“Only the Best People.” Two More Trump Campaign Officials Guilty

American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12
American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

Remember Donald Trump’s promise to hire “only the best people”? Now at least five of his top campaign workers turn out to be criminals.

  • Paul Manafort, Trump’s second campaign chairman, has been found guilty of filing false tax returns, failing to report a foreign bank account and bank fraud. All the charges were related to his political work for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. A jury in Virginia did not reach a verdict on allegations of bank fraud conspiracy.
  • Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney, has pleaded guilty to tax evasion, making false financial statements and breaking campaign finance laws to pay off a Playboy model and a porn actress. Axios reports that, during his guilty plea, Cohen said he was directed to do so by an “unnamed candidate”. Guess who? Read more

How Should Europe Deal with the Putin Apologist in the White House?

American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12
American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

I’m glad Donald Trump’s shameful behavior in Helsinki, coming on the heels of his ally-bashing in Brussels and the United Kingdom, is finally waking up even conservatives to the fact that we have a Putin apologist in the White House.

When former intelligence chiefs start to call the president a traitor for accepting Vladimir Putin’s denials of waging information warfare on the United States, we should perhaps ask ourselves if Jonathan Chait didn’t have a point when he argued in New York magazine that the Trump-Russia scandal could be worse than we thought?

For us in Europe, the why matters less than the what. Whatever Trump’s motives, we must deal with an American president who is determined to sabotage the Atlantic alliance and establish an accord with Putin.

The question is, how? Read more

Don’t Believe a Word Trump Says

American president Donald Trump speaks on the phone during a flight on Air Force One to Pennsylvania, January 26, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks on the phone during a flight on Air Force One to Pennsylvania, January 26, 2017 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump’s latest allegation is that the FBI planted a “spy” in his presidential campaign and therefore the whole investigation into its ties to Russia is illegitimate.

This is hyperbole. Both Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Marco Rubio, a Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have dismissed the president’s claim as nonsense.

What appears to have happened is that somebody in the campaign talked to the FBI — far from a spy, at best an informant.

This was when the bureau had already started investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, having been warned by foreign intelligence agencies and undoubtedly alarmed by the proliferation of Kremlin-friendly operatives around Trump, from Michael Flynn to Paul Manafort to Carter Page. Read more

EU Budget Fight, California’s Housing Crisis and Trump’s Threats

President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016
President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands are unhappy about the European Commission’s proposal to eliminate rebates in the EU’s next seven-year budget.

The commission has proposed to cut solidarity spending by 7 percent and agricultural subsidies by 5 percent to make up for the loss of Britain’s contribution.

It also wants to eliminate “correction” mechanisms that benefit the wealthier member states.

The stakes are low. The rebates add up to €6 billion. The proposed budget — €1.25 trillion — altogether represents about 8 percent of the EU economy.

Expect a big fight nevertheless. For center-right leaders in Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands, who face competition from the nativist right, this is a perfect opportunity to bolster their Euroskeptic credentials. In the end, the commission will give in a little and everybody walks away happy. Read more

Republicans End Russia Probe, Italian Democrats Choose Opposition

American president Donald Trump listens to a speech outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, France, July 12, 2017
American president Donald Trump listens to a speech outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, France, July 12, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

Republicans in the House have wrapped up their Russia investigation and declared there was no collusion with the Donald Trump campaign.

Just like that.

I don’t suppose anyone was expecting House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes to release an unbiased report. He has been doing Trump’s bidding from the start. But to simply declare the investigation over, without Democratic consent, is particularly brazen.

This isn’t the first time Republicans have put party before country. When evidence of Russian meddling in the election emerged in late 2016, Senate leader Mitch McConnell warned President Barack Obama that he would consider it an act of partisan politics if his administration publicized the information.

When intelligence agencies finally did tell the public Russia was tampering with the election, on the same day (such a coincidence!) WikiLeaks published stolen emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta. Read more

Trump Rejects Immigration Compromise, Mueller Indicts Russians

Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Andrzej Duda of Poland deliver a news conference in Warsaw, July 6, 2017
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Andrzej Duda of Poland deliver a news conference in Warsaw, July 6, 2017 (KPRP/Krzysztof Sitkowski)

American president Donald Trump has for the second time torpedoed a bipartisan immigration bill by threatening to veto it.

The reason, NBC News reports, is that he wants to keep immigration as a political issue to rally his base going into November’s congressional elections.

The cynicism is astounding. Chris Hayes points out on Twitter:

  • First the president unilaterally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, creating uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as minors.
  • He gave Congress six months to fix the problem (he had created), promising to sign whatever bill lawmakers would put in front of him.
  • He was promptly brought a bipartisan deal, which combined increased border security with a pathway to legal status for the so-called Dreamers. He rejected it.
  • He was then brought a second bipartisan deal with even more support. He rejected that.

Clearly the president isn’t interested a solution. He lied — as usual.

Also read David A. Hopkins, who argues Trump has pushed Republicans to the right on immigration, and Greg Sargent in The Washington Post, who points out that the Republican position on Dreamers is far to the right of Middle America’s. Read more

Debunking Trump in the Russia Scandal

American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017
American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

American president Donald Trump and his allies have come up with various defenses in the Russia scandal: There was no collusion; Collusion isn’t a crime anyway; The FBI is biased; Trump had every right to fire James Comey; And what about Hillary Clinton?

Here I’ll debunk those arguments. Read more