the secrecy surrounding those entanglements.”

Even if they don’t prevail, Gupta said, the legal challenge could force Trump’s businesses to provide further details about its foreign dealings, or Trump to release his tax returns, which he has refused to do.

“Some of these are quite serious and they go to fundamental questions of the legitimacy of the presidency and the actions that he’s taken,” Gupta said. “You’d be hard-pressed to identify a president in American history who was as quickly and comprehensively checked by the judiciary as this one.”

Ferguson, the Washington attorney general, said that he met with his staff before Trump’s inauguration to tell them he had four areas he wanted to focus on challenging the new president: immigration, civil rights, the environment, and consumer protections. After winning the initial case on the travel ban, his team is now examining another executive order, about reviewing national monuments like the vast swath of Maine woodlands officially protected by Obama’s order. He said he is in regular contact with other Democratic attorney generals, who are largely following a playbook used by their Republican counterparts over the past eight years.

“I think it’s the new normal for attorneys general, regardless of political affiliation . . . that we’ll see AGs closely scrutinizing actions by every president,” Ferguson said. “I don’t see that being dialed back in the future. Is it a change from 10 years ago? You bet. But I don’t think that gets dialed back.”

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N. Korea accuses CIA of plot to assassinate Kim Jong-Un

North Korea on Friday accused the CIA of plotting with South Korea to assassinate leader Kim Jong-Un, amid soaring tensions in the flash point region.

The CIA and Seoul’s Intelligence Services have “hatched a vicious plot” involving unspecified “biochemical substances” to kill the hermit state’s young leader during public ceremonial events in Pyongyang, the Ministry of State Security said.

 

For the CIA “assassination by use of biochemical substances including radioactive substance and

What on Earth might a Trump-Kim Jong Un meeting look like?

nano poisonous substance is the best method that does not require access to the target, their lethal results will appear after six or twelve months,” the Ministry said in a statement carried by state media.

The accusation comes as Pyongyang issues increasingly belligerent rhetoric in a tense stand off with the administration of US President Donald Trump over its rogue weapons programme.

The war of words between the West and the reclusive regime has spiked in recent weeks, and Pyongyang has threatened to carry out a sixth nuclear test that would further inflame tensions.

The CIA and Seoul’s Intelligence ServicesNorth Korea test-launched a ballistic missile Friday (IS) have “ideologically corrupted and bribed a DPRK citizen surnamed Kim” to carry out the attack on Jong-Un, the statement said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un holds up his ballot during the fifth session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, on April 13, 2012, in this picture released by the North's KCNA on April 14, 2012.“We will ferret out and mercilessly destroy to the last one the terrorists of the US CIA and the puppet IS of South Korea,” the statement said, adding that the plot was tantamount to “the declaration of a war”.

“The heinous crime, which was recently uncovered and smashed in the DPRK, is a kind of terrorism against not only the DPRK but the justice and conscience of humankind and an act of mangling the future of humankind.”

The statement did not give any information on how the plot was foiled or what happened to the alleged spy.

North Korea maintains extensive surveillance operations over its own population, and open dissent against the regime is considered extremely difficult.

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What on Earth might a Trump-Kim Jong Un meeting look like?

end the planet. In the other corner: a sandpaper-tongued American president like no other, barely past his first 100 days as leader of the free world, liable to say just about anything — including a handful of conciliatory words at the most unexpected of moments.

There were these words from Trump: “Obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.”

And, even more so, there were these: “If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him,” Trump told Bloomberg News, “I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it.”

Wow, says an astonished world: What if?

FILE - This combination of photos shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 15, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on April 29, 2017. The notion of a substantive sit-down between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump – the most gazed-upon figures of this moment in the planet's history – is a staggering prospect and a potential logistical nightmare if the two countries ever tried to make it happen. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Files)In the annals of diplomatic history, such a tete-a-tete, unlikely as it is, would tumble into a category that offers few possible comparisons.

There are the ones that never happened — Roosevelt sitting down with Hitler during World War II, George Bush (whichever one) facing Saddam Hussein while in office. And there are those that did: Kennedy meeting Khrushchev in Vienna, Nixon arriving in Beijing at the dawn of the U.S.-China thaw and immediately heading to a meeting with Mao.

Even those, however, were before many things we take for granted today — perhaps most notably the internet, live television and the instantaneous social-media pipelines that Trump knows and uses so fluidly.

The notion of a substantive sit-down between two of the most gazed-upon figures of this moment in the planet’s history is a staggering prospect — and a potential logistical nightmare if the two countries ever tried to make it happen.

Presuming that such a trial balloon is to be taken seriously, what, in fact, would it take to pull off? The loose contours of it could play out as follows:

THE VENUE

Possible locations could include the DMZ, which would be about as cinematic a piece of drama as human geopolitics could offer up, with a room featuring negotiation tables that sit halfway in the North and halfway in the South.

The benefit of this location would be the presence of existing security. It’s already the nucleus of one of the most tense patches of the planet, and it’s effectively already wired for such an event. Somewhere in China would be a possible, though highly unlikely, location as well.

But could it be elsewhere? Perhaps famously neutral Switzerland, where the now-infrequent world traveler Kim Jong Un almost certainly spent part of his upbringing attending school? Could it possibly even be the White House, where Trump has already caused uproars by hosting the president of Egypt and by calling the president of Turkey, both perceived in the West as hardly the most robust upholders of American values. That would be highly controversial and even more unlikely — just getting Kim a visa would be an interesting proposition — but stranger things have happened.

Or perhaps, gaming it out, things might take place in an unexpected or even unknown place. In 1989, George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met on a ship off Malta to discuss the changes taking place in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and it propelled the tiny Mediterranean island into notoriety for several years. Malta was itself a follow-up in some ways to the fabled Yalta conference, in which Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met in Crimea in early 1945 to plot out Europe’s postwar configurations.

The United States has been the site of such sensitive meetings, too, with Camp David being the most notable locale for its Carter-administration peace talks between Israel’s Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. The history of such things is lengthy; in 1905, Theodore Roosevelt helped broker peace between the warring nations of Japan and Russia in the unlikely locale of a small New England town. More recently, the unlikely venue of Dayton, Ohio, became the site in 1995 of peace accords to end the Bosnian war. But those were other nations in conflict, not the United States itself.

And what about Pyongyang? There would be precedent for that — from U.S. envoys like Madeleine Albright to a previous Japanese prime minister to faded basketball star Dennis Rodman — and the Kims are not known for their love of foreign travel, which carries them away from turf and situations they can completely control.

Whatever the case, barring it taking place at the DMZ, such a high-stakes, high-security Trump-Kim meeting would change a place for a long time, if not forever.

THE TOPICS

Nuclear disarmament — North Korea’s — would be first on the table. You’d think. But with two such unpredictable rulers, no one could be absolutely certain.

Given Trump’s style so far, time might be given to developing some sort of rapport between the two men before any negotiations began. But major topics would surely emerge before too long.

Among them: Aid to the North, which has played the brinkmanship game many times before with an eye toward getting assistance for its poor, sometimes hungry populace. Relations with the South. And weapons tests — missile and in particular nuclear, which make the United States and China, not to mention the South, very uncomfortable.

THE REACTION

The wildcards here would be South Korea, Russia, and, of course, China — the North’s patron for many decades and, of late, its increasingly wary and irritated neighbor.

In South Korea’s case, such a meeting would be an existential event. Most agree that Kim’s arsenal has enough accuracy and firepower to devastate the South, and so a meeting between the United States, South Korea’s military protector, and the North would have serious security implications for Seoul even if virtually nothing of substance was discussed.

China is wary of any U.S. involvement in its sphere of influence, and is already at odds with Washington about territorial claims in the South China Sea, while the perennial issue of Taiwan’s autonomy always lurks in the background. Beijing has courted South Korea in recent years more than before, with Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting Seoul in 2014 in what was seen as a hint to the North. (Recent Chinese trepidations over THAAD, the U.S.-made missile system being set up in South Korea, have restored some of the tension with Beijing.)

Against this backdrop, any Trump-Kim sit-down would, using conventional wisdom, have to involve China and the pressure it can exert on the North — something the Trump White House has always said was necessary. But protocol does not always seem to be the order of the day, as Trump’s unexpected, pre-inauguration call to Taiwan’s new president underscored.

Finally, Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, would watch from afar with great wariness and probable dismay. Such a meeting could alter Moscow’s relationships with both Beijing and Washington, and probably Pyongyang as well.

Oh, and let’s not forget the media reaction. Obviously any such meeting would be THE visual of the year for news organizations. Setting it up as a media event would draw hundreds if not thousands of news outlets. That would mean a major infrastructure setup that’s on par with a summit meeting of leaders or an Olympics.

THE ALLURE

Whatever the political implications, this much is certain: Any meeting with Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, anywhere in the world, would be — if it ever actually happened — one of the most dramatic events of the 21st century thus far.

It would encompass three major global narratives at once: The United States under Donald Trump, and what his administration means; the Kim family and the unique, mercurial way they have ruled North Korea and projected themselves to the world; and the regional security and defense of East Asia, one of the most strategically pivotal regions in the world.

It would be big. It would be loud. It would be momentous, somewhat surreal and entirely unexpected. All things quite familiar to the worlds of two singular, bound-to-change-the-world men named Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump.

Then again, you might not want to hold your breath. This came in Tuesday afternoon from the official news agency for North Korea, which goes by the formal name Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: “The Trump administration that newly took office in the U.S. is provoking the DPRK with no reason, not knowing what rival it stands against.”

___

Ted Anthony, director of Asia-Pacific News for The Associated Press, is based in Bangkok, Thailand. He has covered Asia for nearly a decade over his career and traveled to North Korea six times since 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @anthonyted

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