Trump Expected to Highlight Strong Economy in First State of the Union Address

President Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday. Lawmakers and a worldwide TV audience expect to hear the president’s priorities for 2018 in domestic and foreign policy. Trump is looking to shore up public support after a controversial first year that saw a victory on tax cuts but also numerous distractions and controversies that led to historically low poll ratings. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone previews it from Washington.

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Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Resigns as Top GOP Finance Chairman

Casino mogul Steve Wynn has resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

Wynn has been a prolific Republican donor and led the RNC’s fundraising efforts during President Donald Trump’s first year.

RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Saturday that she accepted Wynn’s resignation.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that a number of women said they were harassed or assaulted by Wynn, the chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts.

Wynn has denied the allegations.

Wynn’s resignation was first reported by Politico.


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Rebuilding US, Addressing Foreign Threats to Highlight Trump State of Union Address

During his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Donald Trump will discuss a return “to clarity about our friends and adversaries” and his efforts “to defeat terrorists around the world,” a senior administration official said Saturday.

The White House is keeping mum on specifics, but officials confirmed that North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland was expected to be addressed.

The annual address by U.S. presidents to a joint session of Congress usually is heavily skewed toward domestic issues. Trump’s speech will be no exception. It will also be of interest to international audiences, however, as he will discuss national security, trade and immigration.

Trump also will be “emphasizing the fair and reciprocal nature of trade,” according to the official, who briefed reporters on the condition he not be further identified. Recent actions taken by the administration against China’s trade practices are likely to be mentioned. 

Push on immigration

In the days leading up to the speech, expected to last one hour, the White House is outlining Trump’s proposals on immigration reform, and officials say the president, in the State of the Union address, will call for Congress to approve them despite an initial poor reception among many lawmakers.

The speech, expected to be Trump’s most important of the year, and the one reaching the largest audience, will primarily deal with jobs and the economy, tax reform, deregulation and infrastructure.

Trump will make an appeal to lawmakers of his Republican Party and the opposition Democrats to advance his trillion-dollar infrastructure improvement plan.

“He’s going to talk about the need to replace depleted infrastructure,” according to the official, who declined to provide additional details.

Some of the White House guests invited into the chamber of the House of Representatives for the speech will personify the battle against drug addiction and the opioid crisis in America, another priority for the Trump administration.

“You can expect the president will be speaking from the heart,” said the official, who noted the address will be titled “Building a Safe, Strong and Proud America.”

Analysts have diverse expectations for the important speech.

Saying that in the first year of this presidency “the world has borne the brunt of Trump’s impulsive and inconsistent policies,” former U.S. diplomat Brett Bruen offered that the president “would be well-advised to try to reassure foreign leaders the United States will continue to be a reliable ally and honor its long-standing commitments.”

What has he learned?

Bruen, who heads the Global Situation Room consulting firm and was director of global engagement in the Obama White House, told VOA that around the world, people “want to see signs he’s learned from his mistakes, even if he won’t admit it. His message should be: ‘Year one, I wanted to break china so we could have a fresh start. Now let’s talk about what our future looks like and how we get there together.’ ”

The tone on global issues in the State of the Union will echo Trump’s most recent speech on the international stage, according to administration officials.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Friday, the U.S. president contended that defending national interests does not conflict with the global order, saying he “will always put America first — just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first. But America first does not mean America alone.”

Trump in Davos reiterated his support for free and reciprocal trade, but he bluntly warned that the “United States will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair trade practices.”

Tuesday’s speech also will be a chance for the president to build public support at home, according to Republican Party activist and strategist Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute, a suburban Washington organization that provides training in campaigns, fundraising, organizing and communications for conservatives.

“I’m confident things are going to turn around in terms of the polls with respect to Republicans versus Democrats, and I think the president’s popularity is going to go up,” said Blackwell.

Low approval rating

Recent national polls show Trump’s approval rating at just below 40 percent, the lowest level for any modern president at this point in a first term.

A Democrat with a centrist public policy research organization, Jim Kessler, noted “these speeches give you a bit of time to get to reintroduce yourself to voters. A lot of voters have made up their mind about him, though.”

Kessler, senior vice president for policy at Third Way, added that Trump “is capable of giving a decent speech,” terming as excellent his address in November to South Korea’s National Assembly.

“The question is, how long does it last? What is the shelf life or the half life on that speech? Does it help him for seven days or does it help him for seven months?” asked Kessler. 

VOA’s Jim Malone contributed to this report.

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EPA Puts Brakes on Approval Process for Gold, Copper Mine

In a surprise move, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed itself Friday and stopped the approval process for the proposed Pebble Mine copper and gold mine project in southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

“It is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

President Donald Trump has championed increased domestic mining, and the EPA’s decision to halt the Pebble Mine’s approval process comes as a surprise.

“Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection,” Pruitt said.

The Obama administration blocked the proposed mine in 2014 over environmental concerns. Last year, Pruitt reversed that decision, allowing the Canadian company behind the mine project to apply for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, comprising Canadian miners Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd and First Quantum Minerals Ltd, is planning to mine 1.2 billion tons of material, including 287 million pounds of copper.

Environmentalists, commercial and sport fishermen, many Alaska Native tribal organizations and even some Republican politicians have all criticized the project, which would be built on land near Lake Clark National Park.

Alaska Governor Bill Walker, an independent, applauded the decision and thanked Pruitt “for listening to my input and that of thousands of Alaskans” who oppose the mine.

Pruitt indicated the mine could ultimately be approved.

“This decision neither deters nor derails the application process of Pebble Limited Partnership’s proposed project,” he said.

“The project proponents continue to enjoy the protection of due process and the right to proceed. However, their permit application must clear a high bar, because EPA believes the risk to Bristol Bay may be unacceptable,” he said.

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Pacific Trade Deal Will Move Forward Without the US

President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy on trade aims to reverse decades of lopsided exchange by withdrawing from international trade deals, renegotiating others and raising tariffs on foreign-made goods destined for the U.S. But, in a connected global economy, analysts warn the U.S. could find itself increasingly isolated as other countries rush forward to embrace new trade deals. Mil Arcega reports.

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Sessions: Trump’s Immigration Plan Supports National Interest

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday threw his support behind President Donald Trump’s immigration reform proposal, announced this week ahead of schedule.

In a speech on immigration and national security in Norfolk, Virginia, Sessions said a merit-based immigration system would be in the U.S. national interest.

“It is time to put in place smarter immigration laws and start enforcing them,” Sessions said to a group of law enforcement officials. “It is time to end the lawlessness and create a system that serves the national interest.”

A merit-based system, Sessions said, “would be great for our economy. … Much more importantly, it would be the best way to ensure that our immigration system does not continue to harm our national security. Immigration is a national security issue.”

In his speech, Sessions focused on alleged links between immigration, terrorism and crime. He blamed lax migration laws for allowing terrorists into the country.

“Employers don’t roll dice when deciding who they want to hire,” he said. “Our incredible military doesn’t draw straws when deciding whom to accept. But for some reason, when we’re picking new Americans — the future of this country — our government uses a randomized lottery system and chain migration.”

​Proposal includes

“Chain migration” is a term used by some to describe a system where immigrants can sponsor family members who can later sponsor other family members to join them in the United States.

In addition to eliminating family-sponsored migration, the plan would establish a $25 billion “trust fund” for a wall along the Mexican border, providing funding for the president’s core campaign promise. That money would also be for other ports of entry and exit and enhancements to the northern border with Canada.

The proposal also calls for ending the visa lottery system for certain countries.

In Washington on Friday, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen released a statement that also supported the president’s immigration plan. She said her department “fully supports the president’s security-focused immigration framework, including funding for the border wall system, the ability to quickly remove those who break our immigration laws, and reforms to our immigration system.

“This is what DHS front-line personnel have asked for to secure our borders and maintain the integrity of our immigration system,” she said.

The White House on Thursday released the details of its Framework on Immigration Reform and Border Security, four days earlier than had been scheduled. It characterized the plan as a framework for compromise.

For the 1.8 million young immigrants living in the United States known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the country by their families when they were still minors, there would be a long path to citizenship and with conditions.

For those recipients who have been allowed to stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as others who met the same criteria, there would be a “10- to 12-year path to citizenship with requirements for work, education and good moral character.”


On Friday, as the day before, opponents of the plan spoke out.

At Sessions’ speech in Norfolk, dozens of protesters gathered outside the library hosting the closed-door speech. Many held signs indicating their opposition to the plan: “Immigrants and refugees welcome” and “Deport racists, not dreamers.”

The group chanted: “Lies, hate and fear. One stinking year,” presumably referring to the one year that President Trump has been in office.

A statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday read, “The administration’s anti-immigrant framework is an act of staggering cowardice which attempts to hold the Dreamers hostage to a hateful anti-immigrant scheme.”

The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, has been closely involved with the immigration talks. His statement said, “The White House claims to be compromising because the president now agrees with the overwhelming majority of Americans that Dreamers should have a pathway to citizenship. But his plan would put the administration’s entire hard-line immigration agenda — including massive cuts to legal immigration — on the backs of these young people.”

​Republican reaction

Trump’s plan drew praise from some Republican lawmakers, although no promises to follow it to the letter.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement Thursday evening saying, “I am hopeful that as discussions continue in the Senate on the subject of immigration, members on both sides of the aisle will look to this framework for guidance as they work towards an agreement.”

Some Republican hard-liners were displeased that the plan offered a concession to young immigrants.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz said, “I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally. … Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”

David Milliband, the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee said that, based on current trends, the U.S. is “on track to cut by three-quarters the number of refugees allowed into the country for resettlement,” in fiscal 2018, what he called “an unprecedented assault on U.S. global leadership in this area.”

“It is no exaggeration that the future of America as a home for refugees is now on the line,” Milliband said. “The administration’s determination to squeeze the life out of the refugee resettlement program will harm the lives, and life chances, of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and it sets a terrible moral example to the rest of the world.”

The IRC resettlement assessment also found that only 13 percent of refugee arrivals in fiscal 2018 identify as Muslim, compared with 48 percent in fiscal 2017.

Pushing for vote

The White House is hoping the Senate will be able to vote on the plan early next month, before the Feb. 8 deadline for lawmakers to approve a spending bill to keep the U.S. government operating.

Many opposition Democratic Party lawmakers, as well as some from the president’s Republican Party, are opposed to voting for a long-term budget bill without a deal on immigration.

If there’s no legislation to deal with the DACA recipients by March 5, administration officials warned Thursday that they will be considered illegal immigrants and those who come into contact with immigration officers will be processed for deportation.

Steve Herman at the White House contributed to this article.

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Alaska Delegation Wants Some Waters Out of Drilling Plan

Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation three weeks ago praised Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke after he announced nearly all federal waters off the state’s coast could be offered for petroleum lease sales.

But after hearing from critics who do not want drilling in their home waters, U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young are backtracking.

In a letter Friday to Zinke, the delegation requested that most Alaska waters from the state’s Panhandle to the Bering Strait be removed from the proposed five-year drilling plan.

Instead, they urged lease sales in only three areas: Cook Inlet, where petroleum platforms have extracted oil and natural gas for decades, and the Arctic waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

“We believe the strongest near-term offshore program in Alaska is one that focuses on the Chukchi, Beaufort and Cook Inlet,” they wrote. “Such a program will maximize agency resources and reflect the areas with the broadest support for development among Alaskans.”

Zinke announced the proposed lease sale plan Jan. 4. He said revisions could be made after public comment.

Immediate opposition

The proposal excluded only one area of Alaska: the North Aleutian Basin, home to Bristol Bay and the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon.

The proposal drew immediate opposition from governors in East and West Coast states. After Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, met with Zinke, the secretary announced that drilling would be “off the table” for waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean off Florida.

Subsistence resources

In Alaska, proposed lease sales in the Bering Sea drew strong condemnation from the Bering Sea Elders Group, an association of Alaska Native elders appointed from 39 tribes, and Kawerak Inc., a regional nonprofit organization, which said oil and gas activities pose a serious threat to marine life.

“These basins are where tribes from our region have harvested subsistence resources for millennia and where local people from our region fish and crab commercially,” Kawerak said in an announcement.

Drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, home to polar bears, walrus and ice seals that support the subsistence economies of coastal villages, is strongly opposed by environmental groups. They say the harsh climate makes spills inevitable and that cleanup of a major spill would be impossible in waters choked by or covered in sea ice.

Oil estimates

However, federal regulators say the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s north coast, holds an estimated 8.9 billion barrels of oil and the Chukchi, off Alaska’s northwest coast, holds an estimated 15.4 billion barrels.

Royal Dutch Shell spent $2.1 billion on Chukchi Sea leases in 2008, invested another $5 billion overall in U.S. Arctic waters, and pulled out after drilling a dry hole in 2015.

Murkowski, Sullivan and Young contend drilling in Arctic waters can be done safely. They said they strongly support the inclusion of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas for lease sales between 2019 and 2024, while at the same time urging “meaningful consultation” with communities.

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US Trade Body Backs Canadian Plane Maker Bombardier Against Boeing

A U.S. trade commission on Friday handed an unexpected victory to Bombardier Inc. against Boeing Co., in a ruling that allows the Canadian company to sell its newest jets to U.S. airlines without heavy duties, sending Bombardier’s shares up 15 percent.

The U.S. International Trade Commission’s unanimous decision was the latest twist in U.S.-Canadian trade relations that have been complicated by disputes over tariffs on Canadian lumber and U.S. milk and President Donald Trump’s desire to renegotiate or even abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trump, who did not weigh in on the dispute personally, took his “America First” message to the world’s elite on Friday, telling a summit that the United States would “no longer turn a blind eye” to what he described as unfair trade practices.

The ITC commissioners voted 4-0 that Bombardier’s prices did not harm Boeing and discarded a U.S. Commerce Department recommendation to slap a near 300 percent duty on sales of the company’s 110- to 130-seat CSeries jets for five years. It did not give a reason immediately.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that the commission’s finding “shows how robust our system of checks

and balances is.”

Boeing’s shares closed flat.

“It’s reassuring to see that facts and evidence matter,” said Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “This part of the trade policy process works unimpeded despite President Trump’s protectionist rhetoric.”

Removing ‘uncertainty’

The decision will also help Bombardier sell the CSeries in the United States by removing “a huge amount of uncertainty,” at a time when its Brazilian rival Embraer is bringing its new E190-E2 jet to market, a source familiar with the

Canadian plane and train maker’s thinking said.

The ITC had been expected to side with Chicago-based Boeing. The company alleged it was forced to discount its 737 narrow-bodies to compete with Bombardier, which it said used government subsidies to dump the CSeries during the 2016 sale of 75 jets at “absurdly low” prices to Delta Air Lines.

Bombardier called the trade case self-serving after Boeing revealed on December 21 that it was discussing a “potential combination” with Embraer. Boeing denied the trade case was motivated by those talks.

Boeing to look at options

The dispute may not be over. “This can still be appealed by Boeing,” Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia

Freeland, told reporters in Montreal.

Boeing said it would not consider such options before seeing the ITC’s reasoning in February.

But Boeing said it was disappointed the commission did not recognize “the harm that Boeing has suffered from the billions of dollars in illegal government subsidies that the Department of Commerce found Bombardier received and used to dump aircraft in the U.S. small single-aisle airplane market.”

Bombardier, Delta and the U.S. consumer advocacy group Travelers United all called the ITC decision a victory for consumers and airlines.

The decision may end up helping Trump’s goal of boosting U.S. jobs as the CSeries jets for U.S. airlines will be built in the United States rather than Canada.

Through a venture with European planemaker Airbus SE, which has agreed to take a majority stake in the CSeries this year, Bombardier plans to assemble CSeries jets in Alabama to be sold to U.S. carriers starting in 2019.

Sweet surprise

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders promised to push ahead “full throttle” with the Alabama plans. “Nothing is sweeter than a surprise, a surprise victory,” he said.

The case had sparked trade tensions between the United States and its allies Canada and the United Kingdom. Ottawa last year scrapped plans to buy 18 Super Hornet fighter jets from Boeing.

The well-paid jobs associated with the CSeries are important both to Ottawa and the British government. Bombardier employs about 4,000 workers in Northern Ireland.

The British prime minister’s office said it welcomed the decision, “which is good news” for the British industry, while Canada’s innovation minister said the ITC came to the “right decision” on Bombardier.

Former ITC Chairman Dan Pearson praised the decision. “Not a single commissioner was willing to buy Boeing’s arguments,” he said. “I think ‘America First’ is a policy of the White House and the Commerce Department. But it’s not the policy of an independent agency [like the ITC].”

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VOA Interview: Former Envoy Richardson on Rohingya Crisis

VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine interviewed former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson via Skype about his abrupt resignation from an international board that advises Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis.

Question: Do you prefer Ambassador Richardson or Governor Richardson?

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson: I think governor is better.

Q: Governor Richardson. First just to clarify, did you resign from the advisory board, or were you asked to leave, and more importantly, why did you leave?

Richardson: Well I resigned. They’re claiming I was fired but they were begging me to stay till the very last minute by the national security advisor. I resigned for two reasons – one, because I felt the advisory board was just whitewashing operation meant to validate the policies of the government of Myanmar. The second reason is an explosive reaction Aung San Suu Kyi had as I was trying to give her frank advice to deal fairly with the two Reuters journalist that had been imprisoned. That showed me she wasn’t interested in frank advice, and this is after thirty years of very strong friendship where we worked together for democracy. That has obviously been shattered by my resignation.

Q: Right, right. And it’s well documented you’ve have been a very good friend of Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for many, many years and she asked you to join the council. Was she herself I know that there were two Reuters Journalist were an issue. Was she herself also disparaging the United Nations, journalists and relief workers trying to get the facts and alleviate suffering in the area?

Richardson: Yes, certainly her chairman was. But she also in various conversations has disparaged the U.N., felt the U.N. was unfair to her – the human rights investigation especially. Disparaging the international media, disparaging human rights group saying that they are all against it. These are the people that worked with her and in that transition to democracy, that were her supporters, were in essence given her the Nobel Prize. She now feels an – “us against one situation,” “an us against them situation,” and has a siege mentality right now. She’s changed.

Q: Right I was going to ask if you were sort of blind sighted and really surprised by this and do you think she’s changed now that she is in a position of power? Or does she have a blind spot when it comes to the Rohingyas?

Richardson: No, I think she’s changed as she’s assumed power. She wants to get re-elected, she’s afraid to confront the military that basically handles national security issues like treatment of refugees, like I think they’ve been responsible for the atrocities. They have participated in the mass graves issue. Finding ways instead of helping the refugees move back to Myanmar, making it more difficult. Not guaranteeing safety. And I think she’s been afraid to confront them. There is a separation of power between the military and civilian government that she has. But she’s failed to exercise more leadership to push and tell the military that they can’t keep doing this. She doesn’t have control over them. But the fact that she not only doesn’t speak out but defends them is what has made her change. And I think these caused a lot of these problems that Myanmar has with the international community.

Q: What would you say to critics who say that Aung San Suu Kyi has to walk a fine line in her power-sharing position with Myanmar’s military rulers and the public criticism of her is counter-productive?

Richardson: Well I’m a politician. I know you have to balance the existing power centers – you can’t just attack anybody. But I think she’s overdone her consent in what the military has done. In stop defending them, exercise more leadership by saying – look military, we can’t continue torturing the Rohingya. Let’s find a way to deal with these very serious problems. Instead of constantly blaming the West, the international community, and the U.N., and the United States, and Canada, and the European Union. Instead of owning up to the problem she shifts blames to everybody else fails to deal with the issue by not confronting the military. Letting them basically run amok.

Q: Right. We just got word that the advisory board is now backing the government’s plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees. What is your feeling about that?

Richardson: Well I think that’s part of the whitewash. Look the government of Bangladesh, the United Nations human rights group say that this repatriation is not ready. And this is why the government of Bangladesh has delayed the repatriation because these refugees aren’t ensured of their safety. They’re probably thinking they’re gonna end up in mass graves. They have no guarantees about their citizenship. They should be given a path to citizenship. There’s no guarantee that they’re gonna be able to go back to their homes safely. Their homes have been destroyed and they’re down so – I think this is another incidence where this is a whitewash. And just to conclude on this issue – the advisory board met with Aung San Suu Kyi secretly without me. They didn’t want me there because they didn’t want hear my candid advice. That is what broke the camel – the stroke that broke the camel’s back. They don’t want my advice – I leave. That’s why I left.

Q: Right, right. Do you think the Trump administration is doing enough to help the Rohingyas?

Richardson: Yeah, I got to say the Trump administration has spoken out for internal investigations to treat the Rohingyas properly. They came out early to release the journalist. I was briefed by the American ambassador. About a month ago, Secretary (of State Rex) Tillerson called me and told me what they were doing. Yeah I think the Trump administration – the State Department is doing well on this issue. I think as long as they keep it away from the president, they’re doing OK.

Q: What do you think it be done to get those two journalists released?

Richardson: Well there has to be more international pressure. I think Aung San Suu Kyi and the military have to say – look this is not helping us internationally. There is a way this can happen. The attorney general has pardon power. I think they should exercise this immediately. This is a nightmare for the image of the Myanmar government. Plus it’s unfair to the journalist – they were set up. They violated no official secrets laws. They didn’t disclose anything. They discovered mass graves and it was done by Rohingya and non-Rohingya people, i.e. the military. So get it over with. But I think more international pressure, but mainly the two main actors – the commander of the military and Aung San Suu Kyi to have a public or secret meeting and get this off the table. This is hurting the country enormously.

Q: Right, Right. One more if I may on North Korea. What do you think of the Trump administration’s position on that? And if you asked, you’ve done it before, you’ve been there before. Would you be willing to try and go and negotiate with the North Korean president?

Richardson: I would and I told the Trump administration I’m ready to do it but I think the way to do it is I’m not going to get mixed up in their nuclearization talks. That should be done through official channels. But I think there is soft power. I’ve offered on humanitarian grounds, find ways to exchange the recovery of American serviceman in the Korean War, Korean American family reunification issues. I think what the North and South have done on this Olympic issue makes a lot of sense, bringing athletes together. Maybe that’ll create a path for a negotiation. So I think the Trump administration – I’ll give them credit for working with China, have China put stronger sanctions. I don’t think that’s going to do the trick – I give them credit for that. I don’t give the president credit for tweeting and making policy on the go – calling on Kim Jong Un “the rocket man” and I’ve got a bigger nuclear button. I don’t like Kim Jong Un also insulting the American president. They should step aside and let their diplomats and negotiator negotiate no preconditions, just to start talks.

Q: Right. Thank you so much, ambassador. Anything else you’d like to say we didn’t cover?

Richardson: No you got it all.

Saine: Okay. Real pleasure talking to you sir.

Q: Yes. So we talked – what the State Department is doing on Myanmar. Do you think the United States should reimpose sanctions on Myanmar?

Richardson: No I don’t think so. I – sanctions, economic sanctions particularly hurt poor people. I’m very fond of the Myanmar people. I don’t think they’re responsible for this travesty. Maybe targeted sanctions on some of the military at some point. But I don’t think the international community should turn its back on Aung San Suu Kyi at this time. Now if this continues, something has to happen. I think the answer is engagement. The West – the international institutions should reach out to Aung San Suu Kyi and she should do the same. Reach some kind of accommodation. Ease tensions and find ways to feel honorably and humanely with these refugees that are being devastated right now.

Q: Right and I hope this is not too personal but do you feel like you could still have the relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi to reach back to her?

Richardson: Well I’d be prepared to be helpful but right now no. She’s probably furious at me. It’s probably going to last a long time. I don’t think I would try to get a Visa there anyway. Yeah but I love the country. I’ve been so involved with the country and her and I’ve invest a lot of my foundation activity. My activity as a diplomat. Yeah but right now no. I think there has to be a big cooling off. It may be permanent but I realize that. What I did was a small (inaudible)–that even her friends are turning on it. That she has to get a frank advice from a friend. If she’s not prepared to do that, that’s going to be bad for her and Myanmar.

Saine: Right thank you. If your ever in D.C., we would love to have you again for a sit down interview.

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