Mexico's president reportedly changed his mind about visiting the White House after talking to Trump
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto scrapped plans to visit Washington in February or March after an argumentative phone call with President Trump on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported Saturday night, citing officials from both countries.
Trump reportedly "lost his temper" in a discussion of his unrealized pledge to build an extensive wall along the United States' southern border with Mexican funding. "Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall," American officials reportedly told the Post.
Also at issue, the Post story says, is Peña Nieto's dissatisfaction with Trump's refusal to commit to a meeting agenda that will avoid embarrassment. A column in Mexico's El Horizonte newspaper on Friday likewise said Trump's "volatility" and the "lack of certainty about his commitments and actions" makes the Mexican president wary of a public conversation.
Rep. Mike Capuano (D) is a Massachusettsan to the bone — before representing the state's 7th district, he was mayor of Somerville, the same town he was born in. That just makes his attire on the Tuesday after the Super Bowl all the more conspicuous:
Rep. Michael Capuano of Massachusetts enters the house financial services hearing in an EAGLES helmet. pic.twitter.com/cVxYJ3lBqJ
— Alan Rappeport (@arappeport) February 6, 2018
Turkish troops on Saturday attacked an enclave of U.S.-supported Kurdish YPG militia fighters in the northern Syrian city of Afrin. After airstrikes, Turkish state media reported, ground troops entered the area Sunday. The YPG allied with the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, but Ankara considers the Kurdish fighters terrorists because of their ties to Kurdish rebels in Turkey.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the United States will have an open-ended military presence in Syria, including ongoing support for the Kurds. Tillerson's statement angered Turkey, which is a U.S. ally via NATO. Washington asked Turkey not to attack the Kurdish forces last week. Bonnie Kristian
Dutch media roasts new U.S. Ambassador Peter Hoekstra for dodging questions about past anti-Islam comments
Former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) got off to a rough start in his new job, U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, in December, when a Dutch journalist confronted him with comments he'd made in 2015 about Muslim "no-go zones" in the country and Dutch politicians being burned; Hoekstra denied making the comments, calling them "fake news," and when confronted with proof, denied having called his comments "fake news." On Wednesday, Hoekstra held his first news conference in the U.S. ambassador's residence in The Hague, and it went about equally as well.
Several Dutch reporters asked Hoekstra again about his widely rejected claims, and Hoekstra ducked the questions. Roel Geeraedts, a political reporter at the Dutch television station RTL Nieuws, posted this awkward exchange, captioning it, "The only one who did get burned today is... Hoekstra himself."
Today Dutch press welcomed @petehoekstra as new ambassador to the Netherlands. In 2015 Hoekstra said Dutch"politicians are being burned" (not true). The only one who did get burned today is... Hoekstra himself. By refusing to answer our questions. pic.twitter.com/Dv2aalbhDP
— Roel Geeraedts (@RGjournalist) January 10, 2018
After Hoekstra refused to recant or even comment on his 2015 allegations, one Dutch reporter chided him, "This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions." "Everybody there had one question: that crazy statement you made, are you going to withdraw it?" Geeraedts told The Washington Post. "We were not getting answers, so we all kept asking it." Dutch reporters sometimes spontaneously glom onto a question a Dutch politicians tries to evade, but "we were all astonished that he didn't want to take back the comment," Geeraedts said. "It was awkward, to be honest."
If this continues, perhaps Hoekstra will avoid the Dutch press — or take a page from Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and refer reporters' question a cardboard cutout of himself. Peter Weber
Thailand’s prime minister sets up a cardboard cutout of himself at a press event, tells reporters to direct their questions to the cardboard. Then he walks out. https://t.co/pA3l9L808h pic.twitter.com/kv6zNyBu3d
— CNN International (@cnni) January 10, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, second lady Karen Pence, repaired to Aspen, Colorado, for the holiday season. They rented a house, and their temporary neighbors seized the opportunity to make a colorful commentary on Pence's politics:
— Aspen Times (@TheAspenTimes) December 29, 2017
The resident was "real sheepish and thought he might be confronted by the Secret Service or deputies," said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. "When [the agents] said, 'We're not here to control your free speech rights,' [the family] came out with chili and began feeding them." The banner was hung by the daughters of the family with the help of one daughter's girlfriend.
"This town had a history of irreverence when it came to our visitors," DiSalvo told The Aspen Times. When then-President Bill Clinton visited in the 1990s, someone hung a large sign reading, "Inhale to the Chief," in reference to Clinton's claim that he smoked marijuana but did not inhale. Bonnie Kristian
Moore told supporters in an email that the election "battle is NOT OVER" while soliciting donations to his "election integrity fund" to pay for investigations into voter fraud he claims may have cost him victory. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has not found any evidence of voter fraud. Merrill said his office has investigation reports of irregularities and has "not discovered any that have been proven factual in nature."
Also Friday, President Trump said Moore should admit his defeat. "He tried. I want to support, always, I want to support the person running," Trump said, but at this point, Moore "certainly" should concede. Bonnie Kristian
Sen. Chuck Grassley nearly topples a row of American flags fleeing questions about Mueller indictments
It is an awkward time to be the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday went as far as to clamber through a row of American flags — nearly toppling them over — to squeeze his way out of a press conference where reporters refused to stay on the preordained topic of judicial confirmations, CNN reports:
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 30, 2017
"Anybody have any questions for Sen. Grassley, or anybody else here, on this topic?" Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) attempted to direct. When it became clear that there wasn't, Grassley made his ungraceful exit.
Grassley and the Judiciary Committee are separately investigating Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election. As many observed on Monday, the unsealing of the George Papadopoulos indictment revealed just how much Special Counsel Robert Mueller has managed to uncover that hasn't been on the various Senate committees' "radars."
On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations are meeting in Cairo to discuss possible further sanctions against Qatar for allegedly supporting Islamist terrorism, as a deadline expires on a list of demands from the Saudis, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar denies the charges. Also on Wednesday, British foreign policy think tank the Henry Jackson Society released a report on foreign-funded Islamist extremism in the United Kingdom, and topping the list of offending countries is Saudi Arabia, which exports "an illiberal, bigoted Wahhabi ideology," the report says.
"Since the 1960s, Saudi Arabia has been committed to a policy of promoting the kingdom's hardline interpretation of Wahhabi Islam globally," the authors write. "Over the past 30 years, Saudi Arabia has spent at least £67 billion [$86 billion] on this endeavor. The most profound impact has been in other parts of the Islamic world, where funding from Gulf States has been used to promote a more extreme interpretation of Islam, often overriding local practices and traditions that are more moderate. ... Nevertheless, the money has also been used to export Wahhabism to the West."
The Saudi Embassy in London rejected the report's findings, saying the assertion that Saudi Arabia has radicalized "a small number of individuals" is "baseless and lack credible evidence," and the Saudi government does not "and will not condone the actions or ideology of violent extremism and we will not rest until these deviants and their organizations are destroyed." The Henry Jackson Society report does mention Saudi Arabia's new center for countering Islamic extremism, inaugurated amid great fanfare with assistance from President Trump, but adds that "it has also been alleged that the amount of funding for religious extremism coming out of countries such as Saudi Arabia has actually increased in recent years."
The British government is "under pressure to publish a report on U.K.-based Islamic groups" that was "commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015," BBC News reports, but if it ever gets published — an open question — "critics have suggested it could make uncomfortable reading for the government, which has close and longstanding diplomatic, security, and economic links with the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia." You can read the report at the Henry Jackson Society. Peter Weber