Trump, Macron may clash on European defense in Paris talks

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs the White House en route to Paris from Washington, US, November 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 November 2018
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Trump, Macron may clash on European defense in Paris talks

  • French officials said Macron’s mooted EU “army” was merely a call for closer defense integration
  • The French president, who has enacted major defense spending hikes to bring France in line with NATO spending targets

PARIS: US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron headed toward a potential clash in talks on Saturday after Trump took offense to what he called a “very insulting” comment from Macron about the need to create a European army.
Fresh off US congressional elections that saw his Republican Party’s power erode, Trump is spending the weekend in Paris to bolster the US-European alliance at World War One remembrance ceremonies.
But in a tweet prior to landing in Paris, Trump took a dim view of comments Macron made in a Europe 1 radio interview this week.
Discussing cybersecurity threats and global instability in general, Macron said Europe needs to protect itself against China, Russia and the United States.
Later in the interview he spoke about the need for a European army.
“Confronted by Russia, which is on our borders and which has shown itself willing to be threatening, we need to have a Europe that can better defend itself by itself and in a sovereign way, without depending solely on the United States,” he said.
Trump, who has pushed NATO allies to pay more for their common defense and not rely so heavily on the United States, complained.
“Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly,” Trump said on Twitter.
The president, joined by his wife Melania and high-ranking US officials, arrived late on Friday aboard Air Force One for a visit that he called “very special” and one that he “looked forward to.”
Trump’s official mission on the trip is to participate in ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. He will make pilgrimages to two American cemeteries, Belleau Wood two hours east of Paris on Saturday and Suresnes on the western outskirts of the capital on Sunday, where he will make formal remarks.
His trip comes just days after congressional elections delivered results that will complicate his next two years. While Republicans slightly expanded their majority in the US Senate, they lost control of the US House of Representatives to Democrats who may use their newfound power to launch investigations into Trump and stymie his agenda.
Trump’s talks with Macron at Elysee Palace are likely to cover European concerns about Trump’s plans to withdraw the United States from the 1980s Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Agreement and US renewal of sanctions against Iran.
Macron told Europe 1 radio that the “main victim” of the US withdrawal from the INF accord was Europe and its security.
The French president, who tried but failed earlier this year to talk Trump out of withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, has also voiced worries about the impact of sanctions on European companies doing business with Iran.
Trump may also chat briefly with Russian President Vladimir Putin when both are among dozens of world leaders gathered at the Arc de Triomphe to mark the end of the Great War 100 years ago. Trump and Putin are expected to have formal talks later this month when both attend a G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Trump, who has pursued “America First” policies since taking over the presidency in January 2017, declared himself a “nationalist” during the run-up to the congressional elections, a term likely to raise concerns in Europe.
“I’m not a globalist, but I want to take care of the globe, but first I have to take care of our country,” he told Fox News Channel’s “The Ingraham Angle” last week. “I want to help people around the world, but we have to take care of our country, or we won’t have a country.”


Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 22 February 2019
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.