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Trump’s White House: Five takeaways from Thursday

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence walk into the Oval Office at the White House © AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM

Washington, United States, Feb 3 – US President Donald Trump had a busy Thursday, stirring up diplomatic controversy with Iran and Australia before asking national religious leaders to pray for his reality TV successor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And that was just the beginning of his day.

Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s events in Washington:

– Iran ‘ON NOTICE’ –

In typical fashion, Trump’s latest toe-to-toe with a foreign power began with a pre-dawn tweet, this time over an Iranian ballistic missile test which Tehran denied was a breach of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!” Trump tweeted, echoing comments made by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on Wednesday.

Tensions simmered as Iran rejected the warning, calling Trump’s comments “baseless, repetitive and provocative.”

– Prayers for Arnold –

On his maiden visit to the marquee annual prayer breakfast of religious leaders, Trump took a joking swipe at his successor as host of “The Apprentice.”

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“They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place, and we know how that turned out: The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster.”

“I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can for those ratings, okay?” Trump said.

– Russia’s ‘aggressive actions’ –

In her first public remarks at the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley condemned Russia’s “aggressive actions” in Ukraine and pledged strong US support to Kiev.

In stark terms that seemed almost at odds with Trump’s friendly stance towards Russian President Vladimir Putin, Haley asserted that US sanctions imposed on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea would remain in place until Moscow gave back the peninsula to Ukraine.

– Australia spat –

Ripping up the foreign policy rulebook became the day’s theme, after The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that Trump tore into his Australian counterpart during their phone call last week.

Trump abruptly cut short a fiery conversation after criticizing an agreement to re-settle people kept in Pacific camps, sparking a war of words with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Thursday.

– Uber out –

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Uber users who have been threatening to dump the ride-sharing service got their desired outcome Thursday when CEO Travis Kalanick quit his seat on Trump’s business advisory group.

Kalanick said in an email that he spoke briefly with Trump about the president’s recent executive order restricting immigration, and told him he would not be able to participate on his economic council.

The group was established last year and includes Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk.

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