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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Trump's Transactional Approach to Foreign Policy and Everything Else


 From the Reuters interview: 

ON WHETHER HE WOULD INTERVENE IN THE HUAWEI CASE

“Whatever’s good for this country, I would do. If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”
...

ON FURTHER RESPONSE TO THE DEATH OF KHASHOGGI

“I really hope that people aren’t going to suggest that we should not take hundreds of billions of dollars that they’re going to siphon off to Russia and to China, primarily those two, instead of giving it to us. You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs. You’re talking about huge military and other contracts. I hope that’s not going to be a recommendation. But that’s moving along. And some of the senators are coming over to see me.”

Michael Tackett and Charlie Savage at NYT:

 When President Trump said in an interview this week that he was willing to intercede in the case of a Chinese telecom executive facing extradition to the United States if it helped achieve “the largest trade deal ever made,” it was a clear signal that his White House saw no problem intervening in the justice system to achieve what it considered economic gain.

A range of experts agreed on Wednesday that the president had the legal authority to order the government to rescind the extradition request for the executive, Meng Wanzhou, or even drop the charges against her. But they could not point to another instance of a president injecting himself into a criminal proceeding in a similar way.

“It sets a very bad precedent,” said Nicholas Burns, a former under secretary of state and ambassador to NATO who served in Republican and Democratic administrations and now teaches diplomacy and international relations at Harvard. “By mixing justice with trade and the rule of law with trade, it devalues both.”
 Last month, Max Boot wrote at WP:
Trump dismissed the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered this crime, writing “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” All that matters to Trump is preserving the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, which he justified with fanciful and fictitious figures – $110 billion in Saudi arms sales and $450 billion in general Saudi investment.

One suspects Trump’s sympathies lie with the Saudis for more personal reasons. The Saudi king and crown prince laid out the red carpet, literally, for Trump on his first trip abroad as president in 2017. They haven’t criticized him. Why should he criticize them? He is tougher on the SEAL commander who was responsible for killing Osama bin Laden than on the Saudi despot who was responsible for killing Jamal Khashoggi — simply because the latter is nicer to him than the former.

And, lest we forget, Saudis have shown their respect for Trump in tangible ways. He now denies doing business with Saudi Arabia, but in 2015 he bragged: “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” Perhaps another president would not let such pecuniary considerations affect his decisions, but in Trump’s case it’s hard to have any faith that he will act in accordance with a higher good.