Trump tweets that Rex Tillerson is ‘dumb as a rock’ and ‘lazy as hell’

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Friday afternoon that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “dumb as a rock,” and “lazy as hell” in comparison to Mike Pompeo.

“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!”

The comment follows several brash tweets by the president this week and seems to be in regards to Tillerson speaking publicly about his experience working with the 45th president of the United States.

Tillerson described Trump as “pretty undisciplined,” Thursday in an interview with CBS.

“I think part of it was obviously we are starkly different in our styles. We did not have a common value system,” he added.

“When the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it,’ I’d have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law. It violates a treaty.’ You know, he got really frustrated.”

Tillerson went on to say that Trump didn’t appreciate his secretary of state telling him he couldn’t proceed on his intended course of action. He also revealed that he had never met Trump until the day he was named to the position.

He described the president as someone who “doesn’t like to read,” and “doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things.”

Tillerson maintained, however, that he’s proud of the time he spent working with the U.S. government and would return if Trump asked.

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Trump chooses army general to lead Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Saturday (Dec 8) announced he was nominating Army chief of staff General Mark Milley as his next top military advisor.

Milley, a four-star general who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would replace General Joseph Dunford as the military’s next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dunford is scheduled to retire in October 2019 at the end of his second two-year term.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff is made up of the heads of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and National Guard.

“I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country! Date of transition to be determined,” Trump said on Twitter.

Milley must be confirmed by the US Senate.

Trump announced his picks for a new attorney general and a new UN ambassador on Friday and initially suggested he might make the military announcement at Saturday’s annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

The game features cadets from the Naval Academy against their counterparts from the US Military Academy and is often attended by the president.

But he opted to announce the news on Twitter before heading to the game.

Milley, 60, is a graduate of Princeton University.

According to several US media outlets, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis favoured Air Force General David Goldfein, in keeping with a tradition of rotating the post among the services, but Trump preferred Milley.

Dunford is a Marine Corps general. There has not been an Air Force officer in the chairman’s post since 2005.

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New York federal prosecutors seek prison for former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

MANHATTAN (REUTERS) – Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Friday (Dec 7) asked a judge to sentence Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, to a “substantial term of imprisonment” for paying an adult film star hush money on Trump’s behalf and evading taxes.

Cohen, who has been cooperating with US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign, pleaded guilty to the charges in August.

The New York prosecutors said that Cohen should receive some credit for his cooperation with Mueller, but noted that he had not entered into a cooperation agreement with their office. They said his sentence should reflect a “modest” reduction from the roughly four to five years they said federal guidelines would suggest.

Mueller is expected later on Friday to make a separate sentencing recommendation on a charge that Cohen lied to Congress about discussions over the construction of a proposed Trump Organization skyscraper in Moscow. Cohen pleaded guilty to that charge last week.

Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced next Wednesday by US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on all of the charges to which he pleaded guilty. His lawyers have asked that he receive no jail time, saying he has cooperated extensively with Mueller and New York prosecutors and has taken responsibility for his actions.

Trump, who has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt”and repeatedly denied wrongdoing, said earlier this week that Cohen had lied about Trump’s business dealings in Russia to get reduced jail time.

Mueller’s office has charged or secured convictions against more than two dozen Russian nationals and entities, as well as a number of Trump’s associates. The Manhattan prosecutors’ charges against Cohen stemmed from a referral from Mueller’s team.

Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 US election.

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White House chief of staff John Kelly expected to resign within days: reports

White House chief of staff John Kelly is expected to resign soon, according to multiple reports.

Sources told CNN that Kelly and U.S. President Donald Trump have stopped speaking and that Kelly will resign “in the coming days.”

Kelly, a retired general and the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has been chief of staff since July 2017. He replaced Reince Priebus, who had held the job for six months.

Nick Ayers, who is currently chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, is the front-runner to replace Kelly, according to Axios and ABC News.

In an interview on Fox News in November, Trump wouldn’t commit to keeping Kelly on, saying there were “certain things that I don’t like that he does.”

“There are a couple of things where it’s just not his strength. It’s not his fault. It’s not his strength,” Trump said.

Trump had earlier pledged publicly that Kelly would remain through his first term in office, though many in the West Wing were skeptical.

For his part, Kelly has joked that he didn’t want to leave his position at Homeland Security, but that he “did something wrong and God punished me.”

*More to come

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Trump ‘secretly investigated over Comey firing before Mueller was appointed’

Top US officials opened a secret obstruction of justice probe into Donald Trump after he sacked FBI Director James Comey, it has been revealed.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe became increasingly troubled by Trump’s behaviour following the firing.

In an attempt to reign him in, the Department of Justice launched an obstruction of justice investigation into the president’s potentially unconstitutional operations.

The covert scheme was actioned after officials grew increasingly more worried about Trump’s attempts to control other government operations – particularly Comey’s investigation into his former security advisor, Michael Flynn, CNN have said .

Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said on Thursday that Trump had a ‘legal right’ to fire Comey.

"It’s shocking that the FBI would open up an obstruction case for the president exercising his authority under Article II," Giuliani told CNN.

The investigation started in the eight days between Comey’s termination and special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller on May 17, 2017, to lead the now-19-month-long deep dive into investigating alleged collusion between the Trump administration and the Russian government.

Last year, the Washington Post reported that the DOJ had commenced its own research project into Trump.

As part of the discussions about how to rein in Trump, Rosenstein had offered to wear a wire while meeting with Trump, though he has later said he was joking.

He also reportedly proposed looking into whether Cabinet members would be willing to impeach Trump using the 25th Amendment.

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Though Trump sits at funeral with presidential predecessors, he stands alone

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) – From the moment he crossed the transept of the soaring Washington National Cathedral, tore off his overcoat and took his seat in the front pew, President Donald Trump was an outsider.

When the others sang an opening hymn, his mouth did not move. When the others read the Apostles’ Creed, he stood stoically. And when one eulogist after another testified to former president George H.W. Bush’s integrity and character and honesty and bravery and compassion, Mr Trump sat and listened, often with his lips pursed and his arms crossed defiantly over his chest.

Wednesday’s (Dec 5) state funeral was carefully orchestrated to be about only one man and his milestones – Bush the father, the friend, the war hero and the lifelong public servant.

But inevitably it became about Mr Trump, too, for it was impossible to pay tribute to the 41st president without drawing implicit contrasts with the 45th.

“His life code was: ‘Tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course,'” Bush biographer Jon Meacham said in his eulogy. “And that was, and is, the most American of creeds.”

The mourners did not deliver the searing rebukes of Mr Trump the nation witnessed in September for the funeral of Senator John McCain. But despite being crafted to honour Mr Bush’s legacy, their words nevertheless also served to underscore the singular nature of Mr Trump’s own presidency.

Trump was in the company of all of his living predecessors for the first time on Wednesday, and the encounter was plainly uncomfortable.

By 10.49am, when Mr Trump and wife Melania first stepped into the cathedral, a cool hush had come over the pews filled by American dignitaries and foreign leaders, past and present.

Mr Trump handed his black overcoat to a military aide and took his seat on the aisle next to Melania, with three past presidents and first ladies seated to her side.

First was the president Mr Trump said was illegitimate (Mr Barack Obama); then the first lady he called a profligate spender of taxpayer dollars (Mrs Michelle Obama); then the president he called the worst abuser of women (Mr Bill Clinton); then the first lady and secretary of state he said should be in jail (Mrs Hillary Clinton); and then the president he said was the second-worst behind Mr Obama (Mr Jimmy Carter) and his wife, Rosalynn.

The Trumps and the Obamas greeted each other brusquely, but only Mrs Melania Trump reached over to shake hands with Mr Bill Clinton. Mrs Hillary Clinton did not acknowledge the Trumps, keeping her gaze straight ahead as if determined not to make eye contact with the man who continues, two years after the 2016 election, to inspire “Lock her up!” chants at his rallies.

The frostiness of Mr Trump’s interactions with his predecessors was all the more apparent when former President George W. Bush entered the cathedral a few minutes later.

Mr Bush shook hands cheerfully with each of the other presidents and first ladies. He slipped what appeared to be a candy to a smiling Mrs Michelle Obama – a sweet reminder of Mr McCain’s funeral, when video of Mr Bush giving Mrs Obama candies went viral on social media.

As a military honour guard carried Mr Bush’s flag-draped casket to rest in front of the altar, the Trumps joined the Obamas and Clintons in holding their right hands over their hearts.

Mr Trump’s Cabinet members and aides seemed to blend easily into the audience. Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, wandered over to exchange pleasantries with the Clintons and Obamas.

White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway and policy director Stephen Miller schmoozed their way through the cathedral’s nave. Just behind the presidents and vice-presidents, Ms Ivanka Trump sat next to Ms Chelsea Clinton, suppressing from public view any hostility that might exist between them.

It was President Trump who seemed most out of place. For about two hours, he sat in silence, the rare event at which the President was not the centre of attention but merely an observer.

Since learning of Mr Bush’s death late last Friday, Mr Trump has striven to be magnanimous – to act, as he often boasts he could, “presidential.”

Mr Trump opened the doors of Blair House for the Bushes to stay. He dispatched Air Force One to carry the late president’s body and members of the Bush family to and from Houston.

All the while, he has refrained – so far, at least – from publicly reacting to the nearly week-long celebration of Mr Bush’s life and its contrasts with Mr Trump’s.

The first of Bush’s five eulogists at Wednesday’s funeral was Mr Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who grew close to Mr Bush as he researched the former president’s life for the 2015 biography, Destiny and Power.

Mr Meacham explained what Mr Bush meant by his famous volunteerism phrase “thousand points of light”, which Trump mocked this past summer as an ineffective and confusing slogan.

“Abraham Lincoln’s ‘better angels of our nature’ and George H.W. Bush’s ‘thousand points of light’ are companion verses in American’s national hymn, for Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient, to hope rather than to fear, and to heed not our worst impulses, but our best instincts,” Mr Meacham said.

The next eulogist, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, praised three of Mr Bush’s achievements in office – negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act.

“There’s a word for this. It’s called ‘leadership,'” Mr Mulroney said. “Leadership. Now, let me tell you that when George Bush was president of the United States of America, every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader, one who was distinguished, resolute and brave.”

It was not lost on the audience that Mr Trump has slammed Nafta, calling it one of the worst trade deals ever; mocked a journalist’s physical disability; and rolled back scores of environmental regulations.

Mr Trump sat through much of Mr Mulroney’s speech crossing his arms over his chest, or holding his hands together between his knees, at times leaning forward in his seat.

Mr Trump’s body language loosened up when former Senator Alan Simpson delivered a lighter and more humorous remembrance of his longtime friend.

Mr Trump laughed as Simpson told stories about serving in Washington with Mr Bush; at one point, Mr Simpson sang the most famous line from the play Evita: “Don’t cry for me, Argentina!”

But Mr Simpson, too, conveyed a more serious lesson as he spoke of Mr Bush’s humility and kindness.

“Those who take the high road of humility in Washington, DC, are not bothered by heavy traffic,” he said, adding later, “Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”

As he assumed the presidency, Mr Bush summoned all Americans to create a “kinder” and “gentler” nation – a message that Mr Trump, then a Manhattan real estate developer and tabloid celebrity, found lacking.

“I like George Bush very much and support him and always will,” Mr Trump said in a 1990 interview with Playboy. “But I disagree with him when he talks of a kinder, gentler America. I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, it’s literally going to cease to exist.”

At Wednesday’s funeral, the most emotional eulogy was that of Mr Bush’s eldest son, Mr George W. Bush, who celebrated his father’s character.

“He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country,” Mr Bush said.

Mr Trump applauded Mr Bush’s speech, and then the Reverend Russell Jones Levenson Jr, who had been Mr Bush’s pastor at St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, took to the pulpit to deliver a final, stirring eulogy.

His was as direct a reference to the Trump era as any.

“Some have said this is an end of an era,” Reverend Levenson said. “But it doesn’t have to be. Perhaps this is an invitation to fill the void that has been left behind.”

After the choir sang and bells rang, after Mr Bush’s casket was carried down the centre aisle and as it was loaded into a hearse, the Trumps departed the cathedral quickly through a side exit.

The President was whisked back to the White House. He returned to the seclusion and comfort of the Oval Office.

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Trump shaping new 'liberal order' to block Russia, China, Iran: Pompeo

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump’s top diplomat promised on Tuesday (Dec 4) a new democratic world order in which Washington will strengthen or jettison international agreements as it sees fit to stop “bad actors” such as Russia, China and Iran from gaining.

In a twist on Trump’s “America First” policy, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump was not abandoning its global leadership but instead reshaping the post-World War II system on the basis of sovereign states, not multilateral institutions.

“In the finest traditions of our great democracy, we are rallying the noble nations to build a new liberal order that prevents war and achieves greater prosperity,” Pompeo told diplomats and officials in a foreign policy speech.

“We are acting to preserve, protect, and advance an open, just, transparent and free world of sovereign states,” Pompeo said, adding that China’s ability to benefit from the current US-led system of trade and other agreements was an example of “the poisoned fruit of American retreat”.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday that Pompeo’s statements “did not accord with the spirit” of the meeting just days earlier between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.

“I don’t know for what purpose someone would applaud then and now say something like this,” Geng said, referring to media reports that applause broke out after Xi and Trump agreed to a trade war ceasefire at their meeting in Argentina.

Geng said that while the United States “flies the flag of America First, and wields the baton of protectionism and unilateralism”, China was an important contributor to multilateralism, the international rules-based order and global economic development.

Pompeo, a former army officer who is regarded as a Trump loyalist with hawkish world views, said Trump was also pushing both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to stop funding countries such as China, saying they already had access to financial markets to raise capital.

Pompeo’s address, which was met with polite applause, rejected concerns among many traditional US allies that Trump is undermining the West by withdrawing from climate, free-trade and arms control accords.

Pompeo said such criticism was “plain wrong”.

Pompeo said Trump was reforming the liberal order, not destroying it. He cited Britain’s decision to quit the European Union as a sign that supranational organisations were not working.

He also took aim at “bureaucrats” responsible for upholding multilateralism “as an end in itself” and cast doubt on the EU’s commitment to its citizens.

That drew a rare rebuke from the European Commission, the bloc’s executive.

Asked to reply to the Secretary of State’s remarks, its chief spokesman offered an explanation of how the EU executive is subject to control by citizens via the directly elected European Parliament and by the governments of the member states.

“So for those people who come to Brussels and coin an opinion without knowing how our system works, that’s how our system works. And that’s our reply,” Margaritis Schinas said.


Pompeo’s speech marks the latest attempt by a Trump official to place the President’s decisions into a coherent policy plan, after visits to Brussels by his vice-president and other senior US officials.

European leaders are troubled by Trump’s rhetoric and say that his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal undermine European priorities.

Alluding to Trump’s policies in a speech on Monday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned of “the rule of the jungle” replacing the rule of law.

Pompeo said the United States was acting correctly.

“Our administration is… lawfully exiting or renegotiating outdated or harmful treaties, trade agreements, and other international arrangements that don’t serve our sovereign interests, or the interest of our allies,” he said.

Under pressure from Washington, the US-led Nato alliance is expected later on Tuesday to declare Russia in formal breach of a nuclear arms control treaty, paving the way for Trump to withdraw from the Cold War-era agreement.

Nato’s European allies have pressed Trump not to follow through with his threat to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Moscow, signed in 1987, but instead to work to bring Russia into compliance with the pact.

However, diplomats said they were now trying to limit the fallout of the decision by staggering the expected US withdrawal into next year and first formally accusing Russia of breaking the INF agreement, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles. Russia denies violation of the pact.

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Trump to attend funeral as feud with Bush family ends

Donald Trump will attend the funeral of former US president George H W Bush today, capping days of public praise for the Bush family and ending a feud that has simmered at the heart of the Republican Party for years.

Mr Trump is expected to sit in a row of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, alongside former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter for the service.

The US president has clashed in the past with Mr Bush, America’s 41st president who died aged 94 on Friday, and his son George W Bush, the 43rd president, who did not vote for Mr Trump in the 2016 election.

Mr Trump once mocked Mr Bush Snr’s well-known “thousand points of light” phrase, used to describe the positive impact volunteers have on the country, asking “what the hell is that?”, and was fiercely critical of both the former president’s sons.

Mr Trump repeatedly criticised Mr Bush Jnr’s policies, not least his Middle Eastern military intervention, and defeated Jeb Bush, his brother, in the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination, dubbing him “low-energy Jeb”.

But since Mr Bush Snr’s death, Mr Trump has issued glowing praise for his legacy.

On Saturday, Mr Trump cancelled a press conference at the G20 summit in Argentina out of respect after the news broke and called Mr Bush Snr a “truly wonderful man” whose “accomplishments were great from beginning to end”.

On Monday, Mr Trump made an unexpected visit to the US Congress, where Mr Bush was lying in state, standing before the casket with Melania Trump, his wife, and solemnly saluting. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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China agrees to 'reduce and remove' tariffs on US cars: Trump

WASHINGTON (AFP) – China has agreed to scale back tariffs on imported US cars, President Donald Trump said on Sunday (Dec 2), one day after agreeing with Xi Jinping to a ceasefire in the trade war between the world’s top two economies.

Asia stocks had rallied on the news that Washington and Beijing would not impose any new tariffs during a three-month grace period, during which the two sides are meant to finalize a more detailed agreement.

“China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the US. Currently the tariff is 40 per cent,” Trump said on Twitter.

On Saturday, Trump and Xi agreed to put a stop to their tit-for-tat tariffs row, which had roiled world markets for months.

The Republican president called their agreement – which Washington hopes will help close a yawning trade gap with the Asian giant and help protect US intellectual property – an “incredible” deal.

Trump agreed to hold off on his threat to slap 25 per cent tariffs on US$200 billion (S$274 billion) worth of Chinese goods from January 1, leaving them at the current 10 per cent rate.

In return, China is to purchase “very substantial” amount of agricultural, energy, industrial and other product from the US.

The US president did not send any subsequent tweets on Sunday explaining which auto tariffs would be removed, and which would be reduced.

In July, China reduced auto import duties from 25 per cent to 15 per cent, a boon for international carmakers keen to grow sales in the world’s largest auto market.

But as trade tensions ratcheted up with the US this summer, Beijing retaliated by slapping vehicles imported from the US with an extra 25 per cent tariff, bringing the total tariff rate to 40 per cent.

Many US automakers build their cars in China, but for some the tariff hikes have hit sales.

US company Tesla saw its sales drop with the higher prices this fall and recently said it would absorb some of the higher tariff costs and no longer pass them on to consumers.

German carmaker BMW and Ford’s Lincoln brand have also been hit hard by the tariffs with some of their cars made in the US for the Chinese market.

The news comes as Trump mulls a tariff hike on vehicles imported from the European Union.

Top executives from German carmakers Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW are to meet on Tuesday with senior US officials at the White House to discuss the situation, the German news agency DPA reported, citing unnamed sources.

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Trump says Bush death puts 'damper' on Xi trade talks dinner

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – US President Donald Trump confirmed that trade talks will go ahead Friday (Dec 7) with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, but said that the death of former president George H.W. Bush casts a cloud over the meeting.

“We will be meeting with President Xi tonight,” Trump said in Buenos Aires, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

He said that the dinner meeting, which is his last scheduled event before he returns to Washington, will be “primarily (on) trade and it’s a very important meeting.” However, Trump added that the death Friday of Bush, at 94, “really puts a damper on it, to be honest.”

With markets watching nervously, Trump has described the talks as a deadline for China to meet his demands on opening up markets or risk more punitive tariffs.

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