AP sources: Trump, others agitated by Giuliani’s performance
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and ERIC TUCKER
Wednesday, January 23
NEW YORK (AP) — Rudy Giuliani’s latest media blitz, which was filled with a dizzying array of misstatements and hurried clarifications, agitated President Donald Trump and some of his allies, who have raised the possibility that the outspoken presidential lawyer be at least temporarily sidelined from televised interviews.
Trump was frustrated with Giuliani, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. The president told advisers that he felt his lawyer had obscured what he believed was a public relations victory: the special counsel’s rare public statement disputing portions of a BuzzFeed News story that Trump instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie before Congress.
The president told confidants that Giuliani had “changed the headlines” for the worse and raised the possibility that Giuliani do fewer cable hits, at least for a while, according to the officials and Republicans.
Several of Trump’s influential outside allies also have begun expressing reservations about Giuliani. Some members of this informal network of advisers, whom the president frequently calls from the White House residence, urged Trump in recent days to bench Giuliani — but most stopped short of suggesting he be fired, according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the White House.
Trump has not expressed an inclination to dismiss Giuliani.
Rarely reluctant to appear before TV cameras or answer a reporter’s call, Giuliani has spent nearly a year acting as a sort of human smokescreen for Trump. He has long played the role more of presidential spokesman than attorney, often unleashing public attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.
But a recent set of interviews, which were quickly pilloried across cable news, prompted increased concerns about both Trump’s legal exposure and the effectiveness of his vocal attorney.
Frustration about Giuliani in the West Wing has long run rampant. The former New York City mayor, who frequently speaks directly to the president, is Trump’s outside counsel and works in a different orbit than White House officials, who are still left to play damage control after some of Giuliani’s wilder interviews.
Some of Trump’s allies have suggested that Giuliani be barred from evening interviews because of concerns that he was going on TV after drinking, according to three Republicans close to the White House.
Giuliani has previously insisted he does not have an issue with drinking, denying to Politico last May that it affected his interviews. He added: “I may have a drink for dinner. I like to drink with cigars.”
The latest furor began Sunday as Giuliani, wearing a suit, tie and New York Yankees World Series ring, appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and dramatically altered the timeline regarding discussions about a Trump Tower in Moscow, now asserting they stretched until November 2016. That statement, which suggested that the Trump Organization was engaged in business dealings with Russia up to and beyond the election, ignited a firestorm and then an abrupt walk-back from Giuliani.
He issued a statement the next day saying his comments about the project “were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President. My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions.”
Then, hours later in an interview with The New Yorker, Giuliani raised eyebrows again when he seemed to suggest he had listened to tapes of Trump and Cohen that had not previously been discussed.
“I shouldn’t have said tapes,” Giuliani said as he tried to backtrack. He then added that there were “No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.” He did not elaborate further.
The muddled interviews were a failed victory lap over the BuzzFeed story, which prompted a number of House Democrats to raise the possibility of impeaching Trump. But the special counsel, which rarely issues public responses, said that at least portions of the story were not accurate, leading both Giuliani and Trump to crow about media bias against the Republican president.
BuzzFeed has issued statements standing by its reporting. No other media outlet has confirmed the story. Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
This is far from the first time Giuliani has been forced to issue a clarification, as he has frequently offered contradictory accounts of developments in the Russia investigation. Earlier this month, he was forced to clean up a remark in which he asserted that he only could vouch that the president had not colluded with Russia, rather than the whole campaign, a dramatic change of story.
“Rudy had done a very good job going on TV and fighting back and laying down a defense of the president,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign official. “But now it’s time to get precise, you can’t be so loose anymore. He had a major slip.”
At times, Giuliani’s seemingly out-of-nowhere admissions in interviews have, in fact, been part of a strategy to get ahead of damaging news stories. Last May, Giuliani went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show and acknowledged that Trump repaid Cohen for hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, the porn star alleging an affair with Trump, a statement viewed then as a misstep but later perceived as an effort to minimize revelations about possible campaign finance violations.
After struggling to find a cable-ready defender, Trump has been mostly appreciative of Giuliani’s attack-dog style — and, for a time, his broadsides against Mueller appeared to play a role in driving down the special counsel’s poll ratings. But at other times the president has expressed dismay at Giuliani’s scattershot style.
Part of his confusion is that while Giuliani frequently speaks to his client, the president’s legal team has had a difficult time corralling Trump for a lengthy debriefing about the facts of the case, particularly from events stemming before the presidency, according to one official and a Republican close to the White House.
Still, Giuliani is regarded as an important member of the legal team. A former federal prosecutor, he has also been the team’s public face and, even if not the primary author of letters and other documents to the Mueller team, he has nonetheless helped develop strategy. And TV networks have not shown any reluctance to book Giuliani, despite his unreliability, because of his rock-solid resume and the lack of any Trump surrogates willing to appear on a cable network that is not Fox News.
“I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’ Somehow, I don’t think that will be it,” Giuliani told The New Yorker. “But, if it is, so what do I care? I’ll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to questions Tuesday about whether Trump still had confidence in Giuliani.
Tucker reported from Washington. Additional reporting contributed by David Bauder in New York.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire
Personal diplomacy has long been a presidential tactic, but Trump adds a twist
January 23, 2019
Author: Tizoc Chavez, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Vanderbilt University
Disclosure statement: Tizoc Chavez does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Vanderbilt University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
President Donald Trump plans a second meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in February in what will be another example of Trump’s personal diplomacy efforts.
In September, Trump told the crowd at a rally that he “fell in love” with Kim after the two exchanged letters. Many were critical of the statement, including allies of the president like Sen. Lindsey Graham. While Trump later admitted that his profession of love was “just a figure of speech,” the comment puts a spotlight on his relationships with foreign leaders.
In Trump’s first two years in office, he’s met with many world leaders both at home and abroad. Several of these interactions grabbed headlines, often for the wrong reasons: aggressive handshakes, shoving, insulting allies, and what some critics consider fawning love fests with dictators like Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
With such a record, would American interests be better served if Trump stayed away from world leaders? The truth is that even if the answer were yes, he couldn’t. The president is diplomat-in-chief. Personal diplomacy is part of the job.
I study personal diplomacy and I know the centrality of the practice to the presidency in the post-WWII era. Despite what his critics say, Trump’s use of personal diplomacy is a continuation of past presidential practice. It’s his style and approach that break from past tradition.
Personal diplomacy is part of the presidency
This wasn’t always the case. Not until Franklin D. Roosevelt did personal diplomacy become increasingly common in the presidency. Technological advancements in communication and travel, America’s rise to global preeminence, the growth of presidential power, and increasing domestic incentives made the practice appear attractive and often necessary to White House occupants.
Professional diplomats have long complained about political leaders engaging in personal diplomacy. Writing in 1939, British diplomat Harold Nicolson put it like this: Frequent meetings between world leaders “should not be encouraged. Such visits arouse public expectations, lead to misunderstanding and create confusion.”
Professional diplomats are generally better informed than political leaders on international issues. They also are experienced negotiators, possess linguistic expertise and are knowledgeable of diplomatic protocol. They are also usually less influenced by domestic politics. They tend to stay out of the media spotlight and work behind the scenes.
But history provides us with many examples of the value of leader-to-leader diplomacy. Franklin Roosevelt’s connection with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill played a central role in the Allied victory during WWII. The bond between Jimmy Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was crucial to Egyptian-Israeli peace. And Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev’s relationship was key to the end of the Cold War.
Presidents themselves have recognized the importance of leader-to-leader diplomacy. George W. Bush wrote in his memoir, “I placed a high priority on personal diplomacy. Getting to know a fellow world leader’s personality, character, and concerns made it easier to find common ground and deal with contentious issues.”
But there are risks as well. Leaders don’t always get along. Miscalculation and tension may be as likely as understanding and cooperation.
In 1961, U.S.-Soviet relations went from bad to worse after John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev met. Khrushchev came away thinking the president was weak and inexperienced. Within months, the Soviet leader ordered the building of the Berlin Wall. The following year, Khrushchev put nuclear missiles in Cuba capable of reaching almost every corner of the continental United States.
George W. Bush thought he could trust Russian leader Vladimir Putin because he “looked the man in the eye” and “was able to get a sense of his soul.” But by the end of his presidency, it was clear that Bush had seriously misjudged the Russian leader.
In his two years in office, Trump has shown himself both following in his predecessors’ personal diplomacy footsteps but also breaking from established norms.
As candidate Trump, he boasted that he would get along with Putin. And since becoming president, he has continued to promote his personal relationships with world leaders.
This is normal presidential behavior. Where Trump differs from his predecessors is in the relationships he promotes and the way he approaches personal diplomacy.
One of the most striking things about Trump’s personal diplomacy is his praise of dictators. While past American presidents also sought to form personal bonds with unsavory leaders, none so publicly embraced and praised brutal authoritarians such as Kim, Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as Trump has done.
This has a cost. Personal diplomacy is a form of “theater.” It sends signals to domestic and international audiences. The leaders a president decides to meet with, praise or attack is a statement of American values and policy. By effusively embracing dictators, Trump’s personal diplomacy is at odds with traditional American foreign policy, and critics argue that it emboldens dictators.
Trump also differs from past presidents by appearing indifferent to the risks of personal diplomacy. “You have nothing to lose and you have a lot to gain,” he said.
Personal diplomacy is a tool presidents use to advance American interests. And because of the risks, careful preparation and a clear strategy are vital.
But Trump is impulsive and prone to rely on “touch” and “feel.”
Politics is deeply personal for him. While disagreement is a natural part of international politics, he often views it as a personal affront. Before he fell in “love” with Kim Jong Un, he called the North Korean dictator a “madman” and mocked his height and weight.
Trump has even attacked allied leaders. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated his country wouldn’t be pushed around, the president felt betrayed and lashed out, calling Trudeau “very dishonest and weak.”
Leader-to-leader diplomacy is inherently personal. But presidents are best served when they don’t take it too personally. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” So even if leaders form personal bonds, it doesn’t mean two nations will always agree. And that’s OK. It’s a natural part of international relations, not a personal insult to the president.
When presidents engage world leaders, the stakes are raised and mistakes amplified. So a clear assessment of the risks and benefits of personal diplomacy is essential. As former Secretary of State Dean Acheson cautioned, “When a chief of state or head of government makes a fumble, the goal line is open behind him.”
Lawyer: Suspected US spy had classified docs on him
By NATALIYA VASILYEVA
Wednesday, January 23
MOSCOW (AP) — The lawyer for an American man being held in Moscow on suspicion of spying said on Tuesday that his client was given a flash drive containing Russian “state secrets” before he was arrested, but did not know he had them and had not looked at them.
His family insisted that he was entrapped and denied that he is guilty of espionage.
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was detained in Moscow at the end of December. The arrest raised speculation that he could be swapped for one of the Russians held in the U.S., such as gun rights activist Maria Butina, who has pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the U.S.
Whelan made his first public appearance in court on Tuesday to hear the appeal of his arrest. The judge upheld the previous ruling that ordered him to be kept behind bars at least until the end of February.
Whelan was kept in a glass cage and did not speak to reporters.
Spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years in Russia.
Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said Tuesday that when his client was detained at a Moscow hotel at the end of December he had something with him that contained “state secrets.”
The lawyer said that Whelan was a frequent visitor to Russia and that he asked an unnamed person to email him something about travel around the country. Whelan reportedly was not able to download it and then asked that person to put it on a flash-drive.
“He was expecting to see on the flash drive some personal information like pictures or videos, something like that, about that person’s previous trips around Russia,” Zherebenkov told reporters. “We don’t know how the materials that contain state secrets ended up there.”
The lawyer said the American was detained before he could open the files. He added that it was not clear what has happened to the person who reportedly gave the flash drive to Whelan.
Zherebenkov said the investigators have not yet disclosed which country he is accused of spying for.
Paul Whelan’s twin brother, David, said in a statement that the family was disappointed but hardly surprised by the denial of bail.
“While we still lack any details from the Russian government about why Paul is thought to be a spy, and who provided him with the alleged state secrets, we are certain that he was entrapped and is not guilty of espionage,” he said in a statement. “We have not had any information about a USB drive, what was on it, or how it might have materialized in Paul’s possession.”
“Unfortunately, today’s ruling merely confirms that Paul will remain wrongfully detained for many more months,” Whelan’s brother said, adding that “Paul was able to let us know that he is worried about some health conditions and his ability to communicate with prison medical staff.”
He added that his brother is “also concerned about translator support and his ability to present his defense in English.”
David Whelan noted that the Russian authorities’ refusal to allow British diplomats to visit his brother in prison and the cancellation of a U.S. consular visit last week raised additional concerns, but said that Canadian diplomats were scheduled to visit Thursday.
Whelan holds U.S., Canadian, British and Irish citizenships.
Whelan, 48, was discharged from the Marines for bad conduct. He works as the global security director for a U.S. automobile parts manufacturer and lives in Michigan. His family has said he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
Czech lawmakers approve taxation of church restitution plan
By KAREL JANICEK
Wednesday, January 23
PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Parliament’s lower house on Wednesday approved a proposal drafted by Communist lawmakers to tax the compensation that the country’s churches receive for property seized by the former Communist regime.
The 106-56 vote showed the rising influence of the far-left Communists on Czech politics. The party is not part of the center-left ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, but helped the minority Cabinet survive a confidence vote.
After the Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, they confiscated all the property owned by churches, which were allowed to function only under strict state control.
According to a 2012 law, the nation’s churches, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish community, are to receive some $3 billion over 30 years to compensate for property seized by the state.
A power-sharing deal that Babis, a populist billionaire, signed with the maverick Communists last year gave them a role in governing for the first time since the country’s 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution. The taxation was one of the Communists’ key conditions.
Babis argues that the compensation is too generous and needs correction.
The upper house, which is controlled by the opposition, is expected to reject the Communist plan. But the Communists and the coalition formed by Babis’ centrist ANO movement and the leftist Social Democrats hold a majority in the 200-seat lower house and can override such a veto. The anti-migrant, populist Freedom and Direct Democracy party also joined forces with the Communists.
The opposition and some legal experts said the proposal was not in line with the law, and the churches plan to challenge it at the Constitutional Court, the country’s highest legal authority.
“It’s a victory of populism over common sense and the rule of law,” said Stanislav Pribyl, the secretary general of the Czech Bishops’ Conference.
Unlike most other communist parties in central Europe that have joined the left-wing mainstream in recent decades, the Czech party has maintained a hardline stance and is vehemently opposed to NATO.
Singer Chris Brown released in Paris after rape complaint
By ANGELA CHARLTON and SAMUEL PETREQUIN
Wednesday, January 23
PARIS (AP) — U.S. singer Chris Brown and two other people were released Tuesday from police custody after a woman filed a rape complaint against them, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
The Grammy-winning singer was detained Monday with two other suspects on potential charges of aggravated rape and drug infractions.
The Paris prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press that Brown has been authorized to leave France while the investigation is ongoing.
A post late Tuesday on Brown’s Instagram page strongly denied the accusations.
“I WANNA MAKE IT PERFECTLY CLEAR…… THIS IS FALSE,” the post said. “FOR MY DAUGHTER AND MY FAMILY THIS IS SO DISPRESPECTFUL AND IS AGAINST MY CHARACTER AND MORALS!!!!!”
Brown’s publicists at Sony Music wouldn’t comment Tuesday on the complaint or say what Brown, 29, was doing in Paris. His U.S. attorney, Mark Geragos, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Brown has been in repeated legal trouble since pleading guilty to the felony assault in 2009 of his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. He completed his probation in that case in 2015, but has continued to have run-ins with police.
The woman who filed the Paris complaint said she met Brown and his friends overnight Jan. 15-16 at the club Le Crystal in the 8th arrondissement near the Champs-Elysees, and then they all went to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel near the Concorde Plaza in central Paris, according to a police official.
The Mandarin Oriental wouldn’t comment on the investigation, and Le Crystal couldn’t immediately be reached. There was no unusual activity outside either site.
One of Brown’s bodyguards is among the others detained in the Paris investigation, according to the official. They are being held by judicial police in the 17th arrondissement of northwest Paris, the official said.
The police official wasn’t authorized to be publicly named to discuss the investigation.
The detention was originally reported by French gossip magazine Closer.
Brown, who burst onto the music scene as a teen, won a Grammy Award in 2011 for best R&B album for “F.A.M.E.” and has nominations for other works. His hits include “Look at Me Now,” ”Run It,” and numerous collaborations with other stars, including “Post to Be” and last year’s “Freaky Friday” with Lil Dicky.
He released a new single earlier this month and has a new album coming this year. Six of his albums have gone platinum.
He retains a huge following of devoted fans, including nearly 50 million followers on Instagram . He posted an Instagram photo Monday from Paris appearing to show him at a nightclub, among several recent posts. Followers responded with mixed messages to the rape accusation.
It’s the latest legal trouble for Brown, who was arrested at the end of a concert last year to face a felony battery charge involving a nightclub photographer.
In 2013, Brown was charged with misdemeanor assault after he was accused of striking a man outside a Washington hotel. He was ordered into rehab but was dismissed for violating facility rules. Brown spent 2½ months in custody.
After he completed court-ordered anger-management classes, Brown was accused of throwing a brick at his mother’s car following a counseling session.
After Brown posted a picture to his Instagram followers in January 2018 showing his 3-year-old daughter, Royalty, cuddling with a pet monkey, California fish and wildlife agents seized the capuchin monkey named Fiji from his home in Los Angeles.
Brown was later handed a misdemeanor charge for lacking a permit for the primate. He is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 6 in Los Angeles.
AP reporters Elaine Ganley, Sylvie Corbet, Nadine Achoui-Lesage and Thibault Camus contributed to this report.