Fast-Talking Trump Flip-Flops Into Policy Jams

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For decades, Donald Trump has been talking himself out of jams. In his second year as U.S. president, the ones he’s talked himself into are mounting.

Take trade. With a pen stroke, Trump jilted U.S. allies from Australia to Japan last year and withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Now that he wants help pressuring China— he yesterday opened the door to rejoining the pact -- the allies are skeptical. “There may be a different statement the next day,” Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said today.

Similarly, Trump's Twitter warning for Russia to “get ready” for missiles coming at Syria drew criticism that he violated his own complaints about telegraphing moves to the enemy. Yesterday he tempered his threat, saying a strike “could be very soon, or not so soon at all.

Trump’s penchant for popping off could prove most consequential in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. The president’s denials about payoffs to purported mistresses, for instance, may have increased his lawyer Michael Cohen’s legal exposure before an FBI raid this week that's tied to that investigation.

And his repeated attacks on “leakin’ James Comey” did little to silence the ousted FBI director, who’s about to release a tell-all book comparing the president to a mob boss.

Fast-Talking Trump Flip-Flops Into Policy Jams

Global Headlines

May talks tough | U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May won support at an emergency cabinet meeting to declare it’s “vital” to respond to an apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria. The statement came as Trump softened his tone on imminent military action, telling reporters after meeting with his national security team yesterday that he was looking “very closely at that whole situation, and we’ll see what happens.”

Trump eases off | Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yesterday, an encounter that advisers hoped would cool tensions over Mueller’s investigation. The meeting came a day after Trump had discussed firing Rosenstein with aides amid his dissatisfaction with how the Russia probe has unfolded, and followed his declaration that he had “full confidence” in White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who’s advised Trump to cooperate with the investigation.

Too big to punish | U.S. officials considered blacklisting two of China’s biggest banks for doing business with North Korea last summer amid growing tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, Christian Berthelsen reports. But the idea of a U.S. ban on the Agricultural Bank of China and the China Construction Bank was soon shelved mainly because of fears that it would send shock waves through the global financial system and prompt retaliatory measures from Beijing.

Africa’s graft fight | Corruption used to be so widespread in Angola that the common term for bribe is “gasosa,” the Portuguese word for fizzy drink. Now, President Joao Lourenco is on a drive to stamp it out, and the son of his predecessor could soon go on trial, Henrique Almeida and Pauline Bax report. Angola is one of several key African countries, including South Africa, whose new leaders are pushing prosecutors to target corrupt officials.

Iran optimism | U.S. and EU officials are increasingly confident they can persuade Trump not to tear up an international agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. In talks in Washington this week, they made progress on revisions to the 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers, Margaret Talev and Nick Wadhams report. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, also told senators he’s committed to “fix” the deal before and after a May 12 deadline set by the president.

Swedish battleground | The next test of the populist wave sweeping politics could be Sweden. Polls show the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats may win close to 20 percent in September’s general election, leaving it a potential king-maker between the two establishment blocs, Amanda Billner and Hanna Hoikkala report. Party leader Jimmie Akesson says his starting point for any agreement will be “who's prepared to go furthest to meet our demands” for halting in the inflow of foreigners.

And finally...Once a byword for corruption and delays, Pakistan’s colonial-era rail network is undergoing a renaissance. Chris Kay and Ismail Dilawar took a journey on the Green Line as Beijing prepares to finalize an $8 billion loan to Pakistan to upgrade 1,163 miles of track that runs from Karachi to Peshawar near the Afghan border. It's another piece of China's Belt and Road trade initiative — the grand $1 trillion plan to construct trade routes through Asia to Europe.

Fast-Talking Trump Flip-Flops Into Policy Jams

 

To contact the author of this story: Brendan Scott in Singapore at bscott66@bloomberg.net.

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