Trump says Putin would’ve preferred Clinton as president

US President Donald Trump has said in an interview that he has a good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after the two met for more than two hours in Hamburg last week.

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“People said, ‘Oh, they shouldn’t get along.’ Well, who are the people that are saying that? I think we get along very, very well,” Trump told evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“We are a tremendously powerful nuclear power, and so are they. It doesn’t make sense not to have some kind of a relationship,” Trump said.

Trump, who has come under criticism for his reluctance to criticise Putin directly over Russia’s meddling in US elections last year, said the two had an “excellent meeting” on the sidelines of the G20 summit last Friday.

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“One thing we did is we had a ceasefire in a major part of Syria where there was tremendous bedlam and tremendous killing,” he told Robertson, according to a partial transcript released by CBN.

“The ceasefire has held for four days…. That’s because President Putin and President Trump made the deal, and it’s held.”

Trump said that he felt Putin would have preferred Hillary Clinton win last year’s election – even though US intelligence says the Russian leader directed a covert effort to help defeat the Democrat.

“We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I’m a big military person. As an example, if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated,” Trump said.

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“That’s why I say, why would he want me? Because from day one I wanted a strong military, he doesn’t want to see that.”

On Saturday, Putin told reporters he had hopes for the bilateral relationship after meeting Trump.

“The Trump that you see on TV is very different than the real Trump,” Putin told reporters at the G20 in Germany.

“He perfectly understands whom he is talking to and answers questions quickly. I think personal relations were established.”

Small improvements to eating habits may prolong life: study

The report in the New England Journal of Medicine is the first to show that improving diet quality over at least a dozen years is associated with lower total and cardiovascular mortality.

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Researchers at Harvard University tracked dietary changes in a population of nearly 74,000 health professionals who logged their eating habits every four years.

Researchers used a system of diet-quality scores to assess how much diets had improved. 

For instance, a 20-percentile increase in scores could “be achieved by swapping out just one serving of red or processed meat for one daily serving of nuts or legumes,” said a summary of the research.

Over the 12-year span, those who ate a little better than they did at the start — primarily by consuming more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish — saw an eight to 17 percent lower risk of dying prematurely in the next 12 years.

Those whose diets got worse over time saw a higher risk of dying in the next 12 years of follow-up, on the order of a six to 12 percent increase.

“Our results highlight the long-term health benefits of improving diet quality with an emphasis on overall dietary patterns rather than on individual foods or nutrients,” said senior author Frank Hu, professor and chair of the Harvard Chan School Department of Nutrition.

“A healthy eating pattern can be adopted according to individuals’ food and cultural preferences and health conditions,” he added. 

“There is no one-size-fits-all diet.”

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Turnbull prays for broad Liberal church

Factionalism is alive and well in the Liberal Party.

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But the factions themselves are fractured almost beyond identification.

The Liberal Party’s factions have historically been identified as “wets” and “dries”, or “moderates” and “conservatives”.

Some MPs and grassroots members embrace the label “conservative” with all the passion of their UK equivalents.

The moderates are less likely to use their label, but more often call themselves “pragmatic” or “progressive”.

Malcolm Turnbull sought to use a speech in London this week to map out where he sits and how he sees the Liberal Party.

However, the leaked paragraphs of the speech offered a blunt point out of context (for the newspapers which received the handout) and became quickly caught up in the quagmire that is the Turnbull-Abbott leadership cold war.

Turnbull was trying to say the party can have its differences of opinion on things like social policy and how far to go on economic and budget reform.

But the party comes together, as founder Sir Robert Menzies said, under the name “Liberal … because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his right and his enterprise, and rejecting the socialist panacea.”

He noted Abbott had spoken about the “sensible centre”.

But the former prime minister failed to demonstrate it in practice.

Voters reacted sharply to Abbott’s “knights and dames” decision and the harsh measures in the 2014 budget.

And while his decision to roll out a plebiscite on same-sex marriage is now popular after being embraced by Turnbull, it was initially seen as a way of kicking the issue down the road and giving political cover for social conservatives to argue against the law change.

Coalition MPs are now more likely to factionalise around regional and state interests, or issues such as climate change, than ideology.

Queensland members routinely meet when parliament is sitting to talk about taking a united view on certain issues and even projects that require funding.

South Australian members have the ear of the prime minister via Christopher Pyne, who as defence industry minister has a multi-billion-dollar bucket of money to throw around and has been staunch in arguing to protect steel jobs.

Turnbull has used SA’s energy crisis as a political weapon in his bid to cobble together a climate policy by another name – aimed at pushing down power prices, making energy more reliable while cutting emissions.

There are also groupings around personalities, with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Treasurer Scott Morrison enjoying a certain level of popular support but not enough to swing the leadership at this point.

While some Liberals delight in working the numbers within the party and seeking to seize the advantage, others are happy to get on with the daily drudge of electorate work – seeking pragmatic answers to voters’ concerns.

Some party veterans like Tasmania’s Eric Abetz are adamant it needs the two “rails”.

“The Liberal Party is and has always been a train running on small-l liberal and conservative tracks – unless both are tended to the whole train will derail,” he says.

Without giving space for economic dries and social conservatives, voters will go elsewhere – and they are.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives are capitalising on the rise of the small-l liberals championed by Turnbull.

Labor is the beneficiary of this, not only because voters see a divided Liberal Party but One Nation preferences have tended to naturally split evenly between Labor and the Liberals.

Unfortunately for Turnbull, who has trailed in the polls since September last year, he’s about to see another public outbreak of factionalism.

The NSW division’s party futures convention towards the end of July will debate changing the rules governing the way candidates and party officials are elected.

Abbott and junior minister Angus Taylor lead a group seeking greater democracy, to whittle away at the power of the party organisation’s moderate elite.

Turnbull wants change, but not in the way Abbott is proposing and the final outcome will be a compromise of which direction to take to greater democratisation.

The prime minister will be hoping the party can unify around the final result, but that hope may be undermined by a fraction too much faction.

Turnbull weathers global rifts at G20

If there’s one thing that stands out after Malcolm Turnbull’s tour of Europe it’s that global politics is in dire straits.

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Exhibit A is US President Donald Trump.

Trump is a man out of his depth and his “America first” approach to all issues is causing ripples across all areas of politics, trade, diplomacy, economics and the environment.

At various times during the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s home city – Trump appeared asleep, awkward, vague or uninterested.

Many leaders and officials were astounded when his daughter Ivanka sat in for him on a session on African development, refugees and health.

Standing in for leaders is usually only done by senior ministers.

The final leaders communique had to accommodate Trump on two issues – climate and free trade – after the US recently pulled out of the Paris accord and his administration flagged trade barriers to protect US jobs.

Secondly, British Prime Minister Theresa May is a dead leader walking.

The Times newspaper, on the day Turnbull arrived in London from Germany, carried a cartoon depicting May lying in a coffin, surrounded by arguing Conservative cabinet, with the caption “Funeral Rights”.

Brexit, the impending UK exit from the European Union, has made the nation the laughing stock of Europe and its recent national election weakened May’s political position.

She’s now left trying to strike job-saving trade deals with countries such as Australia and the US, and down the track with the EU as well.

Turnbull could help the political fortunes of his former Oxford University colleague with a speedily negotiated trade pact.

But the key to the survival of the May government will be a comprehensive agreement with the UK’s European neighbours, rather than a country of 24 million consumers on the other side of the world.

In contrast, Germany’s leader, who faces an election in September showed a great depth of diplomacy and patience during the G20 meeting, particularly with Trump.

Merkel landed the best possible G20 communique – the official meeting statement – in politically charged circumstances.

Despite this. Germany’s Social Democrats – led by former European parliament president Martin Schultz – could either end to her 11-year leadership or put a big dent her government.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who held a mid-air meeting with Turnbull between Hamburg and Paris, offers great hope for Europe’s future.

Macron, France’s youngest president since Napoleon, is savvy, modern and has a keen sense of the direction France should head in.

Turnbull is eager to seal an EU trade deal, which would not only help Australian exporters but meet Macron’s ambitious target of cutting his country’s 10 per cent unemployment rate to seven per cent.

Macron is clearly happy with the $50 billion submarine deal with Australia, which he’s labelled not just a contract but a way of lifting the two countries’ broader economic relationship.

The G20 also exposed a major problem in the way world leaders are handling security concerns, from North Korea to Islamic State.

Many leaders pointed the finger at China for not doing enough to bring North Korea into line, after it recently tested an intercontinental ballistic missile.

However, China and Russia say their influence is overestimated and imposing tougher sanctions on the rogue state could make conditions worse for its long-suffering citizens.

The situation has been complicated by Trump’s hinting at possible military action and sanctions against China.

While Australia is urging China to do more on North Korea, what it actually can do is yet to be determined.

The first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin was the much-watch event of the G20 summit.

But it’s telling the two officials tasked with briefing reporters on the meeting – Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – offered differing accounts.

Notably, Tillerson said Trump had a “robust and lengthy” discussion with Putin about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, but Lavrov said Putin had “satisfied” his American counterpart with his answer.

The upside is the leaders are still happy to talk.

As Winston Churchill once said: “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

Trump jets off to Paris as Russia crisis plagues Washington

Air Force One departed at 7:43 pm (2343 GMT) for the trip to Paris during which Trump, who sported a cerulean blue tie for the trip, is expected to include talks with French president Emmanuel Macron and participate as a guest of honor in the country’s national holiday festivities.

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The visit comes days after the release of emails that the US president’s son jumped at a Russian offer to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton during the campaign — the latest development in the probe into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow during the 2016 election.

“Getting rdy to leave for France @ the invitation of President Macron to celebrate & honor Bastille Day and 100yrs since U.S. entry into WWI,” Trump tweeted prior to his flight. 

He is set to arrive Thursday in Paris for talks with Macron expected to focus on joint efforts against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, where American and French troops are in action side-by-side.

The two leaders will then dine at the Michelin-starred restaurant embedded in the Eiffel Tower, taking in sweeping views of the French capital with their wives Melania and Brigitte.

The following day they will watch French and American troops march down the Champs-Elysees in Paris during the holiday’s traditional military parade.

Trump and Macron, who both entered office this year, appear to have little in common. Last month the mercurial US leader notably withdrew the US from the global Paris climate change agreement to Macron’s dismay.

But the French government has emphasized its newly-minted leader will work to reaffirm “historic ties” between the two allies and prevent the US from “being isolated.”