– – – Tearline – – – Aug. 17, 2017

In this week's Tearline: Trump sympathizes with white supremacists after a terrorist attack in Charlottesville and effectively sews alarm at home as well as abroad in Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and China with increasingly inflammatory rhetoric.

Tearline Logo
Tearline noun | ‘ter ï lin
The portions of an intelligence report that provide the substance of a more highly classified or controlled report without identifying sensitive sources, methods, or other operational information.

View past issues here. Think your friends might be interested? They can subscribe here.

What was that?!

The world watched in horror last weekend as white supremacists and counterprotesters squared off in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a domestic terrorist, James A. Fields Jr., mowed down counterprotesters with his car, killing Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. In the immediate aftermath, President Donald Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” In this statement, President Trump equated neo-Nazis with the counterprotesters fighting for racial equality and equity. While he reluctantly issued a more specific statement that called out Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and white supremacists two days later, President Trump doubled back on Tuesday, condemning “alt-left” groups. The tragic events in Charlottesville once again brought out some of the worst in this president—a man who sends carefully crafted messages, this time with the goal of sympathizing with neo-Nazis. The president’s responses send a terrifying message to the world. Not only do they illustrate the president’s sympathy toward neo-Nazi causes, but they also reveal his willful ignorance of the fact that far-right extremists, not Islamic extremists, are responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11.

What’s missing?

For years, President Trump has railed about China’s unfair trade policies and claimed he could get a better deal for American workers. Finally, on Monday, he unveiled his first big trade measure against China. With great fanfare, he announced that he’s going to—wait for it—ask the U.S. trade representative to investigate Chinese intellectual property rights violations. But wait, isn’t China’s record of intellectual property theft already well-documented? It sure is, as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pointed out in his statement. Basically, it seems the Trump administration has decided to punt any real action on intellectual property theft for another year, making this move look suspiciously like a North Korea negotiation ploy rather than the tough trade action he promised American workers. Although the White House denies that this is North Korea-related, just a few weeks ago, Trump tweeted that he’d view Chinese trading differently if China acted on North Korea. Sounds like Trump thinks he can only get Beijing to move on trade or North Korea—not both—and that he’s willing to trade one for the other. This doesn’t sound like a good deal for the United States at all.

What’s on deck in the world for next week

In the escalating war of words between the United States and North Korea, Pyongyang backed away from its threat to send four missiles into the waters near Guam as long as the United States refrains from certain actions. Some say it’s because U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis finally presented a unified stance on North Korea. Others think that China is to credit, since it announced on Monday that it would begin enacting the new U.N. sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday. Watch this space closely. Annual joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises scheduled to begin on August 21 often provoke a strong rhetorical response from North Korea. Hopefully this time, it won’t result in fire and fury. And make no mistake: Trump is manufacturing a crisis with North Korea and risking war in the process, as Mike Fuchs makes clear here.

Better ideas

President Trump’s threats to ditch the U.S.-negotiated Iran nuclear deal have prompted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to threaten to restart his country’s nuclear program. President Rouhani remarked that President Trump’s comments and decision to exit other international agreements indicate that he is an unreliable negotiating partner. The previous day, Iran’s parliament appropriated new funds for the country’s missile program and Revolutionary Guard units, both of which the Republican congress recently sanctioned. President Trump’s escalation with Iran affects the safety of U.S. forces in the region. Last week, an Iranian drone buzzed a U.S. aircraft carrier, forcing it into defensive maneuvers. Rather than jeopardize the nuclear agreement and sleepwalk into conflict, Trump should enforce the agreement and take responsible steps to effectively counter Iran’s dangerous behavior in the region.

Quote of the week

Referring to the economic and political crisis in Venezuela, President Trump this week said, “I’m not going to rule out a military option.” South America is understandably sensitive to American threats given the U.S. tendency to overthrow their governments, and South American leaders have roundly denounced Trump’s statement. In fact, Trump’s threat might only serve to help Venezuela’s wildly unpopular and dictatorial President Nicolás Maduro. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was visiting Latin America this week and trying to soften Trump’s statement.

Read of the week

Brennan Gilmore, a former U.S. foreign service officer and current resident of Charlottesville, witnessed the horrible events in his city last weekend. The events reminded him of foreign countries where he served and where ideological hatred also turned violent. Read his compelling take here, and learn why the United States needs to work hard to prevent these divisions from spiraling into more violence.

Weekly Trump-Russia reminder

Trump campaign documents revealed that low-level Trump adviser George Papadapolous repeatedly attempted to set up meetings between then-candidate Trump and Russian leadership during the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails are further evidence that Russian officials were in touch with the Trump campaign and reveal anxiety at senior levels of the campaign about Trump personally meeting with the Russian government during the campaign season.

209 days still violating the Constitution

President Trump has been violating the Constitution’s prohibition against corruption by foreign governments for 209 days, because his companies are receiving payments from foreign governments. For an in-depth look at Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, see this CAP interactive map and series of columns.
Please send feedback, comments, and ideas to [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected].

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Michael Fuchs

Senior Fellow

Meredith Leal

Program Coordinator

Abigail Bard

Former Policy Analyst, Asia