Trump’s Foreign Policy wreckage in Asia


February 20, 2019

Trump’s Foreign Policy wreckage in Asia

Author: by Editorial Board, ANU

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2019/02/11/trumps-foreign-policy-wreckage-in-asia/

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Right now, he is the most dangerous man in the Free World

The real worry is that beyond Trump’s Presidency all the signs suggest that both the impulse of the United States to engage multilaterally will be very difficult to repair and that Mr Trump has fractured trust in multilateral endeavours around the world.–Editorial Board, ANU

When the Trump administration came to power two years ago, the response by policymakers with a huge stake in the relationship — from the leadership of China to that of rusted on allies like Japan or Australia — was that Trump’s team would settle back after the election and that business would resume with the new administration more or less as usual.

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The United States was the crux of the economic and political security system on which the world has relied for more than three-quarters of a century. The global economic architecture which the United States and its allies put in place after World War II is now absent US leadership and care. Mr Trump and his team have trashed it. Trump’s trade war with China and his trade actions against others, including US allies like Japan, Europe and Canada, show utter disrespect for its core rules. This system is the international system of rules, whatever its weaknesses, on which Asia’s political security also vitally depends.

The wreckage of Mr Trump’s approach to foreign policy continues to pile up across Asia and around the world.

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The immediate outlook, over the next year or two, promises rising economic and political uncertainty. The real estate market bargaining style that Mr Trump has brought to dealing with these issues undervalues the complex interdependence between the economic and political security interests that are at stake. It undervalues the damaging multilateral consequences of bilateral dealing. That’s what is so risky about the bilateralisation of the US trade negotiations with China, which as the largest trading nation in the world is wisely bound into the multilateral global trading regime. Japan too is under pressure to do a bilateral trade deal with Mr Trump — a deal that goes beyond the multilateral commitments it has made to members of the so-called TPP-11. On the US trade conflict with China, there’s a deepening perception gap with Washington, and diplomatic realignment despite the deep security undertow in some countries.

Asian policy leaders are still coming to terms with the reality that Mr Trump is different and that the United States which delivered his electoral success is never likely to be quite the same. But there’s a growing understanding in Tokyo, Jakarta and even Canberra of what’s at stake in dealing with Mr Trump’s administration and the more proactive response that will be needed to defend core Asian economic and political interests that transcend the anxieties that exist between a rising China and the rest of Asia.

In this week’s lead essay Sheila Smith argues that based on the past performance of the Trump administration, US policy in Asia will ‘be erratic and self-serving’ in the coming year as the Trump administration continues ‘to work out its issues with countries in the region bilaterally and sporadically’. The ‘more openly pugilistic US relationship with China’, she says, ‘unsettles nerves’ across the region.

But the main problem for US foreign policy makers, Smith reckons, is not the behaviour of other global actors, including those in Asia or elsewhere. The main problem is the ‘crippling divisions within the Trump administration itself, and between the administration and the legislative and judicial branches of the US government, [that] could make any attempt to marshal US resources into foreign relations almost impossible’.

The coming year, as Smith says, will likely be a year of domestic political entanglement for the President and his administration. The effect of the political turbulence surrounding the White House and the extent to which it dominates US foreign policy is one dimension. But the lack of focus and consistency in the direction of foreign policy strategy is an altogether higher order concern. Diminished expertise and experience at all levels of the Trump administration undermine the trust that allies, partners and even adversaries can put in the reliability of US posturing.

In the short term, these worries are focused on Mr Trump and his administration. Some think that Trump will have more freedom to pursue his ambitions for ‘America First’ around the world. The immediate issue is how to respond to the ‘America First’ momentum in all its dimensions. But even if there are fewer experts in the government to challenge Mr Trump’s vision, implementation of his goals remains a challenge, especially against what now appears to be comprehensive pushback by the US security community in almost every theatre.

The turmoil at home, Smith warns, could produce more brittle and reactive decisions. This could bedevil meaningful dealings with others around the globe because of the instinct to seek settlement prematurely, in the trade war with China or denuclearisation in North Korea, for example, instead of pursuing stable, long-lasting agreements that serve the interests of the United States as well as its partners.

The crrizeises Mr Trump proudly proclaims that he alone could have dealt with are largely of his own making ( and for he arrogantly thinks he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize). It’s hardly surprising that Asian allies and partners alike should worry about how Mr Trump might deal with a real crisis when there’s a significant move within the US Congress to put limits on the President’s use of nuclear weapons.

The chances that the Trump administration, in this mode, will succeed in mitigating global-system destabilising trade and other tensions with China or, alone, secure an agreement on denuclearisation with North Korea appear remote.

Only multilateral engagement on both these and other issues such as climate change is likely to deliver stable, mutually advantageous outcomes to the United States and all its partners in any of these areas. That’s not on Mr Trump’s agenda.

The real worry is that beyond Trump’s presidency all the signs suggest that both the impulse of the United States to engage multilaterally will be very difficult to repair and that Mr Trump has fractured trust in multilateral endeavours around the world.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

Cambodian Foreign Policy is headed in the right direction


February 20, 2019

Cambodian Foreign Policy is headed in the right direction

by  Taing Vida / Khmer Times

https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50579745/leng-thearith-says-foreign-policy-is-on-the-right-track/

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 A Cambodian scholar said that Cambodia’s foreign policy towards its neighbours and other countries in the world has been on the right track.

In a Cross Talk interview with Khmer Times on Monday, Leng Thearith, Director of Center for Strategic Studies, said the Kingdom’s foreign policy has improved after the country held its 1993 UN-brokered national election, and has been reformed over the past three years, especially in capacity building and strategic analysis.

Mr Thearith said the Kingdom has good relations with other countries thanks to the government’s efforts in integrating the country into the region as a member of the Asean and the World Trade Organisation.

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However, he said as a small state, Cambodia has limited strategic space to manoeuvre while its foreign policy dynamics face considerable challenges.

“It’s important for a small state like Cambodia to prevent itself from any attack that might be caused by powerful states,” he said. “We must oppose them in order to protect our sovereignty but at the same time, we must cooperate with those states to ensure good relations.”

Mr Thearith said that Cambodia is now seen as apologetically leaning towards China after the government received strong support from China through aid and loans without strings attached, noting that the country’s current approach toward the United States and the European Union will not be helpful in the long run.

“For now, I’m sure that the government is on the right track. Cambodia’s foreign policy’s behaviour changes from time to time,” he said. “Although Cambodia is now leaning towards China, I think the country will change and turn to other developed countries like Japan.”

Mr Thearith said that the government slammed the EU and the US because they meddled in Cambodia’s internal affairs, but later should mend ties for development benefits.

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“For now, the government can turn its back on the EU and the United States because they interfere in the country’s political issue and sovereignty,” he said. “However, in the upcoming years, the government should restore the relations and take advantage of them as development partners.”

The EU last week started the process of intense monitoring and engagement for six months that could lead to the temporary suspension of the EBA trade scheme over perceived human rights setbacks and the decline of democracy following the dissolution of the CNRP.

In response, the Cambodian government condemned the EU trade threat as an extreme injustice, accusing it of using double standards in its treatment of Cambodia.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that the country’s current foreign policy is not on the right track as it is sucked in the Sino-American conflict.

“Now Cambodia is being sucked in the new Pacific war and specially the Sino-American conflict,” he said, noting that the foreign policy behaviour has led Cambodia back to the pre-1970 situation where it was gradually sucked in the then ongoing international conflicts.

Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him President Trump’s efforts have exposed him to accusations of


February 20,2019

WASHINGTON — As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president.

An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.

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Matthew G. Whitaker, the former acting attorney general, is now under scrutiny by the House for possible perjury. CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

White House lawyers wrote a confidential memo expressing concern about the president’s staff peddling misleading information in public about the firing of Michael T. Flynn, the Trump administration’s first national security adviser. Mr. Trump had private conversations with Republican lawmakers about a campaign to attack the Mueller investigation. And there was the episode when he asked his attorney general about putting Mr. Berman in charge of the Manhattan investigation.

Mr. Whitaker, who this month told a congressional committee that Mr. Trump had never pressured him over the various investigations, is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury.

On Tuesday, after The Times article published, Mr. Trump denied that he had asked Mr. Whitaker if Mr. Berman could be put in charge of the investigation. “No, I don’t know who gave you that, that’s more fake news,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn’t.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that the White House had not asked Mr. Whitaker to interfere in the investigations. “Under oath to the House Judiciary Committee, then-Acting Attorney General Whitaker stated that ‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation,’” said the spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec. “Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony.”

The story of Mr. Trump’s attempts to defang the investigations has been voluminously covered in the news media, to such a degree that many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is. But fusing the strands reveals an extraordinary story of a president who has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history, and who has turned the effort into an obsession. Mr. Trump has done it with the same tactics he once used in his business empire: demanding fierce loyalty from employees, applying pressure tactics to keep people in line and protecting the brand — himself — at all costs.

 

Trump’s Public Attacks Against the Russia Investigation

President Trump has publicly criticized dozens of people and groups related to federal inquiries into contacts between his campaign and Russia, according to a New York Times analysis of nearly every public statement or Twitter post that he has made while in office.

 

It is a public relations strategy as much as a legal strategy — a campaign to create a narrative of a president hounded by his “deep state” foes. The new Democratic majority in the House, and the prospect of a wave of investigations on Capitol Hill this year, will test whether the strategy shores up Mr. Trump’s political support or puts his presidency in greater peril. The president has spent much of his time venting publicly about there being “no collusion” with Russia before the 2016 election, which has diverted attention from a growing body of evidence that he has tried to impede the various investigations.

Julie O’Sullivan, a criminal law professor at Georgetown University, said she believed there was ample public evidence that Mr. Trump had the “corrupt intent” to try to derail the Mueller investigation, the legal standard for an obstruction of justice case.

But this is far from a routine criminal investigation, she said, and Mr. Mueller will have to make judgments about the effect on the country of making a criminal case against the president. Democrats in the House have said they will wait for Mr. Mueller to finish his work before making a decision about whether the president’s behavior warrants impeachment.

In addition to the Mueller investigation, there are at least two other federal inquiries that touch the president and his advisers — the Manhattan investigation focused on the hush money payments made by Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and an inquiry examining the flow of foreign money to the Trump inaugural committee.

The president’s defenders counter that most of Mr. Trump’s actions under scrutiny fall under his authority as the head of the executive branch. They argue that the Constitution gives the president sweeping powers to hire and fire, to start and stop law enforcement proceedings, and to grant presidential pardons to friends and allies. A sitting American president cannot be indicted, according to current Justice Department policy.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers add this novel response: The president has been public about his disdain for the Mueller investigation and other federal inquiries, so he is hardly engaged in a conspiracy. He fired one F.B.I. director and considered firing his replacement. He humiliated his first attorney general for being unable to “control” the Russia investigation and installed a replacement, Mr. Whitaker, who has told people he believed his job was to protect the President. But that, they say, is Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

 

 

In other words, the President’s brazen public behavior might be his best defense.

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Mr. Trump tried to shape the narrative around the resignation of his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.Credit Tom Brenner for The New York Times

 

The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign aided the effort presented the new White House with its first crisis after only 25 days. The president immediately tried to contain the damage.

It was Feb. 14, 2017, and Mr. Trump and his advisers were in the Oval Office debating how to explain the resignation of Mr. Flynn, the national security adviser, the previous night. Mr. Flynn, who had been a top campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, was under investigation by the F.B.I. for his contacts with Russians and secret foreign lobbying efforts for Turkey.

The Justice Department had already raised questions that Mr. Flynn might be subject to blackmail by the Russians for misleading White House officials about the Russian contacts, and inside the White House there was a palpable fear that the Russia investigation could consume the early months of a new administration.

As the group in the Oval Office talked, one of Mr. Trump’s advisers mentioned in passing what Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, then the speaker of the House, had told reporters — that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Flynn to resign.

It was unclear where Mr. Ryan had gotten that information, but Mr. Trump seized on Mr. Ryan’s words. “That sounds better,” the president said, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Mr. Trump turned to the White House press secretary at the time, Sean Spicer, who was preparing to brief the news media.

“Say that,” Mr. Trump ordered.

But was that true? Mr. Spicer pressed.

“Say that I asked for his resignation,” Mr. Trump repeated.

“This Russia thing is all over now because I fired Flynn,” Mr. Trump said over lunch that day, according to a new book by Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and a longtime Trump ally.

Mr. Christie was taken aback. “This Russia thing is far from over,” Mr. Christie wrote that he told Mr. Trump, who responded: “What do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.”

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who was also at the lunch, chimed in, according to Mr. Christie’s book: “That’s right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing.”

As Mr. Trump was lunching with Mr. Christie, lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office met with Mr. Spicer about what he should say from the White House podium about what was a sensitive national security investigation. But when Mr. Spicer’s briefing began, the lawyers started hearing numerous misstatements — some bigger than others — and ended up compiling them all in a memo.

The lawyers’ main concern was that Mr. Spicer overstated how exhaustively the White House had investigated Mr. Flynn and that he said, wrongly, that administration lawyers had concluded there were no legal issues surrounding Mr. Flynn’s conduct.

Mr. Spicer later told people he stuck to talking points that he was given by the counsel’s office, and that White House lawyers expressed concern only about how he had described the thoroughness of the internal inquiry into Mr. Flynn. The memo written by the lawyers said that Mr. Spicer was presented with a longer list of his misstatements. The White House never publicly corrected the record.

 

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Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, overstated how thoroughly the White House had investigated Mr. Flynn. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Later that day, Mr. Trump confronted the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, in the Oval Office. The president told him that Mr. Spicer had done a great job explaining how the White House had handled the firing. Then he asked Mr. Comey to end the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Flynn, and said that Mr. Flynn was a good guy.

 

Mr. Comey responded, according to a memo he wrote at the time, that Mr. Flynn was indeed a good guy. But he said nothing about ending the F.B.I. investigation.

By March, Mr. Trump was in a rage that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself from the Russia inquiry because investigators were looking into the campaign, of which Mr. Sessions had been a part. Mr. Trump was also growing increasingly frustrated with Mr. Comey, who refused to say publicly that the president was not under investigation.

Mr. Trump finally fired Mr. Comey in May. But the President and the White House gave conflicting accounts of their reasoning for the dismissal, which served only to exacerbate the President’s legal exposure.

A week after the firing, The Times disclosed that the president had asked Mr. Comey to end the Flynn investigation. The next day, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, appointed Mr. Mueller, a Republican, as special counsel.

Instead of ending the Russia investigation by firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump had drastically raised the stakes.

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Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, recused himself from the Russia investigation, a decision that greatly angered the president.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

 

Mr. Mueller’s appointment fueled Mr. Trump’s anger and what became increasingly reckless behavior — setting off a string of actions over the summer of 2017 that could end up as building blocks in a case by Congress that the President engaged in a broad effort to thwart the investigation.

On Twitter and in news media interviews, Mr. Trump tried to pressure investigators and undermine the credibility of potential witnesses in the Mueller investigation.

 

He directed much of his venom at Mr. Sessions, who had recused himself in March from overseeing the Russia investigation because of contacts he had during the election with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

The president humiliated Mr. Sessions at every turn, and stunned Washington when he said during an interview with The Times that he never would have named Mr. Sessions attorney general if he had known Mr. Sessions would step aside from the investigation.

Privately, Mr. Trump tried to remove Mr. Sessions — he said he wanted an attorney general who would protect him — but did not fire him, in part because White House aides dodged the president’s orders to demand his resignation. The president even called his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, over the Fourth of July weekend to ask him to pressure Mr. Sessions to resign. Mr. Lewandowski was noncommittal and never acted on the request.

Trump Has Publicly Attacked the Russia Investigation More Than 1,100 Times

President Trump has publicly criticized federal investigations, opening him up to possible obstruction of justice charges.

 

One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers also reached out that summer to the lawyers for two of his former aides — Paul Manafort and Mr. Flynn — to discuss possible pardons. The discussions raised questions about whether the president was willing to offer pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the Mueller investigation.

The president even tried to fire Mr. Mueller himself, a move that could have brought an end to the investigation. Just weeks after Mr. Mueller’s appointment, the president insisted that he ought to be fired because of perceived conflicts of interest. Mr. Trump’s White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, who would have been responsible for carrying out the order, refused and threatened to quit.

The president eventually backed off.

 

Republican Representatives Lee Zeldin, left, Mark Meadows, Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan launched an offensive against the Mueller investigation .
CreditAlex Wong/Getty Images

Sitting in the Delta Sky Lounge during a layover at Atlanta’s airport in July 2017, Representative Matt Gaetz, a first-term Republican from the Florida Panhandle, decided it was time to attack. Mr. Gaetz, then 35, believed that the president’s allies in Congress needed a coordinated strategy to fight back against an investigation they viewed as deeply unfair and politically biased.

He called Representative Jim Jordan, a conservative Republican from Ohio, and told him the party needed “to go play offense,” Mr. Gaetz recalled in an interview.

 

The two men believed that Republican leaders, who publicly praised the appointment of Mr. Mueller, had been beaten into a defensive crouch by the unending chaos and were leaving Democrats unchecked to “pistol whip” the president with constant accusations about his campaign and Russia.

So they began to investigate the investigators. Mr. Trump and his lawyers enthusiastically encouraged the strategy, which, according to some polls, convinced many Americans that the country’s law enforcement apparatus was determined to bring down the President.

Within days of their conversation, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Jordan drafted a letter to Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein, the first call for the appointment of a second special counsel to essentially reinvestigate Hillary Clinton for her handling of her emails while secretary of state — the case had ended in the summer of 2016 — as well as the origins of the F.B.I.’s investigation of Mr. Flynn and other Trump associates.

The letter itself, with the signatures of only 20 House Republicans, gained little traction at first. But an important shift was underway: At a time when Mr. Trump’s lawyers were urging him to cooperate with Mr. Mueller and to tone down his Twitter feed, the president’s fiercest allies in Congress and the conservative news media were busy trying to flip the script on the federal law enforcement agencies and officials who began the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Jordan began huddling with like-minded Republicans, sometimes including Representative Mark Meadows, a press-savvy North Carolinian close to Mr. Trump, and Representative Devin Nunes of California, the head of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Nunes, the product of a dairy farming family in California’s Central Valley, had already emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s strongest allies in Congress. He worked closely with Mr. Flynn during the Trump transition after the 2016 election, and he had a history of battling the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies, which he sometimes accused of coloring their analysis for partisan reasons. In the spring of 2017, Mr. Nunes sought to bolster Mr. Trump’s false claim that President Barack Obama had ordered an illegal wiretap on Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Using Congress’s oversight powers, the Republican lawmakers succeeded in doing what Mr. Trump could not realistically do on his own: force into the open some of the government’s most sensitive investigative files — including secret wiretaps and the existence of an F.B.I. informant — that were part of the Russia inquiry.

House Republicans opened investigations into the F.B.I.’s handling of the Clinton email case and a debunked Obama-era uranium deal indirectly linked to Mrs. Clinton. The lawmakers got a big assist from the Justice Department, which gave them private texts recovered from two senior F.B.I. officials who had been on the Russia case. The officials — Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — repeatedly criticized Mr. Trump in their texts, which were featured in a loop on Fox News and became a centerpiece of an evolving and powerful conservative narrative about a cabal inside the F.B.I. and Justice Department to take down Mr. Trump.

The President cheered on the lawmakers on Twitter, in interviews and in private, urging Mr. Gaetz on Air Force One in December 2017 and in subsequent phone calls to keep up the House Republicans’ oversight work. He was hoping for fair treatment from Mr. Mueller, Mr. Trump told Mr. Gaetz in one of the calls just after the congressman appeared on Fox News, but that did not preclude him from encouraging his allies’ scrutiny of the investigation.

Later, when Mr. Nunes produced a memo alleging that the F.B.I. had abused its authority in spying on a former Trump campaign associate, Carter Page, Mr. Trump called Mr. Nunes a “Great American Hero” in a tweet. (The F.B.I. said it had “grave concerns” about the memo’s accuracy.)

Mr. Trump eventually shifted away from relatively quiet cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s investigators toward a targeted and relentless frontal attack on their credibility and impartiality. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
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Mr. Trump eventually shifted away from relatively quiet cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s investigators toward a targeted and relentless frontal attack on their credibility and impartiality.
Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

The President became an active participant in the effort to attack American law enforcement. He repeatedly leaned on administration officials on behalf of the lawmakers — urging Mr. Rosenstein and other law enforcement leaders to flout procedure and share sensitive materials about the open case with Congress. As president, Mr. Trump has ultimate authority over information that passes through the government, but his interventions were unusual.

By the spring of 2018, Mr. Nunes zeroed in on new targets. In one case, he threatened to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt of Congress or even try to impeach him if the documents he wanted were not turned over, including the file used to open the Russia case. In another, he pressed the Justice Department for sensitive information about a trusted F.B.I. informant used in the Russia investigation, a Cambridge professor named Stefan Halper — even as intelligence officials said that the release of the information could damage relationships with important allies.

The president chimed in, accusing the F.B.I., without evidence, of planting a spy in his campaign. “SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!” Mr. Trump wrote, turning the term into a popular hashtag.

Most Senate Republicans tried to ignore the House tactics, and not all House Republicans who participated in the investigations agreed with the scorched-earth approach. Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina and a former federal prosecutor who had led Republicans in the Benghazi investigation, felt that figures like Mr. Gaetz and, in some cases, Mr. Nunes, were hurting their own cause with a sloppy, overhyped campaign that damaged Congress’s credibility.

 

Former Representative Thomas J. Rooney of Florida, a Republican who sat on the Intelligence Committee and retired last year, was similarly critical. “The efforts to tag Mueller as a witch hunt are a mistake,” he said in an interview. “The guy is an American hero. He is somebody who has always spouted the rule of law in what our country is about.”

But Mr. Gaetz makes no apologies.

“Do I think it’s right that our work in the Congress has aided in the president’s defense?” he asked, before answering his own question.

“Yeah, I think it is right.”

Ultimately, his strategy was successful in softening the ground for a shift in the president’s legal strategy — away from relatively quiet cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s investigators and toward a targeted and relentless frontal attack on their credibility and impartiality.

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Mr. Trump hired Rudolph W. Giuliani as his personal lawyer last year .CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

Last April, Mr. Trump hired Rudolph W. Giuliani, his longtime friend and a famously combative former mayor of New York, as his personal lawyer and ubiquitous television attack dog. A new war had begun.

In jettisoning his previous legal team — which had counseled that Mr. Trump should cooperate with the investigation — the President decided to combine a legal strategy with a public relations campaign in an aggressive effort to undermine the credibility of both Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department.

Mr. Mueller was unlikely to indict Mr. Trump, the president’s advisers believed, so the real danger to his presidency was impeachment — a political act that Congress would probably carry out only with broad public support. If Mr. Mueller’s investigation could be discredited, then impeachment might be less likely.

Months of caustic presidential tweets and fiery television interviews by Mr. Giuliani unfolded. The former mayor accused Mr. Mueller, without evidence, of bias and ignoring facts to carry out an anti-Trump agenda. He called one of Mr. Mueller’s top prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann, a “complete scoundrel.”

Behind the scenes, Mr. Giuliani was getting help from a curious source: Kevin Downing, a lawyer for Mr. Manafort. Mr. Manafort, who had been Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, had agreed to cooperate with the special counsel after being convicted of financial crimes in an attempt to lessen a potentially lengthy prison sentence. Mr. Downing shared details about prosecutors’ lines of questioning, Mr. Giuliani admitted late last year.

It was a highly unusual arrangement — the lawyer for a cooperating witness providing valuable information to the president’s lawyer at a time when his client remained in the sights of the special counsel’s prosecutors. The arrangement angered Mr. Mueller’s investigators, who questioned what Mr. Manafort was trying to gain from the arrangement.

The attacks on the Mueller investigation appeared to have an effect. Last summer, polling showed a 14-point uptick in the percentage of Americans polled who disapproved of how Mr. Mueller was handling the inquiry. “Mueller is now slightly more distrusted than trusted, and Trump is a little ahead of the game,” Mr. Giuliani said during an interview in August.

“So I think we’ve done really well,” Mr. Giuliani added. “And my client’s happy.”

Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, told a judge that Mr. Trump had ordered him to arrange the payments to two women who said they had sex with Mr. Trump.CreditAndres Kudacki for The New York Times
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Michael D. Cohen, the President’s former personal lawyer, told a judge that Mr. Trump had ordered him to arrange the payments to two women who said they had sex with Mr. Trump 
Credit Andres Kudacki for The New York Times

But Mr. Giuliani and his client had a serious problem, which they were slow to comprehend.

In April, the F.B.I. raided the Manhattan office and residences of Mr. Cohen — the president’s lawyer and fixer — walking off with business records, emails and other documents dating back years. At first, Mr. Trump was not concerned.

The president told advisers that Mr. Rosenstein assured him at the time that the Cohen investigation had nothing to do with him. In the president’s recounting, Mr. Rosenstein told him that the inquiry in New York was about Mr. Cohen’s business dealings, that it did not involve the president and that it was not about Russia. Since then, Mr. Trump has asked his advisers if Mr. Rosenstein was deliberately misleading him to keep him calm.

Mr. Giuliani initially portrayed Mr. Cohen as “honest,” and the President praised him publicly. But Mr. Cohen soon told prosecutors in New York how Mr. Trump had ordered him during the 2016 campaign to buy the silence of women who claimed they had sex with Mr. Trump. In a separate bid for leniency, Mr. Cohen told Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors about Mr. Trump’s participation in negotiations during the height of the presidential campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

 

Mr. Trump was now battling twin investigations that seemed to be moving ever close to him. And Mr. Cohen, once the president’s fiercest defender, was becoming his chief tormentor.

In a court appearance in August, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty and told a judge that Mr. Trump had ordered him to arrange the payments to the women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Mr. Cohen’s descriptions of Mr. Trump’s actions made the president, in effect, an unindicted co-conspirator and raised the prospect of the president being charged after he leaves office. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, who in January became the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the matter, said the implied offense was probably impeachable.

The president struck back, launching a volley of tweets that savaged Mr. Cohen and his family — insinuating that Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law had engaged in unexamined criminal activity. He called Mr. Cohen a “rat.” The messages infuriated Democratic lawmakers, who claimed the president was trying to threaten and intimidate a witness before testimony Mr. Cohen planned before Congress.

“He’s only been threatened by the truth,” the president responded.

As the prosecutors closed in, Mr. Trump felt a more urgent need to gain control of the investigation.

He made the call to Mr. Whitaker to see if he could put Mr. Berman in charge of the New York investigation. The inquiry is run by Robert Khuzami, a career prosecutor who took over after Mr. Berman, whom Mr. Trump appointed, recused himself because of a routine conflict of interest.

What exactly Mr. Whitaker did after the call is unclear, but there is no evidence that he took any direct steps to intervene in the Manhattan investigation. He did, however, tell some associates at the Justice Department that the prosecutors in New York required “adult supervision.”

 
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William P. Barr was sworn in as attorney general on Thursday. Many officials at the Justice Department hope he will try to change the Trump administration’s combative tone toward the department, as well as toward the F.B.I.
C Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times

Second, Mr. Trump moved on to a new attorney general, William P. Barr, whom Mr. Trump nominated for the job in part because of a memo Mr. Barr wrote last summer making a case that a sitting American president cannot be charged with obstruction of justice for acts well within his power — like firing an F.B.I. director.

 

A president cannot be found to have broken the law, Mr. Barr argued, if he was exercising his executive powers to fire subordinates or use his “complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding.”

The memo might have ingratiated Mr. Barr to his future boss, but Mr. Barr is also respected among the rank and file in the Justice Department. Many officials there hope he will try to change the Trump administration’s combative tone toward the department, as well as toward the F.B.I.

Whether it is too late is another question. Mr. Trump’s language, and allegations of “deep state” excesses, are now embedded in the political conversation, used as a cudgel by the president’s supporters.

This past December, days before Mr. Flynn was to be sentenced for lying to the F.B.I., his lawyers wrote a memo to the judge suggesting that federal agents had tricked the former national security adviser into lying. The judge roundly rejected that argument, and on sentencing day, he excoriated Mr. Flynn for his crimes.

The argument about F.B.I. trickery did, however, appear to please the one man who holds great power over Mr. Flynn’s future — the constitutional power to pardon.

“Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn,” Mr. Trump tweeted cheerily on the morning of the sentencing.

Katie Benner contributed reporting.

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Has Publicly Attacked the Russia Investigation More Than 1,100 Times

Millennial socialism


Image result for millennial socialism

 

Millennial socialism

A new kind of left-wing doctrine is emerging. It is not the answer to capitalism’s problems

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/02/14/millennial-socialism

AFTER THE collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the 20th century’s ideological contest seemed over. Capitalism had won and socialism became a byword for economic failure and political oppression. It limped on in fringe meetings, failing states and the turgid liturgy of the Chinese Communist Party. Today, 30 years on, socialism is back in fashion. In America Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly elected congresswoman who calls herself a democratic socialist, has become a sensation even as the growing field of Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 veers left. In Britain Jeremy Corbyn, the hardline leader of the Labour Party, could yet win the keys to 10 Downing Street.

Socialism is storming back because it has formed an incisive critique of what has gone wrong in Western societies. Whereas politicians on the right have all too often given up the battle of ideas and retreated towards chauvinism and nostalgia, the left has focused on inequality, the environment, and how to vest power in citizens rather than elites (see article). Yet, although the reborn left gets some things right, its pessimism about the modern world goes too far. Its policies suffer from naivety about budgets, bureaucracies and businesses.

Socialism’s renewed vitality is remarkable. In the 1990s left-leaning parties shifted to the centre. As leaders of Britain and America, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton claimed to have found a “third way”, an accommodation between state and market. “This is my socialism,” Mr Blair declared in 1994 while abolishing Labour’s commitment to the state ownership of firms. Nobody was fooled, especially not socialists.

The left today sees the third way as a dead end. Many of the new socialists are millennials. Some 51% of Americans aged 18-29 have a positive view of socialism, says Gallup. In the primaries in 2016 more young folk voted for Bernie Sanders than for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined. Almost a third of French voters under 24 in the presidential election in 2017 voted for the hard-left candidate. But millennial socialists do not have to be young. Many of Mr Corbyn’s keenest fans are as old as he is.

Not all millennial socialist goals are especially radical. In America one policy is universal health care, which is normal elsewhere in the rich world, and desirable. Radicals on the left say they want to preserve the advantages of the market economy. And in both Europe and America the left is a broad, fluid coalition, as movements with a ferment of ideas usually are.

Nonetheless there are common themes. The millennial socialists think that inequality has spiralled out of control and that the economy is rigged in favour of vested interests. They believe that the public yearns for income and power to be redistributed by the state to balance the scales. They think that myopia and lobbying have led governments to ignore the increasing likelihood of climate catastrophe. And they believe that the hierarchies which govern society and the economy—regulators, bureaucracies and companies—no longer serve the interests of ordinary folk and must be “democratised”.

Some of this is beyond dispute, including the curse of lobbying and neglect of the environment. Inequality in the West has indeed soared over the past 40 years. In America the average income of the top 1% has risen by 242%, about six times the rise for middle-earners. But the new new left also gets important bits of its diagnosis wrong, and most of its prescriptions, too.

Start with the diagnosis. It is wrong to think that inequality must go on rising inexorably. American income inequality fell between 2005 and 2015, after adjusting for taxes and transfers. Median household income rose by 10% in real terms in the three years to 2017. A common refrain is that jobs are precarious. But in 2017 there were 97 traditional full-time employees for every 100 Americans aged 25-54, compared with only 89 in 2005. The biggest source of precariousness is not a lack of steady jobs but the economic risk of another downturn.

Millennial socialists also misdiagnose public opinion. They are right that people feel they have lost control over their lives and that opportunities have shrivelled. The public also resents inequality. Taxes on the rich are more popular than taxes on everybody. Nonetheless there is not a widespread desire for radical redistribution. Americans’ support for redistribution is no higher than it was in 1990, and the country recently elected a billionaire promising corporate-tax cuts. By some measures Britons are more relaxed about the rich than Americans are.

If the left’s diagnosis is too pessimistic, the real problem lies with its prescriptions, which are profligate and politically dangerous. Take fiscal policy. Some on the left peddle the myth that vast expansions of government services can be paid for primarily by higher taxes on the rich. In reality, as populations age it will be hard to maintain existing services without raising taxes on middle-earners. Ms Ocasio-Cortez has floated a tax rate of 70% on the highest incomes, but one plausible estimate puts the extra revenue at just $12bn, or 0.3% of the total tax take. Some radicals go further, supporting “modern monetary theory” which says that governments can borrow freely to fund new spending while keeping interest rates low. Even if governments have recently been able to borrow more than many policymakers expected, the notion that unlimited borrowing does not eventually catch up with an economy is a form of quackery.

A mistrust of markets leads millennial socialists to the wrong conclusions about the environment, too. They reject revenue-neutral carbon taxes as the single best way to stimulate private-sector innovation and combat climate change. They prefer central planning and massive public spending on green energy.

The millennial socialist vision of a “democratised” economy spreads regulatory power around rather than concentrating it. That holds some appeal to localists like this newspaper, but localism needs transparency and accountability, not the easily manipulated committees favoured by the British left. If England’s water utilities were renationalised as Mr Corbyn intends, they would be unlikely to be shining examples of local democracy. In America, too, local control often leads to capture. Witness the power of licensing boards to lock outsiders out of jobs or of Nimbys to stop housing developments. Bureaucracy at any level provides opportunities for special interests to capture influence. The purest delegation of power is to individuals in a free market.

The urge to democratise extends to business. The millennial left want more workers on boards and, in Labour’s case, to seize shares in companies and hand them to workers. Countries such as Germany have a tradition of employee participation. But the socialists’ urge for greater control of the firm is rooted in a suspicion of the remote forces unleashed by globalisation. Empowering workers to resist change would ossify the economy. Less dynamism is the opposite of what is needed for the revival of economic opportunity.

Rather than shield firms and jobs from change, the state should ensure markets are efficient and that workers, not jobs, are the focus of policy. Rather than obsess about redistribution, governments would do better to reduce rent-seeking, improve education and boost competition. Climate change can be fought with a mix of market instruments and public investment. Millennial socialism has a refreshing willingness to challenge the status quo. But like the socialism of old, it suffers from a faith in the incorruptibility of collective action and an unwarranted suspicion of individual vim. Liberals should oppose it.

Science and Subterfuge in Economics


February 19,2019

economist aurthur laffer

Science and Subterfuge in Economics

by

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/scientific-subterfuge-in-economics-research-by-jayati-ghosh-2019-02

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 JKG, Milton,Friedman and George Stigler

John Kenneth Galbraith noted in 1973 that establishment economics had become the “invaluable ally of those whose exercise of power depends on an acquiescent public.” If anything, economists’ embrace of that role has grown stronger since then.

NEW DELHI – Mainstream economics has a tendency to decide on some “established” conclusions, and then hold to them, notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary. This is bad enough, but what may be worse for a discipline that lays claim to being a science is the lack of insistence on the replicability of empirical results. This is both standard and essential in most natural sciences; in economics, by contrast, there is mostly indifference and occasionally even fierce resistance to it. In some cases, the data that must be used to replicate conclusions are denied to other researchers.

 

The reason is often deeply political, because the results that are promoted and disseminated accord with visions of the economy that support particular ideological positions and associated policy stances. For example, empirical work that supports fiscal austerity or market deregulation is cited extensively and becomes the basis for advancing those particular policy outcomes. Very rarely is such work subject to the scrutiny – for example, challenging its assumptions and questioning its statistical procedures – that would be the norm for research in the natural sciences.

Consider the claim made by Stephen Moore and Arthur B. Laffer that the Trump tax cuts in the US would not only pay for themselves, but also actually bring down the government deficit while generating more private investment. Their claim was completely wrong, but somehow economic reality seems to have had little impact on those who continue to believe the assertion of the Laffer Curve that lower tax rates will generate higher tax revenues.

Now, a new paper by Servaas Storm effectively demolishes another famous trope of neoliberal economics: the argument that labor market “rigidities” depress output and employment. One of the empirical investigations most often cited for this argument is a paper by Timothy Besley and Robin Burgess using manufacturing data across Indian states for the period 1958-92. Besley and Burgess claimed to show that pro-worker regulations in some states resulted in lower output, employment, investment, and productivity, and even increased urban poverty, relative to states that did not adopt such regulations.

This conclusion came to underpin the conventional wisdom that labor-market regulation is harmful for industrial expansion, and that the way to increase production and employment in manufacturing is to promote more labor-market “flexibility” by repealing laws that protect workers. This wisdom prevailed not only in India; it influenced policies accordingly across a wide range of developing countries. Although various economists raised serious concerns about the methodology Besley and Burgess adopted, their criticisms never gained much traction among policymakers.

It is no secret that mainstream economics has operated in the service of power. John Kenneth Galbraith noted in 1973 that establishment economics had become the “invaluable ally of those whose exercise of power depends on an acquiescent public.” If anything, economists’ embrace of that role has grown stronger since then. But it has also made the subject less relevant and reduced its legitimacy and credibility. Economists are no longer seen by much of the public to be asking the right questions or seeking to answer them with integrity.

To recover credibility, economics needs to become more open to criticism of assumptions, methods, and results. The inconvenient truths spoken by dissenting voices cannot be ignored indefinitely. Sooner or later, reality bites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Rainsy- A Threat to Cambodia’s Stability, Peace and Development


February 19, 2019

 Sam Rainsy- A Threat to Cambodia’s Stability, Peace and Development

by Thomas Fowler

The people’s worst threat

By Thomas Fowler
 

Once again, the protégé and poster boy of Europeans and Americans have just launched an appeal for revolt and civil war. In fiery statements and incendiary writings, the ultranationalist and racist populists that the EU and the US have erected as the so-called “martyrs of freedom” have announced their plans to set the country on fire.

One should ask first why there is such support from the EU and the US. The answer is simple: partisan political affinities. Sam Rainsy ideologically belongs to the conservative right. In the US, he quickly benefited in the nineties from the support of Heritage Foundation and the International Republican Institute. In Europe, the CNRP has joined the Liberal International funded by the Friedrich Neuman Stiftung. And who are people at the highest level in the DG Trade of the European Commission and the European External Action Service? People from the Liberal International and from the Friedrich Neumann Stiftung. No wonder this politician has direct access to the European Commission and the European Parliament. He ends up with political friends.

Sam Rainsy is an irresponsible politician. He knew nothing of the tragedy suffered by the Cambodian people as he lived comfortably in the West while Cambodians were blown to smithereens by bombs dropped by the Americans in the horrors of war provoked by the 1970 American coup. He lived in the West, enjoying a peaceful life while Pol Pot’s men unleashed a reign of terror and massacred people. He lived in the West in comfort while the survivors of the Pol potist genocide were deprived of everything because of the embargo imposed by his European and American friends. During more than twenty years this Khmer person was far removed from the Cambodian people.

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What can Cambodians expect from such an individual? Did he do anything other than criticize and make hate speech? Did he do anything other than exacerbate divisions among the people?

As a parliamentarian, has he, even if only once, contributed to a concrete and useful proposal for the peoplle? On the contrary, this man who claims to defend the people, has incessantly from 20 years called on Western nations to impose sanctions on Cambodia with little disregard that the people will be the first victims of such punitive measures. This is the political record of Sam Rainsy: twenty years of vain attempts to inflict pain on Cambodians. To date, he has had zero success and it has all been just hot air.

This provocateur who violates the laws of his country by defaming others, tearing off frontier posts, inciting agents of the State by seditious statements, and calling for hatred leading to murder, just flees abroad when he is forced to face the consequences of his acts. He thumbs his nose at the judiciary and shows utter disrespect to the country’s judicial system. And yet, he has the temerity to call himself a national leader.

Like all demagogues, Sam Rainsy is an irresponsible politician who fails to accept and support the consequences of what he writes, what he says, and what he does. He pretends to ignore that in July 2018, 4,875,189 men and women voted for the CPP while the participation rate exceeded 82 percent. He refuses to recognize that such a result expresses a real support of the people for the decision to dissolve the CNRP – a party that provokes unrest and insecurity, and instigates a civil war to topple a government legitimately elected by the people.

Sam Rainsy is the son of Sam Sary who participated in the so-called CIA-instigated Bangkok Plot against Prince Norodom Sihanouk. He was paid by the US to make calls for violence, hatred and civil war that will lead to US interference. How? By trying to mobilize Cambodians from the diaspora to return home to overthrow the current government.

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The method is well known. This is what Kem Sokha announced in the famous filmed statement that has justified his arrest: create trouble by pushing demonstrators to violate the law and provoke a strong reaction from the police. Now Sam Rainsy is trying to bring back Cambodians en masse. Knowing that if he returns too, he will be arrested to serve out the jail terms to which he has been sentenced to legally. This will provoke demonstrations from his followers. And in the end chaos will rear its ugly head justifying US intervention and EU sanctions.

The recent statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that the government is fully aware of the plots that are being hatched. The government is also well aware of Sam Rainsy’s support from the European Commission, from some EU governments and from the US. These Western powers give lessons in human rights and democracy, but support a racist and nationalist demagogue. What a travesty?

Thomas Fowler is a Cambodian observer based in Phnom Penh

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