US president Donald Trump plans to speak with German, French, and Italian officials ahead of a summit of the Group of 20 leading economies this week that could expose his sharp differences with world powers on trade and other issues.
Mr Trump, who announced the talks on Twitter, is preparing for the two-day G20 summit that starts in Hamburg on Friday, just over a month after a G7 summit in Sicily showed deep divisions betweenhim and other Western leaders on climate change, trade, and migration.
A fractious first Nato summit with Mr Trump also left European allies wondering where the military alliance goes next.
Mr Trump will hold separate meetings with various leaders in Hamburg, including host German chancellor Angela Merkel, and a potentially difficult first meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The White House said in a statement that Mr Trump’s phone calls last night would be with Ms Merkel and Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, but did not mention French president Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Trump and Mr Macron spoke last week when the US president accepted an invitation to attend Bastille Day ceremonies in Paris on July 14.
In remarks last week, Ms Merkel raised the prospect of an open clash with Mr Trump at the Hamburg summit, although some Trump administration officials have played down the discord.
Heather Conley, a state department official during the George W Bush administration, said European allies of the US are still shocked after the G7 and Nato summits, where Mr Trump cast doubt over Washington’s relationship with its allies.
“There’s concern he could improve it — but could also do further damage,” said Ms Conley, now with the CSIS think tank in Washington.
Russia and the US are still discussing the timing of the encounter between Mr Trump and Mr Putin, said a Kremlin aide.
Since Mr Trump was elected president, Russia has been keenly anticipating his first meeting with Mr Putin, hoping it would trigger a reset in US-Russia relations that plunged to post-Cold War lows under Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
However, with Mr Trump embroiled in controversy at home over his associates’ potential links to Moscow, the session with Mr Putin has become a minefield. Too warm a meeting would allow Mr Trump’s domestic opponents to accuse him of being a Kremlin stooge.
Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters the Trump-Putin meeting would happen on the sidelines of the G20 summit, but it was not yet finalised how it would fit into the summit’s schedule.
Will be speaking with Germany and France this morning.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2017
“We will be looking for certain breaks, windows to hold this, the most important, meeting,” said Mr Ushakov.
“We have a lot of issues, which should be discussed at the highest level... That’s why this meeting, this first personal contact, is so important.”
Asked about the agenda for the meeting, Mr Ushakov said: “I’ve heard the Americans want to raise the issues of terrorism and Syria. It seems to me that would be pretty reasonable.”
Mr Ushakov said that ties between Russia and the US were at “zero level”.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump is not planning a surprise visit to the UK, his spokesman has said, ending uncertainty about whether he would drop in on one of his golf courses.
Reports had suggested Mr Trump could make an unannounced visit to one of his Scottish golf resorts during his official visit to Europe. There are Trump golf courses in Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire.
However, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Mr Trump would not visit the UK in the coming weeks.
“While he looks forward to visiting the UK, it will not be in the next two weeks,” Mr Spicer told the Financial Times.
The Sunday Times had reported that Mr Trump could give as little as 24 hours’ notice to the government of any planned trip, leaving ministers including Theresa May only a brief period to arrange possible meetings.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I am not aware of any plans for the president to visit the UK in the next few weeks.”
Ms May invited Mr Trump on a state visit to the UK shortly after he took office, but speculation that it may have been put on hold was fuelled by its absence from last month’s Queen’s Speech.
Reports suggested Mr Trump wants it delayed until it can take place without mass protests.
Asked whether a state visit would take place during 2017, the PM’s spokesman said: “We have extended an invitation, it has been accepted and we will set out plans in due course.”
Mr Trump is crossing the Atlantic for visits to Poland, the G20 summit in Germany, and Bastille Day celebrations in France.
By Rachael Burnett
Donald Trump recently described his use of social media as “modern-day presidential”.
He tweeted: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!”
“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” his tweet said.
He later added: “She is a Hillary flunky who lost big.”
It came after she mocked his hair and called him a “snake-oil salesman”.
Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2017
In a series of tweets he said he had “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
Mr Trump posted: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”
By Bette Browne
As Americans celebrate their independence today, many are still obsessing over a video shared by Donald Trump showing the US president wrestling someone representing CNN to the ground, yet far more serious threats to the lives of Americans are playing out inside the White House.
The most significant is a new plan the president is promoting among US senators that would effectively throw 22m people off health insurance without putting alternative coverage in place because that is proving too difficult a task and is stalling the president’s agenda.
Another concern is a decision by a White House “voting fraud” panel to demand states reveal people’s voting patterns and personal details, a move that is all but sparking a revolution among many states, which are refusing to hand over such information, fearing it would infringe on voters’ rights.
Meanwhile, against this volatile background, a sinister video by one of Mr Trump’s strongest support groups, the National Rifle Association (NRA), is urging gun owners to “save” America by fighting those who oppose his agenda.
“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth,” says the controversial video.
Given that the exhortation is coming from an organisation that promotes gun ownership to the extent that there are now enough guns in the country for every man, woman, and child among the 300m population, the implication was lost on no one that the “clinched fist” would probably be most effective if holding a gun.
Critics called it a “declaration of war”. Bloomberg News, for example, went so far as to say the video “all but announces civil war”.
Mr Trump previously appealed to the gun lobby in the build-up to last year’s election, saying “the Second Amendment people” might act if his rival, Hillary Clinton, threatened to alter the right to bear arms.
Enough political fireworks here, it seems, to match the festive kind around the US today.
Then again, some contend, Americans don’t need to be too worried because, as Mr Trump says about his tweets, it may all just be part of “modern-day presidential” politics.
Others, however, including a growing number in Mr Trump’s own Republican Party, say it’s time for the president to “uphold the dignity of the office”.
Many of his tweets may not be “dignified” — such as a recent one attacking a reporter’s looks by saying that when he met her once she was “bleeding badly from a facelift” — but their likely purpose is proving highly effective.
Instead of trenchant coverage of the fact that Mr Trump is pushing senators to go ahead and leave millions without health coverage by repealing the healthcare plan crafted by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and parking any replacement, the media, with few exceptions, is obsessed with analysing the presidential tweets.
Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2017
Neither is most of the media that concerned about the fact that on the same week he tweeted about the MSNBC reporter, the White House commission looking into what the president terms “voter fraud”, sent a letter to all 50 US states, requesting that all voter roll data be sent to the White House by July 14.
Most of this is publicly available information but many voters and state officials have expressed alarm that the White House has asked that the information should include the names, addresses, birth dates, political party affiliation, last four digits of the voter’s social security number, and which elections the voter has voted in since 2006.
In a defiant response, state officials from both parties and in at least 27 states have either refused to hand over information or expressed reservations about doing so.
“At best, this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst it is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression,” said Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe.
So while all of that was unfolding, Mr Trump’s early-morning tweet about a reporter was driving the news agenda.
This time, Republicans were alarmed that he was going too far.
“Mr President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America,” tweeted South Carolina Republican senator Lindsey Graham.
“Please just stop,” pleaded Nebraska Republican senator Ben Sasse.
But do Republicans really want Mr Trump to stop?
Like the president, they, too, are benefitting from the fact that they are able to continue to plough ahead with plans to axe taxes on the very wealthy that have been helping to subsidise the Obama healthcare plan.
They say they are simply keeping a promise to repeal Obamacare — and that’s certainly true because they have been trying to do that since it was introduced seven years ago.
But whether voters quite realised it would be repealed without being replaced is rather unlikely.
The Democrats call it “making America sick again”. And maybe they will be proven right. But then again the only reason that Trump’s agenda is being implemented in the first place is because Ms Clinton, was defeated.
And what if most of the media changes tack by deciding to comprehensively cover the complexity of issues in Washington that affect the lives of Americans? Will it by then have any credibility left or enough credibility to matter?
Or will a president who has been underestimated from the very start win that one too?
Not to dampen the fireworks too much on this Fourth of July, but perhaps Americans are already seeing the triumph in their country of “modern day presidential” politics.
By Jake Pearson
US president Donald Trump’s attacks on television personalities, journalists, and political rivals come straight from the wrestling ring.
Grapple fans say the president has borrowed the tactics of the ring to cultivate the ultimate anti-hero character, a figure who wins at all costs, incites outrage, and follows nobody’s rules but his own.
“In our terminology, he’s playing it to the hilt,” said former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) writer Dan Madigan.
On Sunday, Mr Trump’s apparent fondness for wrestling emerged in a tweeted, mock video. It shows him pummelling a man in a business suit, his face obscured by the CNN logo, outside a wrestling ring.
American writer Jared Yates Sexton yesterday revealed that the person who made the brief video, a doctored version of Mr Trump’s 2007 appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment, also made significant amounts of racists and anti-Semetic material.
The video was tweeted from the president’s official Twitter account.
Mr Madigan was first struck by the parallels last summer, when Mr Trump was introduced at the Republican national convention.
There was a backlit Mr Trump, unveiled in stark silhouette, sauntering onto stage at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, just like wrestling’s most infamous antihero, The Undertaker.
“His demeanour, duration of his walk to the podium, his playing to the crowd... Pure Undertaker,” said Mr Madigan.
Mr Trump’s tiger-like pacing on stage behind Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate last autumn in St Louis resembled the way wrestlers stalk their opponents during pre-match taunting sessions.
In the subsequent months of Mr Trump’s tweets and public feuds, it became clear to Mr Madigan and other former WWE writers that, consciously or not, Mr Trump was channelling professional wrestling in his politics.
“The parallels are uncanny,” said Domenic Cotter, a producer who, in the mid-2000s, worked on backstage segments for WWE.
Depending on your political affiliation, the writers said, Mr Trump is playing one of two classic wrestling characters: The ‘heel’, or ultimate bad boy, who wins at all costs, or the modern-day wrestling protagonist, dubbed a ‘face’ or ‘baby face’, in wrestling parlance.
“I think of Donald Trump as the ultimate baby face,” Mr Cotter said, “almost in the ilk of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, who was this rage-against-the-machine, anti-authority and establishment figure.”
Mr Cotter saw Mr Trump employ a classic pro-wrestling tactic during his first news conference as president-elect, when he ordered CNN reporter Jim Acosta to be quiet and barked: “You are fake news!”
“In wrestling terminology, he cut a promo on that CNN reporter and got over him, basically,” Mr Cotter said.
Mr Trump hosted back-to-back WrestleMania events in his Atlantic City, New Jersey Trump Plaza, in 1988 and 1989.
And then, most famously, there was a mock Battle Of The Billionaires, in 2007, when he body-slammed WWE boss Vince McMahon and shaved his head.
Most recently, he picked Mr McMahon’s wife, Linda, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate, in Connecticut, to head the Small Business Administration.
In wrestling, writers create season-long dramas that turn the mat into a stage for fantasy.
Narratives pit good against evil, stronger personalities win over more subdued ones, and commenators legitimise the at-any-costs tactics of the ‘heels’.
When Mr Trump publicly supports Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, depicted by the US intelligence services as a sort of global ‘heel’, he is effectively playing the role of the announcer who builds up the bad boy in the ring, justifying his alpha-dog behaviour, Mr Madigan said.
And when Mr Trump assigns prefixes to his political rivals’ names (think ‘low I.Q. Crazy Mika’ Brzezinski or ‘Crooked Hillary’ Clinton), he is effectively emulating the longtime wrestling announcer, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Hennan, who cheered on ‘heels’ over rule-following ‘baby face’ wrestlers, whom he disparaged.
“The hero is boring. He does the same vanilla thing,” Mr Madigan said.
“You always watch what the bad guy says and does.”
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