Trump’s new aggression is forcing the world to change once again



Trump will arrive at this commemoration of peace having just opened new hostilities back home, where he threatened his adversaries — should they not conform to his desires — that he will take them down.

Not just taking aim at the media he insists on calling fake news, but warning Democrats — who just won a majority in the House of Representatives — that if they try to use their new powers to investigate him, he will investigate them too.

It was this opening salvo in Trumpian zero-sum politics, of the world’s most powerful man girding for a roiling two years more in office, that was captured on the front page of the Times here in London.

The front page shows Trump jabbing his forefinger at Jim Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent and — full disclosure — my friend and colleague, as Acosta asks a question and a White House aid reaches to take the microphone from him.

Soon after the press conference, the White House pulled Acosta’s White House accreditation. CNN has been robust in its defence of Acosta and more broadly the First Amendment and the role of journalists in a democracy.

The White House response was to falsely claim that Acosta was at fault.

The message received in Europe is clear: post-midterms Trump is on the offensive, picking up his old grudges and shifting to a new, more aggressive posture.

Whether this new hostility will be confronted by European or other leaders gathering in Paris, who have watched Trump’s downward drift from the democratic principles they hold sacrosanct, is unclear.

Even if they wanted an encounter, privately or otherwise with Trump, it will be made harder because he plans to snub a three-day Peace Forum hosted by French President Emanuel Macron for the approximately 70 other leaders following the armistice commemoration.

Yet even if the silence in Paris is deafening, it doesn’t mean he isn’t being judged.

In recent weeks British officials have criticized Trump for his aggressive stance against journalists.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman appeared to upbraid Trump in response to comments the US President made at a rally mocking a journalist working for the Guardian who got body-slammed by a member of congress.

The spokeswoman said: “He [Trump] obviously made comments at a political rally, and those are for him. But more generally we would always say that any violence or intimidation against a journalist is completely unacceptable.”

As recently as late September, May has been championing press freedom in the UK. At a Cabinet meeting considering changes to laws impacting those freedoms, she said: “it was important for the Government to resist amendments which could undermine our free press.”

Yet in her dealings with Trump, notably when they met in the UK this summer following Trump’s putdown of her in national tabloid the Sun, her British reserve may have left Trump assuming she holds journalists in the same contempt he does.

At a joint press conference in July, Trump said: “And she’s a total professional, because when I saw her this morning I said ‘I won’t apologize, because I said such good things about you.’ She said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only the press.’ I thought that was very professional.”

For May and the other leaders attending this weekend’s commemoration, Trump’s DC dramas won’t be a topic of frontline conversation, although on the margins his allies will whisper about him, the midterms and what it all means.

Early on Wednesday, Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted that it is a “misconception to now bet on a course correction from Donald Trump.”

The Foreign Minister, however, did hint at a course correction from Germany: “the case remains the US is still our most important partner outside Europe. To maintain this partnership, we need to re-measure and realign our relationship with the US.”

Intriguingly, perhaps one of the more illuminating indicators of a common European distaste for Trump this weekend will come from rare cross-channel cooperation.

British anti-Trump activists are lending their French counterparts the biggest weapon in their anti-Trump arsenal: the baby Trump blimp, made famous in the UK this year during Trump’s summer visit.

The huge blimp of a baby version of the President in a diaper was inflated and flown above the British anti-Trump protests, before being taken to sit outside the US Embassy in London.

On Sunday, a French group calling itself Trump Means War plans to fly the blimp as close as it can to the somber commemoration at the Arc de Triumph in the center of Paris.

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They claim to be holding French President Emmanuel Macron to account for inviting Trump, whom they blame for “the escalation of the war on terror,” saying he is responsible for “the death of millions.”

It a far cry from the unbridled pomp and ceremony Trump enjoyed during his previous Paris visit, basking in his so called Bromance with the French President during the military parade and other Bastille Day celebrations on July 14 last year.

Macron and other world leaders have learned to adjust their measure of Trump. The midterm results indicate their recalibration is far from done.



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