Tuesday, September 4, 2018

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#BobWoodward - Bob Woodward's book details Trump's chaotic and dysfunctional White House

Ed Pilkington
Fear is based on hundreds of hours of conversations with key players, according to the author, who uncovered the Watergate scandal.
The White House chief of staff, John Kelly, was so incensed by the behavior of Donald Trump that he privately described the president to other aides as an “idiot” and complained that they were in “Crazytown”, according to an incendiary new account of Trump’s presidency.
The unflattering portrait of Trump’s White House, in which the president is portrayed as being so gripped by paranoia over the Russia investigation that he is barely able to operate, is contained in Fear, the much-anticipated book by Bob Woodward. A copy of the book was obtained, days before its official release, by the Washington Post, which reported on several of its most arresting details on Tuesday.
Woodward has been a star reporter at the Post since 1971 and remains an associate editor. He is most famous for breaking the story of the Watergate scandal with his fellow Post reporter Carl Bernstein. The scandal prompted the resignation of Richard Nixon from the presidency in 1974.
Woodward’s depiction of the Trump administration as being in a state of “nervous breakdown” strongly echoes the picture of chaos and pandemonium laid out this year by Michael Wolff in his blockbuster Fire and Fury. But given Woodward’s powerful journalistic brand, from his seminal role in exposing Watergate through a series of insider portraits of a succession of presidents – including Bill Clinton, the younger George Bush and Barack Obama – Fear is likely to carry an even greater punch.
The White House was taking the threat of the forthcoming publication seriously enough to put out a statement about it on Tuesday. The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, derided Fear as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad”.
The 448-page volume was based, Woodward said, on hundreds of hours of conversations with direct players, but only on an anonymous basis. Among the revelations was the way that Trump demeans his own senior advisers behind their backs. According to the Washington Post account of the book, the president used to mock his former national security adviser HR McMaster by impersonating him with a puffed-out chest.
Kelly’s predecessor as chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was “a little rat. He just scurries around,” Trump told one of Priebus’s subordinates. Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general, was “mentally retarded. He’s this dumb southerner [who] couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”
Some insults were delivered to individuals’ faces. Trump apparently told the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross: “I don’t trust you … you’re past your prime.”
Days after the nation mourned the death of the Arizona senator and Vietnam war hero John McCain, there are bombshell disclosures about the depth of Trump’s disdain for the man. Woodward is reported to describe a dinner at which Trump told senior White House officials that McCain had been cowardly in getting himself released early from a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp.
The defense secretary, Jim Mattis, had to correct the president by pointing out that the truth was in fact the direct opposite – McCain had refused an offer of early release from his captors, out of solidarity with fellow prisoners.
Perhaps the most disturbing element of the Post’s rendition of Woodward’s book is the alarm it portrays among top national security officials about Trump’s lack of grip over world affairs. After one high-stakes meeting in January of the National Security Council over the North Korean missile threat, Mattis was so exasperated he told associates that the president had the understanding of a 10-year-old schoolchild.
Top officials plot among themselves, the author writes, in a collective effort to thwart Trump from carrying out his more outlandish desires. Senior officials swipe documents from the president’s Oval Office desk so that he cannot act on them. The most chilling example of that pattern, Woodward says, was following the chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in April 2017. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump is reported to have exclaimed. Mattis promised Trump he would respond immediately, but then quietly let the assassination idea drop.
Then there is that outburst attributed to John Kelly. Having called Trump an idiot, he is then said by Woodward to have lamented: “I don’t know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
On Tuesday, the chief of staff also put out a statement in which he called the story “total BS”. Kelly said: “I spend more time with the president than anyone else, and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”

Opinion Sorry, Mr. Trump, the Attorney General Is America’s Lawyer

With his latest attack on Jeff Sessions, the president shows his real problem isn’t with the Justice Department but with the rule of law. By now, few might lift an eyebrow at President Trump’s crusade to delegitimize his own Justice Department and, specifically, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. It long ago became clear that Mr. Trump regards federal law enforcement — as he sees all of government — as a political tool to advance the interests of himself and of his party (assuming those interests align, of course; if not, the party is on its own).
Yet even by that debased standard, Mr. Trump’s latest Twitter tantrum against Mr. Sessions, on Monday, set a new low, providing a kind of anti-civics lesson for the nation he’s supposed to lead.
“Two long-running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department,” he wrote. “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff.”
With this latest outburst, the president has again laid bare his contempt for the rule of law. Mr. Trump does not even pretend to care about the allegations of corruption against the two lawmakers in question. His concern is only that they are “very popular” members who would have scored “easy wins” in November, if only Mr. Sessions had kept his fat mouth shut until after the midterms — or better yet, buried the allegations permanently.
Chris Collins, Republican of New York, who was indicted last month on insider trading charges, is facing multiple counts of securities fraud, wire fraud and lying to federal agents. Investigators were aided in their efforts by the fact that the representative’s alleged misbehavior was caught on video while he was attending the White House congressional picnic last summer.
Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, indicted just a couple of weeks after Mr. Collins, is accused of misappropriating $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use. He and his wife, also named in the 47-page indictment, allegedly dipped into the political kitty to buy items ranging from running shoes to family vacations to plane tickets for their pet.
Both lawmakers have pleaded not guilty. Mr. Collins has suspended his campaign, while Mr. Hunter’s name will remain on the ballot and he has a strong chance to win re-election against an inexperienced Democratic challenger.
These indictments carry a personal resonance for the president. Mr. Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Mr. Hunter was the second. For a president for whom blind loyalty matters above all, the possibility of losing two such devoted followers must be especially vexing.
The heart of the matter for Mr. Trump is, as always, what’s in it for Mr. Trump. Keeping Congress under Republican control is key to the president’s fortunes, both political and legal. As Mr. Trump sees it, Mr. Sessions has once more put everything at risk with his traitorous insistence upon upholding the law.
Indeed, Mr. Trump continues to make clear that if only he had known then what he knows now — especially as regards the Russia investigation — Mr. Sessions would never have been offered the job.
Mr. Trump’s beef is not with Jeff Sessions or the Justice Department. He has a problem with the law — or at least with the idea that it should apply to him and those who do his bidding. Republicans, especially Republican lawmakers, are by their silence complicit in this perversion of justice.

پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری کی عارف علوی کو پاکستان کا صدر منتخب ہونے پر مبارکباد

پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے عارف علوی کو پاکستان کا صدر منتخب ہونے پر مبارکباد پیش کرتے ہوئے امید ظاہر کی ہے کہ وہ ریاست کے سربراہ کی حیثیت اور وفاق کی علامت کے طور پر آئین کی روح کے مطابق صدر کے فرائض سرانجام دیں گے۔ ایک بیان میں بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا کہ پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی منتخب صدر کو مبارکباد پیش کرتی ہے لیکن اس کے ساتھ ساتھ صدر کی حیثیت سے ان کے کردار پر نظر بھی رکھے گی۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ پی ٹی آئی کے لیڈران عمران خان اور عارف علوی نے پارلیمان اور شہری ریاست کے اداروں کی حیثیت کو گھٹایا ہے اور ان سے کہا ہے کہ وہ اپنے ماضی کے کردار سے خود کو دور کریں جس کی وجہ سے پارلیمنٹ کی حیثیت کم ہوئی تھی۔ بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا کہ پارلیمنٹ کو اس کی حیثیت دینے کے لئے ایک پارلیمانی کمیٹی بنائی جائے جو بلاتاخیر اس بات کی تحقیقات کرے کہ 2018ءکے انتخابات میں کیا بدعنوانیاں ہوئی ہیں۔ انہوں نے منتخب صدر کو یادلایا کہ الیکشن کمیشن کی جانب سے اپ لوڈ کئے ہوئے فارم45کے فارنزک آڈٹ کرائے جائیں اور آرٹی ایس سسٹم کے فیل ہونے کی بھی تحقیقات کرائی جائیں۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ اس معاملے سے زیادہ عرصے تک گریز نہیں کیا جا سکتا۔


PML-N has no opposition experience: Zardari

Responding to a journalist’s request for opinion on PML-N leadership’s claim that he had divided the opposition, former president Asif Ali Zardari said on Tuesday that in fact the PML-N leadership was not used to sitting on the opposition benches.
The question was posed to the PPP co-chairman as he arrived at the Parliament House to cast his vote for the country’s 13th presidential election.
Zardari’s initial reaction to the question was that of shock, as he asked back, “I divided the opposition?” He continued, “Why shouldn’t we say that Mian Sb [Shehbaz Sharif] has never sat on opposition benches.”


As Pakistan hurtles towards deeper economic crises, Imran Khan’s biggest problem isn’t Trump or IMF but his own compatriots.
Last week, when the US government announced it would “re-programme” $300 million in military assistance to Pakistan, it was only the latest in a series of actions that have ratcheted up pressure on Islamabad.
A year ago, when US President Donald Trump announced his Afghanistan strategy, Pakistan came in for mention only in the context of his pledge to put more pressure on the country. Trump’s tweet on the first day of this year set the tone: the US has been foolish in giving Pakistan more than $33 billion over the past 15 years, “receiving only lies and deceit” in return. In an indication of his priorities, Trump blamed Pakistan for giving safe haven to the very terrorists that the US troops were fighting in Afghanistan. “No more!” he thundered.
His administration has stuck to this line since then. Even as the Pakistani economy hurtled towards a deeper crisis, Washington has remained unsympathetic. For the first time in years, the Trump administration suspended a military education and training programme and excluded over 60 Pakistani military officers from various US defence academies. The financial cost of suspending this programme was trivial, but the signal was massive and aimed directly at the Pakistani military establishment.
This was followed by a deep cut to the ‘reimbursements’ to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Funds, the direct overt component of which used to be to the order of hundreds of millions of dollars every year. A couple of weeks ago, Trump signed a legislation that reduced this to $150 million, albeit liberalising the stringent conditions that used to be attached.
Washington is now squarely blaming Pakistan for the “lack of decisive actions in support of the (US) South Asia Strategy”. Including the latest cuts, the Pentagon has withheld $800 million in direct military assistance this year.  In a familiar routine, Jalaluddin Haqqani, a long-time proxy, has been reported dead a day before the US Secretary of State’s scheduled visit to Islamabad. It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will fall for a trick the Pakistanis have successfully played with its two predecessors.
When the Wall Street Journal asked me to write an op-ed a few weeks after Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, I had argued that Washington must “cut Pakistan loose”, as bailing it out will only impede the country’s transformation into a normal state. As long as the Pakistani military establishment could secure external assistance for itself and deflect the hardship and punishment onto the Pakistani people, more aid only meant the fattening of the military-Jihadi complex. It is only when the Pakistani establishment and the ruling elite are forced to confront stark choices can there be hope that the country will reform itself.
It looks like such a moment is in the offing. Pakistan urgently needs at least $10 billion in hard currency to tide over a looming balance-of-payments crisis. It needs two or three times that over a longer term if it does not want to slip back into periodical crises. Given its poor credit rating, there are few willing to lend it any money, and the few commercial lenders who are loaning it money are doing so at high interest rates and for very short terms. Pakistan is likely to find it difficult to service even these short-term loans as they become due within the year.
Although there are many in Pakistan who expect China to bail them out, the only real option is to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency assistance. The IMF is likely to insist on the standard macroeconomic diet: reduce wasteful expenditure, collect more taxes, control inflation and allow the local currency to fall. That’s why many Pakistanis find China attractive because it supposedly doesn’t insist on such painful conditions. But China has never played the role of the IMF before and is unlikely to want to be Pakistan’s sole unconditional creditor.
It is more likely that Beijing will advise Islamabad to approach the IMF, and promise to use its offices to get Pakistan a softer deal there. The US has already made it clear that Pakistan won’t have an easy time at the IMF, not least because they don’t know the extent and the terms of Pakistan’s CPEC deals with China. The IMF board might see a tussle between the United States and China over this, and it’s unclear if Beijing sees an aid package for Pakistan as important enough to confront the US on.
Imran Khan’s economic policy appointments inspire some confidence that he gets the seriousness of the situation and realises that his government will have to implement some very painful measures. Given his populist rhetoric — and presuming that he really believes what he has been saying — he might not hesitate to do things that will hurt the elite. For instance, forcing them to pay their taxes, electricity bills and so on.
What he might not be able to do so easily — and what IMF conditions might require him to do — is cut the defence expenditure. Today, the situation is such that once the Pakistani government services its debts and pays its military establishment, it has nothing left. Put another way, defence expenditure (around Rs 1 trillion) is one-third of the federal government’s expected revenue (around Rs 3 trillion). Any meaningful attempt to cut the fiscal deficit ought to start by cutting the defence expenditure.
Therein lies Imran Khan’s economic and existential challenge: Can he get the khakis to tighten their belts without incurring their, to put it mildly, displeasure? The military establishment is likely to go with whatever macroeconomic route Imran Khan decides, to the extent that he doesn’t hurt their interests. With the Trump administration in no mood to give them more money, the khakis might be unwilling to make any sacrifices of the financial kind for their country.
Tough as the challenge is, I think the Imran Khan government will be able to secure a reprieve of some sort from the IMF and stave off an immediate balance-of-payments crisis. After that, the people he must negotiate with and persuade are his own compatriots, which is where his real troubles lie.

Pakistan’s Military Has Quietly Reached Out to India for Talks

      Concerned about Pakistan’s international isolation and faltering economy, the country’s powerful military has quietly reached out to its archrival India about resuming peace talks, but the response was tepid, according to Western diplomats and a senior Pakistani official.
      The outreach, initiated by the army’s top commander, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, began months before Pakistan’s national elections. Pakistan offered to resume on-and-off talks with India over their border dispute in the Kashmir region, which stalled in 2015 as violence flared up there.
      A key objective for Pakistan in reaching out to India is to open barriers to trade between the countries, which would give Pakistan more access to regional markets. Any eventual peace talks over Kashmir are likely to involve an increase in bilateral trade as a confidence-building measure.
      Increasingly, Pakistan’s military sees the country’s battered economy as a security threat, because it aggravates the insurgencies that plague the country. Pakistan is expected to ask the International Monetary Fund for $9 billion in the coming weeks, after receiving several billions of dollars in loans from China earlier this year to pay its bills.
      “We want to move forward and we are trying our best to have good ties with all our neighbors, including India,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said. “As General Bajwa says, regions prosper, countries don’t. India cannot prosper by weakening Pakistan.”
      General Bajwa linked Pakistan’s economy to the region’s security in a hallmark speech last October, and the idea that the two are inseparable has since become known as the Bajwa doctrine. The army chief is also seen as more moderate than his predecessors were on India, which has been Pakistan’s bitter rival since the bloody partition that came with independence in 1947.
      The Pakistani general and his Indian counterpart, Gen. Bipin Rawat, served together in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo about a decade ago and get along well, diplomats say. Earlier this year, General Bajwa said the only way to solve the two countries’ conflict was through dialogue, a rare statement from the military.
      Diplomats say General Bajwa has tried to reach out to General Rawat to initiate talks. But the effort has been stymied by what one diplomat called a “system mismatch.”
      The army is Pakistan’s most powerful institution, but India’s military is much weaker and could not agree to a peace deal without the civilian government’s approval. Diplomats in New Delhi say Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is preoccupied with elections expected early next year and does not want talks before then, fearing that if talks collapse — as they have many times before — it could cost them at the polls.
      “Till the Indian elections, there cannot be an immediate betterment in bilateral relations,” Mr. Chaudhry said. India’s military and its foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
      The new Pakistani government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan has been sending strong signals in favor of talks, though it is the military that ultimately controls foreign and defense policy. “If you take one step forward, we will take two steps forward,” Mr. Khan said in his victory speech, addressing India. “We need to move ahead.”
      With Mr. Khan in office, talks may have a better chance because he is seen as the army’s man, diplomats in both Islamabad and New Delhi say. India sees Mr. Khan’s outreach as sanctioned by the military and believes he will clearly present General Bajwa’s demands and red lines.
      That the military would initiate such a major foreign policy decision unilaterally, and before the elections, suggests it was confident that its preferred candidate, Mr. Khan, would win. Mr. Khan was sworn in as prime minister last month, in the wake of accusations that the army had intervened to back his candidacy.
      Diplomats in Islamabad say Pakistan’s outreach may also be driven in part by the country’s Chinese allies. Beijing has prodded Pakistan to stabilize its border with India, hoping for greater stability as it pursues its regional economic ambitions. China is investing some $62 billion in Pakistan, mostly in large infrastructure projects through what is being called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of China’s global Belt and Road initiative.
      The plan would give Beijing more direct access to important Western markets by building a series of highways through Pakistan, connecting China’s western border to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. If Pakistani troops are freed up along the border with India, the thinking goes, they could be diverted to secure the country’s western flank, where China’s trade routes would be. Chinese Muslim insurgents who oppose Beijing’s rule have been active in Afghanistan and western Pakistan, and other Pakistani insurgents, including Baloch separatists, have opposed the Chinese infrastructure projects. Last month, a Baloch separatist group attacked a bus carrying Chinese workers, wounding five.
      Pakistan may also be realizing that it can no longer withstand its growing international isolation and its worsening ties with the United States, which was once its closest Western ally. The United States cut more than $1 billion of aid to Pakistan in January for not doing enough to curb terror groups, which it accuses the army of supporting.
      Tensions with Washington were further aggravated this week when the American military said it would withhold $300 million in aid to Pakistan, just days before the Trump administration’s first meeting with Mr. Khan’s new government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to meet Mr. Khan on Wednesday in Islamabad, and Pakistani lawmakers enraged over the aid cut have been calling for Mr. Khan to scrap the meeting.
      In the past, military and government officials in Pakistan have said they could withstand American aid cuts, pointing to their growing ties with China. But Pakistan was stunned this year when China went along with putting Islamabad on a terror-financing watch list, which will make it harder and more expensive for Pakistan to raise badly needed funding on international debt markets.

      End the duplicity: Permanent cut in US aid to Pakistan should trigger Islamabad-Rawalpindi rethink on terror

      US government last week announced a permanent cut of $300 million in aid to Pakistan. This announcement came just ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the country and sends an unambiguous signal that America is no longer prepared to tolerate duplicity in fighting terrorism. The US cited the lack of decisive action in support of its anti-terror strategy as the reason for the cut in aid. The timing could not have been worse. Pakistan’s macroeconomic indicators are worsening and it will need help from International Monetary Fund, where US has a decisive say.
      Pakistan’s use of terrorism as a strategic weapon has taken a toll on its economy. Frequent macroeconomic crises are one way this economic cost has shown up. Once again, the country’s economic indicators such as fiscal deficit and current account deficit are worsening. However, on this occasion a part of the problem is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which has stressed the country’s economy through loan repayments and profit repatriation. Pakistan’s strategic choices have undermined its society and economy, pushing it towards becoming a client state of China. 
      America is now no longer mincing words in dealing with Pakistan. This should catalyse a rethink from the Pakistani army and Imran Khan, the new prime minister. There is no way to change the situation without seeking a peace dividend in the form of cordial ties with India. The only way to realise such a dividend is to stop using terror as a strategic tool. The US wants Pakistan not to be selective in dealing with terrorists. Pakistan’s establishment should heed this advice as its current path will lead to greater isolation and recurring economic crises.