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Confusion reigns over Trump’s talks with Japanese prime minister

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One day before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s first meeting with a foreign leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese officials said they had not finalized when or where in New York it would take place, who would be invited, or in some cases whom to call for answers.

Uncertainty over the talks shows the difficulties in turning Trump from a freewheeling businessman into a sitting president with a watertight schedule and a fully functioning administration by his inauguration on Jan. 20.

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Japanese and U.S. officials said on Wednesday the State Department had not been involved in planning the meeting, leaving the logistical and protocol details that normally would be settled far in advance still to be determined.

“There has been a lot of confusion,” said one Japanese official.

The meeting was only agreed to last week and Trump and his advisers have been busy in meetings at his headquarters in Manhattan’s Trump Tower in recent days to work out who gets which job in the new administration.

While world leaders sometimes hold loosely planned bilateral meetings at regional summits, it is unusual for foreign leaders to hold high-level diplomatic talks in the United States without detailed planning. Abe is on his way to an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru.

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State Department spokesman John Kirby said that to his knowledge, Trump’s transition team had not been in contact with the department either to discuss the transition of government or to seek information ahead of his meetings with foreign leaders.

Trump is expected to use the Abe meeting to reassure Japan and other Asian allies rattled by his campaign rhetoric, advisers to Trump said.

But Trump, a brash outsider with no diplomatic or government experience, and Abe, a veteran lawmaker, have differences on policy issues such as free trade.

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Several Trump aides did not immediately answer requests on Wednesday for comment about the Abe visit or contact between the transition team and the State Department.

TRANSITION SPECULATION

Speculation about top appointments to the Trump administration has intensified since the head of the team overseeing the transition, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, was fired last week.

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Trump on Wednesday denounced reports of disorganization in the team, singling out the New York Times for saying world leaders have had trouble getting in touch with him.

Trump took to Twitter to list several world leaders he had spoken with since his upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The Republican real estate magnate said he had received and taken “calls from many foreign leaders despite what the failing @nytimes said. Russia, U.K., China, Saudi Arabia, Japan.”

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The Times, a frequent target of Trump’s Twitter blasts, said on Tuesday that U.S. allies were “scrambling to figure out how and when to contact Mr. Trump” and blindly dialing in to Trump Tower in New York to try to reach him.

The newspaper said Trump was working without official State Department briefing materials in his dealings with foreign leaders.

“The failing @nytimes story is so totally wrong on transition,” Trump tweeted, without specifying what it was in the article that was incorrect. “It is going so smoothly. Also, I have spoken to many foreign leaders.”

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Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence had spoken to 29 foreign leaders, the transition team said on Wednesday.

Trump has mostly stuck to normal practice for a U.S. president-elect with the order in which he has spoken to foreign leaders on the phone since his election victory.

But some of his contacts have stretched the limits of the usual procedure.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, an army general who seized power three years ago, appears to have been the first leader to speak to Trump after the election, ahead of closer allies like the leaders of Britain and Germany.

Sisi’s office called Trump last Wednesday and the incoming U.S. president told him it was “the first international call he had received to congratulate him on winning the election.”

Australian media reported that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was the second leader Trump spoke to, after the Australian ambassador to the United States got Trump’s personal phone number from Australian golfer and Trump friend Greg Norman.

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Trump also talked on the phone to the leaders of Britain, Germany, Turkey and other allies.

But a phone call on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the two men agreed to aim for “constructive cooperation,” raised eyebrows among Democrats and traditionalist Republicans worried about a resurgent Moscow.

Trump also met Britain’s anti-EU Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage at Trump Tower last weekend, ahead of any meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

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State Department spokesman Kirby said: “There’s been no outreach to date” from Trump’s transition aides. “But it’s not for us to approve or disapprove of conversations that the president-elect is having or may have in the future with foreign leaders.”

‘ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS’

Despite fevered speculation, Trump has yet to say who will fill Cabinet positions such as secretary of state, treasury secretary or defense secretary. His team said that was not unusual and was in line with the timing of the transition of Democrat Barack Obama to the White House after he won the presidency in 2008.

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In a tweet on Tuesday night, Trump said he was “the only one who knows who the finalists are” for appointed positions in his administration.

When Trump’s son Eric entered Trump Tower on Wednesday morning, he was asked by reporters if any positions would be announced on Wednesday and responded: “Likely.”

On the ground floor of the State Department, more than a dozen empty conference rooms await Trump’s transition team. State Department officials said Trump’s team had not yet contacted the department’s counselor, Kristie Kenney, who is overseeing the transition there.

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As of Wednesday morning, the Trump team also had not contacted the Pentagon about the transition, officials said.

Trump denied he was trying to get security clearance for his children and son-in-law, which would allow them access to classified government information.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Idrees Ali, David Alexander and Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Emily Stephenson in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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White House spokesperson ridiculed for ‘pathetic’ spin on Trump’s trade war admission: ‘Does she think we believe that?’

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Hours after Donald Trump blithely admitted that he had "second thoughts" about his trade war with China that has damaged the U.S. economy and helped set the stage for a possible recession, White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham was forced to issue a clarification about the president's comments.

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"The President was asked if he had ‘any second thought on escalating the trade war with China,'" White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham relayed. "His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative - because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher."

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Here is why Trump is obsessed with Greenland

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They say that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Remember that President Harry Truman tried to purchase Greenland in 1946; now, in 2019, President Donald Trump is trying to do the same thing.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Iowa Republican Steve King is facing losing his seat representing his district in the U.S. House of Representatives as his campaign finds itself broke and the Republican Party has turned its back on him after his latest round of controversial comments.

According to a report from the Daily Beast, his campaign is struggling to bring donors -- who once wholeheartedly supported him --back into the fold.

Even worse, his colleagues in Congress have also abandoned him.

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