Accessibility links

Breaking News

North Korea Tops Trump’s ‘Working Vacation’ Agenda

FILE - President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington to board Marine One helicopter for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, en route to Bedminster, N.J., for vacation, Aug. 4, 2017.
FILE - President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington to board Marine One helicopter for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, en route to Bedminster, N.J., for vacation, Aug. 4, 2017.

President Donald Trump received his intelligence briefing at his golf club in New Jersey Monday and held an hour-long telephone call to discuss North Korea with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and get an update on his trip to Southeast Asia.

White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters provided details on Trump's "working vacation." The president's chief of staff, General John Kelly, and other aides also are close at hand in New Jersey.

Earlier Monday, North Korea lashed back against the U.N. Security Council's unanimous decision to impose additional sanctions against Pyongyang due to its long-range missile tests in July.

Tillerson is in Manila for the annual foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho also is there, but there have been no known face-to-face talks at ASEAN between the two of them.

The United States will "pay dearly," the North Korean government statement said, and vowed it is prepared to "use any form of ultimate means" if Washington "fails to act with discretion."

Trump hails UN vote

In addition to his talks with Tillerson on Monday, Trump has discussed the threat posed by the North with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. After their conversation, the U.S. president said on Twitter he was "very happy and impressed with the 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions."

Since neither Russia nor China vetoed or abstained from voting on the U.S.-drafted resolution, the U.N. action was seen as a diplomatic victory for the Trump administration.

Trump marked the 200th day of his presidency Monday with a salvo of tweets rebutting the notion seen in recent media reports that his political support at home may be eroding.

On the morning of the third full day of his working holiday, Trump dispatched nine tweets from his New Jersey residence. The messages marked a return to scorching criticism on social media, following a relatively quiet period since Trump named retired Marine Corps General Kelly as his new chief of staff.

No reduction in Trump tweets expected

Since joining Twitter in 2009, Trump has posted 35,000 messages on that online network. Even if chief of staff Kelly imposes new order and discipline on White House operations, many observers say they do not expect the president to alter his Twitter habits.

If Kelly wanted to prevent Trump from quickly responding on Twitter to televised comments that upset him, he "would have to order all television sets out of the White House, including the 60-inch screens that Trump had mounted, including in the residence," said Mark Peterson, a professor of public policy and political science at the University of California-Los Angeles. "And that does not seem likely."

The UCLA professor told VOA, "I doubt that anyone is surprised that President Trump would continue his use of Twitter or has not shifted away from the tone and style that have come to define the way he usually communicates with that medium."

Trump wrote Monday on Twitter that his political base of Republican support is "far bigger & stronger than ever before," despite polling that shows it is eroding.

Pollsters scrutinize Trump's support

The president derided the surveys as "phony Fake News polling." He contended that political rallies he has held in several states he won in last year's election show his continuing strength.

He cited as evidence of his success record highs for the country's main stock market indexes, tightened border security, job growth, business deregulation and approval of a conservative choice for a Supreme Court opening.

Recent national surveys show about a third of American voters approve of Trump's performance during the first six-and-a-half months of his presidency, although support has begun to decline among some segments of voters who cast ballots for him.

Some political observers question whether Trump can govern effectively with only one-third of the American public standing firmly behind him.

"Most of us who watch and study the presidency would have a hard time identifying evidence to support that proposition, but he seems to believe it," said UCLA’s Peterson.

'Hard to believe' he's getting stronger

Trump, on Twitter, said it is "hard to believe" that "the Trump base is getting stronger!" despite months of coverage by the mainstream news media of what he called "the Fake News Russian collusion story."

Numerous investigations are under way in Washington about whether Trump campaign aides colluded with Russian officials to help him defeat his Democratic challenger, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A series of Trump tweets Monday renewed his attack on Senator Richard Blumenthal, after the Connecticut Democrat appeared on CNN and said, "There is no minimizing or underestimating that attack by the Russians" on last year's presidential election, and its role in the current investigations.

The president has repeatedly said he no longer watches CNN, deriding it as "fake news," but he apparently tuned in Monday morning. About 15 minutes after the Blumenthal interview, Trump termed the senator "a phony Vietnam con artist!" That was a reference to Blumenthal's admission in 2010 that his past claims of having served in Vietnam with the U.S. military during the wars in Southeast Asian were false.

After Trump's tweets, Blumenthal said, "Mr. President: Your bullying hasn't worked before and it won't work now. No one is above the law."