Just How Dangerous Is Donald Trump?

Donald Trump has outlived the “axis of adults” who was supposed to guide and shape his foreign policy. He’s run through two national security advisers, innumerable lawyers and lower-level aides, an attorney general, an array of Cabinet secretaries and, any day now, the second of two White House chiefs of staff. He’s dumped the ideologist who helped elect him and never really clarified what his “America First” campaign slogan was all about anyways.

But since we launched The Global Politico days after his inauguration, Trump has more than followed through on his election pledge to shake up the Washington establishment of both parties when it comes to America’s position in the world. Each week, we’ve watched as he’s reoriented – or tried to – U.S. policy toward everywhere from Iran to North Korea, Russia to our North American neighbors.

In 67 episodes over the last year and 85 days, Continue reading “Just How Dangerous Is Donald Trump?”

Trump vs Putin? Time to Be ‘Scared’

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In an early morning tweet exactly one year and 77 days into his presidency, Donald Trump on Sunday finally criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin by name.

It took a chemical weapons attack in Syria by Putin’s ally (“Animal Assad,” in Trumpian twitter-speak) and gruesome pictures of dead children to prompt the criticism. But the belated rebuke of Putin was short and cryptic enough that it seemed to underscore the strange mystery of why Trump, while allowing his government to pursue an increasingly confrontational series of policies aimed at countering Russia, has never publicly disavowed his oft-stated admiration for the strongman leader who ordered his spies to intervene in the U.S. election on Trump’s behalf.

Tweet or no tweet, as Trump now contemplates a retaliatory strike on Putin’s Syrian partner, it’s more clear than ever that Continue reading “Trump vs Putin? Time to Be ‘Scared’”

Trump vs Putin? Time to Be ‘Scared’

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In an early morning tweet exactly one year and 77 days into his presidency, Donald Trump on Sunday finally criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin by name.

It took a chemical weapons attack in Syria by Putin’s ally (“Animal Assad,” in Trumpian twitter-speak) and gruesome pictures of dead children to prompt the criticism. But the belated rebuke of Putin was short and cryptic enough that it seemed to underscore the strange mystery of why Trump, while allowing his government to pursue an increasingly confrontational series of policies aimed at countering Russia, has never publicly disavowed his oft-stated admiration for the strongman leader who ordered his spies to intervene in the U.S. election on Trump’s behalf.

Tweet or no tweet, as Trump now contemplates a retaliatory strike on Putin’s Syrian partner, it’s more clear than ever that Continue reading “Trump vs Putin? Time to Be ‘Scared’”

Some Rare Praise for Trump’s National Security Purge

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Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt is no Trump cheerleader. During the 2016 campaign, he warned that Trump did not have “the temperament to be president” and said the Republican Party failing to deal with the consequences of Trump winning the nomination was akin to “ignoring Stage IV cancer.”

And yet over the year of Trump’s presidency, Hewitt has made clear he’s no reflexive #NeverTrumper either, emerging instead in recent weeks as perhaps the most public advocate for Trump’s hawkish new national security team at a time when others, even inside his own party, have voiced increasing fears that Trump is surrounding himself with war-minded hawks who may play to the president’s worst instincts.

An ardent Reaganite who still preaches the gospel of the Gipper on his influential morning radio show and his weekly MSNBC cable Continue reading “Some Rare Praise for Trump’s National Security Purge”

‘It’s Very Difficult to Overestimate the Potential Danger John Bolton Could Put Us In’

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John Bolton has advocated for war with Iran and North Korea. He loathes the United Nations, disdains international law and still thinks the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was the right idea. He’s a China skeptic and a Russia hawk who, as one former colleague from the Bush administration put it to me the other day, never met a military option he didn’t like.

And he’s confrontational in person too. Bolton, President Trump’s choice to replace the national security adviser he unceremoniously dumped on Thursday, is already criticizing the staff he stands to inherit, publicly vowing to bulldoze any bureaucratic “munchkins” who stand in his or the president’s way. Bolton is, in short, a most unusual figure in American foreign policy: personally belligerent and professionally bellicose, and soon to be the closest adviser to an Continue reading “‘It’s Very Difficult to Overestimate the Potential Danger John Bolton Could Put Us In’”

‘I Thought There Would Be More Jeff Flakes, More John McCains, More Bob Corkers’

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What was it like inside the partisan hot mess that was the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of President Trump and the 2016 Russian election meddling?

Republicans abruptly shut down the probe last week, giving no notice to their Democratic counterparts before announcing they had not uncovered proof of Trump or his campaign’s “collusion” with the Russians and, what’s more, they did not even agree with the U.S. intelligence community’s finding that Russia had interfered in 2016 specifically with the goal of electing Trump. Trump gleefully tweeted the news out, in all capital letters in case the point wasn’t clear.

But the timing seemed terrible. The sudden end to the House probe came the very same week the president himself—while stepping up his attacks on special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt”—finally and belatedly authorized new sanctions Continue reading “‘I Thought There Would Be More Jeff Flakes, More John McCains, More Bob Corkers’”

The Foreign Capital Rex Tillerson Never Understood: Trump’s Washington

Rex Tillerson was in trouble. He had been overheard calling President Trump a “moron,” and NBC News was reporting the story (other outlets later noted that he actually said, “fucking moron”). To make matters worse, the embattled secretary of state summoned reporters to a press conference to clean up the mistake but inexplicably fueled the story by refusing even to deny trashing his boss. Instead, he complained. “This is what I don’t understand about Washington,” Tillerson told reporters amid the controversy last fall, the first of many that would spell the beginning of the end of his short, rocky tenure as America’s top diplomat. “I’m not from this place. But the places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense.”

Tillerson, a career oilman from blunt-spoken Texas, had come to the State Department with significant overseas business experience but was still very much a novice Continue reading “The Foreign Capital Rex Tillerson Never Understood: Trump’s Washington”

Full Transcript: Chuck Todd

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Susan Glasser: This week on The Global Politico, our guest is Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press.” And our subject is a a pretty simple one that can be boiled down to this: What’s it like to be randomly called a son of a bitch by the president of the United States on a Saturday night — and keep doing your job?

First a little explanation is probably in order.

We’d been working on arranging this conversation for a few weeks; I’ve known Chuck for years and consider him on one of Washington’s best political handicappers — not to mention an excellent and insightful Trumpologist of long standing. I thought we’d talk Trump, the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election, and give some insight into covering this most unusual of White Houses amid Continue reading “Full Transcript: Chuck Todd”

When the President of the United States Calls You a ‘Son of a Bitch’

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On Friday afternoon, Chuck Todd was talking Trump. Never mind the over-the-top chaos of the last two weeks and a White House that at times seemed to be coming unglued, Todd told me in an interview for The Global Politico—Donald Trump was finally getting the presidency he’s been “dreaming of.”

He rattled off a few recent White House trends: “Shooting from the hip,” ignoring and alienating advisers, going “by his gut,” and bashing the media while “begging for compliments” from them. This, said Todd, now in his fourth year as the buoyant host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” is the presidency as Donald Trump has always envisioned it. “What you think is crazy,” he told me, “he thinks is successful.”

Barely 24 hours later, Trump seemed determined to prove the point. In a raging, Continue reading “When the President of the United States Calls You a ‘Son of a Bitch’”

‘I Intend to Be the Prime Minister of Israel’

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No one knows precisely when or how yet, but the long era of Benjamin Netanyahu may finally be coming to an end in Israel.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister since founding father David Ben-Gurion, has already expended thirteen of his political nine lives, as the veteran American peace negotiator Aaron David Miller likes to say. But Netanyahu now faces three different investigations and a recommendation by the police to indict him; many believe this time really might be different.

The embattled prime minister came to Washington this week, seeking solace in international statesmanship – and the warm embrace of President Trump. And indeed, the picture Netanyahu secured in the White House on Monday was a memorable one: two politically divisive leaders, both convinced they are subject of a “witch hunt” by overzealous prosecutors in their own Continue reading “‘I Intend to Be the Prime Minister of Israel’”

Ash Carter: Full Transcript

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Susan Glasser: I’m Susan Glasser, and welcome back to The Global POLITICO. I’m really delighted and honored that our guest this week is former Defense Secretary Ash Carter. He was the last defense secretary running the Pentagon for the last few years of the Obama administration, which means he’s been out of office for just a little bit more than a year. He’s returned to perhaps a more congenial perch up at Harvard, from where he’s speaking with us this week for The Global POLITICO.
Secretary Carter, first of all, thank you for joining us.

Ash Carter: Thank you for having me, Susan. I’m glad to be here with you.

Glasser: Well, there is so much to talk about. It’s hard to know where to begin, but I think we’ll start big picture. It has been Continue reading “Ash Carter: Full Transcript”

The War America Isn’t Fighting

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When Ash Carter became President Barack Obama’s fourth and final secretary of defense in early 2015, Russia had just seized Crimea by force from its neighbor Ukraine, in the first such armed takeover of territory in Europe since the end of World War II, and its troops were busy destabilizing Ukraine’s east. Carter ordered the Pentagon to respond by producing its first Russia war plan since the end of the Cold War, he revealed in an interview last week.

“There was essentially no … campaign plan for countering Russia of the kind that I lived with all during the time I was working in the Cold War defense,” Carter told me in the interview for The Global Politico, our weekly podcast on world affairs. “The NATO plans, and the U.S. plans for the defense of Continue reading “The War America Isn’t Fighting”

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s ’10-Foot-Tall Baby’

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President Donald Trump, defying his own advisers and intelligence agencies, loves to call North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “madman,” when he isn’t taunting Kim about his height, weight and the relative size of his nuclear button.

But the rest of his government thinks Trump is wrong, and now there’s the embarrassing spectacle of Kim’s carefully orchestrated “Olympic outreach” to South Korea over the last few days to prove it once again. Kim sure seemed a lot more like a calculating, cold-blooded leader than a crazy man when he sent his athletes to join a united Korean team for the Games and dispatched his photogenic younger sister to smile, wave and present a personal invite to Pyongyang for South Korea’s president, upstaging Trump’s grim-visaged vice president in the process.

Madmen, as former CIA analyst Jung Continue reading “Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s ’10-Foot-Tall Baby’”

‘The Hairs Really Went up on the Back of our Necks’

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By the summer of 2016, Victoria Nuland’s “Spidey sense” told her something was very wrong.

That spring, Nuland, the top State Department official charged with overseeing U.S. policy toward Russia, was one of those who had “first rung the alarm bell” inside the Obama administration, warning that Russia appeared to be trying to “discredit the democratic process” in the United States as part of a concerted 2016 strategy.

Now, the Russian campaign was turning out to be even more serious than she had imagined. She had known since late 2015 that the Democratic National Committee’s email servers had been hacked; all these months later, the stolen DNC emails were being publicly released by websites known to be Russian conduits right on the eve of the Democratic convention, and the hack would soon be confirmed as Continue reading “‘The Hairs Really Went up on the Back of our Necks’”

Victoria Nuland: The Full Transcript

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Susan B. Glasser: Well, welcome back to The Global POLITICO. This is Susan Glasser, and once again, I’m delighted to have as our guest, my friend, the new boss lady of the Center for a New American Security, Victoria Nuland. We’re sitting right now in your new empire, and we were just debating whether the right term was to say she’s had an amazing, Zelig-like career in all the hot spots of American diplomacy and America’s position in the world, both in Washington and overseas, over the last few decades, or whether it’s better to say it’s a Forrest Gump-like career.

So, Toria, thank you so much for joining us this week on The Global POLITICO. I’m really delighted to have you as our guest.

Victoria Nuland: Well, thank you, Susan, for the opportunity to be Continue reading “Victoria Nuland: The Full Transcript”

The One Phone Call Qatar Desperately Wants Donald Trump to Make

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Top officials from the tiny, embattled Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar came to Washington this week with a simple message to President Trump: You can solve the regional crisis that has seen them blockaded by all their neighbors with a single phone call.

“The sooner, the better, the phone call,” says Qatar’s deputy prime minister and defense minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah in an exclusive interview for The Global Politico, his first extensive comments to a U.S. journalist since the crisis began. But Trump hasn’t made the call yet even as America has been dragged right into the middle of what Al Attiyah calls this “family feud” in the Persian Gulf.

For months, Washington has watched with a combination of dismay and concern as the princely leaders of the Gulf have erupted against each Continue reading “The One Phone Call Qatar Desperately Wants Donald Trump to Make”

Mark Warner: ‘We’ve Had New Information That Raises More Questions’

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Congress late last year received “extraordinarily important new documents” in its investigation of President Donald Trump and his campaign’s possible collusion with the 2016 Russian election hacking, opening up significant new lines of inquiry in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of the president, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says in an exclusive new interview.

Warner, the intel committee’s top Democrat, says “end-of-the-year document dumps” produced “very significant” revelations that “opened a lot of new questions” that Senate investigators are now looking into, meaning the inquiry into Trump and the Russia hacking—already nearly a year old—will not be finished for months longer. “We’ve had new information that raises more questions,” Warner says in the interview, an extensive briefing on the state of the Senate’s Trump-Russia probe for The Global Politico, our weekly podcast on world affairs.

Warner Continue reading “Mark Warner: ‘We’ve Had New Information That Raises More Questions’”

The Man Who Put Andrew Jackson in Trump’s Oval Office

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A few months ago, the historian Walter Russell Mead got a text message out of the blue from an unknown number. It turned out to be White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon, not yet banished from Trump’s inner circle, had a surprising story to tell to the wonky scholar of American foreign policy: Mead, he said, was the reason that President Andrew Jackson’s portrait now occupied a controversial place of honor in President Trump’s Oval Office.

Bannon had seized on Mead’s work as part of his war on the other factions inside Trump’s White House, and especially the hyper-entitled family members like son-in-law Jared Kushner and “globalists” like national security adviser H.R. McMaster he viewed as selling out Trump’s “America First” vision to the more conventional course preferred by the Washington establishment. In the Continue reading “The Man Who Put Andrew Jackson in Trump’s Oval Office”

The Full Transcript: Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power

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Susan Glasser: So, this is Susan Glasser, and welcome back to The Global POLITICO. Once again, our guests this week, we’re very lucky to have both Ambassador Samantha Power, and Ben Rhodes joining us. An unlikely buddy movie pair, as it were. No, but seriously, this is such an interesting timing to have a movie, almost like a document from another era in our life.

We’re having this conversation here in Washington, not quite exactly one year after the inauguration of President Trump. The movie ends with the inauguration of President Trump. I won’t spoil the ending for those of you who—

Samantha Power: He wins.

Glasser: Well, yes, actually, okay. So, Samantha, we might as well start with that, then, probably the most memorable scene to some people certainly—this incredible moment of election night in Continue reading “The Full Transcript: Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power”

How Does Obama’s Foreign Policy Look a Year Into Trump?

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A few months before President Barack Obama wrapped up his tenure in the Oval Office, he and his foreign policy team had a pointed argument over his final speech to the United Nations General Assembly, a fight that centered on just what kind of world he would be leaving behind when he stepped down.

On one side were the president and Ben Rhodes, his deputy national security adviser and the aide most frequently described as having a “mind meld” with Obama, both ready to boast of a globe they believed they had made better. On the other was Samantha Power, Obama’s activist, human rights-minded ambassador to the United Nations, concluding eight years in the White House and in Turtle Bay of often futile pushing for more action to take on the planet’s most intractable challenges.

It Continue reading “How Does Obama’s Foreign Policy Look a Year Into Trump?”