Washington, Aug 30 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump said that there's no reason to spend a lot of money on military wargames with South Korea, but he warned he could "instantly" relaunch the exercises again and they would be "far bigger than ever before."
Trump made the comment Wednesday in a series of tweets that primarily took aim at China, blaming it for lack of progress on getting North Korea to end its nuclear program, following the president's landmark summit with Kim Jong Un in June.
But there was also a loaded message for Kim: mixing an expression of goodwill to the North Korean autocrat with an implicit military threat that will add to speculation over the direction of Trump's attempted rapprochement with a longtime adversary.
"The president believes that his relationship with Kim Jong Un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games," Trump said, citing what was presented as a White House statement. "Besides, the president can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses. If he does, they will be far bigger than ever before."
Trump caught military leaders by surprise in June when he announced the suspension with the South, "unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should." He called the drills costly and provocative.
The cancellation was an olive branch to Pyongyang, which has long complained that the exercises were invasion preparations. Often the North has reacted to the exercises with its own demonstrations of military might, including firing a new intermediate-range missile over Japan last year as a countermeasure to the drills.
There was some hope that the gesture of shelving the fall exercises would foster goodwill and help nudge the North in the denuclearization talks. But beyond returning the potential remains of about 55 U.S. troops missing from the Korean War, and its continuing suspension in its missile and nuclear tests, there has been little movement from the North.
As a result, the U.S. last week shelved a planned trip to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing lack of progress on denuclearization, but remaining open to future talks.
As doubts grow in Washington and beyond over Kim's willingness to relinquish his nukes, Trump has been heaping blame on China, which is North Korea's traditional ally and main trading partner. On Wednesday the president accused Beijing of pressuring the North because of current tensions in U.S.-China trade relations, and also of providing North Korea money, fuel, fertilizer and other commodities, which he said was not helpful.
China cooperated with the U.S. last year in adopting tough international sanctions against North Korea and maintains it is still enforcing the restrictions adopted by the U.N. Security Council.
But in his tweets, Trump also signaled that the U.S. has its own military means of exerting pressure on Pyongyang. His remarks compounded confusing messages from the Pentagon over the past two days that have revived speculation over the drills.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters the U.S. might carry out drills with South Korea next spring after having cancelled a major exercise this summer. He said no decision has been made on when to resume military exercises, but his statements suggested the recent cancellation might not be repeated.
Several U.S. officials acknowledged Wednesday that planning is going forward for the spring exercises, which require months of preparation.
"Routine planning continues for major U.S.-ROK exercises on the peninsula in accordance with the normal exercise program planning cycle," said Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referring to the acronym for South's official name, the Republic of Korea.
Other U.S. officials also said preliminary work on the drills has begun, noting that it is much easier to cancel an exercise than it is to slap one together quickly. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.
David Maxwell, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the initial planning for the exercises can begin a year in advance, including the funding, scheduling and movement of forces and units that will participate. As time goes on, planners would nail down the war game scenario and other details.
"We continue to plan for exercises, but we can stop them on a dime," said Maxwell, a retired Army colonel who served five tours in Korea. "We can't restart them on a dime."
He said the risk of a continued halt in the major drills would be a diminishing of skills and institutional memory between South Korean forces and the more than 28,000 U.S. troops based there. "The longer we go without exercises, the more risk there is that we will suffer significant challenges if there is a war," Maxwell said.
U.S. officials said Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, has taken steps to mitigate any loss of training by scheduling smaller exercises and staff drills.
A key challenge in Korea is that the bulk of the U.S. forces deploy for just a year, so they rely on the summer exercise to get familiar with the South Korean military and the ways allied troops coordinate and operate with them. The spring Foal Eagle drill is more expansive and includes fighter jets, maritime maneuvers, amphibious assault tactics and computer-simulated scenarios.
Washington, Aug 30 (AP/UNB) — John McCain's rebellious streak didn't come out of nowhere. His mother, Roberta, had a habit of speeding behind the wheel and racking up tickets. When told during a trip to Europe that she was too old to rent a car, she went out and bought a Peugeot. Her son once answered the telephone to hear his mother say she was on a cross-country driving trip — by herself, in her 90s.
Now 106, the wife of a Navy admiral and mother of a Navy captain lived a life full of travel and adventure, punctuated by her sass and determination.
She once said her son liked to hold her up as an example of "what he hopes his lifespan will be."
But in the end, she is mourning him instead of the other way around.
Though slowed by a stroke, she is expected to attend memorial and burial services in Washington and Maryland later this week for the middle son she called "Johnny," the Vietnam prisoner of war, congressman, senator and two-time presidential candidate who died of brain cancer on Saturday at age 81.
The senator said in one of his books that "my mother was raised to be a strong, determined woman who thoroughly enjoyed life, and always tried to make the most of her opportunities. She was encouraged to accept, graciously and with good humor, the responsibilities and sacrifices her choices have required of her. I am grateful to her for the strengths she taught me by example."
McCain's father, too, had a penchant for living large, with the senator recalling that a predilection for "quick tempers, adventurous spirits, and love for the country's uniform" was encoded in his family DNA.
A native of Muskogee, Oklahoma, Roberta Wright was nearly 21 and a college student in southern California when she eloped to Tijuana, Mexico, in January 1933 with a young sailor named John S. McCain Jr. He would go on to become a Navy admiral, like the father he shared a name with, and the couple would have three children — Jean, John and Joseph — within a decade.
With her husband away on Navy business most of the time, Roberta McCain raised the kids. She didn't complain, and loved Navy life. The family lived in Hawaii, the Panama Canal Zone — where the senator was born in 1936 — Connecticut, Virginia and many points in between.
"To me, the Navy epitomizes everything that's good in America," she told C-SPAN in 2008 during the presidential contest John McCain lost to Barack Obama.
John McCain followed his father and grandfather's footsteps into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he'll be laid to rest on Sunday. He became a fighter pilot and joined the combat action in Vietnam. He was on his 23rd bombing run over North Vietnam when he was shot out of the sky and taken prisoner in October 1967.
His parents were in London getting ready to attend a dinner at Iran's embassy when a special phone that Roberta McCain says she never touched rang while her husband was in the shower. She answered and listened as a friend told her two planes had been shot down and none of the pilots had ejected. She told her husband when he came out of the shower, and they kept to their plans.
"We went and decided we were not going to say one word at this dinner," she said in the 2008 interview.
She said that later learning her son was alive and had become a prisoner of war was "the best news I ever had in my life."
Roberta McCain missed watching her son's release from Vietnam on television in 1973. Someone telephoned and told her to watch the TV, something she said she did little of. "These people came off and the television stopped, so I turned off the television," she explained. "I didn't know that between ads he did come off ... and I missed it."
She later said she was "ashamed" of her son for the "terrible language" he used toward the Vietnamese captors who tortured him.
"I never would have believed in this world he would ever use language like that, but he did," Roberta McCain said in the interview, which was conducted at her Washington home.
Well into her 90s, she became a fixture on John McCain's 2008 campaign, connecting with audiences and displaying some of the sass and wit he appeared to have inherited from her.
John McCain wrote in his final book, published this year, that his 106-year-old mother's "vivaciousness is a force of nature" but that although a stroke has slowed her once-brisk pace and has made speaking a "chore," she still has "a spark in her, a brightness in her eyes that would light up the world if she could resume her peripatetic life."
Roberta McCain and her identical twin sister, Rowena Wright, who died in 2011, often traveled around the world together.
Beijing, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — China has denied an accusation by U.S. President Donald Trump that it hacked the emails of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election.
"We are firmly opposed to all forms of cyberattacks and espionage," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing Wednesday. She said China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity.
Trump tweeted shortly after midnight that China had hacked Clinton's emails, without offering any evidence or further information, and suggested that the FBI and Department of Justice should investigate.
"Hillary Clinton's Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China. Next move better be by the FBI & DOJ," he tweeted.
U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of involvement in the hacking of Democratic emails during the 2016 election campaign. The Justice Department has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking into Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic Party.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russia's role in the election and whether there was any collusion between it and Trump's campaign.
Hua also denied on Wednesday that China was building a military base in far-eastern Afghanistan after a report published by the South China Morning Post alleged that Beijing was constructing a counterterrorism-focused facility near its border but inside the war-torn Islamic republic.
The report said China's People Liberation Army could send hundreds of military personnel into Afghanistan after the base is completed.
Washington, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google and other U.S. tech companies of rigging search results about him "so that almost all stories & news is BAD." He offered no evidence of bias, but a top adviser said the White House is "taking a look" at whether Google should face federal regulation.
Google pushed back sharply, saying Trump's claim simply wasn't so: "We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment."
The president's tweets echoed his familiar attacks on the news media — and a conservative talking point that California-based tech companies run by CEOs with liberal leanings don't give equal weight to opposing political viewpoints. They also revealed anew his deep-seated frustration he doesn't get the credit he believes he deserves.
The president, who has said he runs on little sleep, jumped onto Twitter before dawn Tuesday to rehash his recent complaints about alleged suppression of conservative voices and positive news about him.
He followed that up with vague threats in Oval Office comments.
"I think Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people, and I think that's a very serious thing. That's a very serious charge," Trump said, adding that Google, Twitter, Facebook and others "better be careful, because you can't do that to people."
Trump claimed that "we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. ... So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they're really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful."
Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser, told reporters later that the White House is "taking a look" at whether Google searches should be subject to some government regulation. That would be a noteworthy development since Trump often points proudly to his cutting of government regulations as a spur for economic gains.
In his tweets, Trump said — without offering evidence — that "Google search results for 'Trump News' shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?" He added, again with no evidence, that "96% of results on "Trump News" are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous."
A search query Tuesday morning, several hours after the president tweeted, showed stories from CNN, ABC News, Fox News and the MarketWatch business site, among others. A similar search later in the day for "Trump" had Fox News, the president's favored cable network, among the top results.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, said its aim is to make sure its search engine users quickly get the most relevant answers.
"Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology," the company said in a statement. "Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users' queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment."
Experts suggested that Trump's comments showed a misunderstanding of how search engines work.
Google searches aim to surface the most relevant pages in response to a user's query, even before he or she finishes typing. The answers that appear first are the ones Google's formulas, with some help from human content reviewers, deem to be the most authoritative, informative and relevant. Many factors help decide the initial results, including how much time people spend on a page, how many other pages link to it, how well it's designed and more.
Trump and some supporters have long accused Silicon Valley companies of being biased against them. While some company executives may lean liberal, they have long asserted that their products are without political bias.
Media analyst Ken Doctor said it doesn't make sense for mass-market businesses like Google to lean either way politically. He characterized the complaints as a "sign of our times," adding that, years ago, if the head of General Electric was supporting a Republican candidate, people who disagreed wouldn't then go out and boycott GE products.
"The temperature has risen on this," Doctor said.
Steven Andres, who teaches about management information systems at San Diego State University, said people often assume that if you give a computer the same inputs no matter where you are that you "get the same outputs."
But it doesn't work that way, he said. "You're seeing different things every moment of the day and the algorithms are always trying to change the results."
Trump didn't say what he based his tweets on. But conservative activist Paula Boylard had said in a weekend blog post that she found "blatant prioritization of left-leaning and anti-Trump media outlets" in search results.
Boylard based her judgments on the political leanings of media outlets on a list by Sharyl Attkisson, host of Sinclair Television's "Full Measure" and author of "The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, Think, and How You Vote." Sinclair is a significant outlet for conservative views.
Trump began complaining about the issue earlier this month as social media companies moved to ban right-wing "Infowars" conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from their platforms. The president also argues regularly — and falsely — that the news media avoid writing positive stories about him and his administration.
Jones is being sued for saying the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was staged. Jones has since said he believes the shooting did occur and has argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because he was acting as a journalist.
Trump has praised Jones' "amazing" reputation.
The issue is also of concern on Capitol Hill, where the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., recently announced that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is scheduled to testify before the panel on Sept. 5 about the platform's algorithms and content monitoring.
Tallahassee, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — A liberal Florida Democrat pulled off an upset victory while President Donald Trump's favored candidate cruised to an easy win Tuesday, setting up a fierce showdown for the governor's mansion in the nation's largest political battleground.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, an unabashed progressive, won the Democratic primary, moving him a step away from becoming the state's first black governor. He'll face off against Trump-backed Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis gave Trump credit for his victory, saying that with one supportive tweet, the president "kind of put me on the map." Gillum is his party's third black gubernatorial nominee this year, along with Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Ben Jealous in Maryland.
The results immediately transformed the Florida race into one of the most closely watched gubernatorial campaigns in the country. Gillum's primary victory could help Democrats boost enthusiasm among minorities who often don't vote in large numbers in years when a presidential candidate isn't on the ballot. Meanwhile, DeSantis will test Trump's grip on a crucial state he won in 2016 and wants to keep in his column in 2020.
DeSantis was one of several Republicans running in contests Tuesday in Florida and Arizona — another closely watched political battleground — who hoped that cozying up to the president would be rewarded by voters. Trump has thrust himself into the forefront of the midterm campaign in hopes of motivating his supporters and offsetting Democratic enthusiasm.
In Arizona, primary contests were shadowed by the death of Sen. John McCain. Though McCain was a towering figure who was elected to the Senate by Arizonans six times, the three Republican candidates running to replace his retiring seat-mate, Sen. Jeff Flake — including establishment favorite Rep. Martha McSally — aligned themselves more with the president than the longtime senator.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey planned to name a replacement to fill McCain's seat after his funeral.
Polls closed in Arizona at the end of a day that began with delayed openings at dozens of polling locations in the state's largest county. Leaders in Maricopa County rejected calls to try to keep polls open later, saying it may confuse voters and delay returns. No problems were reported elsewhere in the state.
Elsewhere Tuesday, GOP voters in reliably Republican Oklahoma backed mortgage company owner Kevin Stitt in a runoff for the gubernatorial nomination. Stitt won in part by criticizing his opponent as insufficiently supportive of Trump.
Trump surprised Florida Republicans late last year with his endorsement of DeSantis, and frequently tweeted about the lawmaker, one of his staunchest supporters in Washington. His backing helped push DeSantis past Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who has held elected office in Florida since 1996, quickly built up establishment support and raised millions of dollars.
Gillum came from behind in a crowded and diverse Democratic field. Former Rep. Gwen Graham, whose father, Bob Graham, served as governor, had hoped to position herself to become the state's first female governor.
Gillum, a favorite of progressives, spent the least of the five major Democratic candidates and had the smallest television presence. He often said he was the only candidate in the race who wasn't a millionaire or billionaire, and won the endorsement of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
At a victory party in Tallahassee, Gillum thanked supporters who "took hold of our vision and our mission and our plan for a state that makes room for all of us, not just the well-heeled and the well-connected, but all of us."
The winner of the Florida governor's race will give his or her party an advantage in a key political battleground heading into the 2020 presidential campaign.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is vacating the governor's mansion to run for Senate. He easily won his primary, setting up a showdown with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson that is expected to be one of the nation's most competitive races.
Democrats also eyed pickup opportunities in Florida as they try to flip control of the U.S. House. One of their best chances is in South Florida, where Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring in a district that should favor Democrats.
Donna Shalala, who served as President Bill Clinton's Health and Human Services secretary, claimed the Democratic nomination in Ros-Lehtinen's district.
The contests in both Florida and Arizona were being closely watched for signs of how the political battlegrounds might tilt in the 2020 presidential election.
McCain's death has highlighted anew the shift in the Republican Party since he captured the GOP nomination for president in 2008. With his consistently conservative voting record, Arizonans elected McCain to the Senate six times, including in 2016. But his more moderate stance on immigration and his deciding vote last year against Trump's efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law turned off many GOP voters.
A CNN survey in June found that 67 percent of Democrats had a favorable opinion of McCain, while just 33 percent of Republicans did.
Among those on the Arizona ballot was former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who tried unsuccessfully to unseat McCain in 2016. When McCain's family said last week that he was discontinuing medical treatment, Ward speculated in a later-deleted Facebook post that the announcement was intended to hurt her campaign for Flake's seat.
Ward apologized Monday, saying she was bemoaning media coverage rather than the family's announcement.
"I do understand how many could have misconstrued my comments as insensitive, and for this I apologize," Ward said.
Also running for the Senate nomination was former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the controversial immigration hardliner. Trump spared Arpaio a possible jail sentence last year by pardoning his federal conviction stemming from immigration patrols.
McSally, a fighter pilot turned congresswoman in the McCain mold, was hoping Ward and Arpaio split Arizona's anti-establishment vote.
The winner of the GOP primary is likely to face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who had only token primary opposition. Sinema announced that she was pausing her campaign Wednesday and Thursday, when McCain's body will lie in Arizona's Capitol.
Sinema's and McSally's Senate runs also have created House openings in Arizona, a fast-growing and increasingly diverse state where Democrats are eager to gain a foothold. McSally's district in particular is expected to be one of the most competitive House races in November's general election.