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But not for long! Trump batted him out of the way, perhaps mistaking him for a political reporter or picturing James Comey. Then, triumphal, Trump straightened his suit jacket, stiffened his posture and raised his fleshy chin. He was ready for his close-up.
With Trump, struts, scowls and pouts reveal every bit as much as what tumbles from his lips, which is a lot less trustworthy. His words can be counterfeit. His gestures are genuine. So it only makes sense that we lean on them for the narrative of his post-truth presidency, whose latest, foreign chapter brimmed with more awkward physicality than a toddlers’ gymnastics class.
The shove heard round the world was preceded by the curtsy heard round the world, when Trump did precisely what he maligned President Obama for — well, one of the countless things he maligned President Obama for — and approached Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Salman, in a pose of deference. Hypocrisy, thy name is Trump, and thy knees are bent and thy head is bowed.
Thy sense of rhythm doesn’t exist. Did you see him during that Saudi dance, not so much rattling his saber as dangling it while he wobbled, like a Weeble, from side to side? I imagined the following dialogue balloon above his head: “When I told the king I was a swordsman, this wasn’t what I meant.”
And the dialogue balloon above Pope Francis’s head when he posed with Trump in Vatican City later in the week would have said: “Forgive me, Father, for I cannot fake delight.” I’ve been told by Vatican insiders that the pope never forgets that he’s on camera and that the precise angle of his eyes and curl of his lips are being captured. He stared straight ahead, his mien as joyless as a gulag.
George Bernard Shaw wrote a play titled “Arms and the Man.” Someday somebody will write a Trump biography titled “Hands and the Man.”
From Spy magazine’s long-ago caricature of Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” to that unforgettable moment during a Republican presidential debate when he displayed his digits to try to prove the opposite — Look, Ma, big hands! — his paws have been at center stage.
That remained true on the trip. In Israel, there was the swat heard round the world, when, walking alongside Bibi Netanyahu across a red carpet, he noticed that Netanyahu was holding his wife’s hand and so reached back for Melania’s.
To say that she withheld it would be an understatement. To say that Twitter and comedians had a field day would be even more of one.
After another, subsequent incident in Rome when Melania seemed to decline the heady opportunity to hold her husband’s hand, Seth Meyers, the host of “Late Night,” joked: “Former C.I.A. Director John Brennan testified today that there was contact between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. However, still no contact between Donald and Melania.”
There’s so much she could still be smarting over, including the inauguration back in January, when her husband bounded out of the car and up the steps before her, rushing to greet the Obamas and leaving her in his wake.
Courtesy: absent. Chivalry: dead. Her revenge came soon after, on the inaugural stage. She let a smile at her husband drop from her face so quickly and emphatically that it was like an announcement to the world that she’d been wearing a mask.
But back to our president’s paws, which aren’t just at center stage but also at the center of so much controversy. When Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany visited him in Washington in mid-March, there was debate over whether he denied her a handshake that she’d suggested or simply didn’t hear her request.
The tension in their postures prompted observations about how much more relaxed she and Obama always seemed, but there was another point of comparison — a weirder one — if President George W. Bush came into the picture. At a G8 summit meeting in St. Petersburg in 2006, he walked up behind Merkel, who was seated, and massaged her shoulders. This visibly surprised her. It didn’t seem to amuse her much, either.
Amusement wasn’t a word that popped to mind when you saw pictures and read accounts of Trump’s encounters with Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected president of France, in Brussels on Thursday. Maybe that’s because Trump was once again sowing doubt about his commitment to NATO. Or maybe that’s because he reportedly told Macron that he’d supported him, even though his affections had clearly been for Marine Le Pen of the National Front.
Whichever the case, Macron at one point seemed to swerve away from Trump, despite Trump’s outstretch arms, so he could embrace Merkel instead.
At another point, during a formal greeting, Macron and Trump “ grabbed each other’s hands, jaws clenched, in an extended grip that turned Mr. Trump’s knuckles white,” according to The Times.
“Their faces tightened,” reported The Washington Post. “Trump reached in first, but then he tried to release, twice, but Macron kept his grip.”
Sacred texts have received less scrupulous analysis than Trump’s foreign-leader handshakes, his presidential-debate snorts (remember those?) and the reactions — aghast, awe-struck, puzzled, peeved — of those who bump up against (or happen to be married to) him.
I think that’s fitting, not just because his actual speech is so honesty-challenged but also because the analyzers are paying respect to the way he takes in information. He prefers television to reading, images to pesky words. Shouldn’t we return the favor when appraising him?
And aren’t we in the right to take note of an Israeli diplomat’s physical reaction when Trump said, in Israel, “We just got back from the Middle East,” as if Israel were in South America or something? The diplomat, Ron Dermer, briefly buried his head in one of his hands.
Do cry for us, Montenegro.
An inmate being transported from a Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud to the prison in Lino Lakes hijacked a white transport van full of other prisoners and escaped this morning, authorities said.
The escape occurred just before 11 a.m. Nine have now been taken into custody. One is still at large, James Douglas Mitchell, 26, who is serving prison for felony assault, said Sarah Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections. Mitchell was last seen wearing standard prison garb: blue jeans, a white t-shirt and blue button-down shirt.
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The Minneapolis Police Department is searching for Mitchell in north Minneapolis, warning residents to stay indoors and call 911 if they any suspicious activity.
Five inmates were arrested at gunpoint shortly after the escape, and the other four arrested about an hour later. The Department of Corrections has identified five of the inmates involved in the escape.Three were serving time for assault, one for domestic assault and one for a weapons violation. They are: Mitchell, Kevin Ladell Mitchell, 31, Mitchell Dale Saltzman, 36, Dylan Cantrell Bathke, 21, and Paul Jerome Thunder, 39.
Lino Lakes houses about 1,800 minimum- and medium-security male prisoners.
Signed in as mikenova
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BERLIN — Allegedly heated comments by President Trump about a key U.S. ally — Germany — generated a fresh swirl of confusion Friday around an administration that has already had more than its fill.
During a meeting Thursday with European Union officials in Brussels, Trump allegedly said, “The Germans are bad, very bad,” according to Germany’s Spiegel Online, which cited unnamed sources in the room. He continued, the outlet said, by saying: “See the millions of cars they are selling in the U.S.? Terrible. We will stop this.”
On Friday, the report spread rapidly through the German press and social media, igniting a backlash, including one response by a German industry group saying Trump’s protectionist stance would make him “a loser.”
But what did Trump actually say?
European officials — and Trump’s administration — offered contradictory accounts.
Trump scolds world leaders at NATO ceremony
President Trump criticized leaders at a dedication ceremony at the new NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, saying they need to increase financial contributions to combat “the threat of terrorism.” Trump says leaders need to increase financial contributions to combat “the threat of terrorism.” (The Washington Post)
(The Washington Post)
Part of the backlash stemmed, perhaps, from a poor translation: In its German-language editions, Spiegel used the word “böse” — which can mean “bad” but is closer to the English word “evil.” In another report, the German outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung cited a similar quote from Trump but translated the word he used as “schlecht” — a milder German word for “bad.”
In a later tweet from Spiegel Online’s main account, it clarified that Trump had indeed used the English word “bad” and not “evil.”
Yet even that remained in dispute, with the administration offering no clarity — again highlighting the communication problems that continue to plague the White House.
One of the key figures in the room during the meeting, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said the Der Spiegel report was off.
“He didn’t say the Germans are behaving badly,” Juncker told journalists in Sicily ahead of the start of a Group of Seven summit involving the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Canada and Japan. “He said we have a problem, as others do, with the German surplus. So he was not aggressive at all. Bad doesn’t mean evil.”
Soon afterward, White House press secretary Sean Spicer appeared to leap on Juncker’s comments to debunk the story. Responding to a tweet by New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman about the Der Spiegel article, Spicer wrote: “Except it’s not true: Juncker says Trump was not aggressive on German trade surplus.”
And yet, when asked on the sidelines in Sicily, chief White House economic adviser Gary Cohn seemed to confirm that the president had said something about “bad” German trade practices.
“He said they’re very bad on trade but he doesn’t have a problem with Germany,” Cohn said. “He said his dad is from Germany. He said, ‘I don’t have a problem with Germany. I have a problem with German trade.’ ”
Another official with direct knowledge of the Thursday meeting told The Washington Post on Friday that Trump had never used the word “bad.”
“He did say yesterday that there’s a massive deficit that he doesn’t intend to put up with, but nothing about Germany being bad,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting with top leaders. Cohn was not taking formal notes during the conversation, the official said.
During an appearance with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump ignored a question from a reporter who asked whether he had called the Germans “bad.”
In Germany, however, the incident seemed to highlight suggestions of a growing rift between Washington and Berlin after the frosty March meeting between the president and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who Trump repeatedly jabbed at on the campaign trail last year. In a January interview with the European press, Trump called out German corporate titans including BMW, warning that they may face fat tariffs on U.S. imports should they keep building cars in Mexico.
Asked about Trump’s alleged comments, Germany’s deputy government spokesman, Georg Streiter, said in Berlin on Friday that “a trade surplus is neither bad nor evil; it’s the result of the interplay between supply and demand on world markets.”
Martin Schulz, the candidate from the center left who is challenging Merkel in this year’s election, appeared to more generally condemn Trump’s aggressive behavior toward Germany as Europe as a whole Europe at the Brussels gathering. In the meeting, Trump also demanded that allies pay more for their defense and held back on offering an unconditional pledge to honor NATO’s treaty commitment that an attack on a single alliance nation is an attack on all.
“Such humiliating treatment is to be rebuffed,” Schulz said in Berlin, according to German press reports. “One does not need to accept something like that.”
Norbert Röttgen, head of the foreign affairs committee of the German parliament who hails from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told Spiegel Online: “U.S. President Trump isn’t capable to lead the Western alliance. In any case, he isn’t interested in it at the moment.”
The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quipped: “It’s worth having a look at other Trump quotes: Who else does the president find “bad.” Suddenly the Germans find themselves in the company of North Korea . . . and Mexican drug gangs.”
Some wore the alleged slight as a badge of honor: “#The Germans are very, very bad’ #Trump. Haven’t been praised like that in a while,” tweeted Bernd Ulrich, a journalist with Die Zeit.
André Schwarz, spokesman for the Federation of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA), called Trump’s stance on Germany’s trade surplus wrongheaded.
“The right way is to improve one’s own competitiveness instead of trying to gain advantages by means of some kind of import tariffs” on “good” German products, he said.
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He added, “We shouldn’t be too concerned with rhetoric, but it’s important to clarity that [his position] will make him a loser.”
Some in Germany, however, gave Trump the benefit of the doubt, instead blaming the German press for stoking the fires of animosity with a bad translation.
“It’s not easy, but sometimes evil German journalists should quote #Trump properly,” tweeted German user Andreas Wolf. “For example when he says BAD instead of EVIL! #germansarebad.”
Philip Rucker in Sicily, Michael Birnbaum in London and Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin contributed to this report.