Last week, the American public saw for the first time detailed, specific evidence that President Vladimir V. Putin’s military commanders in Russia were engaged in a day-to-day, highly sophisticated effort to manipulate the 2016 election.
But on Monday, standing next to Mr. Putin, President Trump not only avoided all mention of the Justice Department’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers but he questioned the very conclusion that Russia was behind the hacking.
Instead, Mr. Trump raised a series of largely irrelevant conspiracy theories — none of which were directly related to the evidence of Russian hacking activity.
He returned to questions of why the F.B.I. never took custody of a Democratic National Committee computer server.
He asked what happened to Imran Awan, a Pakistan-born Capitol Hill aide, who pleaded guilty this month on unrelated fraud charges after becoming a cause célèbre for conservatives who questioned whether he was linked to the committee’s hacking. (A July 3 plea agreement found no evidence that Mr. Awan illegally handled congressional computer systems.)
And Mr. Trump demanded to know why thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails had disappeared, a question apparently unrelated to Russia’s activities.
It was a smoke-and-mirrors effort, several American intelligence officials said later Monday. While Mr. Trump’s supporters repeatedly return to the question of the Democratic National Committee’s reluctance to turn over its server, which still sits in the committee’s basement, investigators familiar with the intelligence in the case said the hardware itself is of little investigative value.
That is because the emails were always supposed to be stored in the party committee’s server. How they made their way into communications channels and networks used by the G.R.U., Mr. Putin’s aggressive military intelligence unit, is the crux of the investigation. And so is the question of who ordered that they are made public at critical moments in the 2016 campaign.
The Russian president, for his part, was more subtle.
Mr. Putin invited American investigators working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to come to Moscow and work with Russian officials in a joint investigation. It was akin to the prime suspect in a homicide offering to join detectives in going house to house in a search for the culprit.
“Putin is just trying to tie this investigation thing up,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Mr. Lewis said the Russian president “wants to assert himself as a peer.” He noted that Mr. Putin again raised the proposal of a joint cybersecurity working group — an idea that Mr. Trump initially and enthusiastically supported until his staff explained the dangers of potentially undercutting American cyberdefense programs.
“He must just laugh when he gets back to Moscow,” Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Trump’s own effort at misdirection is not new.
When he first met Mr. Putin a year ago, in Hamburg, Germany, he said the Russian leader had made a persuasive case that Moscow was so skilled at cyber attacks it could not have been involved. Mr. Trump offered a version of the same explanation on Monday, saying Mr. Putin had been enormously persuasive in his denials.
That shocked many of his current and former aides, who say the president has been briefed repeatedly — starting at Trump Tower in Manhattan in January 2017 — on the basis for the conclusion that Mr. Putin himself ordered the attack. The aides said Mr. Trump understands that American, British and Dutch intelligence all intercepted Russian messages and Democratic National Committee documents.
The American president has also been told that the F.B.I. has received a full “forensic copy” of the committee’s server. That is a fairly standard practice and, as the committee noted Monday in a statement, is “the best thing to use in an investigation so that your exploration of the server does not change the evidence.”
And Mr. Trump has been briefed extensively on the specific roles of the newly indicted Russian military commanders in publishing stolen emails and attempts to infiltrate election systems.
His equivocating on Monday left several people who have worked with him to conclude that the president simply will not accept evidence of Russian involvement — fearing it could be used by political enemies to argue he was not legitimately elected.
More than 18 months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has stood alone as the sole senior American official who has questioned the quality of the evidence.
His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said he had no doubts about Russia’s involvement when he served as director of the C.I.A. The heads of the National Security Agency and the other leading intelligence agencies have said the same.
Mr. Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, went further last week when he argued that the system was “blinking red” about future cyber attacks, maybe intended to affect the next election. On Monday, shortly after his boss questioned whether Mr. Putin or the American intelligence community was right, Mr. Coats responded, “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
In a normal political environment, it is easy to imagine a president pursuing the investigation even while making the case that the 2016 outcome was not affected by the Russian activities. Mr. Trump, his closest aides say, has never been able to separate the question of preventing future Russian meddling from his conviction that the entire issue is a political concoction.
The effects of that paralysis are now being seen. At the White House, the job of cyber-coordinator — the post responsible for coordinating American defenses — has been eliminated.
The Department of Homeland Security has raised urgent concerns about the vulnerability of American critical infrastructure, including electric utilities, to malware planted by Russian hackers. But Mr. Trump has never led a significant meeting on the subject, aides said. He never created a commission to learn lessons from the 2016 experience.
Now, as was clear in the most awkward moments of the news conference, the issue is more complicated for both Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin.
The intelligence revealed in Friday’s indictment contains such specific conversations between Russian military officers, WikiLeaks, and others that it would reasonably leave both presidents concerned about what else from the American intelligence trove may have been turned over to Mr. Mueller. If there were Americans involved, they would have to assume they, too, were caught in the digital dragnet.
Mr. Mueller’s investigation is clearly not yet over, and there are hints in the Friday indictments that he is now trying to establish the links between the Russian hackers and any Americans who may have been working with them. Perhaps that is why Mr. Trump kept returning to his claim that there was no collusion — a question the special counsel has not yet publicly addressed.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine spill over to Byzantine world of Orthodox church
KIEV, Ukraine — For centuries, the golden cupolas of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery and catacombs have been a refuge of tranquillity and prayer in Orthodox Christianity. It is now caught in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia as it spills into the world of faith.
What is at stake is whether the Ukrainian church can formally break away from Russia’s control and become a new autonomous branch among Orthodoxy’s more than a dozen churches.
But it also reflects the broader battlegrounds of nationalism and political identity that helped touch off a separatist uprising in pro-Moscow areas of eastern Ukraine more than four years ago. Fighting has claimed more than 10,300 lives, and Moscow in 2014 annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in a move that has brought international denunciations.
Ukraine’s political leaders are now pushing for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be entirely free of Russia’s oversight. Moscow, however, is using its vast influence with the Orthodox world to block any rupture.
“The Russian Orthodox Church won’t sit idly by and watch this,” said Archbishop Kliment Vecheria, spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is part of the Russian church.
An independent Ukrainian church — or “autocephalous” in ecclesiastical terms — would mean little in everyday terms for the faithful. But for Ukraine’s political leaders and others, it would mark another important symbolic break from Russia and its reach into Ukrainian affairs.
Russia, which has the largest number of Orthodox believers and views itself largely as the leader of the Orthodox world, vehemently objects to the plan.
“For the entire Orthodox world the single preferable scenario is the preservation of unity,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The Russian Orthodox Church has even compared the granting of an independent church to Ukraine to the schism between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches in 1054.
The decision now falls to the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, from his base in Istanbul, the former Byzantine capital of Constantinople. He could announce this week whether to approve Ukraine’s appeal.
More than two-thirds of Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians. But in an arrangement that dates back more than 300 years, the country’s main religious body falls under the authority of Moscow, and not Kiev.
“Excuse my pathos, but this is really about Russia’s control over the minds and souls of the Ukrainian people,” said Viktor Yelensky, one of the Ukrainian lawmakers who in April voted overwhelmingly in favour of President Petro Poroshenko’s appeal to Bartholomew to recognize an independent Ukrainian church.
Since the April vote, Bartholomew has been visited by delegations of Ukrainian and Russian clergy, each pleading their case.
According to an investigation by the Associated Press, Russian efforts to impede the process included a cyberattack on the email accounts of Bartholomew’s top aides. (The ecumenical patriarch himself does not use email.)
“Moscow is painting Ukraine as an aggressor, and they’re portraying the drive for autocephaly as an offensive. But for the Ukrainians, it’s defensive,” said Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history and Russian and East European Studies at Wesleyan University.
Publicly, the Russians are objecting on grounds of jurisdiction. Such questions as the granting of autocephaly, they say, should be decided unanimously by Orthodox Christianity’s various churches — not unilaterally by Bartholomew.
Observers of the Orthodox Christian world say the dispute goes much deeper. It dips into the age-old struggle between Moscow and Constantinople for primacy among Orthodoxy’s more than 250 million followers, and Putin’s grand strategy of branding his regime as the world’s main defender of traditional Christian values.
“Constantinople is not beholden to Moscow. They are competitors, not partners,” said Smolkin.
“It really undermines all their advertising, or marketing, so to speak, of their role on the globe,” saidGeorge Demacopoulos, co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University.
“There are real geopolitical implications for this,” he continued. “Especially when you have a figure like Putin, who manages to mask the sufferings of his people by this projection of international power.”
Russia’s power play is made possible by the decentralized structure of the Orthodox Church, which lacks an all-powerful central authority figure like the pope.
Instead, the Patriarch of Constantinople is considered a “first among equals” among the other Orthodox patriarchs. His opinions — thanks to tradition and Constantinople’s historical central role in the formation of the Eastern Church — carry more weight.
“The whole concept of autocephalous churches is supposed to avoid secular ambitions of power,” said the Rev. Archdeacon John Chrysavvgis, who serves as an adviser to Bartholomew.
Still, many decisions are reached among Orthodoxy’s 14 constituent churches, which largely conform to national borders, like Bulgaria, Romania and Russia, and also include the ancient regional churches that were part of the Byzantine Empire, like the one based in Alexandria, Egypt.
Should the Ukrainian Church become the 15th church, fresh battles over parishes and church property are likely to erupt.
According to Demacopoulos, Ukraine makes up at least one-third of the Russian Church’s parishes. Their loss would be significant.
Crowning these properties is the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, or the Monastery of the Caves, perched on a bluff overlooking the Dnieper River, in one of the capital’s more exclusive neighborhoods.
To enter through its frescoed gates is to immerse oneself in a world full of cassocked monks, hushed, genuflecting worshipers and more than 100 religious structures. At its heart is a labyrinth of catacombs, which date from the 11th century and are the final resting place of some of Eastern Orthodoxy’s most revered figures.
For now, the Lavra is divided into an upper section, which the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture administers as a historical site, and a lower monastery, which is leased by the Moscow Patriarchate.
Ferris-Rotman reported from Moscow.
Alex Jones Net Worth | $56,871,838
Alexander Emric Jones (born February 11, 1974) is an American radio show host and conspiracy theorist. He hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas, which airs on the Genesis Communications Network across the United States and online. So what is Alex Jones net worth? and how we estimate his net worth?
Alex Jones Net Worth | $56,871,838
How do we estimate his net-worth? We combine all his sources of Incomes together.
YouTube: $85k – $1.5 Million
Facebook, Twitter + Podcast shows: $1 Million
His online Shop: $10 Million
Jones runs a website, Infowars.com, devoted to conspiracy theories and fake news. According to amount of traffic the media website receives , it is estimated to be worth around $46 Million.
Take a look bellow the RankAnk’s updated chart:
Jones has been the center of many controversies, including his promotion of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories, and his aggressive opposition to gun control in a debate with Piers Morgan. He has accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and the filming of fake Moon landings to hide NASA’s secret technology.
August 8th, 2018 Alex Jones net worth went down from his social media revenue sources, according to recent new Alex Jones and his Infowars content is removed from Apple, Facebook and YouTube platforms.
Top technology companies erased most of the posts and videos on their services from Alex Jones, the internet’s notorious conspiracy theorist, thrusting themselves into a fraught debate over their role in regulating what can be said online.
Jones has large following on social media and has created a mega audience through out the years.
Also Read: Boonk Gang Net Worth
Also Read: Woahhvicky Net Worth
California Today: What Trump’s Auto Emissions Plan Means for California
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President Trump has taken one of his strongest shots yet at California, as the White House on Thursday unveiled its proposal to throttle back President Barack Obama’s regulations on planet-warming vehicle tailpipe pollution — including a plan to revoke California’s right to set its own standard.
The administration’s proposal, jointly published by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, would roll back a 2012 rule that required automakers to nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles to an average of about 54 miles per gallon by 2025. It would halt requirements that automakers build cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, including hybrids and electric vehicles.
The new proposal would freeze the increase of average fuel economy standards after 2021 at about 37 miles per gallon, while challenging a legal waiver — granted to California under the 1970 Clean Air Act and now followed by 13 other states — that lets those states set more stringent pollution standards than the federal government’s.
Gov. Jerry Brown did not mince words in his response: “For Trump to now destroy a law first enacted at the request of Ronald Reagan five decades ago is a betrayal and an assault on the health of Americans everywhere,” he said.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that he would lead a 19-state lawsuit against the proposal once it was finalized.
Speaking of the wildfires now ripping through Northern California, and noting the scientific conclusions that a hotter, drier planet caused by climate change can worsen such fires, Mr. Becerra said, “The pollution we’re all seeing, and certainly here in Los Angeles, that pollution is fueling the death and destruction we’re seeing here in California.”
Once filed, such a lawsuit could drag on for years. If the states win, it could split the national auto market in two — an outcome that automakers have called a worst-case scenario.
In hopes of avoiding that end, William Wehrum, the top clean air official at the E.P.A., said he still would like to find a way to broker a deal with California over the rule before it is finalized, probably this year or early next year.
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• Mr. Trump’s rollback of auto emissions rules could upend California’s electric car industry. [McClatchy]
• California will also join a lawsuit against the Trump administration to block the release of blueprints for 3-D printed guns. [The Los Angeles Times]
• Of the 81 candidates Mr. Obama endorsed for the midterm elections, 10 were California Democrats. [CALmatters]
• The Mendocino Complex Fires have burned more than 110,000 acres and are still growing. New evacuation orders have been issued as the blazes resist containment. [San Francisco Chronicle]
• Two decades ago, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. Now it’s the first publicly traded American company to be worth more than $1 trillion. [The New York Times]
• How much is that, exactly? You’d need dozens of major companies — or entire industries — to match Apple’s market value. Take a look with this interactive. [The New York Times]
• A donation from a prominent L.A. politician has roiled U.S.C., which had hired him as a professor and awarded him a scholarship. Now the university has started an investigation and referred the case to federal prosecutors. [The Los Angeles Times]
• The killing of Nia Wilson at a BART station last month “brings into brutal focus multiple American crises,” a New Yorker writer notes. [The New Yorker]
• “They do not like Californians.” Some fleeing their expensive home state have met resistance from their new neighbors in the Pacific Northwest. [SFGate]
• Blaze Bernstein, the Orange County college student who was found stabbed to death earlier this year, was targeted by a former classmate for being gay, prosecutors said. The suspect will now face hate crime charges. [Orange County Register]
• A Salinas-based produce company has been linked to tainted bagged salad mixes that have sickened people at McDonald’s restaurants and grocery stores across the country. [The Los Angeles Times]
• San Francisco health officials will now track electric scooter injuries. [The New York Times]
• The selection of Klaus Biesenbach as the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles drew fanfare from some, but it also raised questions about the museum’s commitment to diversity. [The New York Times]
• “I think I’m just really grateful to be alive.” A former Marine officer spent time at Camp Pendleton and was deployed to Australia and East Asia before settling in San Francisco. Now he wrestles with ambivalence for never having seen combat while serving. [The New York Times]
• Los Angeles could become the largest American city to ban selling fur. A new proposal is pushing City Hall to take a stand against animal cruelty. [The Los Angeles Times]
• Los Alamos, a tiny town in the Santa Ynez Valley, might be the best place to go wine tasting in California. [Travel + Leisure]
And Finally …
Evacuation orders in parts of Redding have been lifted, and residents are finally returning home even as the Carr Fire continues to rage in Northern California. Human evacuees crowded into shelters, but several locations did not accept their four-legged companions.
One animal shelter, in a strip mall outside Redding, opened its doors to pets that had been left behind. Its population surged: The Haven Humane Society became home to 600 dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, box turtles and one tortoise, according to The Guardian.
“It’s been heartbreaking and overwhelmingly joyful,” a volunteer at the shelter told The Guardian. “People lose everything, but then their animals are here still.”
And some animals banded together. Grass Valley firefighters discovered a chicken and a cat huddled together on a porch. Both were treated for burns, but the new friends are expected to make full recoveries.
California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.
Tennessee Republicans Select Newcomer, Spurning Trump Loyalist in Governor’s Race
Tennessee Republicans chose Bill Lee, a wealthy businessman who has never served in elected office, as their nominee for governor on Thursday, spurning a conservative candidate who eagerly sought — but only glancingly received — the support of President Trump’s White House.
Mr. Lee prevailed in a field of six candidates, The Associated Press reported, after a primary campaign that collectively cost Republicans about $46 million and previewed an autumn of political turbulence. He will face Karl Dean, a former Nashville mayor who easily won the Democratic primary, in the race to succeed Gov. Bill Haslam, a term-limited Republican.
“Looking back, I never could have imagined that the road would lead here,” Mr. Lee, appearing visibly surprised after a victory that followed a late surge in the polls, said Thursday night.
Although Tennessee is a conservative state that Republican presidential nominees have carried since 2000, Democrats believe they have recruited their strongest candidates in more than a decade. Both parties are preparing to spend millions of dollars on the campaigns for governor and an open Senate seat.
In the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker, Marsha Blackburn, a Republican House member from Middle Tennessee, easily won her party’s nomination and will challenge Phil Bredesen, a moderate Democratic former governor.
Neither faced competitive primaries, and The A.P. projected both as winners less than 15 minutes after the polls closed across the state.
Left off the November ballot: Representative Diane Black, who had aggressively tied herself to the Trump administration but won only a modest show of support during her campaign for governor.
Ms. Blackburn has no such worries: Mr. Trump has already campaigned alongside her, hoping to install a new ally in a bitterly divided Senate chamber as Mr. Corker, one of Mr. Trump’s most persistent Republican critics on Capitol Hill, retires after two terms.
Although the Senate race is poised to be exceptionally hard fought and will draw most of the political attention in Tennessee in the coming months, Thursday’s most heated competition was concentrated in Republicans’ primary for governor. The staggeringly expensive contest renewed tensions about the direction of the party in a state that has long embraced moderate conservatives in the mold of Howard Baker, the longtime senator, and more recently Mr. Corker and Mr. Haslam.
“There’s been this battle for a long time between the pragmatists and the purists,” said John G. Geer, a political scientist and the dean of the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Ms. Black, who began the race as the apparent front-runner, was among the candidates who galloped rightward and heartily embraced Mr. Trump, a popular figure in Tennessee. But Ms. Black struggled late in the campaign as the race became more of a free-for-all than a coronation of any single candidate.
Powerful Republicans worried that nominating a hard-right conservative like Ms. Black would jeopardize their prospects of defeating a candidate like Mr. Dean, who could find substantial support among independent voters.
Mr. Lee’s victory, though, was something of a relief to many party leaders.
Although Mr. Lee has expressed support for the president — “I fully support Donald Trump, voted for him, went to his inauguration,” he said in one advertisement — he depicted himself as having softer edges than some of his rivals. In addition to Ms. Black, the Republican candidates for governor included Beth Harwell, the speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and Randy Boyd, a former state economic and community development commissioner.
The Democratic Governors Association swiftly attacked Mr. Lee’s business record, and the group’s Republican counterpart portrayed Mr. Dean as a fiscally irresponsible public official.
Both organizations said their rivals would take Tennessee “backwards.”
Mr. Lee runs a sprawling family business whose services including heating and air-conditioning repair and home security.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote the White House, which has proved itself a pivotal arbiter in some Republican primaries, remained largely quiet after some leading Republicans in Tennessee and Washington privately signaled their preference that Mr. Trump stay out of the race.
He did so, but Vice President Mike Pence endorsed Ms. Black, a former House colleague, in a post on Twitter last week, praising her as a “strong supporter” of the White House’s agenda.
Mr. Pence’s carefully calibrated tweet on her behalf was seen by White House aides as a way of fulfilling his personal commitment to Ms. Black without involving the president in a race that the West Wing saw little upside to engaging in.
The bifurcation was somewhat odd — a vice president taking sides in a contested party primary but not the president — yet it came as something of a relief to Republican officials, some of them said. They had feared that Mr. Trump would weigh in, or that Mr. Pence would offer a full-throated appeal for Ms. Black while visiting Tennessee late last month, and were satisfied about the more cautious intervention.
The restraint, though, was not for the congresswoman’s lack of trying: She personally lobbied Mr. Trump for his support and also deployed some of her House colleagues to make the case to the president, according to a White House official.
And her advertisements made no secret of her loyalty to the president: One recent commercial depicted three separate meetings between Mr. Trump and Ms. Black.
But a tweet carrying Mr. Trump’s endorsement never came. She was running in third place, well behind Mr. Lee, when he was declared the winner.
At Florida Rally, Trump Brags About Economy and Takes Aim at Usual Targets
President Trump brought a message of a booming economy with him to Central Florida on Tuesday evening. He boasted about his administration’s economic accomplishments at an event at a local high school, where a supporter cheerily praised him as “the best president.” And he signed a piece of work force legislation, holding up a scrawled piece of paper for all to see.
But the tone changed when Mr. Trump traveled to a “Make America Great Again” rally at a fairground auditorium in Tampa.
The president, in a feisty but unfocused mood, stood before a group of supporters, called himself “the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party” — a debunked claim — and took aim at his usual list of piñatas, boogeymen and political targets.
“Those people,” Mr. Trump said of his perceived detractors, “how they have gotten us wrong. And yet on Election Day, people were asking, ‘Where did these people come from?’”
Mr. Trump, a former campaign firebrand, is happiest out on the trail reiterating the divisive messaging that won him the presidency. So on Tuesday, between promoting healthy job numbers and the low unemployment rate, he spent a significant amount of time riling up the crowd by drawing a firm divide between the people who support him and everyone else.
In a freewheeling speech, Mr. Trump defended his hard-line stance on immigration, calling for voter ID laws just before inexplicably bragging about saving “Merry Christmas” as a holiday greeting. And he railed repeatedly at the news media for, among other perceived sins, dinging him for not acting presidential. “I can be more presidential than any president in history except for maybe Abe Lincoln with the big hat,” Mr. Trump said. “I admit it, Abe Lincoln is tough.”
Mr. Trump called the Iran nuclear deal he pulled out of this year a “horror show” and, referring to a comment he made on Monday about meeting with the Iranian president, said he had a “feeling they’ll be talking to us pretty soon, and maybe not, but that’s O.K., too.”
Mr. Trump’s other usual targets included congressional Democrats, who were painted as legislative obstructionists “who will do anything they can to not help the Trump agenda,” including rejecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court; the news media, which he repeatedly disparaged as “fake news” on a mélange of topics; and even protesters, including four women who were escorted out, middle fingers raised, for demonstrating against the administration’s immigration policies.
“Too bad,” Mr. Trump said as the women left. He then turned his focus to journalists, who he said would exaggerate the protests as “massive.”
“Wouldn’t you think they’d get tired of these speeches, wouldn’t you?” Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly called journalists “the enemy of the people,” said as he focused on rows of reporters covering the rally in the back of the auditorium. “Look how many they have back there. They just can’t get enough.”
The president, who has found solace in his base of supporters in recent weeks — particularly after a widely criticized news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland — brought two of his adult children, Ivanka and Eric, with him to Florida. (He said the first lady, Melania Trump, was watching the rally from home.) Mr. Trump also thanked the former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, “two fighters” who had traveled with him in the motorcade.
Several Trump loyalists holding office or running for it were also rewarded with kind words, and a ride on Air Force One. Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, who traveled with the president alongside the state’s governor, Rick Scott, was given a shout out at the rally.
Earlier, the president called Mr. Gaetz over to greet supporters just after Air Force One landed in Tampa, and praised his TV presence at the work force development event.
“You ever watch this guy on television?” Mr. Trump asked the crowd at the high school, some of them former students. “He’s like a machine.”
At one point, Mr. Trump introduced Ron DeSantis, the Republican candidate for governor, as a “tough cookie.” Mr. DeSantis, facing criticism that he had modeled himself too much in Mr. Trump’s image, recently released a campaign ad that showed him encouraging his young daughter to “build the wall” and reading “The Art of the Deal” to his son at story time.
“I appreciate your support, Mr. President,” Mr. DeSantis said from the stage, “but I appreciate more the leadership you’re showing for our great country.”
Even when it came to his administration’s achievements, Mr. Trump at times struck an inexplicably defiant tone. “Sorry about this, women,” the president said to his female supporters, “but the unemployment rate has reached the lowest unemployment level in only 65 years.”
On an economic misstep, Mr. Trump blamed someone else: He said that the farmers who have been harmed by the administration’s trade policies have actually been targeted by China. Last week, the administration announced that it would provide up to $12 billion in emergency relief for farmers hurt by the trade war.
“Our farmers are true patriots,” Mr. Trump said. “Because China and others have targeted our farmers. You know what our farmers are saying? ‘It’s O.K., we can take it.’”
And for extra measure, Mr. Trump promoted his status as a political outsider, telling the crowd that he had visited Washington only 17 times before running for president — mostly to visit the hotel he was building on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I ran for president with no experience and I won,” Mr. Trump said, apparently in a reflective mood. “I didn’t know anybody in Washington, but now I know everybody in Washington.”
The president paused.
“I know the wonderful people,” he added, “and I know the scum.”
Charles Koch Takes on Trump. Trump Takes on Charles Koch.
President Trump has given Republicans good reason to tolerate his unruly leadership style. His tax cuts, deregulation push and nomination of conservative judges amount to the most orthodox Republican agenda any president has pursued since Ronald Reagan.
Few had better reason to appreciate Mr. Trump’s results than Charles G. Koch, a billionaire industrialist who is one of the Republican Party’s biggest donors.
Yet Mr. Koch’s simmering frustrations with the president over trade and immigration have now spilled over into an ugly public feud with Mr. Trump and candidates who side with him. By calling Mr. Trump’s trade policies “detrimental” and denouncing divisive leadership, Mr. Koch is making a provocative political move that — be it hardball strategy or more of a ploy — threatens to complicate Republican efforts to hold on to their slim congressional majorities in the November midterm elections.
Mr. Trump hit back on Tuesday by attacking Mr. Koch; his ailing brother and business partner, David; and the powerful political network they founded as “totally overrated” and “a total joke in real Republican circles.”
“I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas,” Mr. Trump fumed on Twitter in an early morning series of posts. And several Republicans, including some allies of the Kochs, accused them of self-aggrandizement.
The back-and-forth between the two men began with threats from Mr. Koch and his top political aides over the weekend to withhold support for Republican candidates who do not help enact the free trade, budget-slashing, government-shrinking policies that have always been at the center of the Koch political philosophy but are of little interest to the president. The Koch network has said it plans to spend up to $400 million on the 2018 elections.
In a video released to the media during a Koch network retreat in Colorado Springs on Saturday, Mr. Koch was unsparing in his criticism of the kind of nationalist, protectionist trade policies that the president favors. And while he did not mention Mr. Trump’s name, at times he appeared to be speaking directly about the president and many of his supporters.
Mr. Koch denounced a “rise in protectionism” in which countries, organizations and individuals are “doing whatever they can to close themselves off from the new, hold on to the past, and prevent change.”
“This is a natural tendency,” Mr. Koch added, “but it’s a destructive one.”
On Monday the Koch political operation followed up with an opening shot against a high-profile 2018 Republican candidate: Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded national grass-roots network, said the group would not be supporting Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota in his bid to unseat the Democratic incumbent senator, Heidi Heitkamp, in one of the year’s most competitive races. The group’s president, Tim Phillips, said at the retreat that Mr. Cramer had been “inconsistent” on their issues.
The Koch political network remains generally opposed to many Democratic policies and does not want to see leaders like Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, return to power if the Democrats triumph in the midterms. But those who know Mr. Koch’s thinking said that his criticism of Mr. Trump reflects the vast political and personal gulf between the two men. They also echo the widely held beliefs of many conservatives who worry that Mr. Trump is inflicting long-term damage on their cause, and on the country.
Mr. Koch’s unease is a reflection of the wider discomfort and disorientation inside the Republican Party since Mr. Trump stormed the presidential primaries in 2016 and knocked out every candidate the Koch network had supported.
Mr. Trump all but ran against elements of the Koch agenda in 2016, promising support for entitlements, infrastructure and the military. In some ways he has governed like a conventional pro-Koch Republican, especially with some of his cabinet picks like Scott Pruitt, his former chief at the Environmental Protection Agency. But his language on trade and immigration ran counter to the Kochs. And like some other right-leaning organizations and intellectuals, Mr. Koch and his organizations have struggled to find their place in a political party they barely recognize and whose political fortune is now wedded, for better or worse, to Mr. Trump’s.
Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Koch network has spent on politics in recent years, Mr. Koch has always been unnerved at seeing portrayals of himself as a Republican kingmaker, people close to him have said. And over the last few years the Koch brothers, two of the world’s wealthiest men, have tried to cultivate a worldly, civic-oriented image to counter the Democratic Party’s attacks on them as self-interested corporatist puppet masters. Koch Industries, the global energy conglomerate, also began a national marketing campaign to try to soften its image.
But how far Mr. Koch and his groups go in following through with their latest threats was the subject of cynical speculation this week from Republicans and conservatives across a wide spectrum of the party — from pro-Trump leaders and groups to more establishment-aligned interests that usually fight alongside the Kochs in Washington’s legislative trenches.
Scott Reed, the chief political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, blasted the Koch threats as a “vanity play of historic proportions.”
“The Koch operation never had a foundation,” Mr. Reed added. “They chased rabbits all over the country with no central set of issues, theme or ideology. Lots of noise and bluster and very little to show for it.”
Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief White House strategist and a relentless critic of the older-guard Republican Party leadership, said the Kochs were “the latest to succumb to ‘Trump derangement syndrome,’” a phrase the president and many of his supporters have started using to mock people who are highly critical of Mr. Trump.
“They are trying to weaponize the ‘Never Trump’ movement against Republicans by saying they’ll work with Democrats,” Mr. Bannon added. “And what they’re doing has to be condemned, including by Vice President Pence.”
Vice President Mike Pence, a former congressman and governor of Indiana, has been a longtime beneficiary of Koch donations. His inclusion in the Trump administration, and the ties he retains to the Koch political operation, underscore how difficult it has been to meld the two disparate political orbits.
Marc Short, a former president of the Koch political arm Freedom Partners who joined the Trump campaign in 2016 to work alongside Mr. Pence, recently left his job as the White House legislative affairs director. His tenure was complicated by the way Mr. Trump often treated Republican leaders in Congress as members of the opposition party.
Mr. Phillips, the Americans for Prosperity president, declined to respond to Mr. Trump’s criticism on Tuesday. “We’re focused on advancing policies that break down barriers to success for Americans, not on personal attacks,” he said.
This is not the first time a dispute with Mr. Trump has gotten personal for one of the Kochs. Shortly after the 2016 election, which the Koch network only participated in at the congressional level, snubbing Mr. Trump, David Koch was preparing for a game of golf at the Trump course in West Palm Beach, Fla. But Mr. Trump denied Mr. Koch and his golfing partner, Harry Hurt, a Trump biographer, before they got to the first tee.
If the Koch political operation follows through with its plans to punish more Republicans like Mr. Cramer — network officials pointed out that if this were 2014 or 2016, Mr. Cramer most likely would have received their backing — that could put Republicans in jeopardy elsewhere.
At their weekend retreat, Koch political strategists released a list of the states with Senate races they were committing to: Florida, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee and Wisconsin. But what that list did not include spoke volumes.
Notably absent was Indiana, where the incumbent Democrat, Senator Joe Donnelly, is facing a Republican businessman, Mike Braun. The race is one Republicans believe offers one of their best opportunities to gain a seat. But Mr. Braun has praised the president’s actions on tariffs.
A Koch endorsement and the accompanying advertising and on-the-ground campaign support that often follows can help swing close races. Koch groups like Americans for Prosperity were built to be vehicles for the conservative grass-roots, even if they rely heavily on paid staff to do their work. And their emphasis on cutting spending, regulations and the size of the government helped elevate fiscal issues to the forefront of the Tea Party-inspired revolts that helped Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in 2010.
That Mr. Koch is being harshly critical of a president beloved by the conservative grass roots, while at the same time endorsing a strategy that could help cost Republicans seats in a close election, struck some activists as strange.
Adam Brandon, president of Freedom Works, another conservative grass-roots group that supports low taxes, smaller government and free trade, said that a Democratic-controlled House would not be helpful on any those issues, whereas a Republican majority would be.
“If you lose that majority, I don’t know how that helps,” Mr. Brandon said. “This is a unity moment heading into these midterms.”
Mr. Brandon explained the contradictory emotions many Republicans today are facing, balancing the good of the Trump administration with the bad. “Here he is, the same president who’s done more to deregulate than any president in history, cut taxes — and now he’s pushing tariffs. It’s left a lot of people scratch their heads.”
Mr. Brandon reasoned that he can look past it. “We’re getting a whole lot more that we like than that we don’t like,” he said.
Trump Again Threatens to Shut Down the Government Over Border Security, Rankling Republicans
President Trump reiterated on Monday his threat to shut down the federal government this fall if Congress does not deliver on Republican demands to crack down on immigration by enforcing security on the border with Mexico and building his long-promised wall.
“If we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Mr. Trump said during a 40-minute news conference with Giuseppe Conte, the visiting Italian prime minister. “We’re the laughingstock of the world.”
Mr. Trump repeated his vow for the second time in two days, continuing to rattle those in his party who are leery of a difficult midterm election season and are focused on confirming Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
If potentially throwing his party into disarray bothered the president, it did not show.
“We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump added.
Aside from serving as a vehicle for two populist leaders to voice their immigration concerns, the news conference was the first time Mr. Trump had taken questions from journalists since a taped conversation surfaced between him and Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer, in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The conversation, taped weeks before the 2016 election, showed that Mr. Trump knew about the payments, a fact that his campaign had denied.
His comments on immigration did not find a welcome reception on Capitol Hill, where Republicans staring toward November’s elections were quick to distance themselves. The party risks losing control of one or both chambers, and its leaders have made abundantly clear they see no upside to a messy government shutdown in the weeks before voters cast their ballots.
“Obviously up here, we want to keep the government up and functioning,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “I’m not sure where the president is coming from.”
Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, chalked the comments up to a negotiating technique — though perhaps an ill-advised one.
“He knows the game,” Mr. Hatch said. “But we don’t want to do that again. Nobody wants that.”
Republican leaders in both chambers expect to pass the majority of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to keep the government operating before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Between those bills and a short-term spending measure to bridge the gap, they believe they can push off any potential fights — including over border wall funding — until later in the fall.
That, at least, was the plan Republican leaders pitched last week to Mr. Trump at the White House. They left thinking they had reached a mutual understanding.
“I was a little surprised that he brought it back up again,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas said. “But I know it’s really a burr under his saddle.”
Democrats, who have fought against funding for Mr. Trump’s wall at every turn, quickly turned the comments to their advantage, painting Mr. Trump as an erratic and irresponsible negotiator.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Mr. President , you cannot — in the same sentence — talk about security of this country and call for a government shutdown,” Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, wrote on Twitter. “A government shutdown threatens our economy and our country’s safety.”
Another Democrat, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, dismissed the comments as a “red-meat toss.” He said the reactions of Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, who could stand to catch the blame in such a scenario, made clear that Mr. Trump was on his own.
“Oh, we can’t take him seriously on this,” he said Monday evening. “His statements on the wall have been unintelligible.”
Mr. Conte’s visit, coming as those in Mr. Trump’s party grappled with his comments on immigration, appeared to be a welcome one for Mr. Trump. During the visit, Mr. Trump repeatedly emphasized their similarities as populist leaders who rose to victory by promising to crack down on immigration. Mr. Trump praised Mr. Conte’s similarly hard-line stance to tightening his country’s borders, saying at one point that their views on immigration had been a significant factor in both of their election victories.
“We are outsiders to politics, can you believe it?” the president asked Mr. Conte, another leader elected to office amid the anti-establishment waves sweeping through Western governments.
At one point, Mr. Conte was asked about Mr. Trump’s behavior at the NATO summit meeting, where the president this month seemed to attack his closest Western allies and strike a conciliatory stance with Russia. As Mr. Trump smiled and listened, the prime minister praised him as someone who brought “fruitful exchanges” to the table with his allies.
“He’s a great negotiator,” Mr. Conte added.
As he escorted Mr. Conte away from reporters, cameras and microphones, Mr. Trump ignored multiple shouted questions about Mr. Cohen.
Donald Trump, Pakistan, Baseball Hall of Fame: Your Monday Briefing
(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)
Here’s what you need to know:
A renewed shutdown threat
• President Trump said on Sunday that he was willing to shut down the government just before the midterm elections this fall if Congress doesn’t fund a wall on the border with Mexico.
Republican leaders had hoped to delay such a confrontation, which would distract from their push to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in September, and thought they had reached a deal with Mr. Trump on the subject last week.
• On the campaign trail, the new tax law was supposed to mobilize Republican voters and help the party keep the House. But we visited a district in Ohio and found that isn’t how it’s playing out.
Heat wreaks havoc
• The continental U.S. had its hottest May and the third-hottest June. Japan has been walloped by record triple-digit temperatures, killing at least 86 people. Record temperatures were also logged on the edge of the Sahara and above the Arctic Circle.
An official with the World Meteorological Organization said the extreme heat was not surprising. “This is not a future scenario,” she said of climate change. “It is happening now.”
Our correspondents around the world spoke with people to find out how they’re coping.
• This week’s issue of The Times Magazine is dedicated to the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989 during which humanity settled the science of climate change and came surprisingly close to finding a solution. Watch a preview of the series here and sign up to be notified when the story is published on Wednesday.
Star power for Pakistan
• Imran Khan, the former cricket star whose party won last week’s elections, has something few recent Pakistani leaders had: celebrity.
His party failed to win a majority in Parliament, so Mr. Khan will need to build a coalition to become prime minister. But if he does so, his fame could help change his country’s recent troubled history, our South Asia bureau chief writes.
• Among the main questions: Will he work to reset Pakistan’s relations with the West, or prefer dealing with China, a neighbor he has praised as a role model?
30 points down but running like a favorite
• Cynthia Nixon thinks she’s being underestimated.
The former “Sex and the City” actress is trying to persuade skeptical New York Democrats to look beyond her political inexperience as she challenges Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the primary.
“Both the media and the Democratic establishment, they’re not quite getting this moment that we’re in,” Ms. Nixon said, “and how hungry people are for a change.”
• Ms. Nixon’s belief that voters in the Sept. 13 primary will reward insurgent energy was reinforced when another underdog progressive won last month: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
• The board of CBS spent most of the weekend discussing what to do about Les Moonves, the company’s chief executive, after a report citing six women that included allegations of sexual misconduct.
• How dogs took over the internet
It used to be that the cat was the big beast online. But lately, dogs are taking over.
In the first episode of the new season of her video series, “Internetting,” Amanda Hess investigates an adorable existential crisis for web culture.
• Quotation of the day
“My grandmother is happy I spend time in a church, even if I’m working my biceps and not my soul.”
— Olivier Pratte, an advertising copywriter in Montreal who works out at Saint Jude gym and spa, in one of dozens of Catholic churches across Quebec that have been converted as attendance has dropped.
• The Times, in other words
• What we’re reading (and watching)
Michael Wines, a national correspondent, recommends this video from The New Yorker’s Screening Room: “Take a break from dismal reality. Imagine you lived in a city made of cardboard. And that you were made of cardboard. And that you drove a cardboard car. And then that the city caught on fire. This ingenious short subject imagines all that, with amazing if corrugated realism, and delivers a funny punch line to boot.”
“We rise from the perusal of ‘Wuthering Heights’ as if we had come fresh from a pest-house,” a critic wrote when the book was published in 1847.
Other reviewers deemed it “coarse” or “repulsive.”
Its author, Emily Brontë, born 200 years ago today in Thornton, England, died of tuberculosis at 30, a year after publishing her tale of quasi-incestuous love between the savage (yet irresistibly compelling) Heathcliff and the selfish (but beautiful) Catherine. She would never see her novel, published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, become the template for a thousand future romance stories.
Today there are some 60 translations and multiple film versions of “Wuthering Heights,” including in Japanese and Spanish (directed by Luis Buñuel).
Emily, the middle of three literary Brontë sisters (Charlotte wrote “Jane Eyre,” Anne wrote “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”), rarely left home and had few friends. Naïve, stubborn and prickly, she gravitated to animals and the Yorkshire moors, where “Wuthering Heights” is set. She was also a poet.
And in the estimation of Virginia Woolf, she was a genius on a par with Jane Austen, writing without fear of what the male-dominated literary world might think.
“I have never seen her parallel in anything,” Charlotte Brontë said after Emily died in 1848. “Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone.”
Trump’s Numbers on ‘Amazing’ Economy Sometimes Don’t Add Up
When President Trump announced Friday that the American economy had grown at an annual rate of 4.1 percent in the second quarter — an achievement he called “amazing” — he included a long list of statements about how well the economy has performed on his watch.
He declared that the United States was “the economic envy of the entire world,” and indeed, the American economy is in a relatively strong position: Growth is accelerating, its size and diversity make it more resilient over all, and it is less reliant than the economies of other major countries on exports, which could help it weather a trade war more easily. Growth in Japan, China and Europe has been slowing.
But several trends for which Mr. Trump took credit were underway — and in some cases more pronounced — before he took office. Other claims lacked context or foundation.
Here are some of the president’s remarks during the White House session, fact-checked:
“We’ve accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions.”
This requires context.
It does look as if the growth rate has picked up meaningfully this year and may be on track for the best year of the decade-long recovery. But the economy is continuing the essentially upward trajectory established before Mr. Trump took office, with some quarters growing a little faster and some more slowly. In a given quarter, the economy exceeded 4 percent annual growth four times during the Obama administration, with the highest level — 5.3 percent — occurring in the third quarter of 2014. The jobless rate was 7.8 percent when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, and was 4.8 percent when he turned over the reins to Mr. Trump. In Mr. Trump’s 18 months in office, the jobless rate has fallen further, and was 4 percent last month. Gross domestic product has risen every year for the past nine years.
“We have added 3.7 million new jobs since the election, a number that is unthinkable if you go back to the campaign. Nobody would have said it.”
This is misleading.
While Mr. Trump’s figure is accurate, his suggestion that the number would have been “unthinkable” is not. In fact, the economy added more jobs in a comparable period before his election.
In the 19 months from December 2016 to June 2018, the economy added just under 3.7 million jobs. In the 19 months before Mr. Trump’s election, the economy added 4.3 million jobs.
“We are now on track to hit an average G.D.P. annual growth of over 3 percent, and it could be substantially over 3 percent. Each point, by the way, means approximately $3 trillion and 10 million jobs.”
This is unclear.
Given that the nation’s G.D.P. is just under $20 trillion a year, and that about 160 million people are in the labor force, those increases would require several years of economic growth to achieve. Mr. Trump did not give more specifics.
“Ninety-five percent of American manufacturers are optimistic about their company’s outlook. And that’s the highest level, also, in history.”
The National Association of Manufacturers released the results of its quarterly survey of manufacturers last month. Among the 568 respondents, 95 percent registered a positive outlook for their own company, the highest level recorded in the survey’s 20-year history.
“More than 10 million additional Americans had been added to food stamps, past years. But we’ve turned it all around.”
This is exaggerated.
The number of Americans in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program increased by more than 10 million during the recession. But enrollment has declined every year since a peak of 47.6 million in 2013. And the latest available data does not show a steeper decline under Mr. Trump.
From February 2017, Mr. Trump’s first full month in office, to this April, SNAP participation decreased by about 2.5 million people. In the 14 months before that period, participation declined by 2.8 million.
“In the first three months after tax cuts, over $300 billion poured back into the United States from overseas. We think it’s going to be, in the end, when completed, over $4 trillion will be back into our country.”
This requires context.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that $306 billion was repatriated into the United States in the first quarter of this year.
Opinion | When Trump Talks, the World Listens. Should It?
The world expects the president to be America’s foreign policy authority, and that what he says goes. Right?
Not so fast.
In a pattern that’s familiar with this White House, what appear to be articulations of foreign policy by President Trump may not always be what they seem. That’s the obvious conclusion to be drawn from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed doubt about Moscow’s election meddling, has failed to order any defense against future election hacking, has suggested Crimea should be a part of Russia, has impugned NATO and has ingratiated himself with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
Mr. Pompeo, however, combatively insisted to the senators that Mr. Trump is “well aware” of the challenges that Russia poses, including its interference in American elections. He said strenuously that the United States is opposed to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and that it considers NATO an “indispensable pillar of American national security.”
A top Russian official said that at their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin discussed a possible referendum to determine eastern Ukraine’s future. A spokesman for the National Security Council later rejected such a referendum as having “no legitimacy.”
Even actions that seem to be clear and direct may not be. This administration in recent months agreed to stiffer sanctions against Russia, even if it was only after Congress forced it to do so. It also expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. Mr. Trump denounced alleged Russian attacks on British soil but has delayed imposing sanctions, drawing fire from the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Defense Department also announced last week that it was providing Ukraine with $200 million for security cooperation. But at the Senate hearing, Mr. Pompeo deflected a question on whether Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia would remain in place.
It’s somewhat encouraging that Mr. Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, other senior officials and some members of Congress are working to reassure allies and set the country back on a more stable foreign policy path. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump himself retreated a bit from the trade war that he initiated with the European Union when he agreed with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, to work toward lower tariffs and other trade barriers.
Yet no matter what Mr. Pompeo — or any other official — insists, Mr. Trump has a well-established record of undermining their pronouncements, and even his own, with a tweet. He could easily blow up the trade truce, for example.
The administration’s dysfunction makes matters worse. According to Politico, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mattis have complained that John Bolton, the national security adviser, has oversimplified decision-making on foreign policy, cutting them out.
Deftly bobbing and weaving while answering questions, Mr. Pompeo insisted that the senators shouldn’t de-link Mr. Trump’s statements and actions from administration policy statements and actions. “They’re one and the same,” he said.
But when Mr. Trump’s words repeatedly repudiate what is supposed to be official policy, it sows confusion and undermines trust in officials like Mr. Pompeo who try to defend the president.
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump made clear that, above all, he consults himself on foreign policy. As Rex Tillerson, his first secretary of state, remarked after Mr. Trump spoke sympathetically of neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Va.:“The president speaks for himself.”
Mr. Pompeo finally conceded to the senators that “the president calls the ball” and that “his statements are, in fact, policy.”
And that is why so many people cringe when Mr. Trump steps up to a microphone or reaches for his smartphone.