Showing posts with label US President. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US President. Show all posts

January 23, 2019

Simm’s Book: “THE White House OUT of Control"

 White House lower corridor

President Trump watched on television, increasingly angry as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan criticized his handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. He held the remote control “like a pistol” and yelled for an assistant to get the Republican leader on the phone.
“Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your ass for decades? Because they know a little word called ‘loyalty,’ ” Trump told Ryan, then a Wisconsin congressman. “Why do you think Nancy [Pelosi] has held on this long? Have you seen her? She’s a disaster. Every time she opens her mouth another Republican gets elected. But they stick with her . . . Why can’t you be loyal to your president, Paul?”
The tormenting continued. Trump recalled Ryan distancing himself from Trump in October 2016, in the days after the “Access Hollywood” video in which he bragged of fondling women first surfaced in The Washington Post. “I remember being in Wisconsin and your own people were booing you,” Trump told him, according to former West Wing communications aide Cliff Sims. “You were out there dying like a dog, Paul. Like a dog! And what’d I do? I saved your a--.” Paul Ryan's path to supporting Donald Trump 
 House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) did not always support Donald Trump's quest to the White House. 
The browbeating of the top Republican on Capitol Hill was one of the vivid snapshots of life inside the Trump White House told by one of its original inhabitants, Cliff Sims, in his 384-page tell-all, “Team of Vipers,” which goes on sale next week and was obtained in advance by The Post. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Sims, who enjoyed uncommon personal access to Trump, recounts expletive-filled scenes of chaos, dysfunction, and duplicity among the president, his family members, and administration officials.
Unlike memoirs of other Trump officials, Sims’s book is neither a sycophantic portrayal of the president nor a blistering account written to settle scores. The author presents himself as a true believer in Trump and his agenda and even writes whimsically of the president, but still is critical of him, especially his morality. Sims also find fault in himself, a rarity in Trump World, writing that at times he was “selfish,” “nakedly ambitious” and “a coward.
The author reconstructs in comic detail the Trump team’s first day at work when the president sat in the residence raging about news coverage of the relatively small size of his inauguration crowds, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer scrambled to address it.
Spicer had worked the team “into a frenzy,” and it fell to Sims to write the script for his first statement to the media. Nervously chewing gum, Spicer dictated “a torrent of expletives with a few salient points scattered in between.” At one point, Sims’s computer crashed and he lost the draft, so it had to be rewritten. And in their rush to satisfy the impatient president, nobody checked the facts. Spicer, he writes, was “walking into his own execution.”
“It’s impossible to deny how absolutely out of control the White House staff — again, myself included — was at times,” Sims writes. The book’s scenes are consistent with news reporting at the time from inside the White House.
President Trump speaks at a Dec. 18, 2018, roundtable event at the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Sims depicts Trump as deeply suspicious of his own staff. He recalls a private huddle in which he and Keith Schiller, the president’s longtime bodyguard and confidant, helped Trump draw up an enemies list with a Sharpie on White House stationery. “We’re going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-feeders,” Trump told them. 
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told the staff that he viewed his job as serving the “country first, POTUS second,” which Sims interpreted as potentially hostile to Trump’s agenda.
Sims recounts that Kelly once confided to him in a moment of exasperation: “This is the worst [expletive] job I’ve ever had. People apparently think that I care when they write that I might be fired. If that ever happened, it would be the best day I’ve had since I walked into this place.”
A conservative media figure in Alabama, Sims came to work on Trump’s 2016 campaign and cultivated a personal relationship with the candidate-turned-president. Sims writes rich, extended dialogue from his conversations with Trump and others in the administration.
As White House director of message strategy, Sims regularly met Trump at the private elevator of the residence and accompanied him to video tapings — carrying a can of Tresemmé Tres Two hair spray, extra hold, for the boss. At one such taping, about an hour after Trump had tweeted that he saw MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski “bleeding badly from a facelift,” the president sought feedback from Sims and Spicer. 
“They’re going to say it’s not presidential,” Trump said, referring to the media. “But you know what? It’s modern-day presidential.” The president then raged about the “Morning Joe” program on which Brzezinski appears and instructed Spicer, “Don’t you dare say I watch that show.”
President Trump greets House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) at a Dec. 20, 2017, White House event celebrating passage of the tax cut bill, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other lawmakers looking on. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
 Sims also recounts a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime friend, and former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon at which Sessions suggested a polygraph test of national security officials to root out “leakers” after The Post reported the transcripts of Trump’s phone calls with the Mexican president and Australian prime minister.
At times, Trump evinced less rage than a lack of interest. Sims recounts one time when Ryan was in the Oval Office explaining the ins and outs of the Republican health-care bill to the president. As Ryan droned on for 15 minutes, Trump sipped on a glass of Diet Coke, peered out at the Rose Garden, stared aimlessly at the walls and, finally, walked out. 
Ryan kept talking as the president wandered down the hall to his private dining room, where he flicked on his giant flat-screen TV. Apparently, he had had enough of Ryan’s talk. It fell to Vice President Pence to retrieve Trump and convince him to return to the Oval Office so they could continue their strategy session.
 White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci talks with reporters outside the White House on July 25, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Sims reconstructs moments of crisis for the West Wing communications team in play-by-play detail, including the domestic abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter and the firing of James B. Comey as FBI director.
He paints Spicer, counselor Kellyanne Conway, and communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp in an especially negative light, calling Conway “the American Sniper of West Wing marksmen” and describing her agenda as “survival over all others, including the president.” 
Sims writes that former aide Omarosa Manigault cursed members of the Congressional Black Caucus when they asked for a moment of privacy in the West Wing after meeting with Trump and before addressing the media.
“Privacy?!” Manigault said. “You think you can come up in our house and demand [expletive] privacy? Hell, no! You must be outta your . . . mind.”
Perhaps the book’s most cinematic chapter of chaos is “The Mooch Is Loose,” a reconstruction of Anthony Scaramucci’s 11 days as White House communications director.
Sims was Scaramucci’s right-hand man and describes the flamboyant aide’s hunt for “leakers,” which began with his own staff. Scaramucci assembled the 40-odd media aides and threatened to fire them all, Sims writes, as if he were a “fire-breathing dragon that had just returned from laying waste to the unsuspecting peasants in the village.”
Sims writes that Scaramucci ordered them to reply to anyone in the White House instructing them to leak information to a reporter, including then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, by saying: “I cannot do that. I only report to Anthony Scaramucci and he reports directly to the president of the United States.”
Even Trump was amused.
“Can you believe this guy?” the president told Sims. “He’s completely out of his mind — like, on drugs or something — totally out of his mind. We’ll figure it out, but the guy is crazy.”

December 19, 2018

Bernie, Biden and Beto Could Spell The Past (Elections)

                                     Image result for bernie, beto,biden

Promise me something: Over the coming weeks, whenever you hear a pundit or read a poll on the subject of who the 2020 Democratic nominee might be, you’ll flash back four years. You’ll remember predictions about the Republican nominee at this same point before the 2016 election.

Republicans then were in a situation similar to the one that Democrats are in now. More than a dozen candidates were poised to run. And in December 2014, CNN/ORC published the results of a survey that sought to determine which of them had the most support and the best chance.

The answer was not Donald Trump.

“Jeb Bush is the clear Republican presidential front-runner, surging to the front of the potential G.O.P. pack,” read the story on CNN’s website.

Surging. Jeb!

He had the support of 23 percent of respondents. That put him fully 10 points ahead of his nearest competitor, who was … Chris Christie. Next came Ben Carson, followed by Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee. 

Need I remind anyone how that fearsome five fared?

We political junkies got far ahead of ourselves then, and we’re getting ahead of ourselves now. Almost 23 months before the 2020 election, we’re handicapping contenders, edging toward prophecies and setting ourselves up to look every bit as foolish as we deserve to. We don’t learn. That would get in the way of a guessing game that we relish too much.

Polls are being done at an accelerating pace. CNN released one late last week. It surveyed Democratic voters nationwide, among whom Joe Biden ranked first; Bernie Sanders, second; and Beto O’Rourke, third. So they’re the Bush, Christie and Carson analogues. If 2014 is any guide, they should spare themselves a lot of travel and a world of heartache and pack it in now.

Of course, 2014 isn’t a guide, but it’s a caveat. A reality check. Assessments of candidates at this early stage have limited bearing on how well they’ll be doing more than a year down the road, when the Iowa caucuses kick off the primary season. Too little has happened so far. Too much will happen in fairly short order.

At this juncture back then, Trump’s candidacy wasn’t even anticipated. Pollsters didn’t present his name to Republican voters as an option. That remained true in February 2015, when someone new did challenge Bush for front-runner status and then briefly wrest it from him: Scott Walker. If you forgot about his supposedly big promise, no wonder. His campaign wouldn’t last until the end of that year.

Trump finally came onto the radar and earned inclusion in polls around May 2015 — five months further into the process than where we are now. But he didn’t take the lead even then. In a Quinnipiac poll of Republican voters released on May 28, 2015, he placed eighth, just behind Ted Cruz. Cruz would be the only one, in the end, to give him any competition for the nomination.
While the 2016 presidential race was messy, it wasn’t a complete anomaly. The 2008 race, for example, looked very different this far ahead of Election Day than it did in the homestretch. A CNN/ORC poll in December 2006 showed that among Democrats, Hillary Clinton had more than double the support that Barack Obama did.

She remained 14 points ahead of him three months later, in a USA Today/Gallup poll that established an even more commanding front-runner on the Republican side: Rudy Giuliani. Republicans preferred him to John McCain by a margin of 44 percent to 20 percent. McCain, obviously, went on to become the nominee. Giuliani exited the contest in January 2008.

The volatility partly reflects how little attention most voters pay to the nomination contests until much later on. But it’s also a function of how much about the candidates remains unknown or has yet to emerge.

Sure, most of them have been vetted somewhat during prior runs for office. But whatever scrutiny they received, and whatever pressure they felt, pale next to the withering spotlight of a presidential bid. Previously overlooked discrepancies between their images and their reality will emerge; so will secrets. They’ll teeter, some of them. Others will implode. Just ask such short-lived hopefuls as Giuliani, Howard Dean and John Edwards.

Already I’m hearing debates about O’Rourke’s true politics that weren’t a big factor in his recently concluded Senate race; if he runs for president, he’ll have to explain a tension between his relatively moderate reputation in Congress and a more progressive tilt on the campaign trail.

Already Elizabeth Warren is suffering from an intensity of second-guessing that wasn’t there before she released her DNA test about two months ago. Maybe it’s a blip. Maybe not.

We think we know a lot about these candidates, and we do: their basic biographies, their professional accomplishments, their fluency so far at the microphone and in interviews.
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But we don’t have the most consequential information of all, at least in terms of their presidential ambitions. With the exception perhaps of Warren, who has given recent speeches on foreign policy and racial justice, we haven’t heard the specific, boiled-down cases for themselves — and their prescriptions for the country’s future — that they’ll present to American voters. We don’t know how persuasively they’ll communicate that. And we haven’t been able to judge how well it complements what voters are hungriest for now.

Trump is instructive. The phenomenon of his candidacy had everything to do with what he said when he came down that escalator in Trump Tower on June 16, 2015. He delivered a racially charged, anti-immigrant message with surprising resonance, and he did so — not just then but in the months afterward — with an unapologetic bluntness that many listeners interpreted as strength. That wasn’t easily foreseeable and, for the most part, it wasn’t foreseen.

Biden’s, Sanders’s and O’Rourke’s strong showing in current polls isn’t wholly irrelevant. It will help them with fund-raising. It will direct more media attention their way. It demonstrates that they’ve crossed the all-important threshold of widespread name recognition.

I was joking when I suggested that it spelled doom. But they shouldn’t be too encouraged by it. And the rest of us shouldn’t use it to write off other candidates.

I invite you to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter. You can follow me on Twitter (@FrankBruni).
Frank Bruni has been with The Times since 1995 and held a variety of jobs — including White House reporter, Rome bureau chief and chief restaurant critic — before becoming a columnist in 2011. He is the author of three best-selling books.  @FrankBruni • Facebook

December 4, 2018

A One Term President Bush Teaches A OneTerm Pres.Trump (With High Character Flaws) The Minimum Decency For A President in Life and Death


(CNN)George H.W. Bush can perform one last, posthumous service to his country this week by orchestrating a rare moment of unity and a short-term truce in the rancorous politics swirling around the crisis-stricken Trump presidency.
The remains of the former president, who died at home in Texas on Friday night at 94, will be brought to Washington on Monday to allow the nation to bid farewell to a man whose one-term presidency looks better with each year that passes.
The ex-commander-in-chief will lie in state at the US Capitol ahead of a state funeral service in Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday that will see a meeting of the world's most exclusive club — that of former presidents.
For a few days, a building showdown over a possible partial government shutdown may ease, and the increasing threat posed to the Trump presidency by special counsel Robert Mueller could fade into the background.
    Despite antipathy between the Bush family and President Donald Trump, the 41st president made clear he wanted America's current leader to be at the funeral, putting the institution of the presidency above personal animosities.
    Trump has confirmed he will attend the event, which follows a series of national disasters and tragedies and moments of public mourning that have caused critics to fault his behavior as short of that expected of a president.
    To his credit, Trump canceled what was certain to be a contentious news conference at the G20 summit in Argentina on Saturday out of respect for Bush. He also sent one of the iconic blue-and-white 747 jets that serves as Air Force One when a president is aboard to Texas to carry Bush's casket.
    "We'll be spending three days of mourning and three days of celebrating a really great man's life," Trump said in Argentina in a gracious tribute.
    "So we look forward to doing that, and he certainly deserves it. He really does. He was a very special person."
    But Wednesday's ceremony still promises to be an awkward moment of political theater for Trump, since he will come face-to-face with former presidents and other top officials whom he has attacked in recent days.
    Just last week for instance, Trump retweeted an image that pictures former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, along with former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, behind bars. Trump often beams at rallies as his crowds chant "lock her up!" about the former Democratic nominee. And Michelle Obama wrote in her new autobiography that she will "never forgive" Trump for his conspiracy theory about Obama's birthplace that launched the real estate mogul and reality TV star's political career.
    Trump is likely to come face to face with all four in the National Cathedral before a huge television audience. The encounter will highlight how several of the former leaders, including Obama and Clinton, forged close relationships with their Republican predecessor as well as the friendly relations between them and Bush's son, former President George W. Bush. No such ties exist between that trio and the current President, who often criticizes his predecessors and has given no sign of taking advantage of their advice and experience of doing one of the toughest and loneliest jobs in global politics.
    The President also belittled another of the elder Bush's sons, former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, during the 2016 campaign, and in July, mocked a signature quote by the 41st president about a "thousand points of light," which was later used as the name of his charity.

    Unavoidable comparisons

    Wednesday's state funeral will offer similarities and contrasts to the final farewell for John McCain in September, to which Trump was not invited after mocking the Arizona senator during the 2016 campaign for being shot down and imprisoned in Vietnam nearly 50 years before.
    Such analogies are likely to be perceived again in the tributes to Bush, who was almost universally regarded as a gentleman and a throwback to a more civil and magnanimous era of politics.
    Still, with Trump attending, and if he desists from his trademark inflammatory politics, the nation's divides could be papered over, at least for a few days.
    Bush's passing also looks set to postpone one of the final political showdowns of the year — a funding controversy entangled in Trump's demands for $5 billion in funding for his border wall.
    A source briefed on the talks told CNN that lawmakers are considering taking up a one-week spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown by a Friday deadline, since Congress will be out of session at the beginning of the week ahead of Bush's ceremonies.
    Trump told reporters on Air Force One on Saturday night that he would be open to such a solution.
    "I would absolutely consider it and probably give it," Trump said.

    Russia cloud darkens over Trump

    Washington's period of mourning come at a fraught moment in Trump's presidency, after a week in which it became clear that Mueller is narrowing in on the President as his investigation gathers pace.
    On Thursday, Mueller unveiled a cooperation agreement with Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen admitted to lying to Congress to cover up the fact that he was negotiating a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow right up until June 2016 during the presidential campaign.
    He had previously said talks about the Moscow project ended in January 2016 and said he lied out of a sense of obligation to Trump.
    A pair of developments on Friday night appeared to bring the probe even closer to the White House. CNN reported that Cohen believed that Trump would offer him a pardon in exchange for staying on message in in talks with federal prosecutors.
    Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Trump never indicated any such possibility to Cohen. But the report immediately sparked speculation about communications between the two men. Any proof that Trump had offered a pardon in return for Cohen's testimony would be an abuse of power and possibly an impeachable offense.
    Then, in a filing later on Friday, Cohen's lawyers offered the clearest sign yet that he kept Trump informed of his efforts to close the deal in Moscow in 2016.
    A political hiatus over the next few days might give Trump some brief relief from Russia questions but could also complicate his effort to celebrate an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to stave off an escalation in the trade war between the world's two largest economies.
      In exchange, China will buy a "very substantial" amount of agricultural, energy and other goods from the United States to help reduce the trade imbalance, according to a White House statement.
      "If it happens it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made," Trump said, though trade experts saw the agreement, while welcome, as more a temporary truce than a permanent peace deal to ease rising US-China tensions.

      March 8, 2018

      A Felon in the Oval Office! Can A President Be Indicted? Sued for Personal Actions in State Court?

       Which shade of Trump could be indicted or sued for his personal conduct?

      Adult film star Stormy Daniels is suing Donald Trump over a nondisclosure agreement on their alleged affair, adding to a long list of civil cases the president is already facing.

      In a civil lawsuit filed recently in Los Angeles County Superior Court, lawyers for Stephanie Clifford (Daniels’ real name) argue that the nondisclosure agreement she signed before the 2016 election is not valid because Trump never signed it.

      Trump is also facing a lawsuit from former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos for defamation, and he’s been sued more than 100 times in federal court, on issues ranging from his actions on immigration to the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

      In the meantime, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling has already tripped up several of Trump’s associates, leading some to wonder whether he would try to indict the president as well if he had strong evidence of wrongdoing.

      All of these cases have raised a straightforward question with complicated legal ramifications: Can you sue the president? Does it matter if it’s state or federal court? And can you indict the president?

      Here’s a look at what it is known

      Civil cases

      Both the Daniels and Zervos suits raise a serious legal question: can someone bring a civil suit against a sitting president in state court? Trump’s lawyers say no. “State court can’t exercise any control over the president under any circumstances,” Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz argued in New York state court in early December. The motion to dismiss Zervos’ case, Kasowitz continued, is about “protecting the ability of the president to do his constitutionally mandated job.”

      In court filings, Trump’s team has cited the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Nixon v. Fitzgerald, which held that the president has “absolute immunity” from being held liable for damages in civil lawsuits for conduct within the “outer perimeter” of his official presidential duties. “Because of the singular importance of the President’s duties,” the decision reads, “diversion of his energies by concern with private lawsuits would raise unique risks to the effective functioning of government.” 

      This is a key element of Trump’s lawyers’ argument around the Zervos case for why he can’t be sued in state court. But there are limits to the holding in Nixon v. Fitzgerald: the case only applied to civil suits in federal court, not state court, and only to civil suits related to official actions as president, not personal conduct.

      It’s a later Supreme Court case, 1997’s Clinton v. Jones, that introduces private acts to the patchwork of laws on presidents and civil lawsuits. This time, facing a case in which former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones accused President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment, the Supreme Court said the Nixon v. Fitzgerald ruling on immunity from civil damages did not apply to “unofficial conduct” by the president.

      “We have never suggested that the President, or any other official, has an immunity that extends beyond the scope of any action taken in an official capacity,” the Court held. “The litigation of questions that relate entirely to the unofficial conduct of the individual who happens to be the President poses no perceptible risk of misallocation of either judicial power or executive power.”

      This decision is good for those on the side of Zervos and Daniels, ruling definitively that presidents can be sued while in office for private conduct.

      “Clinton v. Jones makes clear that this Defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity — or any other species of official acts [of] immunity — because this case involved unofficial conduct by Defendant before he assumed office,” Zervos’ lawyers said in a court filing earlier this year. “Precisely because Defendant’s underlying tortious behavior has nothing to do with his current duties or office, and because it occurred before he took that office, he does not have immunity from suit.”

      But again, there’s a critical unanswered question in the Clinton v. Jones opinion: that case only applies to litigation in federal court and did not decide the issue of whether a civil suit can be brought against a sitting president in state court.

      In fact, the Supreme Court explicitly decided not to decide that question, explaining that state court suits could raise different legal questions than the ones decided in Clinton v. Jones. “Because the Supremacy Clause makes federal law ‘the supreme Law of the Land,’ any direct control by a state court over the President, who has principal responsibility to ensure that those laws are ‘faithfully executed,’ may implicate concerns that are quite different from the interbranch separation of powers questions addressed here,” the majority opinion notes in a footnote.

      The power difference between state and federal court arises in part from the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which establishes that federal law bars a state from interfering in federal functions. There would still be limits, however. In civil suits, “there’s no absolute immunity from being sued in state court for a president,” explains Samuel Issacharoff, a constitutional law professor at New York University Law School. He gives the example of if a president and his or her spouse wanted to get a divorce while in office — which would have to be handled in state court.

      “Divorce matrimonial matters are not actionable in federal court, and it is inconceivable that we would make [the spouse] wait four or eight years [to get a divorce],” Issacharoff says. “The ordinary conduct of the life of the president as an individual may give rise to legal issues, and we’ve never said that there’s immunity from that.”

      And some legal experts think that footnote was merely standard practice by the Supreme Court to limit the scope of its ruling on a constitutional issue, and that there’s no reason to think the Court wouldn’t have decided the case the same way had it been a state court in question.

      “There’s nothing in the opinion that would militate heavily against the same type of process in state court,” says George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley. “Indeed, one could argue that the federal system has a greater likelihood to recognize a form of immunity than the state system. Under federalism principles, these are two different systems, and the state system has its own independent authority and right to pursue defendants.”

      As it stands now, Trump cannot be held liable for civil damages in conduct related to his presidential powers, but he can be held liable in federal court for civil damages related to his personal conduct before he became president. And if any presidency will lead to a clear decision on whether he can be subject to a civil suit on personal conduct in state court, there’s good reason to think it might be Trump’s.

      “President Trump came to office dragging a long chain of existing civil lawsuits,” says Turley. “No president has come to office with as much experience as a litigant as President Trump.”

      Criminal cases

      There’s also a constitutional question about whether a sitting president can be criminally prosecuted, and there isn’t a clear answer. It has never happened before, and no court has definitively ruled on the issue. (The Supreme Court heard arguments about it in 1974 about President Richard Nixon, but never resolved the question.)

      Here’s what the Constitution says in Article 1 Section 3: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to law.”

      The text of the Constitution doesn’t explicitly state whether a president can be prosecuted while in office, so arguments are based on structure and inference. The official view of the executive branch is that it can’t be done. The Office of Legal Counsel wrote in a 2000 memo arguing a president can’t be indicted, “The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions,” though it acknowledged, “neither the text nor the history of the Constitution ultimately provided dispositive guidance in determining whether a president is amenable to indictment or criminal prosecution while in office.”

      Other legal experts disagree. “I fail to see the compelling basis for reading a sweeping immunity into the Constitution that was not mentioned in the constitutional convention, let alone in the text of the Constitution,” says Turley. “The danger of having an immunized felon in the Oval Office is greater than the danger of having an indicted president.”

      In Mueller’s position as special counsel, he is bound by Justice Department policies, but it’s an unresolved question how much deference he must give to the Office of Legal Counsel’s previous legal analyses on this issue. Under the interpretation that the president cannot be indicted in office, Trump would have to resign or be impeached first, and they could be criminally charged afterward.

      In that case, if Mueller’s investigation finds what he believes merits an indictment, historically that means he would bring his findings to the House, which would decide if it warrants “high crimes and misdemeanors” to impeach and proceed from there. The basic idea behind this precedent is that if you’re going to undo an election, it should be by a body that is subject to the will of the people.

      November 15, 2017

      America First Has Made It Last in Only One Year {Left Behind}

      During his dystopian inaugural speech, Donald Trump promised to an end an era of “American Carnage” with a “new decree”—that the US’s interests would be put first around the world.
      A year after his surprise election, and 10 months after that speech, it appears the US is being left behind instead. Trump has pulled America out of several multilateral agreements and threatened to strong-arm partners in others. As he does, the remaining countries are marching ahead without the world’s wealthiest nation and its largest economy.
      It’s too early to determine the impact on global trade or the US economy, but diplomats and historians say they worry the long-term effects on American manufacturers could be dire. “US exporters will suffer the consequences,” says Tony Gardner, who was US ambassador to the EU under Obama. “It is in my view a wholly counterproductive policy that Washington is pursuing,” he said.

      The Paris climate deal

      In June, Trump pulled the US out of the landmark Paris Agreement. Last week, Syria became the last country in the world (besides the US) to sign up for the deal. A small Trump administration delegation (paywall) is attending this week’s round of climate talks in Bonn, Germany, but neither Trump nor his top energy or climate officials are going. (There are plenty of American mayors, governors, and business heads there who say they’re still committed to the deal).
      Other nations are hatching ambitious plans in Bonn—Germany’s environment minister will team up with Britain on a campaign to convince other countries to commit to stop using coal entirely, for example. In contrast, the US hosted a panel promoting fossil fuels at the conference, which, as ex-New York mayor Mike Bloomberg said, “is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit.”
      The Paris climate accord was the “first real agreement of the globalized world,” said Edward Goldberg, of New York University’s Center for Global Affairs. Pulling the US from the climate agreement was akin to the US’s refusal to join the League of Nations after World War I, he said—a decision that is considered to one of the reasons another world war eventually broke out. “I’m sounding pessimistic here, but it is just a disaster.”

      The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

      Just three days after his inauguration, Trump said the US would exit the comprehensive, 12-nation trade deal dubbed the most “ambitious in a generation.” Designed to offset China’s manufacturing might the deal created a trading bloc between Pacific Rim countries and the Americas designed to lower tariffs and increase protections for workers and the environment. The deal would have added an estimated $4.4 billion in annual net income to US farmers alone. 
      This past weekend, the 11 remaining TPP members said they’d reached an agreement about core parts of the deal, including working hours and a minimum wage. The new pact is called the “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership,” or the TPP11.
      This may not be the end of the US’s relationship with the TPP, though. In the past, when the US wavered on joining global agreements, jobs and corporate interests put pressure on the Senate to change, Goldberg said. “I think that will happen again. Without it our corporations are totally disadvantaged.”

      An EU counter to NATO

      Trump began lambasting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—which was created in 1949 to counter the rising threat from the Soviet Union—on the campaign trail. As president, Trump at first failed to reaffirm Article Five, the mutual-defense clause that is the cornerstone of the NATO alliance, though he belatedly did weeks later. In September, EU foreign-affairs chief Federica Mogherini obliquely pointed to Europe’s need for “strategic autonomy” when it comes to defense. 
      Today, Europe took a step in that direction, with 23 EU member states signing a pact for greater defense integration. The members have agreed to integrate military funding, weapons development, and deployment of European defenses, essentially creating a unified mega-army with a $5 billion weapons fund. Brexit may have had as much to with this as Trump (the UK has always resisted an integrated army), but it represents the first step in a serious move towards Europe fending for itself without the US.


      At this past weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Manila, Chinese president Xi Jinping told the assembled crowd of regional leaders, “We should continue to foster an open economy that benefits all,” and sang the praises of multilateral deals and “open regionalism.”
      It wasn’t a surprising message. After all, APEC was started in 1989 to promote growth throughout the region by encouraging regional trade.
      Trump, in marked contrast, touted his “America First” rhetoric at the same meeting. “We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore,” he said, then went on to accuse the leaders in the room of benefiting at the US’s expense.
      Xi got a standing ovation from the crowd after his speech, despite the fact that China is enmeshed in ugly territorial disputes with many of its Asian neighbors. Trump’s remarks were met with “something like an embarrassed silence,” China’s state media wrote.
      While no concrete trade agreements were written at APEC, it’s easy to see how China’s proposals in the future could be greeted more warmly than the US’s.

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