621 Ways To Be Happier - by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, April 29, 2017 Each day, the Internet now offers me more lists on how-to-be-happier than funny-cat-videos. That’s ironic...
17 hours ago
Well, all this is interesting to me, anyway, and that's what matters here. The Internet is a terrible thing for someone like me, who finds almost everything interesting.
President Donald Trump recounted an absolutely astounding detail about one of his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in comments published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon.
Apparently, Trump came into his first meeting with the Chinese leader, in early April, convinced that China could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president told the Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. ... But it’s not what you would think.”
Four quick observations about this:
- Trump thought China could fix North Korea until the Chinese president politely informed him that North Korea is in fact complicated.
- Trump seems to have required the leader of China to explain basic facts to him that he could have Googled, or at least asked one of the many US government North Korea experts about.
- Trump came to a profound realization about one of the most dangerous conflicts on earth after a 10-minute conversation.
- Trump is getting his information about East Asian affairs from the leader of America’s largest rival in the region.
"On day one of a Trump administration, the US Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2015. In his Contract With the American Voter describing his plan for his first 100 days in office, he pledged: "I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator."
Well, it ain’t happening. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, President Trump said that he wasn’t in fact going to deem China a currency manipulator.
[Ezra] Cohen-Watnick is a 30 year old Mike Flynn protege from the Defense Intelligence Agency who was brought in by Flynn to serve as the NSC's senior director for intelligence programs. H.R. McMaster tried to remove Cohen-Watnick after McMaster replaced Flynn as National Security Advisor. In that goal, McMaster apparently had the strong backing of Mike Pompeo, the Director of Central Intelligence. But Cohen-Watnick appealed his ouster to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Bannon and Kushner went to Trump and Trump decided that Cohen-Watnick should stay in his position.
White House factional politics are not in themselves necessarily of great interest. But having two aides with no national security experience overrule the National Security Advisor on a key NSC personnel decision is rather remarkable - even more so when the person in question apparently had the job only due to the influence of the former national security advisor who resigned in disgrace and now is reportedly the target of multiple criminal and counter-intelligence probes.
That set of facts in itself raises a lot of alarm bells. Did Flynn's influence still extend into the White House's inner circle early this month, weeks after he was fired? Is Cohen-Watnick that important a loyalist that Bannon and Kushner would refuse to see him dismissed? Was he doing work at their behest? ...
In this latest turn of events, Cohen-Watnick apparently scanned through highly classified material looking for something to justify Trump's ridiculous wiretapping tweet. He then found a way to get that material to Devin Nunes when Nunes visited the White House in the middle of the night. Nunes then returned to the White House the next day to present the information to Trump. Again, it's not altogether clear to me whether Nunes or Trump actually realized that the material was of little real consequence and had no bearing on Trump's tweets. However that may be, at a minimum Cohen-Watnick was using his access to highly classified information to mount a political pushback campaign against the various Trump/Russia probes and quite likely breaking the law to do so.
But Bart Gellman, who has a very granular understanding of the modalities and rules tied to handling this kind of material, suggests an additional possibility: that Cohen-Watnick et al. had this material because they were using their privileged access to the nation's top secrets to keep tabs on the FBI's investigation of Trump and his top associates.