'our country needs a good "shutdown" in september to fix mess!'

'our country needs a good "shutdown" in september to fix mess!'

The 'North Korea problem' is starting to become everybody's problem

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster reassured South Korea in a phone call on Sunday that the US would bear the cost for installing a THAAD missile defense system on the Korean peninsula, despite President Trump’s claim last Thursday, during an interview with Reuters, that he wanted South Korea to pay for the system. On Monday, US officials told Reuters that THAAD was “initially capable,” though it won’t be fully operational for months.

In recent days, Trump has also increased his efforts to coordinate with other Asian countries regarding North Korea, speaking via phone with the leaders of China, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. In addition, Trump spoke with Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, inviting the controversial leader to visit the White House, despite “an anti-drug campaign [in the Philippines] in which more than 8,000 people have died,” and he claimed in a Bloomburg interview on Monday that, “under the right circumstances,” he would be willing to meet with Kim Jong Un. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson kept up the diplomatic pressure on Thursday, urging the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to “minimize diplomatic relations…[and] to fully implement U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang.”

On Tuesday, North Korea warned the US it was pushing toward nuclear war after “a pair of strategic U.S. bombers flew training drills with the South Korean and Japanese air forces in another show of strength.”

On Thursday, North Korea’s state-run news agency published commentary critical of China, a rare move which marks “a rhetorical escalation for the North.”

This week in Russia

On Tuesday, President Trump spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since the US last month launched on airstrike on a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical bombing – which the US and others believe was conducted by Syrian government forces – which killed nearly 100 Syrian civilians. Both the Kremlin and the White House confirmed the discussion was productive, as Trump and Putin agreed to intensify diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict. They also agreed to “try to set up their first in-person meeting in July,” at a G-20 summit in Germany.

A bipartisan group in the Senate is seeking to address the growing crisis in Venezuela by providing $10 million in humanitarian aid, “requir[ing] the State Department to coordinate a regional effort to ease the crisis, and ask[ing] U.S. intelligence to report on the involvement of Venezuelan government officials in corruption and the drug trade,” according to Reuters. The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and Republican Marco Rubio and backed by other prominent senators of both parties, also demands that President Trump work to prevent Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, from acquiring any ownership in US energy assets – as Reuters reports, “The Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, last year used 49.9 percent of its shares in its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, as collateral for loan financing by Rosneft.”

On Wednesday FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his role in the 2016 presidential election, asserting that, though it made him “mildly nauseous to think that [his actions] might have had some impact on the election,” he would not have done anything differently. Comey also disputed the claim that the way he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use was “dramatically different,” as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) put it, than his handling of the investigation into the links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence.

Russia was quick to denounce Comey’s assertion, during the hearing, that it presents “the greatest threat of any nation on Earth” to US democracy.

At the National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy explores whether Comey’s actions affected the election’s outcome, concluding that “what cost Clinton the election is her unfitness for public office.”

At Lawfare, Jane Chong, Quinta Jurecic, and Benjamin Wittes consider “seven different plausible theories of the Russia Connection case…[which] assign different relative salience to the known facts, link them differently, and make very different assumptions about [what’s] not known or claimed but disputed.”

American Health Care Act (barely) passes in Congress

By a four-vote margin – 217 for to 213 against – the House approved the Republican replacement to Obamacare, the American Health Care Act. No Democrats voted for the new bill, which now faces an even more difficult test in the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority.

At NPR, Alison Kodjak provides a rundown of all the changes the AHCA would make, should it become law.

Other notes:

Donald Trump was the first president since Ronald Reagan in 1981 to skip the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, choosing instead to host a campaign-style rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to celebrate his first 100 days in office.

Congress passed a spending bill Sunday night to keep the government funded through September – notably absent is any funding for Trump’s Mexican border wall.

Thousands of people around the world marked the May Day holiday – otherwise known as International Labor Day – with protests “mostly centered on improving worker’s rights.”

Trump met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, with nothing concrete to show for it.

Department of Justice announced it will not charge the two police officers “involved in the shooting death of Alton Sterling, citing ‘insufficient evidence.’”

In her first interview since the election, Hillary Clinton blamed James Comey and Russian interference for her loss, claiming that “if the election had been on October 27, I would be your president” – a reference to Comey’s October 28th letter to Congress regarding possible new evidence in the already-closed investigation into Clinton’s email use.

On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order “meant to allow churches and other religious organizations to become more active politically,” although, as Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation asserts, the order’s language is “rather weak.”

above image: gage skidmore / flickr

what an absolutely riveting s***show.

what an absolutely riveting s***show.

100 days later, the same old problems.

100 days later, the same old problems.