Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's week was turned upside down when The Washington Post, citing "senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange," reported late Wednesday that his phone call last Saturday with President Trump had ended abruptly after Trump got angry over a deal he inherited to accept 1,250 refugees. Turnbull said in a news conference on Thursday that he always stands up for Australia, these conversations are private, and "if you see reports of them, I'm not going to add to them." It's the top story in Australia.
On CNN Wednesday night, The Australian's Sarah Martin said "the reaction here has been one of shock and disbelief, not only the fact that the details of this high-level conversation have been leaked to the press in the U.S., which is obviously extraordinary in itself," but also that there was "a hostile exchange" at all. Australians "certainly see ourselves as one of the United States' most dependable allies," she said, and this "farcical" conversation is "raising concerns here about the temperament of the new U.S. president, and of course I don't think Australia is alone on that one."
On Sky News Australia, reporter Laura Jayes said senior sources in the Australian government confirmed that "Donald Trump did hang up mid-conversation, after 25 minutes, his tone was described as 'yelling' across the phone," she said. "I also understand that the view from Malcolm Turnbull was that Donald Trump is a bully, and to confront a bully you need to bully back," so "he wasn't just sitting there being berated by Donald Trump."
Kristina Keneally, a political commentator, suggested that Trump was trying to humiliate Turnbull, a fellow multimillionaire businessman. The revelations "could have only come from the White House, they are clearly damaging to Malcolm Turnbull, they are clearly in service of Donald Trump and his political agenda," she said. "When you're facing a bully, you've got to decide your tactic."
Trump was "yelling" on the phone with Australia's prime minister, hung up mid-conversation, Australian TV reporting pic.twitter.com/rVaMi4ob7M
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 2, 2017
The stakes for Turnbull, who narrowly won re-election last year, are high. "It sounds almost as though Trump was 'negging' the PM like a particularly low-rent pick up artist," said Andrew Street at The Sydney Morning Herald, referring to a tactic where a man deliberately tries to seduce a woman through confidence-sapping backhanded compliments. "A leader can endure being disliked; few have survived becoming a figure of outright ridicule." Peter Weber
Republicans may have dominated the Midwest in the 2016 election. But it doesn't look like 2018 will deliver a sequel.
If today's polls remain steady, Democrats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania will hold their Senate spots and even pick up a few House and governors' seats, The Washington Post reports. In some cases, once vulnerable Democrats, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), are even ahead by double digits.
It's an astonishing turnaround for the Democratic Party after President Trump unexpectedly flipped much of the Midwest in 2016, sweeping down-ballot Republicans into power alongside him. The Washington Post attributes the reversal to Trump's divisive behavior and policies fueling Democratic turnout, but some Republican strategists have a slightly different read. "We forget about the power of Hillary Clinton being on the ballot in 2016," a GOP consultant for the flagging Senate campaign of Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Penn.) told the Post, adding that if "if Hillary was on the ballot, Republicans would probably be doing better in all of these states."
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeks answers in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump is already floating a possible conclusion.
Trump told reporters Monday that after speaking with Saudi King Salman over the phone, it "sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers" who were involved in Khashoggi's disappearance, although he added, "Who knows?" Turkish officials told the United States last week there is evidence that a Saudi security team killed Khashoggi when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document for his wedding, The Washington Post reports. The Saudi government has denied any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi.
While it's unclear what Trump's theory is based on, he noted that the Saudi king's "denial to me could not have been stronger," also calling it "firm" multiple times. Trump added that he did not "want to get into [Salman's] mind" by speculating, however.
The president previously announced that Secretary of State Pompeo would be leaving for Saudi Arabia to speak with Salman, and Trump told reporters that they are going to "leave nothing uncovered" and will "try getting to the bottom of it." But based on what Trump said, it sounds like he is inclined to believe the Saudi king. Watch Trump's statement below. Brendan Morrow
Pres. Trump says King Salman "firmly denies any knowledge" of "what took place" with regards to journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows? We're going to try getting to the bottom of it." https://t.co/ycHTGetpwh pic.twitter.com/NmJFzPbhzK
— ABC News (@ABC) October 15, 2018
This incredible painting of Trump and other past Republican presidents is hanging in the White House
President Trump has ... interesting taste in art.
oh my god, it's hanging in the white house pic.twitter.com/wrq8eo7Bvx
— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) October 15, 2018
As you can see, the painting depicts Trump laughing alongside a slew of former Republican presidents. Trump seems to be enjoying his favorite Coke, while Abraham Lincoln has a glass of water, a beverage chronologically suited to his mid-1800s presidency. Ulysses S. Grant, Calvin Coolidge, and even the not-so-popular Herbert Hoover are lurking in the background, as is a mysterious female figure.
These artistic choices are all the work of the seemingly bipartisan Andy Thomas, who has also depicted Democratic presidents playing poker. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) gave this painting to Trump, and the president called the artist to seemingly compliment the work, saying "he'd seen a lot of paintings of himself and he rarely liked them," Thomas told The Daily Beast.
Thomas said Trump's skin tone and smile were "hard to paint." But he prevailed, creating a perfect match for the White House's gold curtains, gold carpet, and giant jar of pink and red Starburst. Kathryn Krawczyk
The small Gulf nation of Yemen is on the brink of the "worst famine in 100 years," the United Nations warned in a BBC report Monday, and it could reach that grim milestone within three months if the conflict does not cease.
"I think many of us felt as we went into the 21st century that it was unthinkable that we could see a famine like we saw in Ethiopia, that we saw in Bengal, that we saw in parts of the Soviet Union — that was just unacceptable," said Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.
"Many of us had the confidence that would never happen again and yet the reality is that in Yemen that is precisely what we are looking at," she continued. "We predict that we are looking at 12 to 13 million innocent civilians who are at risk of dying from the lack of food."
The U.S.-supported, Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen's civil war has implemented a blockade — cast as an effort to keep weapons away from Houthi rebel fighters — with deadly results. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, so limited port access for civilian concerns has combined with currency collapse to produce starvation conditions. The country is already wracked by cholera, and more than 100 Yemeni children die daily from starvation and preventable diseases.
Watch the BBC report on starvation in Yemen below; be warned, the images are disturbing. Bonnie Kristian
North and South Korean delegations met Monday and reached a number of agreements to further the thaw in relations between Pyongyang and Seoul. Chief among them is a plan to reconnect roads and railways severed when the Korean Peninsula was split in half by war more than half a century ago.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry reported Monday it will share details of the arrangement with the United States and will work with other nations to avoid running afoul of international sanctions against North Korea tied to its nuclear weapons program. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held later this year for work on the Gyeongui railroad line, which once connected Seoul and Sinuiju, a North Korean city on the Chinese border.
Other topics in Monday's talks included fielding a joint Olympic team in 2020, making a bid to cohost the Olympics in 2032, and reuniting elderly people with family members stuck on the opposite side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Potential for further progress in the economic and political arenas is limited until North Korea makes movements toward denuclearization that result in the easing of international sanctions. Bonnie Kristian
President Trump's recent interview with 60 Minutes could not have gone over better with his favorite morning show hosts.
Fox & Friends on Monday heaped praise on the president for his Sunday interview with 60 Minutes, Mediaite reports, and they particularly loved one moment that drew some criticism from other pundits. During a somewhat heated exchange with Lesley Stahl, Trump declared to the 60 Minutes anchor, "I'm president, and you're not."
When this clip played on Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy literally laughed out loud, while host Ainsley Earhardt said this was the "best line" because Trump was "reminding her who's boss." Brian Kilmeade also joined his co-hosts in laughing at the zinger. The hosts were positively Trump-like in raving about the president's overall performance, with
They also criticized journalist Lesley Stahl, saying she interrupted Trump "a good bit" and asked unfair questions about global warming, which Trump claimed wasn't manmade. But if anything, the Fox & Friends hosts felt this only made the president look better, with Kilmeade excitedly declaring that Trump's attitude in these interviews is, "bring it on." Brendan Morrow
Actor Alec Baldwin called on voters to "overthrow" the government Sunday night, but he's not ready to haul out the guillotines.
"The way we implement change in America is through elections. We change governments here at home in an orderly and formal way," Baldwin said at a fundraising dinner in New Hampshire for the state's Democratic Party. "In that orderly and formal way and lawful way, we need to overthrow the government of the United States under Donald Trump." Baldwin may have been using "government" in the parliamentary sense, which is similar to how Americans commonly use "administration."
To support his case, Baldwin highlighted issues including gender equality, gun policy, criminal justice reform, and immigration. "There is a small cadre of people currently in power," he said, "who are hell-bent on continuing a malicious immigration policy that has set this country up for human rights violations charges by the global community."