President Trump met with former Colombian Presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, an undisclosed meeting that Colombian media says was arranged by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Rubio, Uribe, and Pastrana are all prominent critics of the peace deal Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos negotiated with the FARC guerrilla group. Next month, Santos is meeting with Trump in Washington, and he will urge Trump to support the peace deal, which won Santos the Nobel Peace Prize, by maintaining the $450 million in foreign aid that former President Barack Obama pledged to implement the agreement, McClatchy reports.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to confirm that the meeting had taken place. On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told McClatchy that Trump had "briefly said hello when the presidents walked past them," saying the two presidents happened to be visiting Trump's private club with an unidentified member. "There wasn't anything beyond a quick hello," she said.
On Twitter, meanwhile, Pastrana thanked Trump for the "cordial and very frank conversation about problems and perspectives in Colombia and the region," and Uribe ally and former vice president Francisco Santos told McClatchy that the former presidents had raised concerns with Trump about the turmoil in Colombia and Venezuela, and the FARC peace deal, in a short but direct meeting.
Colombian analysts focused on the damage to the peace process if Trump pulled funding or publicly opposed the peace plan, while in the U.S. observers were more concerned about the ease with which well-connected foreign leaders can meet with the president to press their case, without any public record. Mar-a-Lago's membership rolls are not public, the media is kept at arm's length when Trump is down there, and the club has no visitor log. You can read more about the meeting and the Colombian politics at The Miami Herald. Peter Weber
The tiny Gulf nation of Qatar has rejected a list of 13 demands issued by Saudi Arabia and other neighboring Arab states Thursday as a condition for restoring diplomatic ties. The Saudi-led group of countries isolating Qatar claims the country is supporting terrorism, an allegation Qatar denies.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said in a statement the demands should have been "reasonable and actionable" as well as "measured and realistic," quoting comments from top U.S. and U.K. diplomats. "This list does not satisfy that [sic] criteria," he added.
It was never very plausible Qatar would answer other than it did. The "extent and scale of the demands appear designed to induce a rejection by Qatar," notes The Atlantic, "and a possible justification for a continuation, if not escalation, of the crisis. The list, if accurate, represents an intrusion into the internal affairs of Qatar that would threaten its very sovereignty." Bonnie Kristian
Former governor of California (and Terminator star) Arnold Schwarzenegger teamed up with new French President Emmanuel Macron to take a swipe at President Trump on environmental issues Friday.
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) June 23, 2017
"I'm here with President Macron. We are talking about the environmental issues and a green future," says Schwarzenegger in the clip posted to Facebook and Twitter. "And now we will deliberate together to make the planet great again," adds a grinning Macron with a transparent reference to Trump's "Make America great again" slogan.
The United States and China have reaffirmed their mutual commitment to "strive for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Chinese state media agency Xinhua reported Saturday.
The statement comes after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis hosted Chinese diplomats in Washington in an attempt to reach consensus on how to deal with increasing provocation from Pyongyang. Tillerson indicated earlier this week he is asking China, which is North Korea's primary trading partner, to increase its political and economic pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime. Bonnie Kristian
Russian interference in the 2016 election "is really the political equivalent of 9/11 — it is deadly, deadly serious," said former Undersecretary of Defense Michael Vickers, who served in the Obama administration, in an NBC News interview Saturday. "The Russians will definitely be back, given the success they had," he added. "I don't see much evidence of a response."
Vickers' comments come one day after The Washington Post's comprehensive report detailing former President Obama's inaction in response to Russian election interference in 2016. President Trump and congressional Democrats have also criticized the Obama administration's "inadequate" response.
Builders misused a combustible cladding to cover the sides of London's Grenfell Tower, the apartment building where 79 people were killed in a massive fire last week, Reuters reported Saturday. The material was intended for buildings a maximum of 10 meters tall, about the height of firefighters' ladders; Grenfell was more than six times that height.
Email correspondence reveals the cladding manufacturer, Arconic, sold the siding knowing it would be used inappropriately. "While we publish general usage guidelines, regulations and codes vary by country and need to be determined by the local building code experts," Arconic said in a statement to Reuters pledging to "fully support the authorities as they investigate this tragedy."
British authorities are now reviewing other high-rises for combustible cladding, and at least four buildings have been evacuated. "I know it's difficult, but Grenfell changes everything and I just don't believe we can take any risk with our residents' safety," said Georgia Gould, leader of the Camden Council, which evacuated the four high-rises Friday. "I have to put them first." Bonnie Kristian
A devastating landslide is believed to have buried more than 140 people in southwest China on Saturday, local officials reported. The landslide occurred in a mountainous region of Sichuan province, with tons of rocks — estimated to be enough to fill 3,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — pouring down on top of 46 homes in Xinmo village around 6 a.m. local time.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) June 24, 2017
"Initial accounts from villagers nearby said there had been rain in the area, but some said it was not very heavy and there was no sign of an impending landslide," NPR's Rob Schmitz reported. A team of 500 rescue workers is scouring the area with sniffer dogs to locate bodies and possible survivors. Bonnie Kristian
Congressional Democrats have leveled criticism at former President Obama following The Washington Post's Friday publication of a comprehensive report detailing the Obama administration's reactions to mounting evidence of Russian election meddling in 2016.
Obama's response "was inadequate," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). "I think [the administration] could have done a better job informing the American people of the extent of the attack." Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee with Swalwell, said the penalties the Obama team imposed on Russia were "barely a slap on the wrist."
Of course, President Trump has also castigated his predecessor over the report. "Just out," he tweeted Friday night. "The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?"