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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
President Trump is now confronting two nuclear standoffs and fighting a trade war on multiple fronts — all at the same time.
The big picture: Trump's March decision to agree to meet with Kim Jong-un led to speculation he might hold off on withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, so as not to face dueling nuclear dilemmas. He didn't. Common cause on North Korea had seemed to pave the way for a trade war truce with China. It didn't. Now, Trump is slapping tariffs on America's closest allies — and they're hitting back.
The latest: Trump's tariffs — 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum — will go into effect at midnight on the E.U., Canada and Mexico, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters today.
The big picture:
The bottom line: Trump needs Europe to help him confront China, and China to help him squeeze North Korea. Facing several crises at once, he seems to have scores of allies and none at the same time.
A banner in Kinshasa reads, 'our candidate, Joseph Kabila.' Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images
I spoke today with Raymond Tshibanda, special envoy to the U.S. for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about long-delayed elections now slated for December.
The big picture: The DRC is Africa's second-largest country by area, and fourth-largest by population. Joseph Kabila, 46, has been president since his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001, winning disputed elections in 2006 and 2011. The constitution limits Kabila to two terms, but he is now seven years into a five-year term and has kept the world in suspense by refusing to say he'll step aside.
In a back-and-forth that felt like a scene from Catch-22, Tshibanda told me the constitution is "quite clear" about the term limit, there is no time for a referendum to change it and Kabila has pledged to respect it — thus, the situation is entirely straightforward.
So he's not running then? Tshibanda wouldn't say.
"There is no reason for him to say that ... most sitting presidents around the world withhold the announcement of their decision in clear terms," he told me, adding "they have good reasons for not wanting to speak too early."
Some reasons he offered:
Worth noting: Tshibanda said he met with U.S. National Security Council officials while in D.C., and they agreed that elections were on track for December but raised concerns about the use of voting machines — which the opposition says could be manipulated and Tshibanda said are needed to solve the "logistical nightmare."
The bottom line: "Very soon it will be time to speak loud and clear and the president will speak loud and clear," Tshibanda told me. The stakes are high when, as Tshibanda noted, every election carries the risk of war. We'll soon hear what Kabila has to say.
The 5 Star Movement and the League agreed on a new cabinet Thursday, and after vetoing the last proposal from the populist parties, President Sergio Matarella signed off.
A tribute to Babchenko in Moscow. Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP
Arkady Babchenko, the prominent Russian journalist and Kremlin critic whose apparent assassination on Tuesday sparked an international outcry, appeared the next day at a news conference. He said the faked assassination — during which even his wife thought he'd been killed — was intended to "expose Russian agents."
"Special apologies to my wife. Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here. The operation took two months to prepare. I was told a month ago."— Babchenko at the press conference
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is on the verge of being forced out of power as a no-confidence motion presented by the Socialist Party has the votes needed to topple his government tomorrow.
Soldiers clear a highway near Sao Paulo. Photo: Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images
Travis Wheeler of the Stimson Center writes for Axios Expert Voices that such an approach is unlikely to work as intended:
“We take the view that without a strong economy, you can’t have strong national security.”— Wilbur Ross
“Economic nationalism leads to war. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s.”— Emmanuel Macron
Thanks for stopping by — see you Monday evening.