Here’s our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington: The U. S…
Here’s our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington:
The U. S. aircraft carrier strike force that finally is steaming toward North Korea more than a week after the White House said it was doing so, has had its deployment extended by a month.
Rear Admiral Jim Kilby post ed the news on a Facebook page used by the crew of the Carl Vinson and their families.
Kilby wrote that the 30-day extended tour was intended “to provide a persistent presence in the waters off the Korean peninsula.”
The strike force — which includes the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser — was sailing north on Wednesday toward the Sea of Japan, officials said.
The warships’ movements came under scrutiny after the Navy announced April 8 that the armada had been diverted from Singapore to the Western Pacific as the Trump administration sought to defuse a crisis with North Korea.
Over the next week, President Trump, Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, national security advisor H. R. McMaster, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and other officials all spoke of the carrier’s presence as a dramatic show of force against Pyongyang.
On Tuesday, it became clear that the Carl Vinson was actually thousands of miles away in the Indian Ocean last week on joint exercises with the Australian navy and did not head north until after the weekend crisis with Pyongyang had passed.
The Navy posted a photograph showing the Carl Vinson still in the Sunda Strait, between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java, about 3, 500 miles south of the Korean peninsula. The photo was taken Saturday.
Spicer deflected all questions about the embarrassing episode Wednesday in a press briefing, insisting that the Trump administration was honest from the beginning.
“The president said we have an armada going to the peninsula, ” Spicer said. “That is a fact. It has happened; it is happening, rather.”
“We said it was ‘heading’ there, ” he said. “It is ‘heading’ there.”
In the Facebook post, Kilby did not indicate why the Pentagon did not correct administration officials who indicated the Carl Vinson was near North Korea last weekend, when the White House feared Pyongyang would conduct a sixth underground nuclear test or would try to test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.
North Korea held a massive military parade on Saturday to celebrate a major national holiday and conducted a mid-range missile test Sunday that fizzled immediately after launch.
“Our mission is to reassure allies and our partners of our steadfast commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, ” Kilby wrote.
“We will continue to be the centerpiece of visible maritime deterrence, providing our national command authority with flexible deterrent options, all domain access, and a visible forward presence.”
In the 88 years since President Hoover named a former Minneapolis Tribune reporter as the first White House press secretary, nobody who has held that job has stumbled as quickly or dramatically as Sean Spicer.
Millions have gaped at the spectacle of Spicer’s daily briefings on cable news. Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of him on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live, ” most recently in an Easter bunny outfit similar to one he once wore at a White House holiday event a few years ago, has turned Spicer into an improbable pop culture figure. She portrays him as a lying buffoon who badgers the press.
By all accounts, a White House press secretary’s job is hard, and missteps are inevitable. “Even the best trip themselves up, ” said Joe Lockhart, who took the job just weeks before President Clinton was impeached in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.
Last week, Spicer profusely apologized for saying that Adolf Hitler did not use poison gas against his own people the way Syrian President Bashar Assad did. If it wasn’ t the worst blunder of any White House press secretary since 1929, it was close.
But anyone who has held Spicer’s job knows what it feels like to make a gaffe at the White House lectern.
“When you get to a place where it doesn’ t sound right, you just literally have to stop, even if it’s uncomfortable, and do a quick damage assessment in your head, and — particularly if it’s not what you meant — take a step back and overtly say, ‘I misspoke there,’ ” Lockhart said.
And so it might benefit Spicer to look over a list of “lessons learned” from previous press secretaries compiled by the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan group that helps new administrations organize their takeover of the government.
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said Wednesday that he won’t for reelection or any other office in 2018.
Chaffetz, who has been rumored as a possible candidate for Senate or governor, said that after consulting with his family and “prayerful consideration, I have decided I will not be a candidate for any office in 2018.”
Chaffetz, 50, in his fifth term, said in a statement on Facebook that he has long advocated that public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career.
He said that after more than 1, 500 nights away from home, “it is time” to step aside.
Chaffetz said he has “no ulterior motives, ” is healthy and is confident he would be reelected if he had chosen to run.
From the wind-swept deck of a massive aircraft carrier, Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the U. S. military, promising that it would make an “overwhelming and effective” response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons.
Pence, dressed in a green military jacket, said aboard the Ronald Reagan that President Trump’s administration would continue to “work diligently” with Japan, China and other global powers to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang. But, he told the sailors aboard the vessel, “as all of you know, readiness is the key.”
“The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready, ” Pence told 2, 500 sailors wearing blue fatigues and Navy baseball caps on a sunny, windy morning aboard the carrier at the U. S. Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay.
“Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response, ” Pence said.
The vice president said the U. S. would honor its alliances with Pacific Rim nations and protect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, which has the sea lanes vital to global shipping and where China has been staking claim to disputed territory.
From two continents, Pence and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis warned that North Korea’s latest failed missile launch was a reckless act of provocation and assured allies in Asia that the U. S. was ready to work to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Mattis denounced North Korea’s attempted missile launch as he began a Middle East tour, telling reporters traveling with him to Saudi Arabia, “the leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile.” The term “reckless” is one the North Koreans have used to describe ongoing large-scale U. S. and South Korean military exercises, which the North calls a dress rehearsal for an invasion.
Mattis did not identify the type of missile but said it was not of intercontinental range, meaning it could not reach U. S. territory. He did not comment on what might have caused the missile to fail.
Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence matter, said the missile was a Scud variant that the U. S. calls a KN-17.
Mattis credited China with trying to help get the North Korea situation “under control” with the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula.
Pence’s speech on the aircraft carrier followed meetings Tuesday in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where he noted that “all options are on the table.”
Abe said that it was a “matter of paramount importance for us to seek diplomatic efforts as well peaceable settlements of the issue.”
“But at the same time, ” the prime minister said, “dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless and it is necessary for us to exercise pressure on North Korea so that it comes forward and engages in this serious dialogue.”
The Trump administration has signaled a forceful U. S. stance on North Korea’s recent actions, dispatching Pence to the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea on Monday in a show of American resolve. But it remains unclear what might come next.
Behind the heated rhetoric, Trump’s strategy in the region looks somewhat similar to predecessor Barack Obama’s — albeit with the added unpredictability of a new president who has shown he’s willing to use force.
Pence said Trump was hopeful China would use its influence in the region to pressure North Korea to abandon its weapons program. But the vice president expressed impatience with the unwillingness of the North to move toward ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters he hopes “there will be no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the U. S. will follow the line that President Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign.”
China made a plea for a return to negotiations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute to a peaceful resolution. Lu said Beijing wants to resume the multi-party negotiations that ended in stalemate in 2009 and suggested that U. S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea were damaging its relations with China.
A hotly-contested House election in the Atlanta suburbs remained up in the air Tuesday night as Republicans fought to deny a first-time Democratic candidate the right to claim the seat outright in a race that served as a referendum on President Trump .
Democrat Jon Ossoff was easily leading in the race for the 6th Congressional District seat, but hovering near the 50% mark he had to exceed to avoid a June 20 runoff. Areas yet to be counted appeared likely to provide Republican votes.
In distant second place as votes were tallied late Tuesday was former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, a Republican.
The first-place finish by Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide and filmmaker, was greatly aided by millions of dollars in donations from restive Democrats and by the presence on the ballot of nearly a dozen Republicans, which split the party’s vote. The seat had been held until February by Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price.
Ossoff’s odds would lengthen in a runoff, as Republicans will have the opportunity to coalesce around one candidate instead of being split.
The fight over the 6th District is a precursor of what is expected to be a huge battle for the House in 2018, assuming that Trump remains unpopular and Republicans remain in disarray. Republicans hold a margin of more than 40 seats at present, and the only opportunity for gains by Democrats depends on flipping seats where voters are less attached to the new president.
Polls are closing in Georgia this evening in a House special election that has emerged as a surprisingly white-knuckled referendum on President Trump’s early presidency.
The first returns from the 6th Congressional District, in the north Atlanta suburbs, are expected to benefit Democrat Jon Ossoff, given his multimillion-dollar effort to round up early votes and the appearance on the ballot of nearly a dozen GOP candidates who split the district’s majority Republican vote.
By the time the final returns are in, Democrats hope Ossoff can get just over 50% of the vote, allowing him to win the seat outright in the all-candidates primary.
Republicans hope to deny Ossoff an outright victory, allowing them to consolidate voters for the June 20 runoff. Taken together, as election day neared, the polling percentages for all Republicans combined narrowly outdistanced the Democratic total.
Trump issued a series of tweets in the closing days of the race, exhorting Republicans to turn out and prevent Ossoff from winning the seat without a runoff.
“Republicans must get out today and VOTE in Georgia 6. Force runoff and easy win! Dem Ossoff will raise your taxes-very bad on crime & 2nd A, ” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
The Georgia special election comes five months after Trump won the district by less than 2 percentage points, far below the 20-points-plus victories usually awarded Republican nominees by its voters. That gave Democrats an opening, but also raised the stakes involved in trying to flip the seat to their side of the aisle.
An aircraft carrier strike group that the Trump administration had said was headed toward North Korea in a powerful show of force has instead spent the last week thousands of miles away – and heading in the opposite direction.
Adm. Harry Harris, who heads U. S. Pacific Command, initially announced in a news release on April 8 that he had directed the Carl Vinson carrier strike group to “sail north” from Singapore, adding that the ships were being diverted from planned port visits to Australia.
The Trump administration cited the deployment of the naval strike force, which includes the carrier and four warships, as a clear warning to North Korea, which was said to be planning a nuclear test last weekend in conjunction with a national holiday.
“We are sending an armada, very powerful, ” to the waters off Korea, President Trump told Fox Business News on April 12.
A day earlier, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told Pentagon reporters that the aircraft carrier was “on her way up there.”
Some news organizations cited the armada’s apparent race northward as a sign of a possible preemptive attack on North Korea, spurring global concerns of a possible war.
While the Pentagon sought to downplay those reports late last week, at no point did it or the White House suggest the Carl Vinson was not, in fact, nearing Korea to give Trump a more robust military option should he decide he needs one.
Pundits cited the warships’ approach as evidence of Trump’s muscular style days after he had ordered a cruise missile strike on Syria in response to a poison gas attack, and the Air Force had dropped the so-called Mother of All Bombs on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan.
But on Saturday, a full week after the initial news release, the Navy posted a photograph showing the Carl Vinson transiting south through the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java, about 3, 500 miles southwest of the Korean peninsula.
As Defense News first reported on Monday, the strike force has been taking part in exercises with Australian forces in the Indian Ocean over the last week
It is now – really – steaming northward and is expected to arrive in the Sea of Japan sometime next week, U. S. officials said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the mix-up was due to a deliberate attempt to psych out North Korea’s leaders, or a false narrative that resulted from miscommunications up the chain of command.
On Sunday, North Korea attempted to test a ballistic missile, but it exploded seconds after launch.
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions vowed a tougher approach to violent drug cartels Tuesday, calling them “a plague that has spread across our country” because of lax immigration enforcement.
He promised a crackdown hours after President Trump criticized his predecessor for being “weak” on illegal immigration and blamed him, without evidence, for allowing the violent Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS-13, to form in America.
“The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U. S. We are removing them fast!” the president wrote on Twitter at about 5: 40 a.m.
Mara Salvatrucha was started in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by Salvadoran immigrants fleeing the country’s civil war.
In the latest incident, police said last week that they believe MS-13 members on Long Island, N. Y., had carried out a quadruple homicide against a rival gang.
In prepared remarks for a meeting of organized crime task forces at the Justice Department, Sessions argued that MS-13 has expanded because of a porous Southwest border and “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with immigration agents.
“Because of an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement, MS-13 has been sending both recruiters and members to regenerate gangs that previously had been decimated, and smuggling members across the border as unaccompanied minors, ” Sessions said.
He added that “sanctuary cities dangerously undermine” attempts to battle the group.
“Harboring criminal aliens only helps violent gangs like MS-13, ” Sessions said.
As the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Sessions has focused on curbing both legal and illegal immigration, a hallmark of his nearly four terms in the Senate.
Last week, in a speech in Arizona, Sessions called on federal prosecutors to be more aggressive about filing felony charges against people who cross the border illegally.
The FBI created a task force to investigate MS-13 in 2004, and four years later — before Obama was elected — said the violent gang had established a presence in at least 42 states.
“They are not content to simply ruin the lives of adults — MS-13 recruits in our high schools, our middle schools and even our elementary schools, ” Sessions said.
President Trump on Tuesday will take what the White House is calling a “transitional step” toward a revamped immigration system, ordering a review of a visa program meant to attract skilled immigrant labor that administration officials say has been abused to the detriment of American workers.
An executive order Trump is scheduled to sign during a visit to a Wisconsin manufacturer will direct federal agencies to review the H-1B visa program, which is widely used by the tech industry to bring workers in from other countries.
The White House argues that the program has been “abused to the point of being rendered… inoperative, ” as an official told reporters Monday, bringing in workers for positions where they earn less than the industry average paid to American workers. That’s a criticism that has also been widely made by outside analysts.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters Monday on the condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s event, said the goal of the review would be to shift the process for awarding H1-B visas to put a priority on higher-skilled and higher-paid workers, making it more difficult to use it to replace American workers.
Trump’s plan, which also directs a separate review of government purchasing requirements, is consistent with the “Buy American, Hire American” credo that was a staple of his campaign, featured prominently in his inaugural address and outlined in his address to Congress in February.
“This is a transitional step to get toward a more skills-based and merit-based immigration system, ” the official said.
The executive order is the latest in a series of steps the administration has already taken on H-1B visas. Under guidance issued earlier this month by the Department of Homeland Security, companies seeking to sponsor computer programmers for a guest visa would need to take additional steps to verify the tasks performed qualify as a “specialty occupation.”
The White House on Tuesday sought to defend President Trump’s decision to make a congratulatory telephone call to his Turkish counterpart following a bitterly disputed vote in Turkey that international monitors said was likely fraudulent.
Trump’s call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday contradicted more cautious and concerned voices from within his own young administration. Many fear Sunday’s referendum in Turkey will erode that nation’s attempts to build democracy by making the president all-powerful.
Erdogan’s side in the constitutional referendum, which will greatly expand his powers and likely leave him in office for at least another decade, won narrowly, according to preliminary official results. But the vote was widely denounced by Turkish opposition figures and numerous international observers amid allegations of widespread fraud.
Moreover, human rights and pro-democracy organizations have attacked Erdogan’s plans, saying the new regulations contained in the referendum will solidify his already-autocratic hold on the Turkish political system.
In the call, Trump congratulated Erdogan on his victory, the White House said, making no mention of any controversy. He went on to thank Erdogan for his help in the battle in Syria and the fight against Islamic State, the White House said.
Turkey, a NATO ally, performs a key role in both battles.
On Tuesday, pressed about the call, Trump’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the referendum was really just a secondary topic of the conversation and that the emphasis was on continued cooperation in counter-terrorism.
“The president’s No. 1 priority is protecting Americans, keeping Americans safe, and sometimes we’re going to have to work with other countries and some of our NATO partners in order to do that, ” she said on Air Force One taking Trump to an appearance in Wisconsin.
Sanders denied there were contradictions between Trump’s call and an earlier statement Monday by the State Department. She also contradicted his main spokesman, Sean Spicer.
Just hours before Trump’s call to Erdogan, Spicer was asked about reaction to the Turkey vote. He said it would be necessary to wait for observers to finish a review of the disputed results, which he said could take 10 to 12 days.
“And so we’ll wait and let them do their job, ” Spicer told reporters at the daily White House briefing on Monday. “I think we’ d rather not get ahead of that report and start to make decisions without knowing.”
He made no mention of Trump’s call nor of the fact that Erdogan had already claimed victory.
Separately, the State Department issued a more muted and critical statement, also on Monday, calling on Erdogan to “protect the fundamental rights and freedoms” of all Turkish citizens and taking note of “irregularities” reported by international election monitors during and leading up to the vote.
“The United States continues to support Turkey’s democratic development, to which commitment to the rule of law and a diverse and free media remain essential, ” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. Erdogan has jailed thousands of journalists, teachers, civil servants, military officers and dissidents in the wake of a failed coup last summer.
Trump’s friendlier message seemed to be part of his pattern to favor a nation’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism over other concerns, such as human rights or possible electoral fraud. Similarly, Trump gave an effusively warm White House welcome earlier this month to Egypt’s strongman, President Abdel Fattah Sisi.
Trump has made clear that human rights and “democracy building” are not priorities of his shoot-from-the-hip style of foreign policy.
The mixed messages on Turkey also reflect continued disarray within the administration, now approaching its 100-day mark. Trump deliberately rejects the expertise of his State Department, frequently declining diplomatic briefings before calls and meetings with world leaders.
On numerous occasions, he has made statements in direct contradiction to some of his senior aides, including Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
The Trump White House defended its record on transparency Monday despite two glaring cases in which its practices fell short of those of the Obama administration.
In his first briefing since the administration said it would no longer release logs of visitors to the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the White House was simply returning to a policy that had been in place until President Obama took office. He dismissed the disclosures made by the last administration as a “faux attempt” at transparency.
The Obama administration, starting in September 2009, voluntarily began releasing records each month of who had visited the West Wing or other offices in the executive complex. There were exceptions, though, for visits deemed to be purely personal or for highly sensitive purposes, including some national security discussions or interviews of candidates for positions like Supreme Court seats.
“We recognize that there’s a privacy aspect to allowing citizens to come express their views. And that’s why we maintain the same policy that every other administration did coming up here prior to the last one, ” Spicer said.
“And the last one, frankly, was a faux level of doing that, because when you go through, and you scrub everyone’s name out that you don’ t want everyone to know, that really is not an honest attempt at doing it.”
Separately, Spicer also said President Trump would not release his 2016 tax returns, citing the same justification the campaign had offered for not releasing filings from previous years: They are under audit.
“I think the president’s view on this has been very clear from the campaign, and the American people understood it when they elected him in November, ” Spicer said two days after a series of demonstrations across the country called for the president to release his tax records.
Although Trump has long claimed his 2015 returns were under audit — something the IRS as a policy does not confirm — it is guaranteed that his 2016 filings will be. As USA Today noted last week, all presidents are subject to audit under Internal Revenue Service practice dating back decades. That fact hasn’t stopped past presidents from releasing their tax returns.
On the issue of visitor logs, Obama administration officials believed they never got the credit from the public or the press corps that they believed they deserved for what was a new policy at the time. In 2016, then-Press Secretary Josh Earnest wrote a letter to the New York Times claiming that the policy was just one of several ways in which they were fulfilling Obama’s promise “to lead the most transparent White House in history.”
At the very least, though, Obama’s administration set a standard to which their Republican successor now is being held.
Reporters asked Spicer on Monday about the verdict of some ethics experts that the Trump administration was already the least transparent in decades. He disagreed, citing what he said was increased access reporters have to official events.
“I think we’ ve done a fairly good job of making sure that people know who he’s meeting with, who he’s speaking to, and when appropriate, the contents of those calls, ” Spicer said in his 30-minute briefing, one far shorter than the ones typically held in the Obama administration.
The Trump administration is unlikely to meet its self-declared August deadline for enacting tax reform, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Monday. That will make it more difficult for companies to factor any changes into their spending decisions for next year.
The failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, threw off a timetable that even Mnuchin had admitted was ambitious for the complex task of overhauling the tax code, he told the Financial Times.
“It started as [an] aggressive timeline, ” Mnuchin said. “It is fair to say it is probably delayed a bit because of the healthcare” debate.
Mnuchin said Monday that he still expected tax reform to be enacted this year.
Washington is on the hunt for eggs.
More than 20, 000 adults and children are expected to turn out for the White House’s 139th Easter Egg Roll.
First Lady Melania Trump is hosting the event on the South Lawn, where attendees will roll nearly 18, 000 eggs.
The tradition officially dates back to 1878, when President Rutherford B. Hayes allowed children to enter the grounds on Easter Monday and roll their eggs.
Speaking of history, Press Secretary Sean Spicer played the role of Easter bunny for President George W. Bush when he served as the assistant U. S. trade representative for media and public affairs.
You can bet he got a photo-op with his successor.
Standing beside his wife, son, Barron, and an Easter bunny, President Trump addressed the crowd.
“We will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before. We’re right on track, ” he said.
Tough rhetoric from the Trump administration has injected “confusion” into those who are considering crossing illegally into the United States and made them abandon their travel plans, a senior official said Sunday.
John Kelly, Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security, said President Trump’s talk and actions have helped push illegal border crossings from Mexico to an all-time low. (In fact, illegal migration from Mexico has been declining for many years.)
“The attention being paid to the border certainly has injected into those people … enough confusion in their minds, ” Kelly said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“The very, very, very good news is, for a lot of different reasons, the number of illegal aliens that are moving up from the south has dropped off precipitously.”
Trump has vowed to deport millions of people in the country illegally and build a wall on the United States’ border with Mexico to keep them out.
“The laws on the books are pretty straightforward: If you’re here illegally, you should leave or you should be deported, put through the system, ” Kelly said.
Last week, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, on a tour of the border, announced orders to law enforcement officials to crack down harder on immigrants who cross into the United States illegally multiple times. Some cities, including several in California, have declared themselves sanctuaries and say they will refuse to enforce federal laws that target immigrants in the country illegally.
President Trump’s senior security advisor on Sunday warned North Korea to end its nuclear testing or face U. S. reprisals, and he called that country’s leader a global threat.
National security advisor H. R. McMaster said Trump “will take action” if North Korea continues to threaten the U. S.
McMaster was asked on ABC’s Sunday program “This Week” about North Korea’s complaints that aggressive language from the U. S. increases the likelihood of conflict.
“I think it should make clear to the North Korean regime that it is in their best interest to stop the development of these [nuclear and ballistic] weapons, to stop the development of these missiles, and to de-nuclearize the peninsula, ” he said.
McMaster spoke as North Korea launched another missile test that apparently failed, and as Vice President Pence arrived in South Korea on an 11-day trip to Asia.
McMaster said it was “clear” that Trump would not allow North Korea to threaten the United States but did not offer specifics about what kind of action the administration is contemplating.
He said North Korea’s leader was “unpredictable” and a threat to the world but also to those who oppose him at home — even his own family members if they get in the way.
“I mean, what Kim Jong Un is doing is a threat to all people in the region and globally as well, ” McMaster said.
McMaster reiterated the administration’s contention that China, North Korea’s only big ally, take a greater role in exerting economic pressure on Pyongyang to cease its nuclear ambitions.
It’s been one of President Trump ’s favorite boasts since he took office: By his order, new oil and gas pipelines built in the U. S. will be made from American steel.
As is often the case, Trump has wrapped the claim into an anecdote he often repeats. Referring to his orders to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects, Trump recalled last month that he interrupted the signing to ask, “Who makes those beautiful pipes for the pipeline?”
“Sir, they’ re made outside of this country, ” came the response.
“I said, ‘No more, no more.’ So we added a little clause — didn’ t take much — that [if] you want to build pipelines in this country, you’ re going to buy your steel, and you’ re going to have it fabricated, here. Makes sense, right?”
The story has proved effective with Trump’s audiences, but it’s not an accurate description of what he did. It took the White House only a couple of weeks after the signing to acknowledge that the “Buy America” rule would not apply to Keystone. That would be unfair, officials said, because TransCanada, the company building the line, had long ago bought its pipe, some of it made in the U. S., and the rest in Canada, Italy and India.
Even so, White House officials have insisted that all future pipelines will be covered.
That’s not true, either, according to government documents and interviews with officials in the affected industries.
The actual number of pipelines covered by Trump’s Buy America rule could well be zero.
Although the Trump administration has moved an aircraft carrier strike group toward Korea and warned it would respond forcefully if Pyongyang conducts a nuclear test this weekend, likely U. S. military options range from bad to worse.
Satellite imagery has shown preparations at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear weapons site, including more military personnel and mounds of dirt from recent excavations, U. S. officials and outside experts said.
North Korea’s state media has warned that Kim Jong Un’s government may use Saturday’s national holiday, marking the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, for a weapons test, although it could be another ballistic missile or something less provocative.
North Korea threatened merciless consequences to U. S. provocations on Friday, while China warned the two countries to avoid continuing talk of military conflict.
A statement from the Korean People’s Army, released through the state news agency KCNA, said President Trump had “entered the path of open threat and blackmail” against North Korea.
Officials in Pyongyang said the country would “ruthlessly ravage” the U. S. if Washington opted for an attack in response to a North Korean weapons test. Counteractions would occur “in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive, ” the army statement said.
The comments follow warnings from the Trump administration that it could take military action against North Korea’s growing nuclear ambitions. The U. S. last weekend redirected an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula.
The isolated nation is celebrating the 105th birthday on Saturday of its first leader, Kim Il Sun. Analysts say the country appears to be preparing a missile launch or nuclear test that may coincide with the anniversary.
China on Friday sought to simmer the flaring tensions. Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters no one would win in a military conflict between the U. S. and North Korea.
“Once a war really happens, the result will be nothing but multiple loss, ” he said.
Wang, in keeping with China’s preferences, encouraged dialog. “It can be official or unofficial, through one channel or dual channels, bilateral or multilateral, ” he said. “China is willing to give support to all of them.”
China, North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner, worries a collapse of the government in Pyongyang would lead to a refugee crisis on its shared border and eliminate the buffer zone between China and U. S. forces stationed in South Korea.
Wang warned conflict could break out “at any moment, ” and cautioned the two countries from going down an “irreversible route.”
Here’s our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington: The U. S…