Donald Trump kicked off a consequential week of domestic and international developments on Monday by attacking a film director’s Oscars speech as “racist” and becoming the subject of another sexual assault lawsuit.
The president went after Spike Lee — who used his Oscar acceptance speech to urge mobilisation for the 2020 election — in a tweet, claiming the filmmaker did a “racist hit on your President.” Mr Trump then claimed that he had “done more for African Americans” than “almost” any other president.
Mr Lee did not directly name Trump. He spoke about black history and his family history, saying his grandmother’s mother was a slave, before stressing the presidential election next year.
“Let’s all be on the right side of history,” Mr Lee said on Sunday night’s awards show. “Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”
The controversial tweets arrived the same day Mr Trump faced a lawsuit alleging he abruptly grabbed a former campaign staffer’s hand and planted an unwanted kiss on her face during a Florida meeting with staff and volunteers.
Alva Johnson wrote in the federal lawsuit that Mr Trump made the nonconsensual advance in August 2016 in Tampa, Florida. She said he “grasped her hand and did not let go” and kissed her on the corner of her mouth as she turned slightly away.
“The forced and unwanted kiss was deeply offensive to Ms Johnson,” the lawsuit says, adding that she suffered “emotional distress, psychological trauma, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of dignity, invasion of privacy and other damages.”
The lawsuit, first reported by Washington Post, seeks unspecified money damages and an order preventing the president from “grabbing, kissing or otherwise assaulting or harassing women without prior express consent.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called Johnson’s allegations fabricated and said other people who were there say it did not take place. “This accusation is absurd on its face. This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,” Sanders said.
The president departed on Air Force One by Monday afternoon for his upcoming second summit with North Korean regime leader Kim Jong Un. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence visited Colombia to discuss the Venezuela crisis with the president of Colombia and Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido. Both Mr Trump and his vice president will be outside of the US this week — a rarity in American politics for national security reasons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. See The Independent’s live coverage below.
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Hello and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of the Donald Trump administration.
The president has begun his day by attacking veteran African-American filmmaker Spike Lee on Twitter:
The director accepted the Best Adapted Screenplay statuette for BlacKkKlansman at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles last night and told his audience: “The 2020 presidential election is around the corner... Let’s all mobilise, let’s all be on the right side of history, let’s choose love over hate, let’s do the right thing.”
That last line is a reference to Lee's best-known film from 1989 about racial tension in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year.
BlacKkKlansman recounts the true story of black policeman Ron Stallworth's attempt to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s and ends with real footage of the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, South Carolina, from August 2017, in which anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer was run over and killed while protesting neo-Nazi hate speech.
The inclusion of the news footage is a direct criticism of the Trump administration and the division sown across America by the president's rhetoric.
Here's the director's acceptance speech.
Here's more from Chris Baynes.
Just last week, the president called out Empire actor Jussie Smollett as "racist" for apparently lying about being the victim of a racist and homophobic assault in Chicago.
The city's Police Department initially treated Mr Smollett as the victim of a hate crime after he reported on 29 January that two men had hurled abuse at him in the street and looped a noose around his neck, threatening to lynch him and declaring: "This is MAGA country."
But following the questioning of two suspects in custody, Mr Smollett was indicted and accused of staging the attack and filing a false report to further his career. He has since been dropped from Empire despite protesting his innocence.
Despite these controversial interventions, the president has one eye on courting the votes of black Americans ahead of the next presidential election in November 2020.
Last Thursday he hosted a reception at the White House honouring African-American History Month in which he boasted the unemployment rate for African-Americans is at its "lowest ever".
"Look at the progress that you've made. Look at those numbers that I gave you before, with unemployment and all of the other numbers we have together," he said.
Black unemployment did reach a low of 5.9 percent in May 2018 but that figure changes monthly and had increased to 6.8 percent by January.
He also praised the eloquence of the murdered civil rights icon Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr with this peach of an understatement: "He made us all look maybe not quite as good."
All of this comes as the president prepares to jet out for Vietnam aboard Air Force One for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi.
He's currently attempting to pressure Mr Kim, whom he once mocked as a "Rocket Man", into accepting complete denuclearisation.
And, of course, gloating about his opponents.
Adam Withnall, The Independent's Asia editor, has more on the president's reduced expectations for this latest encounter with Mr Kim.
President Trump believes the meeting will be less pressured than last year's surreal interaction in Singapore and says he will be "happy" with the outcome of the talks "so long as there's no testing".
He has also expressed his belief that North Korea can become "one of the great economic powers anywhere in the world" under Kim Jong-un if it abandons its quest for nuclear weapons.
Mr Trump's declaration that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat last June was shot down by his own secretary of state Mike Pompeo on CNN's State of the Union yesterday.
"What he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore – this commitment that Chairman Kim made – have substantially taken down the risks to the American people,” Mr Pompeo said.
“It’s the mission of the secretary of state and the president of the United States to keep the American people secure. We’re aiming to achieve that.”
A Kim Jong-un impersonator claims he is being deported from Vietnam as the real North Korean leader arrives in the south east Asian country, crossing China by armoured train, for his summit with President Trump.
The lookalike, an Australian who lives in Hong Kong and goes by the name Howard X, had been holding mock meetings with a Donald Trump doppelganger around the Vietnamese capital before allegedly being "interrogated" and subsequently kicked out of the country.
"The official reason is because my visa was invalid, however my real crime was looking like the president of North Korea," wrote Howard X in a Facebook post on Sunday.
On Friday he published a lengthy Facebook post describing a "mandatory interview" at the hands of Vietnamese police at a national television station.
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