Trump set to clash withG7 Leaders over refugees, trade and climate.

Disagreements with US are so fundamental that Sicily summit might not be able to issue communique

 Donald Trump speaks with fellow G7 leaders at the summit in Taormina.
Donald Trump speaks with fellow G7 leaders at the summit in Taormina. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

With the US president apparently reluctant to compromise with European leaders over climate change, trade and migration, the European council president, Donald Tusk, was forced to admit on Friday that this would be the most challenging G7summit in years and there was a risk of events spiralling out of control.

A draft statement shown to the Guardian reveals Trump wants world leaders to make only a short reference to migration and to throw out a plan by the Italian hosts for a comprehensive five-page statement that acknowledges migrants’ rights, the factors driving refugees and their positive contribution.

The Italian plans – one on human movement and another on food security – were set to be the centrepiece of its summit diplomacy. Italy had chosen Taormina in Sicily as the venue to symbolise the world’s concern over the plight of refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa.

It had hoped the summit would end on Saturday with a bold statement that the world, and not just individual nations, had a responsibility for the refugee crisis. Italy is expected to take in 200,000 refugees in 2017; more than 1,300 have drowned so far this year while trying to make the perilous crossing from north Africa.

Trump’s negotiators brought a new brief text of the final communique to a pre-meeting of the G7 on 26 April and said they were vetoing the Italian “human mobility” plan, which had been the subject of careful negotiation for months.

The new text, offered by the US on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, acknowledges the human rights of migrants, but affirms “the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels as key elements of their national security”.

Diplomatic sources said intense talks were under way to rescue some of the Italian agenda on migration.

Italian officials, faced with little option, insisted the brief wording on migration in the draft represented a good compromise and said there was no problem with the Americans. The communique did reference the idea of “upstream” action on the issue – but also supporting legal pathways to return individuals to their country of origin.

In a sign of the immediacy of the refugee crisis, the Libyan coastguard said as many as 20 boats had been spotted off the Libyan coast on Friday carrying thousands of migrants.

“Today is the day of a massive exodus of illegal migrants toward Europe,” he added.

The disagreements between Trump and other world leaders have spread to climate change, trade and food security, revealing the philosophical gulf about how to handle globalisation and security.

One source said that with four leaders attending their first summit – Trump, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the UK and Italian prime ministers, Theresa May and Paolo Gentiloni – the emphasis was being placed on the politicians building a personal bond of trust rather than delivering lengthy communiques.

Speaking at the end of the first day’s formal session, Gentiloni said agreement had been reached on terrorism and Syria, but Trump was holding out on climate change.

Trump has come under pressure from other world leaders to stick with the UN climate change treaty signed by Barack Obama’s administration in Paris. He has deferred a decision on whether the US will pull out of the 2015 deal. The Trump administration is internally divided and might simply reduce the level and timescale of US commitments made at Paris on emission cuts.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said “we put forward very many arguments” for the US sticking with the agreement.

May also raised the issue of climate change admitting that “the US is considering its position in relation to these matters” but claiming all seven countries agreed on the importance of the Paris agreement.

Late on Friday, a senior White House official said Trump’s views on climate change were “evolving” following the talks. “He feels much more knowledgeable on the topic today,” said Gary Cohn, Trump’s top White House economic adviser. “He came here to learn; he came here to get smarter.”

In a sign of the tensions over trade, a senior Trump adviser confirmed that the president had criticised Germany as “very bad” on trade at a meeting with EU officials in Brussels on Wednesday.

“He said they’re very bad on trade, but he doesn’t have a problem with Germany,” said Cohn.

A White House adviser said Trump told the G7 that America would treat other countries on trade in the same way that the US was treated, adding the President’s goal is “free and fair trade, not high tariffs”.

On Friday night, Gentiloni said the leaders had made progress on the issue of foreign trade, but that the wording of the final communique still needed to be worked out. Trump has previously promoted a protectionist agenda that alarmed his G7 allies.

Gentiloni said: “On the major theme of global trade, we are still working on the shape of the final communique, but it seems to me the direct discussions today have produced common positions that we can work on.”

Germany and Japan are trying to pin Trump down to define his version of fair trade by making him accept there has to be a rules-based system in which the World Trade Organisation has a leading role. Trump has vowed that he will cut the US deficit and has pointed the finger of blame at countries such as Germany and China. He has accused China of using exchange rate manipulation to sell goods in the US.

The German trade surplus, which reached a record $283bn (£220.9bn) in 2016, has also been a source of contention within Europe, with Berlin’s partners encouraging it to do more to promote domestic demand.

THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE IS REPORTEDLY CONSIDERING A MAJOR POERSONNAL SHAKEUP

The Trump White House is reportedly considering a major personnel shakeup, in response to the latest in a string of Russia-related scandals that have kept the administration on the defensive for weeks.

The White House did not directly comment on the report although Trump later tweeted that the reports were “fabricated”.

National security adviser HR McMaster told reporters in Sicily on Saturday he was “not concerned” and on Sunday homeland security secretary John Kelly told NBC he did not “see any big issue here relative to Jared”.

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Kelly said “back channel” communications were “both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable. Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us, is a good thing.”

 Any such efforts by the Trump transition team would however have been contrary to the accepted practice of “one president at a time”, in which outgoing administrations remain in charge of foreign affairs until inauguration day.

In office, Trump remains under pressure. The FBI and several congressional committees are currently investigating contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials.

According to press reports citing anonymous sources, the White House is in the process of putting together a new public relations operation, known in DC parlance as a “war room”, to deal with ongoing revelations. Trump is also reported to be considering retooling the way his administration communicates with the press and public.

 This could include, as the Washington Post reported, a smaller role for press secretary Sean Spicer, more campaign-style rallies – although an event scheduled for Iowa on Thursday was canceled this weekend – and perhaps the return of Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as Trump’s campaign manager last year.

It was not initially clear if Kushner stepping down or taking on a reduced role is part of the potential reshuffle. On Sunday Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told ABC’s This Week that reports about Kushner were “obviously very concerning … in the context of an election campaign where the Russians had been intervening to help Donald Trump and to hurt Hillary Clinton.”

Congress, Schiff said, needed to “get to the bottom” of the allegations against Kushner, which if they were true would mean “there’s no way” Kushner should be allowed to keep his security clearance.

“Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” attorney Jamie Gorelick said on Thursday. “He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Earlier this week, before the “back channel” allegations surfaced, it was reported that the FBI was looking into Kushner’s contacts with Russia, indicating that its investigation has reached not only the Trump’s inner circle but his family. According to the Washington Post, the FBI is looking at a Trump Tower meeting between Kushner and Russian diplomat Kislyak as an item of “investigative interest”.

In public on Sunday, Trump and senior administration figures sought to deflect the focus onto “leakers” and the press.

In a string of early morning tweets, of which some were deleted and reposted for spelling errors, Trump said it was his opinion that “many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media”.

Saying it was “very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers”, Trump also complained about leaks believed to have come from US intelligence sources regarding the suicide bombing in Manchester earlier this week in which 22 people were killed.

“British prime minister May was very angry that the info the UK gave to US about Manchester was leaked,” he wrote. “Gave me full details!”

News stories quoting anonymous sources are a staple of US political journalism. Trump himself has frequently cited anonymous sources, notably in his public criticism of the Obama administration, most infamously when announcing in 2012 that an “extremely credible source” had told him Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent – a demonstrably untrue claim.

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kelly said it was “borderline, if not over the line of treason” to leak highly classified information from foreign intelligence.

“It’s darn close to treason,” he added.

The homeland security secretary was specifically talking about information leaked relating to the bombing in Manchester, but the comments had broader implications under a presidency that has been either implicated in or the victim of numerous leaks of sensitive information.

Obama director of national intelligence James Clapper, meanwhile, told NBC Kushner’s reported attempt to initiate back channel talks with Moscow “certainly arouses your concern about what is going on, given [that] Russia, at least for my money, is our primary adversary”.

“They are not our friends,” he said. “They are in to do us in.”

INTENSIVE ULURU TALKS CALL FOR AN END TO THE FIGHTING

Indigenous Anangu elders singing in Pitjantjatjara
Indigenous Anangu elders singing in Pitjantjatjara at the closing ceremony of the Uluru convention at Mutitjulu on Friday. Photograph: Calla Wahlquist for the Guardian

With two gifts, the elders of Mutitjulu summarised six months of talks and prepared for the long political fight to come.

“That’s the weapon,” Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation chairman Sammy Wilson told professor Megan Davis, one of the leaders of the constitutional reform process, handing her a fighting stick, a smoothly shaped piece of wood. “You point this at the government: we want referendum.”

To Referendum Council chairwoman Pat Anderson, they gave a piti, to carry the message, and to co-chair Mark Leibler and Cape York Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, they gave ancient shields.

Canvas signed by delegates at the Uluru convention
Delegates at the Uluru convention signed a canvas that will be turned into an artwork by Mutitjulu artists. The square in the centre will hold the Uluru statement. Photograph: Calla Wahlquist for the Guardian

“Use that shield to stop fighting with the government, and stop fighting with each other,” Wilson said.

It was a message of unity and strength that echoed a joint statement authorised by a majority of the 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders gathered at Uluru this week to determine what they wanted in the form of constitutional recognition and reform.

 The outcome was a rejection of constitutional recognition of the sort long-discussed and supported by non-Indigenous political leaders, a symbolic preamble acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of Australia without offering any practical improvement on their condition.

Instead they declared, on a document termed a Statement From The Heart of the Nation, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had always been and would remain sovereign; that they would seek recognition in the form of a constitutionally-enshrined voice to parliament; and that they would demand the establishment of a commission for makarrata, a Yolgnu word for treaty.

“Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle,” the statement read. “It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.”

The statement was read by Davis on the red dirt of Mutitjulu, in the shadow of Uluru, on Friday afternoon. It had been approved unanimously that morning, the culmination of three days of intensive talks at the national convention on constitutional recognition at nearby Yulara and six months of regional dialogues.

They almost didn’t get there. At the end of the first day of talks on Wednesday, Anderson described the discussions as “sometimes tense”. Another delegate remarked bluntly: “There’s a lot of big egos in the room.”

On Thursday afternoon, seven delegates from New South Wales and Victoria walked out of the debate, saying the position being developed would result in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ceding their sovereignty by willingly coming under white man’s law, the Australian constitution.

“We have chosen to walk away from this debate and this dialogue today because it is not a debate, they are not looking at any alternatives options other than the Noel Pearson roadmap,” Jenny Munroe, New South Wales delegate and a well-known political activist from Redfern, said on Thursday. “And like native title that will prove to be an abject failure.”

The protest was swiftly dismissed by the referendum council and the majority of delegates but it was supported on social media by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples not at the convention, who said it represented a grassroots movement dissatisfied with the process.

Frustration was not confined to the protesters. Many delegates were hurt and frustrated by the way the campaign for constitutional recognition had been conducted until the regional dialogues began six months ago, with consultation confined to discrete groups of Indigenous leaders.

Holding the convention in the Northern Territory, where the shadow of the intervention showed the damage a federal government could do when using constitutional powers to control Indigenous peoples, also shaped the discussions.

Indigenous Anangu dancers
Indigenous Anangu dancers perform at the ceremony ground at Mutitjulu with Uluru in the background. Photograph: Calla Wahlquist for the Guardian

“There’s a lot of raw wounds among these people … There’s the desperation in the room,” Thomas Mayor, a Torres Strait man of Badhulgau and Kulkalaig heritage, said.

One of the sources of tension was a series of banners saying “we oppose recognition” and “vote no to constitutional reform”. They were taken down in response to complaints from Anangu elders, who said the banners were offensive and disrespectful to the good-faith meeting on their land.

“Aboriginal people, we don’t talk with banners, we talk face to face,” Anangu elder Alison Hunt, who Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Sean Gordon later described as “instilling cultural integrity” into the discussions, told Guardian Australia.

“Aboriginal people, tribal people, are quiet achievers, and they want to get the message to government in their cultural ways to get government to listen and come to the table. So banners is not our custom.”

Hunt said it was important to present a “united voice”. At the closing ceremony on Friday, she danced the story of the snake people before taking to the microphone and repeating calls for unity.

She was at the Barunga festival in 1988 when Bob Hawke was presented with the bark Barunga Statement and stood beside the then prime minister to translate his reply, where he promised to negotiate a treaty within that three-year parliamentary term.

“That was the last we heard,” Hunt said. “And that’s why people like my people on the lands are a bit sort of, you know, asking questions, is this another talk-fest, is this another promise?

“They don’t want promises, they want action. And that’s why my people are sort of watching and listening. Is this going to be the last thing for the truth, action? Or is this another talk?”

Hunt said she was speaking not just for herself, but for senior elders at Mutitjulu and for her ancestors. It was a sentiment echoed throughout the convention.

“I am sitting here as one person but I am coming here with all of the spirits of my people and my ancestors,” Badtjala woman Shereene Currie, from K’Gari or Fraser Island, told Guardian Australia.

Indigenous Anangu elder Rolley Mintuma does a ceremonial dance
Indigenous Anangu elder Rolley Mintuma does a ceremonial dance at the closing ceremony. Photograph: Calla Wahlquist for the Guardian

Most of those who walked out on Thursday did not return to join in the standing ovation for the final statement on Friday – so the unanimous support, and rallying hashtag #1voiceuluru, does not include them.

Murrawarri man and Dubbo delegate Fred Hooper joined the walkout on Thursday but returned to the talks that afternoon, saying he owed it to the people that he was here to represent to listen and keep talking.

On Friday, he said the Uluru statement was a “good document” and had his support. His continued support would be dependent on whether the new working group, formed to continue developing the preferred model, maintains a high level of community engagement.

“Listening to the statement today I think there is a roadmap to the future,” he said. “What that roadmap will look like is up to us. We need to own this process, we need to take this process forward, and a good thing I like about this is that the document says that we’ve never ceded our sovereignty.”

The statement will form the core of the Referendum Council’s report, which will be handed to prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten on 30 June.      Turnbull and Shorten were asked on Friday about the proposal for a constitutionally-enshrined voice to parliament and both demurred, saying they would wait until seeing the Referendum Council’s full proposal. Politicians on both sides have expressed doubt that such a body will get up at referendum.

Les Malezer, Australian delegate to the UN permanent forum on Indigenous issues and a Butchulla and Gubbi Gubbi man, said it would be “shallow and hypocritical” to think that the government would spend millions of dollars in establishing the Referendum Council and funding the regional dialogues only to abandon its recommendations.  Michael Mansell, a Tasmanian Aboriginal leader and treaty expert, agreed.

“I do think people do fear the unknown but I just don’t think that’s going to happen. The government will reluctantly say: ‘alright, there’s some more money here, there’s resources here, you’ve got to follow this through and we the government mightn’t like what you’ve come up with, or we do like what you’ve come up with, but we’re going to fund it anyway.”

Malezer and Mansell were more concerned about the construction of the proposed constitutional amendment to establish the Indigenous voice to parliament, warning that it could be “open to all forms of political design”.

Indigenous Anangu elder Alison Hunt performs a snake dreaming dance.
Indigenous Anangu elder Alison Hunt performs a snake dreaming dance. Photograph: Calla Wahlquist for the Guardian

Davis said those concerns were premature.

Debate will now focus on how to shape the outcomes sought by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into a reform package that can be sold to the Australian public and get the necessary double majority of support from a majority of voters and states at the referendum.

At an outdoor cafe at the Ayers Rock Resort, a day after most delegates had gone, a group of retired white Australians on a tour around the red centre pledged their support.

“I think what they’re asking for is fair and reasonable,” they said. “They shouldn’t have even had to ask for it; it should just have been given to them.”

Trump mulls shakeup as Kelly says ‘back channel’ talks are ‘a good thing’ Donald scandal over Jared Kushner’s allegetary plays defense while president Trump walk to the White House on Saturday night after returning from a nine-day trip abroad. Donald and Melania Trump walk to the White House on Saturday night after returning from a nine-day trip abroad. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images View more sharing options Shares 772 Jamiles Lartey @JamilesLartey Monday 29 May 2017 06.09 AEST First published on Monday 29 May 2017 03.22 AEST The Trump White House is reportedly considering a major personnel shakeup, in response to the latest in a string of Russia-related scandals that have kept the administration on the defensive for weeks. Trump team ducks questions on report Kushner wanted secret line with Russia Read more Donald Trump returned to the US from a relatively successful nine-day international tour on Saturday – a day after the Washington Post reported that Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior aide, sought to set up secret “back channel” communications between Russia and the Trump presidential transition team in December 2016. The White House did not directly comment on the report although Trump later tweeted that the reports were “fabricated”. National security adviser HR McMaster told reporters in Sicily on Saturday he was “not concerned” and on Sunday homeland security secretary John Kelly told NBC he did not “see any big issue here relative to Jared”. Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Kelly said “back channel” communications were “both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable. Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us, is a good thing.” Any such efforts by the Trump transition team would however have been contrary to the accepted practice of “one president at a time”, in which outgoing administrations remain in charge of foreign affairs until inauguration day. In office, Trump remains under pressure. The FBI and several congressional committees are currently investigating contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials. According to press reports citing anonymous sources, the White House is in the process of putting together a new public relations operation, known in DC parlance as a “war room”, to deal with ongoing revelations. Trump is also reported to be considering retooling the way his administration communicates with the press and public. Advertisement This could include, as the Washington Post reported, a smaller role for press secretary Sean Spicer, more campaign-style rallies – although an event scheduled for Iowa on Thursday was canceled this weekend – and perhaps the return of Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as Trump’s campaign manager last year. It was not initially clear if Kushner stepping down or taking on a reduced role is part of the potential reshuffle. On Sunday Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told ABC’s This Week that reports about Kushner were “obviously very concerning … in the context of an election campaign where the Russians had been intervening to help Donald Trump and to hurt Hillary Clinton.” Congress, Schiff said, needed to “get to the bottom” of the allegations against Kushner, which if they were true would mean “there’s no way” Kushner should be allowed to keep his security clearance. The investigations swirling around Donald Trump – a short guide Read more Kushner has expressed a willingness to testify about his meetings with Russian officials including the ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. “Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” attorney Jamie Gorelick said on Thursday. “He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.” Earlier this week, before the “back channel” allegations surfaced, it was reported that the FBI was looking into Kushner’s contacts with Russia, indicating that its investigation has reached not only the Trump’s inner circle but his family. According to the Washington Post, the FBI is looking at a Trump Tower meeting between Kushner and Russian diplomat Kislyak as an item of “investigative interest”. In public on Sunday, Trump and senior administration figures sought to deflect the focus onto “leakers” and the press. In a string of early morning tweets, of which some were deleted and reposted for spelling errors, Trump said it was his opinion that “many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media”. Advertisement Saying it was “very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers”, Trump also complained about leaks believed to have come from US intelligence sources regarding the suicide bombing in Manchester earlier this week in which 22 people were killed. “British prime minister May was very angry that the info the UK gave to US about Manchester was leaked,” he wrote. “Gave me full details!” News stories quoting anonymous sources are a staple of US political journalism. Trump himself has frequently cited anonymous sources, notably in his public criticism of the Obama administration, most infamously when announcing in 2012 that an “extremely credible source” had told him Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent – a demonstrably untrue claim. Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kelly said it was “borderline, if not over the line of treason” to leak highly classified information from foreign intelligence. “It’s darn close to treason,” he added. The homeland security secretary was specifically talking about information leaked relating to the bombing in Manchester, but the comments had broader implications under a presidency that has been either implicated in or the victim of numerous leaks of sensitive information. Obama director of national intelligence James Clapper, meanwhile, told NBC Kushner’s reported attempt to initiate back channel talks with Moscow “certainly arouses your concern about what is going on, given [that] Russia, at least for my money, is our primary adversary”. “They are not our friends,” he said. “They are in to do us in.” Play VideoPlay Current Time

The Trump White House is reportedly considering a major personnel shakeup, in response to the latest in a string of Russia-related scandals that have kept the administration on the defensive for weeks.

The White House did not directly comment on the report although Trump later tweeted that the reports were “fabricated”.

National security adviser HR McMaster told reporters in Sicily on Saturday he was “not concerned” and on Sunday homeland security secretary John Kelly told NBC he did not “see any big issue here relative to Jared”.

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Kelly said “back channel” communications were “both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable. Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us, is a good thing.”

 Any such efforts by the Trump transition team would however have been contrary to the accepted practice of “one president at a time”, in which outgoing administrations remain in charge of foreign affairs until inauguration day.

In office, Trump remains under pressure. The FBI and several congressional committees are currently investigating contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials.

According to press reports citing anonymous sources, the White House is in the process of putting together a new public relations operation, known in DC parlance as a “war room”, to deal with ongoing revelations. Trump is also reported to be considering retooling the way his administration communicates with the press and public.

 This could include, as the Washington Post reported, a smaller role for press secretary Sean Spicer, more campaign-style rallies – although an event scheduled for Iowa on Thursday was canceled this weekend – and perhaps the return of Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as Trump’s campaign manager last year.

It was not initially clear if Kushner stepping down or taking on a reduced role is part of the potential reshuffle. On Sunday Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told ABC’s This Week that reports about Kushner were “obviously very concerning … in the context of an election campaign where the Russians had been intervening to help Donald Trump and to hurt Hillary Clinton.”

Congress, Schiff said, needed to “get to the bottom” of the allegations against Kushner, which if they were true would mean “there’s no way” Kushner should be allowed to keep his security clearance.

“Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” attorney Jamie Gorelick said on Thursday. “He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Earlier this week, before the “back channel” allegations surfaced, it was reported that the FBI was looking into Kushner’s contacts with Russia, indicating that its investigation has reached not only the Trump’s inner circle but his family. According to the Washington Post, the FBI is looking at a Trump Tower meeting between Kushner and Russian diplomat Kislyak as an item of “investigative interest”.

In public on Sunday, Trump and senior administration figures sought to deflect the focus onto “leakers” and the press.

In a string of early morning tweets, of which some were deleted and reposted for spelling errors, Trump said it was his opinion that “many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media”.

Saying it was “very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers”, Trump also complained about leaks believed to have come from US intelligence sources regarding the suicide bombing in Manchester earlier this week in which 22 people were killed.

“British prime minister May was very angry that the info the UK gave to US about Manchester was leaked,” he wrote. “Gave me full details!”

News stories quoting anonymous sources are a staple of US political journalism. Trump himself has frequently cited anonymous sources, notably in his public criticism of the Obama administration, most infamously when announcing in 2012 that an “extremely credible source” had told him Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent – a demonstrably untrue claim.

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kelly said it was “borderline, if not over the line of treason” to leak highly classified information from foreign intelligence.

“It’s darn close to treason,” he added.

The homeland security secretary was specifically talking about information leaked relating to the bombing in Manchester, but the comments had broader implications under a presidency that has been either implicated in or the victim of numerous leaks of sensitive information.

Obama director of national intelligence James Clapper, meanwhile, told NBC Kushner’s reported attempt to initiate back channel talks with Moscow “certainly arouses your concern about what is going on, given [that] Russia, at least for my money, is our primary adversary”.

“They are not our friends,” he said. “They are in to do us in.”

TRUMP’S THUGGISHNESS INCITES VIOLENCE

Trump mulls shakeup as Kelly says ‘back channel’ talks are ‘a good thing’

Amidst scandal over Jared Kushner’s alleged links to the Russian ambassador, homeland security secretary plays defense while president complains on Twitter

 Donald and Melania Trump walk to the White House on Saturday night after returning from a nine-day trip abroad.
Donald and Melania Trump walk to the White House on Saturday night after returning from a nine-day trip abroad. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump White House is reportedly considering a major personnel shakeup, in response to the latest in a string of Russia-related scandals that have kept the administration on the defensive for weeks.

The White House did not directly comment on the report although Trump later tweeted that the reports were “fabricated”.

National security adviser HR McMaster told reporters in Sicily on Saturday he was “not concerned” and on Sunday homeland security secretary John Kelly told NBC he did not “see any big issue here relative to Jared”.

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Kelly said “back channel” communications were “both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable. Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us, is a good thing.”

 Any such efforts by the Trump transition team would however have been contrary to the accepted practice of “one president at a time”, in which outgoing administrations remain in charge of foreign affairs until inauguration day.

In office, Trump remains under pressure. The FBI and several congressional committees are currently investigating contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials.

According to press reports citing anonymous sources, the White House is in the process of putting together a new public relations operation, known in DC parlance as a “war room”, to deal with ongoing revelations. Trump is also reported to be considering retooling the way his administration communicates with the press and public.

 This could include, as the Washington Post reported, a smaller role for press secretary Sean Spicer, more campaign-style rallies – although an event scheduled for Iowa on Thursday was canceled this weekend – and perhaps the return of Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as Trump’s campaign manager last year.

It was not initially clear if Kushner stepping down or taking on a reduced role is part of the potential reshuffle. On Sunday Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told ABC’s This Week that reports about Kushner were “obviously very concerning … in the context of an election campaign where the Russians had been intervening to help Donald Trump and to hurt Hillary Clinton.”

Congress, Schiff said, needed to “get to the bottom” of the allegations against Kushner, which if they were true would mean “there’s no way” Kushner should be allowed to keep his security clearance.

“Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” attorney Jamie Gorelick said on Thursday. “He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Earlier this week, before the “back channel” allegations surfaced, it was reported that the FBI was looking into Kushner’s contacts with Russia, indicating that its investigation has reached not only the Trump’s inner circle but his family. According to the Washington Post, the FBI is looking at a Trump Tower meeting between Kushner and Russian diplomat Kislyak as an item of “investigative interest”.

In public on Sunday, Trump and senior administration figures sought to deflect the focus onto “leakers” and the press.

In a string of early morning tweets, of which some were deleted and reposted for spelling errors, Trump said it was his opinion that “many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media”.

Saying it was “very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers”, Trump also complained about leaks believed to have come from US intelligence sources regarding the suicide bombing in Manchester earlier this week in which 22 people were killed.

“British prime minister May was very angry that the info the UK gave to US about Manchester was leaked,” he wrote. “Gave me full details!”

News stories quoting anonymous sources are a staple of US political journalism. Trump himself has frequently cited anonymous sources, notably in his public criticism of the Obama administration, most infamously when announcing in 2012 that an “extremely credible source” had told him Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent – a demonstrably untrue claim.

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kelly said it was “borderline, if not over the line of treason” to leak highly classified information from foreign intelligence.

“It’s darn close to treason,” he added.

The homeland security secretary was specifically talking about information leaked relating to the bombing in Manchester, but the comments had broader implications under a presidency that has been either implicated in or the victim of numerous leaks of sensitive information.

Obama director of national intelligence James Clapper, meanwhile, told NBC Kushner’s reported attempt to initiate back channel talks with Moscow “certainly arouses your concern about what is going on, given [that] Russia, at least for my money, is our primary adversary”.

“They are not our friends,” he said. “They are in to do us in.”

The son-in-law behind the throne: Jared Kushner’s rise and rise

Close friend of Trump investigated over alleged €170m tax evasion

Real estate mogul Thomas Barrack, under investigation in Italy, played a critical role in Trump’s 2016 US presidential campaign

Thomas Barrack
Thomas Barrack speaking to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in January. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

A close friend and major fundraiser for Donald Trump is under investigation in Italy for allegedly evading €170m (£147m, $190m) in taxes after the sale of a luxury resort on Sardinia’s Emerald Coast, the beach playground frequented by Gulf Arabs and Russian oligarchs.

Thomas Barrack played a critical role in Trump’s 2016 election campaign and inauguration and has been described as one of the president’s key advisers outside the West Wing.

At the heart of allegations against Barrack in Italy are claims that he and associates in his private equity firm, Colony Capital, orchestrated a complicated scheme involving Luxembourg-based companies to shield tens of millions of euros from Italian tax authorities after Colony’s 2012 sale of the Costa Smeralda resort to Qatar for €600m ($670m).

Last year, Barrack helped to recruit his longtime close friend, the former lobbyist Paul Manafort, who had a history of lobbying on behalf of Russian and Ukrainian interests close to Vladimir Putin, to join Trump’s campaign. Manafort served as the campaign’s chairman before he resigned. Manafort, who went yachting on the Mediterranean with Barrack after his departure from the campaign, is now a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Barrack, who saved Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch from foreclosure while the singer was still alive, was the first major business figure to lend Trump his stamp of approval, calling the Republican candidate “intrinsically and academically first class” and “kind, compassionate, empathetic”.

A recent profile described the real estate mogul as “impeccably fit at 69”. His close friend and business partner, the actor Rob Lowe – with whom Barrack and others bought Hollywood studio Miramax before selling it in 2016 to a Qatari media group – told the LA Times that Barrack used his private plane the way his own children used Uber.

“When I get him on the phone, he’s as likely to be in Riyadh or Paris as he is to be in LA,” Lowe told the newspaper. The fact that Barrack is sitting at the table with Trump “should make everybody happy”, he said.

In the run-up to the election, few endorsements of Trump seemed as personal as those delivered by Barrack.“Donald’s natural alliance is with the little guy,” Barrack told Charlie Rose during the Republican National Convention last year. “He is a disruptor … a man who can step into the middle of the fray and take the heat.”

Barrack at the Republican National Convention
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Barrack at the Republican National Convention last year. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Italian investigation into Barrack’s financial activities in Sardinia is unrelated to Trump and Manafort. But it relates to Barrack’s dealings with Qatar, and Barrack – who speaks Arabic and began his career working for the Saudi royal family – is seen as having influence over Trump’s Middle East policy.

Shortly before the US election, Barrack called for a “radical historic shift in [the US] outreach towards the Arab world”, singling out “brilliant young leaders” in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia who he claimed represented the region’s best hope. Writing in Fortune, he also said that “the only solution [to the Syrian war] is one that works with Russia and not against them”.

Barrack’s business ties to the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund, and its 2012 purchase of four luxury hotels and acres of undeveloped land in Sardinia, which were acquired through a subsidiary of QIA, are now under intense scrutiny.

Details of the allegations are complex and involve several entities that are based in Luxembourg, a tax haven, and the US state of Delaware, where many shell companies are incorporated. Deutsche Bank, which also serves as a private bank for Trump and his close family and has been mired in legal troubles in the US, advised Colony on the deal.

The Costa Smeralda, as it is known, was established by the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, in the early 1960s. He wanted to develop the 35-mile patch of northern coast for his close friends. Decades later it became a hotspot known for attracting the world’s richest playboys and their yachts.

A prosecutor in Sardinia, who declined to comment on the case, is examining whether the Los Angeles businessman and his associates purposely sought to load an entity linked to the Sardinian resort with artificial debts in the years before it was sold in order to structure the sale as a tax-free transaction. As part of the alleged scheme, a Colony-linked entity sold bonds to a major hedge fund called TPG Axon.

Details of the alleged tax dodge are contained in a legal document prepared by a prosecutor that outlines the charges that are expected to be filed against Barrack and other Colony Capital executives, among others.

According to the document, a Luxembourg-based unit of TPG Axon, along with various Colony Capital entities, are under investigation for being part of a criminal conspiracy to create a tax scheme that defrauded the Italian treasury.

Under Italian rules, a prosecutor must first formally notify individuals that they are under investigation before charges can be filed, a process that a person familiar with the inquiry said has begun.

A spokesman for TPG Axon said it loaned money to a Colony Capital entity but its role was passive. “The allegation as made is completely without merit,” the TPG Axon spokesman said.

Barrack is not the only individual named in the legal document. The alleged conspiracy, which also involved alleged public corruption, names 23 individuals, including an Italian senator for Forza Italia, Franco Carraro, and Aleksandra Dubrova, Barrack’s Russian-born associate who was once listed on Colony’s website as a vice-president in charge of managing the company’s European investments.

A lawyer for Carraro declined to comment.

A lawyer for Dubrova, who resides in Rome, criticised the investigation, which he said had involved “wiretaps, seizures and searches” and was “very complicated”.

“The investigation is full of problems, full of issues, full of defects. For what it concerns my client, the Russian lady Aleksandra Dubrova, she is absolutely innocent and not involved in any of the allegations moved against her,” the lawyer Emilio Riccio, said. He said her position at Colony had changed.

Six of the executives named in the legal document who are connected to Colony Capital – though not Barrack himself – are being represented by Paola Severino, a Rome-based lawyer and former justice minister. Severino declined to comment.

The Qatar Investment Authority did not respond to several requests for comment.

Last year, Italian media outlets reported that Barrack’s company paid €22m ($25m) to settle legal questions over the tax treatment of the property sale to Qatar. But that did not end the investigation into the transaction. A spokesman for Colony said the firm could not verify whether it made the payment.

Colony Capital is merging with two other companies to create a new company, Colony NorthStar, which will have more than $58bn (€52bn) in assets under management.

Sisters of Charity give up role in Dublin maternity hospital

Nuns from a Catholic order that presided over child abuse end their involvement in hospital after public outrage

People protest in Dublin
People protest in Dublin over plans to grant ownership of the maternity hospital to the Sisters of Charity religious order. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Nuns from a Catholic order that ran institutions in Ireland where women were enslaved and children abused for decades have given up any involvement in running the country’s new national maternity hospital.

After weeks of pressure and public outrage, the Sisters of Charity announced on Monday it was ending its role in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG), the trust set up to manage the new maternity facilities in Dublin.

In a statement, the Sisters of Charity said it would not be involved in the ownership or management of the new hospital.

It said the two sisters on the board would resign with immediate effect.

Last month, one of Ireland’s most respected obstetricians, Dr Peter Boylan, resigned from the board after it emerged that the religious order responsible for running the notorious Magdalene Laundries would exercise influence over the new hospital.

His resignation was the latest controversy in the debate about church-state relations and the influence of Catholic institutions in provision of public services in Ireland.

Two large demonstrations were held over the last few weeks protesting against the Sisters of Charity’s proposed role in running the hospital. More than 100,000 signed an online petition opposing the move.

The Sisters of Charity was one of the orders that ran the Magdalene Laundries, institutions that were controlled by Catholic orders from the late 18th century and well into the 20th.

Many of those incarcerated were young, unmarried women who became pregnant and had their babies taken from them – in some cases sold to wealthy Catholic couples without children in the US.

In 2013, the taoiseach, Enda Kenny, issued an apology on behalf of the Irish state to the women held in the institutions. Kenny said their maltreatment and exploitation had “cast a long shadow over Irish life”.

A financial redress scheme was set up in Ireland after an inquiry published in 2009 detailed abuse against children in residential institutions. The Sisters of Charity offered to pay €5m towards the €1.5bn redress bill and inquiry costs incurred by the state, but has so far contributed only €2m.

Overall, Irish Catholic orders have agreed to pay almost a quarter of the bill, but an audit report published in December 2016 found they had still contributed only 13% to the overall compensation costs for victims.

Doctor jumps Onstage to warn Crowd to leave Anti-Vax film:Your ptresence will cause babies to die

PERSONAL HEALTH

Doctor Jumps Onstage to Warn Crowd to Leave Anti-Vax Film: ‘Your Presence Here Will Cause Babies to Die’

Two audience members left after his warning.

 

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Photo Credit: didesign021 / Shutterstock

A doctor jumped onstage during the screening of a controversial anti-vaccine film to warn the audience they were putting the lives of their children and others at risk.

Dr. Lance O’Sullivan bought a ticket for the film, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” but delivered his warning before the showing began, reported the New Zealand Herald.

“I’ve come here not to watch the film, but to continue my battle and my challenge for my people and, importantly, for our children,” O’Sullivan said. “I come here with a lot of anger because I am adamantly opposed to this. This idea of anti-immunization has killed children around the world and actually will continue to kill children whose parents are put off immunization because of misinformation — misinformation based on lies.”

The Northland doctor, who was named New Zealander of the Year in 2014 for his charitable work, took aim at anti-vaxxers — including the filmmakers who explored the fraudulent claim that autism is linked to immunizations — who have deceived parents and put children at risk.

“Fraudulent people for their own reasons have decided that they would put forward false information that actually causes harm to children,” O’Sullivan said. “Your presence here will cause babies to die.”

The physician tried to discourage ticket holders from entering, and he said two audience members left after his warning.

Tricia Cheel, who organized the screening in Kaitaia, told News Now she was “flabbergasted” when O’Sullivan “invaded the stage.”

“He was obviously enraged and he was pointing his fingers,” she said. “He ended up saying we would be responsible for the death of his vulnerable children — very threatening behavior.”

Cheel said doctors have been lied to about the safety of immunizations, and she argued that physicians and parents had a right to decide for themselves what they believe is safe.

“That to me was interfering with people’s right to find out for themselves,” Cheel said. “I can understand if he hasn’t seen the movie he doesn’t understand that a lot of what he’s accepted as truth may be based on false information.”

O’Sullivan agreed he was angry, but he told News Now the filmmakers and event organizers presented a public health threat.

“They shouldn’t be there, quite frankly, when these falsehoods of misinformation will cause harm to the children they are actually there to serve,” O’Sullivan said. “These are people that are public servants, and I think it’s incompatible for them to have views on, are supporters of this anti-immunization movement and work in these communities at the same time.”

Travis Gettys is an editor for Raw Story. 

APOCALYPTIC TEMPLE MOVEMENT SETS THE STAGE FOR SUMMER OF HOLY WAR

Was a provocative West Bank march led by Christian Zionist honcho Mike Huckabee a sign of trouble to come?

 

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Photo Credit: pixabay.com

Hours before the sun rose Monday morning, the former governor of Arkansas, presidential candidate and proud father of President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Mike Huckabee, set out on a politically provocative journey. Joined by 5,000 messianic Israeli settlers, Huckabee led an incursion under the armed guard of the Israeli army into the occupied West Bank city of Nablus to perform religious rituals at Joseph’s Tomb. By Huckabee’s side was Bezalel Smotrich, the fanatically right-wing member of parliament who recently unveiled his proposal to slaughter Palestinians who refuse to accept inferior status under Israeli apartheid rule.

“I hope the days comes when the freedom for God’s People to come and to pray is uninhibited and unhindered by any violence,” Huckabee intoned inside the tomb, “… that you could do it in the daylight, in the sunshine, and not in the darkness of night.”

Days later, Huckabee met with member of parliament named Yehudah Glick, the man whom Israeli police labeled the “most dangerous man in the Middle East,” following a long period of bloodshed sparked by his provocations.

Glick is the public face of the Temple Movement, an apocalyptic outfit masquerading as a campaign for Jewish prayer rights. The movement aims to wrest control of the Al Aqsa compound from its Muslim stewards by bulldozing the Islamic holy site and building a Jewish temple in its place. Next, it plans to install a rigid theocracy over all residents of the Holy Land that wages genocidal wars of conquest across the Middle East and beyond, carrying out ISIS-style beheadings against anyone who dares to resist.

“God commanded us to go from city to city, conquering them,” Chief Rabbi of the Temple Movement, Yisrael Ariel, explained in a closed meeting in 2014. “If they surrender and say, ‘From now on, there will be no more Christianity, no more Islam…’ then we will let you live. If not, you kill all of their men by sword!”

In Glick’s Temple Movement, Huckabee has found the Israeli counterpart to American Christian Zionism: an apocalyptic crusade hell bent on waging civilizational warfare against the followers of Islam. It has been a partnership long in the making, with Glick winning fans through extended appearances on Christian Zionist online channels like “The Coming Apocalypse” and “In the Last Days.”

Huckabee’s night jaunt came days before his former rival President Donald Trump made the second stop of his “Tolerance Tour” in Israel, following the billionaire commander-in-chief’s bizarre sword dance and terror-orb spectacle in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. While media coverage was focused was on Trump’s miscues and gaffes, Huckabee was forging alliances with two of the most extreme figures in a country whose government is already dominated by them.

Consisting of a tiny number of extremists on the fringes of Israeli society just a few decades ago, the Temple Movement has grown exponentially over the last decades. As its ideological home in the Religious Zionist camp has taken control of the country’s institutions, they have developed into a highly organized movement with broad public support, political influence and deep pockets.

Throughout the week, the Jerusalem municipality put on festivities celebrating the Israeli military’s conquest of the city 50 years before. Hours before Huckabee’s prayer march, several hundred Israelis gathered to watch a light show projected onto an outer wall of Jerusalem’s Old City and into the night sky, depicting Israel’s bullet-ridden conquest of East Jerusalem in 1967 as the latest stage in the reincarnation of biblical Jewish kingdoms.

“The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will always remain under Israeli sovereignty,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared. The mention of the Temple Mount was a new development for the Prime Minister – a nod to the political power of the emergent Temple Movement.

This past week, dozens of religious figures and members of parliament launched an unprecedented video campaign calling for Jewish incursions to the compound. The campaign’s most prominent leader was Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev, who made headlines when she wore a dress depicting the Al Aqsa compound and Jerusalem skyline at the Cannes Film Festival last week.

“I am calling on all of you – women, men, religious and secular – come ascend the Temple Mount to Jerusalem Day,” Regev said, standing at the Western Wall plaza with the Al Aqsa compound visible in the background.

Dozens of other political bigwigs released videos calling for Jewish ascent to the compound, from Likud’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely to Yehuda Etzion, a leader of the 1980s Jewish Underground militant network who served a brief prison sentence for plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock.

As Jerusalem Day kicked off, at least 1,000 settlers heeded the calls for Jewish ascent to Al Aqsa, flocking from religious seminaries around the country and West Bank settlements to the Moroccan Gate of the Old City. There, they entered the compound under military protection as soldiers assaulted Palestinians who challenge their presence.

While Jewish prayer at the compound is forbidden according to the status-quo agreed upon in 1967 – and per a nearly 2,000-year-old rabbinical ban that forbids any Jewish presence at the compound, let alone prayer, because of its holiness in Judaism – Temple Movement agitators see praying at Al Aqsa as a way to instigate violence and force Israeli authorities to accommodate them. In 2008, then Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, conceded that Jewish prayer at the Al Aqsa compound would lead to “provocation, resulting in disorder, with a near certain likelihood of subsequent bloodshed.” (Now a member of the Likud central committee, Dichter panders to the Temple Movement, promising its members in March that he would personally visit the Al Aqsa compound to “strengthen Israeli sovereignty.”)

Though Israeli public discourse about Al Aqsa is couched in a liberal discourse of “prayer rights,” the ideological core of the Temple Movement actually wishes to abolish the concept of prayer entirely. It aims instead to revert to what it considers the purest form of worship: animal sacrifice.

Indeed, the hardcore organizers at the heart of of the movement, the Temple Institute, often put on animal sacrifice events in public spaces in preparation for the construction of a Jewish temple  – or what would more accurately be described as a slaughterhouse of worship. According to their teachings, 10,000 to 15,000 animals would be sacrificed on the Passover holiday and priests would smear animal blood on the walls as it filled the temple’s central chamber and rose to the ankle. Jews who refuse who participate in the Passover sacrifice by eating a morsel of the animal flesh would be beaten to death.

As hundreds of Israelis toured the premise of the Al Aqsa compound, several dropped down into prone position and began to recite Shema Yisrael, the daily Jewish prayer, before being brisked away by Israeli police. Another group of settlers sang HaTikvah, Israel’s national anthem, as they entered the compound. Palestinian security guards who protested were beaten and detained by Israeli police.

As it gains influence over the Israeli government, the Temple Movement’s activities have fueled the flames of violence across the Holy Land. In 2015, Glick and his far-right acolyte, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, successfully lobbied Prime Minister Netanyahu to outlaw the Mourabitat and Mourabitoun, groups of Muslim worshippers who posed no physical threat to Jewish worshippers but who heckled settlers attempted to ascend to the Al Aqsa compound by shouting “God is great!” The ban sparked clashes across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with numerous incidents of Palestinians killed by Israeli police in the streets of East Jerusalem and at checkpoints in Hebron – most notably when an Israeli medic summarily executed Abdel Fatah al-Sharif.

Palestinians incensed by the escalation of violence launched demonstrations across Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, sometimes attempting to stab Israeli soldiers. Those bearing knives, and those falsely seen as attackers, were typically shot to death, often execution style. Israel’s security establishment pointed to Glick and the Temple Movement’s activities as a driving factor in the violence.

With tension brewing again around Jerusalem, Israeli escalations at the Al Aqsa compound and the rising power of the Temple Movement could spark a bloody summer of holy war. As one Israeli soldier recently remarked, “Every year, in spring you train. In the summer, you find out if it will really happen.”

8 EMBARRASSING THINGS TRUMP DID ON HIS EUROPEAN TOUR

8 Embarrassing Things Trump Did on His European Tour

We have to let this guy go out and humiliate the U.S. over and over?

For nine days, Donald Trump has been traveling across the Middle East and Europe, bringing every terrible stereotype about “ugly Americans” to vivid life. He labeled Germany (where he doesn’t have business interests) “very bad” after saying nary a critical word in Saudi Arabia (where he does have business interests). He chastised our partners in NATO while revealing he doesn’t actually understand how it all works. He literally threw his weight around like an attention-starved problem child, and he broadcast his every move to the world via his cellphone, which would be a security risk if we had a president anyone wanted to kidnap.

Mostly—when he wasn’t trading arms for political and personal gain—Trump acted like an embarrassing boor. He can’t help proving that he and his followers are the punchlines to a joke the rest of the world is laughing at.

Here are eight examples.

1. Lied to the new French president about supporting him in the election even though it’s really easy to find out he didn’t.

“You were my guy,” Trump reportedly said to newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron, a quote that suggests the president doesn’t know many of us have eyes and ears and internets that prove he’s lying. For someone so practiced at lying, the president remains terrible at it.

While Trump never explicitly endorsed noted Islamophobe, Holocaust revisionist and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen, he gushed over her racist bonafides during the French election. “She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” he said in an April interview with the Associated Press. “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”

On April 21, a couple days shy of the first round of voting, and 24 hours after the shooting of a police officer on the Champs-Élysées, Trump tweeted, “Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!”

2. Tried to pull that weird, aggressive handshake move with Macron and failed.

Probably because of his insecurity about his wittle Vulgarian fingers, Trump turns every handshake into a textbook display of macho posturing and heterosexual male insecurity. It’s happened enough times now that word has gotten around, and Macron had reportedly been forewarned by French ambassador Gérard Araud. The result, as you can see in a video below, was that Macron was fully ready for a hands-only cagematch and Trump found himself out-muscled by his French counterpart. Quelle tristesse!

3. Tried the handshake thing again with Macron. Failed again.

Arriving at NATO headquarters, Macron doubled down, and then tripled down on his Trump diss. First, as Macron walked toward Trump in a cluster of world leaders, he did a super conspicuous dodge of the U.S. president and instead veered toward German chancellor Angela Merkel and also anyone not named Donald Trump. Only after Macron ran out of ways to avoid Trump did he finally take Trump’s extended hand, but immediately turned the American president’s yank-and-pull tactic against him. Watching the video, below, you can almost hear every single person thinking, is this guy for real?

4. Asked Macron for his private cellphone number.

Of course, it makes sense that Trump would develop a new respect, and probably a reverence for anyone who beats him in a pissing match. After repeatedly witnessing Macron’s feats of strength, Trump turned fanboy and decided he wanted Macron for a new best friend. “Do you want my cell phone [number] so we can speak directly to each other?” Trump reportedly asked the big, strong Frenchman.

5. Physically pushed Montenegro’s leader out of his way.

Trump wanted to be in the front row when pictures were taken so he pushed his way to the front of the crowd of assembled leaders. That included shoving Montenegro Prime Minister Duško Marković to one side. A lot was written about Trump’s offensive behavior, but CNN pointed out a mostly overlooked bit about NATO, Montenegro and Trump’s idol, Vladimir Putin:

This was Markovic’s and Montenegro’s first NATO summit. The tiny Balkan country has just been accepted into the alliance, much to Moscow’s chagrin. How much chagrin? Authorities in Montenegro say they stopped a Russian-backed plot to kill Markovic’s predecessor, which was aimed at preventing Montenegro from joining NATO. They have arrested 14 people, including two Russians. (Russia denies involvement.) The plot, prosecutors say, sought to install a new government loyal to Russia and opposed to Montenegro’s efforts to grow closer to the West and to NATO. The plot failed, and now Montenegro is becoming NATO’s 29th member.

Watch how, after bullying his way to the front, cocky Trump tugs on his suit jacket with smug satisfaction. Because he is the absolute worst.

6. Made a NATO speech that gave world leaders a good, derisive laugh.

“NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations,” Trump said in a lecture he delivered at NATO headquarters. “But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying, and what they are supposed to be paying, for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.”

Trump seems to think NATO is like a social club, with member nations paying dues into some central kitty. It isn’t. A 2014 agreement established that member countries should be spending 2 percent of their GDP on their own military defense. Those countries have until 2024 to hit that goal. Trump is trying to be the world’s policeman on a policy that’s neither set in stone nor even a concern for another seven years. It’s also rich coming from someone whose most noted business practice is refusal to pay his debts.

The speech went over like a lead balloon with assembled world leaders, who smirked, snickered and whispered to each other as Trump spoke. In the video below, Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel and France’s Macron seem to share a giggle at Trump’s expense.

“And I never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost,” Trump added. “I refuse to do that.”

Here’s Angela Merkel looking rightly annoyed.

You can see the stifled giggles on the faces of Estonian prime minister Jüri Ratas, Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and French president Emmanuel Macron.

7. Riding in his golf cart while everyone else walks in Italy,

A summation of Trump’s afternoon on Saturday, from the Times of London:

The distance between Donald Trump and his G7 partners was spelled out dramatically today when Theresa May and the leaders of Italy, France, Germany, Japan and Canada strolled the streets of Taormina, Sicily — while he followed in a golf cart.

The six are planning to put pressure on Mr. Trump over his opposition to free trade and efforts to combat climate change. They walked the 700 yards from the traditional G7 group photo, taken at a Greek amphitheatre, to a piazza in the hilltop town, but Mr. Trump stayed behind until he could take a seat in the electric vehicle.

He had been the last to arrive for the photo, keeping the others waiting at the amphitheatre…

———————————————————————————

“She doesn’t have the stamina,” Trump, probably on the verge of being winded, said of Hillary Clinton last year. “I said she doesn’t have the stamina, and I don’t believe she does have the stamina.”

8. Complained that he hasn’t been given carte blanche to make a fast buck in Europe.

“Every time we talk about a country, he remembered the things he had done. Scotland? He said he had opened a club. Ireland? He said it took him two and a half years to get a license and that did not give him a very good image of the European Union,” according to a source who spoke with Belgian outlet Le Soir. “One feels that he wants a system where everything can be realized very quickly and without formalities.”