Here’s what Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test shows: She Does Have Some Native Blood

(THIS ARTICLE OS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

Here’s what Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test shows

She has Native American in her family tree going back generations, according to a report Monday.

Carlos D. Bustamante, a Stanford University professor and expert in the field, determined in his analysis that a pure Native American ancestor appears in Warren’s family “in the range of 6-10 generations ago,” the Boston Globe reported.

That’s consistent with the Massachusetts Democrat’s family lore from her Oklahoma upbringing that her great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was partially Native American.

Bustamante, who won a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a Genius Grant, found that the “vast majority” of Warren’s ancestry is European, but “the results strongly support the existence of an unmixed Native American ancestor.”

The release of the DNA findings appear to be a way for Warren, who is expected to run for president in 2020, to put the issue to rest and remove a talking point for her opponents.

In a video posted on her website that begins with Trump calling her “Pocahontas,” Warren is speaking to Bustamante.

“Now, the president likes to call my mom a liar. What do the facts say?” she asks him.

“The facts suggest that you absolutely have a Native American ancestor in your pedigree,” he replies.

Tamping down accusations made by many Republicans that she parlayed her heritage to benefit her career, the video includes a number of law professors — including from Harvard Law and the University of Pennsylvania Law School — attesting that she was hired for her ability.

“Her heritage had no bearing on her hiring. Period,” Jay Westbrook, a professor at the University of Texas Austin School of Law, says in the video.

Warren also includes family members in the video who call out Trump for mocking her.

“He’s talking about stuff he doesn’t have any idea about,” says her nephew Mark Herring.

Warren herself also addresses Trump’s “Pocahontas” comments, saying “my family history is my family history.”

“This isn’t just about casual racism — war-hoops and tomahawk chops. Native Americans have faced discrimination, neglect and violence for generations,” she says in the video. “And President Trump can say what he wants about me, but mocking Native Americans or any group in order to get at me — that’s not what America stands for.”

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IMF cuts global growth forecasts, citing escalating trade tensions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

IMF cuts global growth forecasts, citing escalating trade tensions

Xinhua

The International Monetary Fund has cut growth forecasts for the global economy this year and next year, as escalating trade tensions could dent business sentiment and trigger financial market volatility.

In its updated World Economic Outlook report released on the IMF’s website on Monday, the Washington-based international lender said global economic growth is projected to reach 3.7 percent in 2018 and 2019, 0.2 percentage points lower than its previous forecasts in July.

“Downside risks to global growth have risen in the past six months and the potential for upside surprises has receded,” the report said, adding the economic expansion has become “less balanced” and “may have peaked” in some major economies.

The IMF maintained its growth forecast of 2.4 percent for advanced economies in 2018, while downgrading its forecast for those economies in 2019 to 2.1 percent, 0.1 percentage points lower than its July forecast.

Growth in emerging markets and developing economies is projected to reach 4.7 percent in 2018 and 2019, 0.2 percentage points and 0.4 percentage points, respectively, lower than the previous forecasts in July.

The IMF kept its growth forecast for China at 6.6 percent this year, while shaving its projection for China’s growth next year to 6.2 percent, down 0.2 percentage points from three months ago.

As the United States unilaterally imposed additional tariffs on some of its main trade partners in the past several months, the IMF warned that “escalating trade tensions and the potential shift away from a multilateral, rules-based trading system” are key threats to the global outlook.

“An intensification of trade tensions, and the associated rise in policy uncertainty, could dent business and financial market sentiment, trigger financial market volatility, and slow investment and trade,” the report said.

“Higher trade barriers would disrupt global supply chains and slow the spread of new technologies, ultimately lowering global productivity and welfare,” the report argued, adding more import restrictions would push up the prices of consumer goods, thus harming low-income households disproportionately.

The report comes as global financial ministers and central bankers gather in Bali, Indonesia, this week to attend the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank. Officials are expected to have a heated discussion on the trade tensions.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, last week called on economies around the world to “de-escalate and resolve the current trade disputes” as global economic growth outlook has dimmed.

“The stakes are high because the fracturing of global value chains could have a devastating effect on many countries,” Lagarde said, urging countries to work together to build a global trade system that is “stronger, fairer, and fit for the future.”

3 Theories Behind Nikki Haley’s Shocking Resignation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

3 theories behind Nikki Haley’s shocking resignation

Washington (CNN)In a political world seemingly incapable of being shocked, the resignation of United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday did just that.

The most common reaction upon hearing the news, which Axios’ Jonathan Swan first reported, was “WHAT????” (A senior State Department official told CNN that Haley had only told her staff about her resignation Tuesday morning. Another source familiar with the matter said Haley’s resignation caught national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by surprise.)
And that reaction was quickly followed by “WHY???”
The answer to the second question is now the big story. And, in truth, we just don’t totally know yet why Haley, who seemed to be one of the few Trump administration officials able to stay in the good graces of Trump, the international community and establishment Republicans all at once, would decide to simply (and suddenly) call it quits.
Trump, seeking to minimize any damage to himself from the surprise resignation, sat down with his outgoing UN ambassador shortly after the news broke and insisted he a) knew about her plans to leave last week and b) she had made the decision because she had served for two years (actually one year and seven months) and felt like it was time to go. (Haley will leave her job at the end of the year, Trump announced Tuesday.)
“It’s been eight years of intense times,” Haley said of her time as governor of South Carolina and her time in the administration. “And I am a believer in term limits.” She added: “I don’t have anything set on where I am going to go.”
And that might be true! But, the fact that neither Bolton nor Pompeo had any inkling that Haley was preparing to resign casts some doubt on the this-was-all-part-of-the-plan explanation. And, losing an Indian-American woman four weeks before an election and on the heels of a very contentious Supreme Court fight that divided deeply along gender lines suggests is far less than ideal timing for Trump.
So, what else MIGHT be beyond Haley’s shock resignation? Here are a few theories:

1. She got edged out by the likes of Bolton and Pompeo

It’s no secret that the national security adviser and secretary of state, respectively, are foreign policy hard-liners. And that while Haley was outwardly very tough within the UN (and the Trump administration), she was reportedly a voice urging more moderation — and toeing the preferred line of establishment Republicans — in private. While Haley was, without question, a star of the first year of Trump’s administration, she did clash with him at times over, among other things, Russia. During a TV appearance in April, Haley announced the US would impose new sanctions on Russia. Trump insisted no such sanctions had been put in place and the White House blamed the misunderstanding on a “momentary confusion” on Haley’s part. She quickly responded that she did not “get confused.”
With Bolton and Pompeo as the new shiny objects in the Trump Cabinet, Haley may have seen the writing on the wall — and decided to leave on her own terms (before she is pushed).

2. She needed to make some money

Haley has spent a long time in elected (or appointed office). Prior to being elected governor in 2010, she spent six years as a member of the state House. Those are not hugely lucrative jobs. In 2015, the year before she was tapped to serve in the Trump administration, she and her husband reported an annual income of just over $170,000. In 2014, that number was closer to $190,000. And in 2013, Haley and her husband, Michael, reported making $270,000.
According to Haley’s 2018 financial disclosure, she reported a significant number of outstanding debts, including somewhere between $25,000 and $65,000 in credit cards, a mortgage in excess of $1 million and a line of credit between $250,000 and $500,000.

Trump's big announcement on Nikki Haley

Trump’s big announcement on Nikki Haley 02:04
With one child in college and another headed there in the next few years, Haley could well have been lured by the seven-figure salaries available to someone with a resume like hers in the private sector.
(Also worth noting: Over the weekend, Citizens Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government ethics watchdog, requested an investigation into Haley’s acceptance of seven free flights from South Carolina businessmen in 2017.)

3. She wants to run for president

There’s very little doubt that Haley has her eye on the White House at some point in the future. (Doubt me? Haley brought her most trusted political adviser — and pollster — Jon Lerner to the UN with her.) Knowing that her resignation would set off talk of a potential primary challenge to Trump in 2020, Haley laughed off the possibility during her comments on Tuesday — making clear she plans to campaign for Trump in two years time.
In truth, Haley is too smart to run against Trump in 2020. While Trump’s approval ratings are in bad shape with the broad electorate, he is among the most popular Republican presidents ever among Republican voters. No one is beating Trump in a primary in 2020 — not Haley, not anyone.
BUT, just because Haley isn’t running in 2020 doesn’t mean she isn’t running. Remember that whether Trump wins or loses in 2020, the 2024 Republican nomination will be open. Yes, Vice President Mike Pence is a likely candidate — particularly if Trump wins a second term in 2020. And he will be the Trump candidate. But what if there is a desire for a candidate who has OK relations with Trump world but also is not seen as totally and completely aligned with a former president who was, to put it mildly, a non-traditional Republican candidate and president?
Enter Haley! She will have spent almost two years serving Trump, yes, but, by the time 2024 comes around, she will be six years removed from the Trump White House. Which might be a very appealing thing for Republicans.

Donald Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes And Outright Tax Fraud

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes
as He Reaped Riches From His Father

The president has long sold himself as a self-made billionaire, but a Times investigation found that he received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances.

The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.

The president declined repeated requests over several weeks to comment for this article. But a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Charles J. Harder, provided a written statement on Monday, one day after The Times sent a detailed description of its findings. “The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” Mr. Harder said. “There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate.”

Mr. Harder sought to distance Mr. Trump from the tax strategies used by his family, saying the president had delegated those tasks to relatives and tax professionals. “President Trump had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters,” he said. “The affairs were handled by other Trump family members who were not experts themselves and therefore relied entirely upon the aforementioned licensed professionals to ensure full compliance with the law.”

[Read the full statement]

The president’s brother, Robert Trump, issued a statement on behalf of the Trump family:

“Our dear father, Fred C. Trump, passed away in June 1999. Our beloved mother, Mary Anne Trump, passed away in August 2000. All appropriate gift and estate tax returns were filed, and the required taxes were paid. Our father’s estate was closed in 2001 by both the Internal Revenue Service and the New York State tax authorities, and our mother’s estate was closed in 2004. Our family has no other comment on these matters that happened some 20 years ago, and would appreciate your respecting the privacy of our deceased parents, may God rest their souls.”

The Times’s findings raise new questions about Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. According to tax experts, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump would be vulnerable to criminal prosecution for helping his parents evade taxes, because the acts happened too long ago and are past the statute of limitations. There is no time limit, however, on civil fines for tax fraud.

The findings are based on interviews with Fred Trump’s former employees and advisers and more than 100,000 pages of documents describing the inner workings and immense profitability of his empire. They include documents culled from public sources — mortgages and deeds, probate records, financial disclosure reports, regulatory records and civil court files.

The investigation also draws on tens of thousands of pages of confidential records — bank statements, financial audits, accounting ledgers, cash disbursement reports, invoices and canceled checks. Most notably, the documents include more than 200 tax returns from Fred Trump, his companies and various Trump partnerships and trusts. While the records do not include the president’s personal tax returns and reveal little about his recent business dealings at home and abroad, dozens of corporate, partnership and trust tax returns offer the first public accounting of the income he received for decades from various family enterprises.

[11 takeaways from The Times’s investigation]

What emerges from this body of evidence is a financial biography of the 45th president fundamentally at odds with the story Mr. Trump has sold in his books, his TV shows and his political life. In Mr. Trump’s version of how he got rich, he was the master deal maker who broke free of his father’s “tiny” outer-borough operation and parlayed a single $1 million loan from his father (“I had to pay him back with interest!”) into a $10 billion empire that would slap the Trump name on hotels, high-rises, casinos, airlines and golf courses the world over. In Mr. Trump’s version, it was always his guts and gumption that overcame setbacks. Fred Trump was simply a cheerleader.

“I built what I built myself,” Mr. Trump has said, a narrative that was long amplified by often-credulous coverage from news organizations, including The Times.

Certainly a handful of journalists and biographers, notably Wayne Barrett, Gwenda Blair, David Cay Johnston and Timothy L. O’Brien, have challenged this story, especially the claim of being worth $10 billion. They described how Mr. Trump piggybacked off his father’s banking connections to gain a foothold in Manhattan real estate. They poked holes in his go-to talking point about the $1 million loan, citing evidence that he actually got $14 million. They told how Fred Trump once helped his son make a bond payment on an Atlantic City casino by buying $3.5 million in casino chips.

But The Times’s investigation of the Trump family’s finances is unprecedented in scope and precision, offering the first comprehensive look at the inherited fortune and tax dodges that guaranteed Donald J. Trump a gilded life. The reporting makes clear that in every era of Mr. Trump’s life, his finances were deeply intertwined with, and dependent on, his father’s wealth.

Donald J. Trump accumulated wealth throughout his childhood thanks to his father, Fred C. Trump.

By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. By the time he was 17, his father had given him part ownership of a 52-unit apartment building. Soon after Mr. Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father. The money increased with the years, to more than $5 million annually in his 40s and 50s.

Fred Trump’s real estate empire was not just scores of apartment buildings. It was also a mountain of cash, tens of millions of dollars in profits building up inside his businesses, banking records show. In one six-year span, from 1988 through 1993, Fred Trump reported $109.7 million in total income, now equivalent to $210.7 million. It was not unusual for tens of millions in Treasury bills and certificates of deposit to flow through his personal bank accounts each month.

Fred Trump was relentless and creative in finding ways to channel this wealth to his children. He made Donald not just his salaried employee but also his property manager, landlord, banker and consultant. He gave him loan after loan, many never repaid. He provided money for his car, money for his employees, money to buy stocks, money for his first Manhattan offices and money to renovate those offices. He gave him three trust funds. He gave him shares in multiple partnerships. He gave him $10,000 Christmas checks. He gave him laundry revenue from his buildings.

Much of his giving was structured to sidestep gift and inheritance taxes using methods tax experts described to The Times as improper or possibly illegal. Although Fred Trump became wealthy with help from federal housing subsidies, he insisted that it was manifestly unfair for the government to tax his fortune as it passed to his children. When he was in his 80s and beginning to slide into dementia, evading gift and estate taxes became a family affair, with Donald Trump playing a crucial role, interviews and newly obtained documents show.

The line between legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion is often murky, and it is constantly being stretched by inventive tax lawyers. There is no shortage of clever tax avoidance tricks that have been blessed by either the courts or the I.R.S. itself. The richest Americans almost never pay anything close to full freight. But tax experts briefed on The Times’s findings said the Trumps appeared to have done more than exploit legal loopholes. They said the conduct described here represented a pattern of deception and obfuscation, particularly about the value of Fred Trump’s real estate, that repeatedly prevented the I.R.S. from taxing large transfers of wealth to his children.

“The theme I see here through all of this is valuations: They play around with valuations in extreme ways,” said Lee-Ford Tritt, a University of Florida law professor and a leading expert in gift and estate tax law. “There are dramatic fluctuations depending on their purpose.”

The manipulation of values to evade taxes was central to one of the most important financial events in Donald Trump’s life. In an episode never before revealed, Mr. Trump and his siblings gained ownership of most of their father’s empire on Nov. 22, 1997, a year and a half before Fred Trump’s death. Critical to the complex transaction was the value put on the real estate. The lower its value, the lower the gift taxes. The Trumps dodged hundreds of millions in gift taxes by submitting tax returns that grossly undervalued the properties, claiming they were worth just $41.4 million.

The same set of buildings would be sold off over the next decade for more than 16 times that amount.

The most overt fraud was All County Building Supply & Maintenance, a company formed by the Trump family in 1992. All County’s ostensible purpose was to be the purchasing agent for Fred Trump’s buildings, buying everything from boilers to cleaning supplies. It did no such thing, records and interviews show. Instead All County siphoned millions of dollars from Fred Trump’s empire by simply marking up purchases already made by his employees. Those millions, effectively untaxed gifts, then flowed to All County’s owners — Donald Trump, his siblings and a cousin. Fred Trump then used the padded All County receipts to justify bigger rent increases for thousands of tenants.

After this article was published on Tuesday, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said the agency was “reviewing the allegations” and “vigorously pursuing all appropriate areas of investigation.”

All told, The Times documented 295 streams of revenue that Fred Trump created over five decades to enrich his son. In most cases his four other children benefited equally. But over time, as Donald Trump careened from one financial disaster to the next, his father found ways to give him substantially more money, records show. Even so, in 1990, according to previously secret depositions, Mr. Trump tried to have his father’s will rewritten in a way that Fred Trump, alarmed and angered, feared could result in his empire’s being used to bail out his son’s failing businesses.

Of course, the story of how Donald Trump got rich cannot be reduced to handouts from his father. Before he became president, his singular achievement was building the brand of Donald J. Trump, Self-Made Billionaire, a brand so potent it generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through TV shows, books and licensing deals.

Constructing that image required more than Fred Trump’s money. Just as important were his son’s preternatural marketing skills and always-be-closing competitive hustle. While Fred Trump helped finance the accouterments of wealth, Donald Trump, master self-promoter, spun them into a seductive narrative. Fred Trump’s money, for example, helped build Trump Tower, the talisman of privilege that established his son as a major player in New York. But Donald Trump recognized and exploited the iconic power of Trump Tower as a primary stage for both “The Apprentice” and his presidential campaign.

The biggest payday he ever got from his father came long after Fred Trump’s death. It happened quietly, without the usual Trumpian news conference, on May 4, 2004, when Mr. Trump and his siblings sold off the empire their father had spent 70 years assembling with the dream that it would never leave his family.

Donald Trump’s cut: $177.3 million, or $236.2 million in today’s dollars.

Reading the political winds: The case for Taiwanese discretion

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

Reading the political winds: The case for Taiwanese discretion

Ryan Hass 

Taipei Times

Editor’s Note:Even as Taiwan faces increasing pressure, the realities of U.S. domestic politics mean Taipei should be prudent about appealing publicly to the Trump administration for support. This piece originally appeared in The Taipei Times.

In recent months, global events have unfolded at a dizzying pace. The annual tradition of NATO summits may be suspended. Transatlantic ties are buckling under stress. The G7 has unraveled. The global trading system is undergoing a fundamental reordering, as the United States withdraws from the center and no other country is prepared to take its place. U.S.-China relations are veering in an adversarial direction. And democracies around the world are being buffeted by populist waves and outside interference in electoral processes.

What ties all of these events together? In one way or another, each of these developments reflects the unwinding of the rules-based international order. Increasingly, relative power — not common rules of the road — is defining international relations.

The world has seen this dynamic before. Seventy years ago, in the wake of two catastrophic world wars, Roosevelt, Churchill, and others set out to build structures and systems to maintain global political stability. They diagnosed the conditions that enabled the outbreak of World War I and World War II as unbridled strategic competition between major powers, economic protectionism, and the rise of tyrants.

To forestall the re-emergence of global conflict, these leaders promoted the adoption of democracy, the expansion of trade liberalization, and the emergence of the United Nations as a body to debate and adjudicate interstate disputes. The United States committed to help rebuild Japan and Germany. Washington also planted American troops in Europe and Asia to help keep the peace and prevent any country from pursuing domination.

While the succeeding 70 years continued to be scarred by war, those tragedies were, by and large, limited enough to enable a period of historic human progress. More people in more places — including Taiwan — gained a say in their governance. An unprecedented number of people were lifted out of extreme poverty. And although the world veered close to catastrophe for several weeks in October 1962, there were no world wars. Sustaining conducive conditions for such rapid human progress during this period required a heavy and constant exertion of American power and leadership.

But as the veterans of world wars passed from the scene and the fears of the Cold War faded, the American people became less convinced in the value of sustaining the international system. They began to ask why the United States needed to solve “other people’s” problems. Presidents Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama each in their own way pushed back against such protectionist and isolationist impulses. They warned that disorder abroad would eventually lead to disruption at home, and that it was better to tackle problems at their root than to let them spread to America’s shores. Donald Trump did not share this worldview, though. Instead, he argued that the American people deserved a leader who would put “America first.”

President Trump understood instinctively that many Americans are ambivalent about keeping the peace abroad and more worried about their challenges at home. He recognized that America is going through a period of destabilizing transition, as the demographic profile of the country shifts for the first time toward majority non-Caucasian, the economy whirls through a technological transformation every bit as disruptive as the industrial revolution, and many people are fearful about their own and their children’s job prospects. Against this backdrop of discontent, President Trump promised he would put the interests of Americans ahead of the demands of others. He committed not to send America’s sons and daughters to fight “other people’s” wars. He said he would require allies and partners to contribute more to their own defense. And he vowed to fight for hard-working Americans by renegotiating trade deals that were generating trade deficits and “ripping off” the United States.

While it is reasonable to question the wisdom of President Trump’s actions, it would be a mistake to doubt whether he believes what he says. President Trump has been making similar complaints to anyone who would listen for the past four decades. His views are not poll-tested positions to maximize voter support. Rather, they are authentic grievances about how he believes America has been mistreated in the world.

None of this diminishes the challenge Taiwan faces as pressure intensifies from the mainland. Nor does “America first” mean Taiwan alone. Washington recognizes Beijing’s increased efforts to squeeze Taiwan and is undertaking efforts to push back. Taiwan still enjoys deep support on a bipartisan basis throughout the U.S. government. And the United States maintains a fundamental interest in cross-strait peace and stability, and continues to act accordingly.

But the realities of U.S. domestic politics do mean Taipei should be prudent about appealing publicly to the Trump administration to do more for Taiwan. It would not benefit Taiwan to become associated in parts of the American public consciousness with other “needy” partners who expect the United States to solve their problems.

Taiwan has invested decades in building relationships with American lawmakers and policymakers. Taiwan also has some of the best diplomats in Washington. It should rely on those professional channels to identify ways to strengthen ties where possible, and solve problems when necessary. Now is not the time for Taiwan to employ megaphone diplomacy to press the United States to do more on its behalf. The more Taiwan draws public attention to its appeals, the less it might like the response it receives.

The North Korea Peace Process Is All in Trump’s Head

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SLATE NEWS)

 

WAR STORIES

The North Korea Peace Process Is All in Trump’s Head

It can’t collapse because it doesn’t exist.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump share a laugh during a Cabinet meeting in the White House on July 18 in Washington.
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Some say last week’s cancellation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang signaled a breakdown in the U.S.–North Korean disarmament talks, but this misses three much larger points, which go way beyond Korea and speak to the failings of President Trump’s foreign policy as a whole.

First, the talks were never going anywhere to begin with; there is nothing to break down.

Second, the Trump administration’s policy on North Korea is in complete chaos.

Third, the reason it’s in chaos is that Trump himself has no idea that it is in chaos, or that the talks have been moribund from their beginning, or that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is taking him for a ride and everyone knows it, except Trump.

Our story begins on Friday, when Trump tweeted:

This jolted close observers. The day before, Pompeo had hired Steve Biegun, a Ford Motors executive who had worked in George W. Bush’s National Security Council, to be his special envoy to North Korea. The trip was to be their maiden voyage as a team. But then North Korea’s chief negotiator (and former top spy) Kim Yong-chol sent Pompeo a belligerently toned letter, which suggested to the secretary—who persuaded Trump—that a trip would be pointless. Hence Trump’s tweet.

If that had been Trump’s only tweet, it might have been a shrewd move. In past negotiations, North Koreans get cranky as a way of testing their interlocutors; a piss-off note from Trump might have compelled a concession, even if just a superficial one.

But Trump didn’t stop there. He proceeded to blame the lack of progress not on the North Koreans but rather on the Chinese, who, “because of our much tougher Trading stance,” are not “helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were.”

Finally, Trump added:

If Kim had been concerned for a moment that his bluff had been called and that the Americans were about to get tough, Trump’s final tweet allayed his worries—and perhaps made him laugh. It assured Kim that he can continue stalling on disarmament—that he can do almost anything he wants—without facing any punishment because, like other autocrats who have learned the art of dealing with Trump, he’s bamboozled our narcissistic president into thinking that the two of them are friends.

At their June summit in Singapore, Trump and Kim signed a one-page “joint statement,” which Trump hailed as a pledge—he later even called it a “contract”—to “denuclearize” North Korea. In fact, as anyone who has ever read an international communiqué could tell (a group that clearly did not include Trump), it was nothing of the sort.

A few weeks before that summit, Trump tweeted that he was canceling it, in response to a typically nasty North Korean press release—then put it back on the calendar after Pyongyang officials put out a “very nice statement,” as Trump described it. That was no doubt the first sign—reinforced by his latest cancellation with warm regards—that Trump is a pushover.

Not only does Kim seem to know this—so does practically everyone in the Trump administration.

Daniel Sneider, lecturer on Asian studies at Stanford University and a seasoned international journalist, reported this week that U.S. officials who are working this issue have the following aims: to contain Kim so he doesn’t expand his nuclear arsenal, to contain Chinese President Xi Jinping so he keeps enforcing economic sanctions against Kim’s regime; to contain South Korean President Moon Jae-in so he doesn’t rush forth with massive economic projects in the North before Kim makes good on nuclear disarmament, and, most important, to contain their own boss, President Trump, from giving away the store.

Kim has bamboozled our narcissistic president into thinking that the two of them are friends.

At the summit in Singapore, Kim asked Trump to suspend America’s joint military exercises with South Korea, and Trump obliged him—without first consulting South Korea, Japan, or his own secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, who were all surprised by the move. At a press conference today, Mattis said, “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises.”

Of course, the key words here are “no plans at this time.” Mattis didn’t have plans to suspend the last exercise either. Mattis may have lots of plans; Trump makes the decisions—if he becomes aware of the plans. This may be one reason Mattis is keeping a low profile these days: He doesn’t always want Trump to know precisely what he’s doing.

The same is true of the officials working North Korean policy. Their No. 1 goal, at the moment, is to keep Trump from having another summit with Kim. This is what terrifies them about Trump’s final tweet. (“I look forward to seeing him soon!”) None of these officials, including Pompeo, wanted Pompeo to make the trip to Pyongyang. They knew it would go nowhere, and they knew Trump would infer from the failure that only he could solve the problem by sitting down with his friend Kim and asking him, as a favor, to help break through the logjam.

This is how Trump thinks international politics works. Back in June, when he proposed letting Russia back into the G-8, he explained his thinking: “If Vladimir Putin were sitting next to me at a table … I could say, ‘Would you do me a favor and get out of Syria? Would you do me a favor, would you get out of Ukraine?’ ” Soon after this bizarre remark, Trump held his infamous summit with Putin and, whatever else happened (this remains a mystery), no such favors were granted.

We don’t know what other concessions Trump made in his one-on-one session with Kim in Singapore (or, for that matter, his one-on-one with Putin in Helsinki). Kim claims that Trump said he would sign a peace treaty, ending the 1950–53 Korean War (which has been in a state of cease-fire these past 65 years, but not a formal peace). As a result, ever since, North Korean negotiators have demanded a treaty before they take any steps to dismantle their nuclear arsenal. Pompeo rejected that demand the last time he was in Pyongyang. According to Sneider’s account, Kim Yong-chol, the North Korean negotiator, held up a cellphone and taunted Pompeo, saying, “Why don’t you call your president.”

Before Trump canceled the meeting, Pompeo had planned to offer Kim a deal: The United States would declare a willingness to negotiate a peace treaty if North Korea declared the number and location of its nuclear facilities. Pompeo was going to do this without first having his negotiators test it on their counterparts. U.S. officials now say Kim would have rejected it. He would probably reject any offer, knowing that Trump would respond by offering more.

The way Kim is believed to see it, Trump wants a deal—wants to be seen as a peacemaker—more than anything, especially before the 2020 (or even this year’s midterm) elections. If Trump had read his own book, much less written it, he would know that you should never appear to want a deal too eagerly. He is violating that basic principle.

Pompeo is proving to be a better secretary of state than his hapless predecessor, Rex Tillerson, in the sense that he sees the value of filling his department’s empty slots with competent people and letting them do their work.

But Trump keeps undercutting their efforts, and Pompeo—an ambitious ex-congressman who got this job by kowtowing to Trump’s political needs while he was CIA director and who is too keen to maintain his access to the White House—will go only so far to rein the boss in. He convinced Trump to call off the trip, but he is too cowed to tell Trump that his policy, his understanding of the joint statement, and his view of Kim are all wrong.

Meanwhile, national security adviser John Bolton, who came into office with a clear record of wanting to bomb North Korea (and Iran), seems to be sitting back, waiting for the roses to wilt and for Trump to realize that Kim is not a friend and will never disarm, before pouncing into action.

For the moment, though, Trump’s reality is whatever reality that grooms and praises Trump. He’s not interested in any other reality. He thinks the polls show that he’s popular. He thinks the leaders of the world respect him. At 10:02 on Tuesday morning, he Googled “Trump” and “news,” saw that almost all the entries were unfavorable, inferred that the search algorithm was “RIGGED,” and tweeted that regulations should be considered.

Meanwhile, the real world follows its own dynamics, Trump is steadily divorcing himself from reality, but, as president, he still has an oversize impact on what really happens. That’s the danger. The pity, and potentially the tragedy, is that many of those around him know this and are doing little about it.

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Judge rules against Trump’s attempt to weaken federal unions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

Judge rules against Trump’s attempt to weaken federal unions

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WASHINGTON – A federal judge struck down significant sections of three executive orders on government workers, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump’s attempts to curtail the power of labor unions representing federal employees.

In an opinion Saturday, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Trump exceeded his authority because Congress has established collective bargaining rights for federal employees through the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act.

The three executive orders, signed in May, were an attempt to make good on a promise in Trump’s State of the Union address to make it easier for the government to reward good workers and fire bad ones.

Earlier: Trump signs executive orders aimed at loosening clout of federal labor unions

But four labor unions representing federal workers sued, arguing that Trump was attempting to unilaterally dictate new terms to labor contracts they had already negotiated.

Specifically, Trump’s orders attempted to cap the amount of time union officials employed by the federal government can spend on union business, speed up disciplinary procedures and unilaterally adopt performance-based pay plans.

Jackson said presidents do have the power to sign executive orders on federal employee-management relations – but only as long as they don’t conflict with the law. On balance, the judge wrote in her 122-page decision, “this Court has decided that the unions have the better of this argument.”

Federal employee unions celebrated the ruling.

“The judge rightly found that the president is not above the law and cannot, through these blatantly anti-union and anti-worker executive orders, eviscerate employee rights and undermine the collective bargaining process established by Congress,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

“Federal employees can return to work on Monday knowing that their rights are intact, and that presidential overreach targeting career civil servants was curbed,” said Suzanne Summerlin, a lawyer for the National Federation of Federal Employees.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

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Is Trumps Day Of Reckoning About Here?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

CNN) After one day where truth and facts triumphed, America is back to its alternative realities.

The convictions of two close associates of President Donald Trump in a mind-bending double-header drama in two cities on Tuesday were a moment of clarity in the legal morass that has thickened around the White House over the last 19 months.
Yet anyone who thought that being implicated in a crime in one of the most sensational political moments of recent history would soon temper Trump’s behavior, stop his White House peddling untruths or reshape the political terrain that sustains his presidency is being disappointed — at least for now.
Certainly, in years to come that tumultuous hour on Tuesday could turn out to be the moment when the Trump presidency began to unravel and the Teflon armor that shielded the President from scandals and outrages that would doom normal politicians was finally penetrated.
After all, months of obfuscation and attacks on Robert Mueller could not halt the legal process that’s likely to send former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the President’s former fixer Michael Cohen to jail for years. And the real meat of the special counsel’s investigation into alleged collusion with Russia is yet to be revealed.
But in the immediate term at least, it seems nothing has changed in Washington.
The White House is back to peddling narratives that defy fact, attacking the media and lifting talking points from conservative opinion hosts. Trump is making new assaults on legal propriety. Republicans are dodging reporters in the Capitol to avoid being called to account for the President’s latest transgression. Democrats, owing to the GOP’s power monopoly in Washington, can only stir outrage and fire blanks — at least until the midterm elections.

‘What in the world are we going through?’

Trump’s defenders can still argue that although Cohen and Manafort, and the already disgraced Trump acolytes Rick Gates and Michael Flynn, have been felled by Mueller, the President has not been charged or been proved to have colluded with Russia or obstructed justice.
But his attitude on Wednesday hardly fit the profile of someone who had done nothing wrong or who is convinced the legal process should be allowed to play out to its conclusion.
He made up a legal loophole to argue that the hush money paid to women before the 2016 election who alleged they had affairs with him — payments Cohen said were made at his direction — did not break the law since it did not come from campaign funds.
“They didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “It’s not even a campaign violation.”
Trump is also again brazenly tearing at the boundaries of presidential decorum, dangling the possibility of a pardon before Manafort, who might just be tempted to cooperate with Mueller, now that he’s probably going to jail for most of the rest of his life.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!” Trump tweeted.
Former Watergate special prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste bemoaned the possibility that the President might be considering a pardon for a man convicted of massive tax fraud and called on political leaders to come together to head off a moment of national peril.
“What in the world are we going through in this country?” Ben-Veniste told CNN’s Erica Hill.
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders held a previously unscheduled briefing to press home the President’s counterattack.
She dismissed the notion that Trump was in legal trouble at all over Cohen’s accusation, which effectively boiled down to the sitting President of the United States being accused of a crime.
“As the President has said and we’ve stated many times, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him and we’ve commented on it extensively,” she said.
When asked by a reporter whether Trump’s now-discredited statement on Air Force One that he knew nothing about the payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels, she attacked the messenger:
“I think that’s a ridiculous accusation. The President, in this matter, has done nothing wrong.”
Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, are stuck in their perpetual dance, tiptoeing around Trump’s latest misadventures in fear of his Make America Great Again base. House Speaker Paul Ryan, once seen as the moral conscience of the GOP, is nowhere to be seen nor heard.
“I’m not very happy about it,” said Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch, who earlier this year said the current presidency could be the greatest in history, but he added Wednesday that Trump should not be blamed for his staff.
Louisiana’s Sen. John Kennedy said he didn’t see what the fuss was about in the Cohen and Manafort convictions.
“You know, I’m sorry. I don’t see any deeper meaning in this other than you have to pay your taxes and you can’t lie on a loan application,” he told reporters.
South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, a sometime Trump golf partner, punted.
“Rather than answer a bunch of hypotheticals, I’ll do what I did in the Clinton — when Ken Starr issued his report. I read it, I’ll make a decision,” he said.
Democrats are gamely repurposing the latest Trump crisis in their almost certainly futile bid to scuttle the President’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, but are limited by their purgatory in the minority.
Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono nixed a meeting with Kavanaugh, to bolster Democratic calls for the nomination to be put on hold given Tuesday’s events.
But Democrats are also still wary of using the “I” word, partly to avoid giving Trump a rallying issue that could motivate his supporters in the midterm elections.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told The Associated Press on Wednesday that impeachment is still “not on the table” even though some liberals believe that if Trump did conspire with Cohen in the way it appears from his court testimony, he may have already committed a high crime or misdemeanor that is the standard for House of Representatives action against a President.

A ‘reckoning’ will come

It’s become a cliché that nothing — insulting war hero Sen. John McCain, cozying up to Russian leader Vladimir Putin or elevating white supremacists — derails Trump. Tuesday’s events could become just another data point in that trend. And if the special counsel finds no evidence of collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice, Trump will be able to credibly assert that his name is clear.
But no one knows where Mueller’s probe will lead, if Trump or his campaign is guilty of collusion or obstructing justice. Presidencies can take years to unravel, as the varied experiences of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter show.
There’s also little doubt that Tuesday’s legal stunner, and the news that White House Counsel Donald McGahn testified to Mueller for 30 hours, have seeded new dark clouds around the President that could manifest themselves in ways impossible to predict right now.
And while Democrats are currently powerless, they could cripple Trump’s presidency and make his life a misery with incessant investigations if they win the House in November
A Democratic rout would prompt Republicans to consider whether sticking with Trump and a strategy solely reliant on his base is wise in the 2020 election.
So while it may seem that Trump’s political and legal luck is holding, it may erode over time and the furor surrounding Tuesday’s convictions could be a major reason why.
Some Trump opponents are still optimistic that the President is set for a demise.
“I believe in the wisdom and the good faith of the American people,” Norm Eisen, White House ethics czar during the Obama administration, said on CNN International.
“Let’s let it unfold. He is going to meet his day of reckoning.”

What I Believe The Truth Is About What Happened In The 2016 Presidential Election

What I Believe The Truth Is About What Happened In The 2016 Presidential Election

 

I am a registered independent who does vote in all of the Presidential election cycles and in all of the mid-term elections. I have voted for several Republicans and several Democrats throughout the years. I am not a fan of either of these two main parties and I darn sure can not stomach Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, I do believe that these two caricatures belong chained in the basement of a Federal Pen until the day they rot away and die. In case you are wondering, I voted for Gary Johnson back in 2016 for President, not because I thought that he would win anything, I just couldn’t get myself to vote for either of those other two donkeys behinds.

 

Now, I am going to tell you what I believe is the honest truth about what happened on election night of 2016. What I believe as of tonight is exactly what I believed happened back on November 8th of 2016, no changes. As pretty much almost all sane folks know (if you are a person who believes all the security agencies) Russia at the direction of their President Mr. Putin had their security agencies interfere in 21 States computer election systems. It is a fact that all these Russian hackers had to do was to move about 1/2 of 1% of the votes in just 3 or 4 of the States that were projected to be close that Hillary was projected to win. This would be enough to flip the winner of the Presidential election away from Hillary whom Mr. Putin hates to Mr. Trump whom I believe Mr. Putin has major ‘dirt’ on.

 

Hillary won the popular vote by a little over 2.8 million total votes. This is more than 5 times the amount that Al Gore beat George W. Bush by back in 2000 yet some how the ‘Arkansas Witch’ lost the election. If you are wondering, Mr. Gore beat Mr. Bush by a little more than 500,000 total votes. Mr. Trump likes to say that he won the election by a ‘historic’ amount even though history shows him to be a liar even on this matter, but then, what doesn’t this fraud not lie about, daily? Mr. Trump is said to have won 304 Electoral College votes to Hillary’s 227. For a person to win the election the had to garner at least 270 of these votes. So, Mr. Trump received 34 more than required to be the winner. Next I am going to show you a few final numbers from the 2016 election. There are more States with more examples of these issues, I have just picked 4 of them to show you. All of these States the poles right up to the election and the exit polls after people had voted all said that Hillary would win these States, but the computers say she didn’t.

 

Florida: 29 Electoral votes: Trump 49.20%,   4,615,910 popular votes

Hillary 47.81%,   4,501,455 popular votes

Trump wins by 1.39%  and by 114,455


Pennsylvania: 20 Electoral Votes: Trump 48.58%, 2,970,753 popular votes

Hillary 47.85%,  2,926,441 popular votes

Trump wins by .73% and by 44,312


Michigan: 16 Electoral Votes:  Trump 47.50%,  2,279,543 popular votes

Hillary 47.27%,  2,268,839 popular votes

Trump wins by .23% and by 10,704


Wisconsin: 10 Electoral Votes:  Trump 47.26%, 1,407,028 popular votes

Hillary 46.45%,  1,382,947 popular votes

Trump wins by .81% and by 24,081


Folks remember, on these percentages all you have to do is to cut the wining margins in half to change the outcome of the election. For example lets use Wisconsin. Mr. Trump is said to have won by .81%, now, cut that in half, take away .41% and give it to Hillary. This would equal a Hillary win 47.86% to Trump at 47.85%. Example of Michigan, .12% changes the winner. It is a well know fact that Russian intelligence agencies hacked these States systems trying to help Mr. Trump win.

All that historically huge win that Mr. Trump has bragged about would have changed if Hillary had won even the three smallest of these States, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Folks, this is just 3 of the 21 the Russian Agencies hacked. These three States alone totaled 46 Electoral Votes. Flipping just those three States, those 46 votes would have made the final Electoral Vote tally of Hillary 273, Trump 258. I honestly believe that we have a ‘fake’ President who is going to end up being impeached. I would say imprisoned also except that I am quite sure that President Pence as his first piece of business will pardon Mr. Trump of all of his felonies, including the treason charges I believe Mr. Mueller will prove Trump guilty of. I believe that Mr. Trump will pardon all of his mafia clan before he is himself impeached. The clan of which I speak does include the two crooks convicted today, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Manafort. I also believe that Mr. Mueller will get convictions on Eric and Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump and her husband Jarred Kushner.

 

Okay friends, that is my rant for the night. As a very dear old friend of mine used to like to say, now “we shall see what we shall see.” You can say I’m totally correct on everything that I have written this evening, most of it, some of it or even none of it.  I just wanted to get my thoughts down in print. Now, time will tell us “what we shall see.”

 

 

Trump is powerless as his legal fate spins out of his control

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump is powerless as his legal fate spins out of his control

(CNN)President Donald Trump may no longer control his fate, a plight that helps explain his increasingly volcanic Twitter eruptions.

Trump’s persona — in politics, business and life — relies on his self-image as the guy who calls the shots, closes deals and forces others to react to the shock moves of a master narrative weaver.
But as a legal web closes around the President, he’s in a far weaker position than he would like, a situation especially underlined by the bombshell revelations that White House counsel Donald McGahn has spent 30 hours in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump reacted to a media frenzy over the McGahn revelations in characteristic fashion: by launching a new Twitter assault on Mueller, taking new shots at his new nemesis John Brennan and diverting attention with newsy comments on the Federal Reserve.
But sources told CNN on Monday that the President was unsettled that he didn’t know the full extent of McGahn’s testimony and had remained agitated through the weekend, believing the latest developments made him look weak.
McGahn’s conversations with Mueller are not the only drama that is leaving Trump waiting on events, rather than dictating them.
Prosecutors and jurors over whom he has little control, the legal exposure of some of his top former associates and the surprising constraints of the most powerful job in the world and those who serve him are leaving him — for once — struggling to control his own story.
Trump is on tenterhooks, for instance, as a jury — now entering its fourth day of deliberations — weighs tax and fraud charges that could send Paul Manafort, his onetime campaign chairman, to jail for life.
New reports on Sunday that Michael Cohen is close to being charged in his own multimillion-dollar alleged fraud case ignited fresh speculation over whether the President’s former personal lawyer could do a deal with prosecutors to testify against his former top client.
Then there is his duel with Mueller himself, who may be the most inscrutable, immovable foe Trump has ever faced.
The President has often raised fears that he could try to have Mueller removed or otherwise interfere with his investigation. But the consequences of derailing a criminal probe into the conduct of his own campaign would cause a crisis of governance in Washington and could so shift the political terrain that even Republicans who have given the President a free pass could be forced to confront him.
Still, on Monday Trump was still mulling the idea of a shock move — or at least he wanted the special counsel, his own supporters and other Americans to think he might try something unthinkable.
“I’ve decided to stay out. Now, I don’t have to stay out, as you know. I can go in and I could … do whatever, I could run it if I want,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, speaking about the Mueller investigation.

Trying to get back in control

After the McGahn news detonated, Trump — as he often does when apparently caught off guard — took pains to create an impression that he was in control.
He tweeted on Sunday that he had engineered McGahn’s testimony because he had nothing to hide and rejected commentary that the White House counsel may have turned on him.
Of course, the President could be completely genuine in his comments if he has done nothing wrong. But many legal analysts saw the new details over the length and extent of McGahn’s discussions with Mueller as a serious development that could have all sorts of implications down the road.
“I think the White House should be very concerned about it,” CNN Legal Analyst Ross Garber said.
“The notion that the White House counsel — the senior lawyer for the presidency — was in cooperation with federal investigators and that the President and the chief of staff and others around the President don’t know what he said — that is troubling.”
Powerless to do much else, Trump fired off wild tweeting sprees, in deflection mode, accusing Mueller of perpetrating McCarthyism and taking new swipes at Brennan.
“He won’t sue!” Trump predicted in a tweet that branded Brennan “the worst CIA Director in our country’s history,” days after stripping him of his security clearance.
And on Monday the President tweeted: “Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House Councel (sic), only with my approval, for purposes of transparency. Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone … looking for trouble.”
But it’s becoming clear that Trump’s immediate and ultimate destiny cannot be dictated by a tweet storm or by taking vengeance against an enemy like Brennan — a tried and trusted tactic in a political arsenal that often relies on elevating and then dismembering a foil.
Other than wielding pre-emptive pardons for former aides that could ignite a constitutional showdown or launching purges of top judicial authorities handling various cases that are drawing him into a deeper legal morass, there is not much the President can do to help himself.
That’s partly down to Mueller.
For all his increasingly poisonous insults, claims by his lawyer Rudy Giuliani that the special counsel is “panicking” and the assault by his allies in conservative media, Trump has failed to draw the tight-lipped special counsel into the kind of confrontation that favors him.
And for all Giuliani’s demands for Mueller to release his “report” and the political jockeying by Trump’s legal team over a potential interview of the President by the special counsel, the taciturn investigator appears to hold all the cards.
No one, least of all the President, can be sure exactly what Mueller knows about key issues like the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the events that led up to the departure of indicted former national security adviser Michael Flynn or obstruction of justice allegations.
And given the tight clamp the special counsel has imposed on his probe, it is anyone’s guess whether Mueller will file a report, what it will say and when he might make his conclusions public.
While Trump’s team appears to be trying to make the probe a midterm election rallying call for his political base, it’s also unclear whether the special counsel will make any new indictments, issue a subpoena for the President’s testimony or take any other significant steps before November.
All that is a serious disadvantage for Trump’s legal and political team as it games out a possible defense.

Not so powerful after all

As a zealous litigant during his business career, Trump was used to having lawyers ready to jump at his barked commands.
But he’s found that things are different for a president, a reality underscored by the McGahn episode.
Because McGahn serves as White House counsel, his primary duty is not limiting Trump’s legal liabilities but to the office of the presidency itself, a distinction that has left some experts wondering why the President did not invoke executive privilege to delay or limit McGahn’s testimony.
Even then, there might not have been much Trump could have done, given the realities of McGahn’s role and the fact that he is not the President’s personal attorney.
“He works for the people of the United States, and there is a very limited scope to the confidentiality of his discussions with the President, especially when they involve conduct that might be legitimately the subject of criminal investigation,” Paul Rosenzweig, a former senior counsel to Bill Clinton independent counsel Kenneth Starr, told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
“He simply has that obligation as a servant of the American people who works for us, in effect.”
Trump’s frustration over the constraints of his role and the obligations of those who serve him has long simmered in his relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump has repeatedly slammed the former Alabama senator for recusing himself from the Russia probe; in other words, protecting not the President but his duty to justice and good governance.
It may not be much longer before Trump feels the same way about McGahn.
The President is also all but powerless in another legal drama that has huge implications.
Like the rest of Washington, he was back in a waiting game as the jury in the Manafort trial in Alexandria, Virginia, slogged through a third day of deliberations Monday. Should it return a guilty verdict, it would hand a first, significant victory to Mueller’s team and deal a symbolic blow to Trump, offering new evidence to critics who say he surrounded himself with corrupt characters from his former life.
The President, despite repeated warnings from his cheerleaders on Fox News opinion shows that the Manafort trial has nothing to do with him, has shown by a string of tweets that he is watching the trial closely.
But he cannot do much more than hope that it turns out well for Manafort, though on Friday he did call the trial “very sad” and his former campaign chairman “a very good person” in comments seen by some legal experts as an effort to influence a jury that was not sequestered.
Until the jury returns its verdict, the depth of Cohen’s legal woes becomes clear and the inscrutable Mueller makes a significant move, Trump can only wait. And tweet.
He is going to have to get used to not being in control.
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