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Trump’s End-Game Could Become Ours, Too

Eric Zuesse

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On March 28th, CNN headlined “An unheard-of problem: The President can’t find a lawyer” and reported that:  Five large law firms are passing on the opportunity to represent the President after a shakeup last week on his private defense team and as he anticipates giving possible testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Well-known Washington lawyers cited several reasons for declining the President in recent weeks, according to multiple sources familiar with their decisions. Among them: … Lawyers at large firms fear backlash from their corporate clients if they were to represent the President. And many want to steer clear of conflicts of interest that could complicate their other obligations. … 

One such firm told CNN: “Any large law firm has clients that have very strong feelings.” The implication was that those are extremely negative feelings about Trump, and that at no large law firm is there any countervailing preponderance of large clients who “have very strong feelings” that are in a positive direction toward him.

If this isn’t a rejection of Trump by the rest of the U.S. aristocracy, and an expression of their determination to replace him by Mike Pence, then nothing could be. They want Trump out.

The reader-comments to that story, which are posted at reddit, don’t even mention Pence, nor America’s aristocracy, nor billionaires’ control over this country, nor nuclear war, nor any of the other significant implications of the news-story, nor even the major back-story to it, but these important aspects of this news-item, will be discussed and documented here.

The people in actual power had originally evaluated Trump’s Presidential candidacy only on the basis of what he said on the campaign trial, because he had never actually served in any public office. And, so, they feared him, solely on account of his words, and Hillary Clinton received vastly more big-dollar donations than he did. Though some of her campaign promises were moderately opposed to what billionaires want, she had had a long and consistent record of ‘public’ service, including as a U.S. Senator and as Secretary of State, serving actually billionaires, at the expense of the public, and so they didn’t really care what she said in her campaigns, because they knew, from actual experience with her, that she would be loyal to them. But not so with Trump. They’ve wanted him forced out of office, ever since he first entered office.

Nothing in Vice President Mike Pence’s background suggests that the policies (which is all that the people in actual power care about — they don’t care about bumper-stickers or campaign speeches or other mere words) which a President Pence would pursue, would be any different from those which President Trump has already been pursuing. Pence has a long and consistent record in public offices, and it’s supportive of the mega-corporate agenda. For example, he has never said (far less done) anything at all like what Trump had promised before he became President (but hasn’t yet acted on):

Trump said then: “The approach of fighting Assad and ISIS simultaneously was madness, and idiocy. They’re fighting each other and yet we’re fighting both of them. You know, we were fighting both of them. I think that our far bigger problem than Assad is ISIS, I’ve always felt that. Assad is, you know I’m not saying Assad is a good man, ’cause he’s not, but our far greater problem is not Assad, it’s ISIS. … I think, you can’t be fighting two people that are fighting each other, and fighting them together. You have to pick one or the other.” Assad is allied with Russia against the Sauds, so the U.S. (in accord with a policy that George Herbert Walker Bush initiated on 24 February 1990 and which has been carried out by all subsequent U.S. Presidents) is determined to overthrow Assad, but Trump during the campaign was firmly opposed to that policy.

Months before that time, Trump had said: “I think Assad is a bad guy, a very bad guy, all right? Lots of people killed. I think we are backing people we have no idea who they are. The rebels, we call them the rebels, the patriotic rebels. We have no idea. A lot of people think, Hugh, that they are ISIS. We have to do one thing at a time. We can’t be fighting ISIS and fighting Assad. Assad is fighting ISIS. He is fighting ISIS. Russia is fighting now ISIS. And Iran is fighting ISIS. We have to do one thing at a time. We can’t go — and I watched Lindsey Graham, he said, I have been here for 10 years fighting. Well, he will be there with that thinking for another 50 years. He won’t be able to solve the problem. We have to get rid of ISIS first. After we get rid of ISIS, we’ll start thinking about it. But we can’t be fighting Assad. And when you’re fighting Assad, you are fighting Russia, you’re fighting — you’re fighting a lot of different groups. But we can’t be fighting everybody at one time.”

And:

Trump turned the conversation back to Iraq. “Where were the weapons of mass destruction, Brian?” Trump asked Kilmeade. Again, Kilmeade defended the former president: [Former Secretary of State] “Madeleine Albright said they were there, [former President] Bill Clinton said they were there, [former French President] Jacques Chirac said they were there, the Portuguese prime minster said they were there, [former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak said they were there.” Trump retorted: “Well, they weren’t there, they didn’t find them. They found nothing. Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents.”

The Intercept headlined on 29 February 2016, “Neoconservatives Declare War on Trump”. On 21 March 2016, the Washington Post bannered, “Trump Questions Need for NATO, Outlines Noninterventionist Foreign Policy”. On 23 March 2016, William Greider headlined in The Nation, “Donald Trump Could Be the Military-Industrial Complex’s Worst Nightmare”.

Trump as a candidate, had said: “Right now we’re protecting, we’re basically protecting Japan, and we are, every time North Korea raises its head, you know, we get calls from Japan and we get calls from everybody else, and ‘Do something.’ And there’ll be a point at which we’re just not going to be able to do it anymore. Now, does that [intervention] mean nuclear? It could mean nuclear. It’s a very scary nuclear world. Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.”

He also said: “I have two problems with NATO. No. 1, it’s obsolete. When NATO was formed many decades ago we were a different country. There was a different threat. Soviet Union was, the Soviet Union, not Russia, which was much bigger than Russia, as you know. And, it was certainly much more powerful than even today’s Russia, although again you go back into the weaponry. But, but – I said, I think NATO is obsolete, and I think that – because I don’t think – right now we don’t have somebody looking at terror, and we should be looking at terror. And you may want to add and subtract from NATO in terms of countries. But we have to be looking at terror, because terror today is the big threat.”

Fighting against “radical Islamic terrorism,” however, isn’t nearly as profitable for firms such as Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics, as nuclear weapons systems — the anti-Russia weapons, the strategic weapons systems — are. The military-industrial complex had needed the 9/11 boost back in 2000, when the possibility of shrinking ‘defense’ budgets was a real threat they faced; but, after over a decade of the military contractors having been carried along by that boost, they needed to go back to some kind of ‘Cold War’, even without any communism or Soviet Union or Warsaw Pact. Obama gave them that enormous boost, of a returned ‘Cold War’, by his coup overthrowing the democratically elected Government of Ukraine (on Russia’s doorstep) in February 2014 (and some of that Obama-operation’s mercenaries even recently described in detail their participation in the coup), and America’s government contractors have boomed enormously ever since the coup, as a result of that coup and of the resulting restored ‘Cold War’.

But restoring the ‘Cold War’ isn’t the only thing they demand, and which he has supplied but they fear he still might reverse them on: There’s also the fossil fuels industries, and the sickness industries, and others, often having the same investors as do military contractors.

On 17 July 2015, Paul Blumenthal and Kate Sheppard at Huffington Post bannered, “Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Campaign Bundlers Are Fossil Fuel Lobbyists”  and the sub-head was “Clinton’s top campaign financiers are linked to Big Oil, natural gas and the Keystone pipeline.”

Her record did show that she represented those lobbyists, not the public. Trump couldn’t even have won the Republican nomination if he hadn’t verbally supported those polices and gone even beyond them, promised to out-do Hillary; but, unlike Hillary, he didn’t have any actual record.

Furthermore, Trump said, “It’s not just the political system that’s rigged, it’s the whole economy. … Hillary Clinton’s message is old and tired. Her message is that things can’t change. My message is that things have to change.” That’s basically the same message as Bernie Sanders was promoting.

Trump’s stated positions on this were basically like Sanders’s. Trump said:

“SuperPACs are a disaster. They’re a scam. They cause dishonesty. And you better get rid of them because they are causing a lot of bad decisions to be made by some very good people.”

“I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. … And that’s a broken system.”

There, too, he sounded like Sanders.

Trump also said:

“[JORGE RAMOS]: But should it be limited legally — TRUMP: I don’t know about the limits. I think the most important thing is transparency. You have to know who you’re dealing with. And right now you don’t. You don’t. And I’m talking about PACs in all fairness. I have good friends who like to put money into PACs. Many friends, I have some enemies too, by the way. But I have many friends. They put money in PACs. And you need transparency. You need to know who is putting up what. So when they start making deals in a year or two years or three years, you know what is happening.”

Glenn Greenwald wrote about Hillary Clinton’s campaign being founded upon a rejection of such “transparency”: “The Clinton argument actually goes well beyond the Court’s conservatives: In Citizens United, the right-wing justices merely denied the corrupting effect of independent expenditures (i.e., ones not coordinated with the campaign). But Clinton supporters in 2016 are denying the corrupting effect of direct campaign donations by large banks and corporations and, even worse, huge speaking fees paid to an individual politician shortly before and after that person holds massive political power.” Donald Trump had spoken clearly against all of that — he spoke, in principle, against the type of opacity in donations, which the Democratic Party under Clinton encouraged.

The Washington Post headlined on 1 March 2016, “GOP Super PAC’s Ad Portrays Donald Trump as a Predatory Huckster”. The next day, Politico reported:

The effort [by Republican mega-donors against Trump] is centered on the recently formed Our Principles PAC, the latest big-money group airing anti-Trump ads, which is run by GOP strategist Katie Packer, deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012. The group, initially funded by $3 million from Marlene Ricketts, wife of billionaire T.D. Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, wants to saturate the expensive Florida airwaves ahead of the state’s March 15 primary with hopes of denying Trump a victory that could crush the hopes of home state Sen. Marco Rubio. A conference call on Tuesday to solicit donors for the group included Paul Singer, billionaire founder of hedge fund Elliott Management; Hewlett Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman; and Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, one of Joe and Marlene Ricketts’ three sons. Wealthy Illinois businessman Richard Uihlein is also expected to help fund the effort. Jim Francis, a big GOP donor and bundler from Texas, was also on the phone call on Tuesday

These people were donating to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and were donating to it even during the primaries.

Trump even endorsed socialization of the most essential healthcare services:

Trump said he favored taxpayer-paid healthcare for Americans who cannot afford to pay for the basic healthcare they need:

Donald Trump: By the way. Everybody’s got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say because a lot of times they say, “No, no, the lower 25 percent that can’t afford private.” But — Scott Pelley: Universal health care? Donald Trump: I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now. Scott Pelley: The uninsured person is going to be taken care of how? Donald Trump: They’re going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And, you know what, if this is probably — Scott Pelley: Make a deal? Who pays for it? Donald Trump: — The government’s gonna pay for it. But we’re going to save so much money on the other side.”

A CBS News story, 29 January 2016, by a reporter who clearly favored Hillary, was headlined “Hillary Clinton: Single-payer health care will ‘never, ever’ happen”, and noted that in 1994 she had described single-payer not as an attractive option worthy of being considered, but instead as being a threat:

“‘If, for whatever reason, the Congress doesn’t pass health care reform, I believe, and I may be totally off base on this, but I believe that by the year 2000 we will have a single payer system,’ she said. ‘I don’t even think it’s a close call politically. I think the momentum for a single payer system will sweep the country. … It will be such a huge popular issue … that even if it’s not successful the first time, it will eventually be.’”

Back in 1994, she was citing single-payer as being a threat — never a goal. Wall Street knew where she stood, even if her voters didn’t.

Moreover, when Donald Trump forced into the Republican platform a restoration of the Democratic Glass-Steagall Act, this was his statement, not something that somebody else forced upon him. He knew that doing this would antagonize Wall Street, but he did it anyway. Trump actually said he wanted to ‘break up the big banks’. On 9 August 2016, the far-right American Enterprise Institute headlined “How Can Trump Support Deregulation and Glass-Steagall?” and opened by saying, “The Republican platform’s proposal to reinstate Glass-Steagall is hard to understand, even in the confused policy mishmash created by Donald Trump. The best interpretation is that it’s an awkward outreach to the disappointed ‘progressive’ supporters of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The worst is that it calls into question whether Donald Trump really supports financial deregulation.”

Even as President, Trump still hasn’t indicated whether he actually intends to push for that.

Other than on Glass-Steagall, he hasn’t as President been at all supportive of any of those progressive campaign positions which had terrified America’s political mega-donors. Mike Pence, even with his long record in public offices, has never — not even by mere words — supported any of those positions.

Trump, as the President, has done everything, both in words and far more importantly in policies, to satisfy his extremely wealthy opponents; but, evidently, it has all been to no avail; they still want Pence to replace Trump.

The U.S. aristocracy, whom Trump has been bending over backwards to satisfy, are now checkmating him.

He has only two choices: Go gracefully, and quit, or else go down fighting the military, whom he has done everything he could to accommodate. The latter option would be suicidal for him. The former option would be terminal for the entire world.

He’s a psychopath, but he also has an ego. He can’t preserve his ego without turning against the very people whom he has, until now, been serving: the generals, the neocons, Lockheed Martin, the Sauds, the sickness industries, etc.

It could go either way.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Americas

Trump’s New Wall? Mexico’s Southern Border

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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For much of modern history, Mexico defined itself in opposition to the United States. In recent years, the two countries stepped up cooperation on almost all relevant issues, and the two nations are now deeply intertwined politically, economically and culturally. This is bound to change. After months of ignoring Donald Trump’s provocations, López Obrador reacted rapidly to Trump’s shakedown and agreed to a number of resolutions of extraordinary scope and urgency: the new Mexican administration agreed to deploy the country’s federal police to its southern border to crack down on immigration; and opened the door to the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy that would turn Mexico into a Third Safe Country in less than a month from now.

As stated in the agreement, Mexico would take in all the refugees that the US decides to send back to Mexico to await resolution of their asylum process. This could take years, given the substantial immigration backlog in American courts. The agreement goes further: Mexico is responsible for the provision of education, health care and employment for such refugees. This could easily lead to a serious humanitarian crisis that Mexican institutions will be unable to deal with.

This approach contradicts previous Mexican presidential vows for regional development and humanitarian relief rather than confrontation and enforcement. Conditions on the ground in Mexico are far harsher than the Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister, Marcelo Ebrard and the President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, would like to admit, and this is partly due to the current administration’s miscalculations: López Obrador has dramatically cut the budget for governmental agencies responsible for managing refugees and processing removals. Mexican border towns are also ill-equipped for handling transient migrant populations; and Mexico also faces other more systematic challenges, such as corruption and lack of rule of law enforcement. The new policy agreed with the American government is likely to result in a significant increase in claims filed for asylum in Mexico. Mexico’s immigration bureaucracies are utterly overwhelmed, and López Obrador’s misguided budget cuts have exacerbated their failings.

Mexico’s immigration policy is now bound by an immoral and unacceptable deal that will effectively turn Mexico into Trump’s border wall. The global system for the protection of refugees is based on the notion of shared responsibility among countries. It is very dangerous for the US to use Mexico as a pawn to set an example and ignore its international responsibility. This agreement also violates international law on refugees: Mexico is a life-threatening country for undocumented migrants. Human trafficking, recruitment for organised criminal organisations, abduction, extortion, sexual violence, and disappearances are some of the issues migrants face in Mexico. Finally, Mexico’s National Guard, the agency that will be in charge of monitoring the southern border, was created by López Obrador to tackle domestic crime. Its members have no training nor knowledge on immigration matters. It is an untested new military force that could end up creating more problems than the ones it is trying to solve.  Deploying agents to the border could also have a high political cost for the president.

The agreement with Trump gives López Obrador 45 days to show progress. If Mexico fails, Mexico will be forced to set in motion some version of Safe Third Country agreement, or face further tariff bullying from the US. This deal has been sold by the new Mexican administration as a victory over the US. More migrants, less money, extreme violence and a recalcitrant, unpredictable northern neighbour are the ingredients for a potential, impending refugee crisis, not a diplomatic victory.

Could Mexico have taken a different approach? Yes. Trump’s decision to impose tariffs would exacerbate the underlying causes of immigration in the region and do nothing to address it. His bullying to force Mexico to crack down on immigration was a cheap electoral ploy to mobilise its base with a view to winning the 2020 elections. This is nothing new. Trump is not seeking a solution; he is seeking a political gain. He built his first presidential campaign on an anti-Mexico and an anti-immigrant rhetoric. It worked in 2016, and he is planning to repeat the same formula.

The Mexican administration lack of knowledge on diplomatic matters, and their inability to play politics let a golden opportunity go. Using trade to bludgeon Mexico into compliance with an immigration crack down makes no sense: Mexico is not responsible for the increase in migratory flows. Central America’s poverty and violence trace back to American policies in the 1980s. Mexico is not responsible either for America’s famously dysfunctional immigration system. Trump’s economic threats against Mexico may not even have been legal: both the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the newly agreed US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) require most trade between members to be tariff free.

Mexico could also have hit back with by levying tariffs that would have hurt swing-state voters, and in turn hurt Trump. This was the golden opportunity Mexico let slip from its hands. Mexico could have responded by hitting Trump where it hurts: Tariffs on American goods heading south. Mexico responded in a similar manner in June last year in response to the steel and aluminium tariffs. Mexico could have raised those tariffs each month in tandem with American levels.

This retaliation would have highlighted the gap between Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric and the underlying interdependence of the US and Mexico with stark consequences for the US presidential elections of 2020. Many of the biggest exporters to Mexico such as Arizona. Florida. California, Michigan and Illinois are swing states. New tariffs could have thrown Texas into recession and put its 38 electoral votes into play. It is all too late now, Mexico could have inadvertently helped Trump to get re-elected. Mexico has less than a month left to show some backbone and demand real American cooperation on the region’s shared challenges and rejecting Trump’s threats once and for all. The relationship between Mexico and the US could have been an example of cooperation under difficult conditions, but that would have required different American and Mexican presidents.

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Scandinavia Veers Left plus D-Day Reflections as Trump Storms Europe

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Mette Frederiksen of the five-party Social Democrat bloc won 91 of the 169 seats in the Danish parliament ending the rule of the right-wing Liberal Party group that had governed for 14 of the last 18 years.  The election issues centered on climate change, immigration and Denmark’s generous social welfare policies.  All parties favored tighter immigration rules thereby taking away the central issue dominating the far-right Democrat Freedom Party which has seen its support halved since the last election in 2015.

Ms Frederiksen promised more spending to bolster the much loved social welfare model and increased taxes on businesses and the wealthy.  A left wave is sweeping Scandinavia as Denmark becomes the third country, after Sweden and Finland, to move left within a year.  Mette Frederiksen will also be, at 41, the youngest prime minister Denmark has ever had.

Donald Trump has used the 75th anniversary of D-Day commemorations to garner positive publicity.  The supreme promoter has managed to tie it in with a “classy” (his oft-chosen word) state visit to the UK spending a day with royals.  It was also a farewell to the prime minister as her resignation is effective from June 7.  Add a D-Day remembrance ceremony at Portsmouth and he was off to his golf course in Ireland for a couple of days of relaxation disguised as a visit to the country for talks — he has little in common with the prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who is half-Indian and gay.

Onward to France where leaders gathered for ceremonies at several places.  It is easy to forget the extent of that carnage:  over 20,000 French civilians were killed in Normandy alone mostly from aerial bombing and artillery fire.  The Normandy American cemetery holds over 9600 soldiers.  All in all, France lost in the neighborhood of 390,000 civilian dead during the whole war.  Estimates of total deaths across the world range from 70 to 85 million or about 3 percent of the then global population (estimated at 2.3 billion).

Much has been written about conflict resolutions generally from a cold rational perspective.  Emotions like greed, fear and a sense of injustice when unresolved lead only in one direction.  There was a time when individual disputes were given the ultimate resolution through single combat.  Now legal rights and courts are available — not always perfect, not always fair, but neither are humans.

It does not take a genius to extrapolate such legal measures to nations and international courts … which already exist.  Just one problem:  the mighty simply ignore them.  So we wait, and we honor the dead of wars that in retrospect appear idiotic and insane.  Worse is the attempt to justify such insanity through times like the “good war”, a monstrous absurdity.

It usually takes a while.  Then we get leaders who have never seen the horror of war — some have assiduously avoided it — and the cycle starts again.

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To Impeach Or Not To Impeach? That Is The Question

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Robert Mueller let loose a thunderbolt midweek.  Donald Trump had not been charged, he said, because it was Department of Justice policy not to charge a sitting president.  Dumping the issue firmly into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lap, he reminded us of the purpose of the impeachment process.  According to Mueller there are ten instances where there are serious issues with the president obstructing justice adding that his report never concludes that Trump is innocent.

So here is a simple question:  If Mueller thought the president is not innocent but he did not charge him because of Justice Department policy, and he appears also to favor impeachment, then why in heaven’s name did he not simply state in his report that the preponderance of evidence indicated Trump was guilty?

Nancy Pelosi is wary of impeachment.  According to the rules, the House initiates it and when/if  it finds sufficient grounds, it forwards the case to the Senate for a formal trial.  The Senate at present is controlled by Republicans, who have been saying it’s time to move on, often adding that after two years of investigation and a 448-page report, what is the point of re-litigating the issue?  They have a point and again it leads to the question:  if Special Counsel Mueller thinks Trump is guilty as he now implies, why did he not actually say so?

Never one to miss any opportunity , Trump labels Mueller, highly conflicted, and blasts impeachment as ‘a dirty, filthy, disgusting word’,  He has also stopped Don McGahn, a special counsel at the White House from testifying before Congress invoking ‘executive privilege’ — a doctrine designed to keep private the president’s consultations with his advisors.  While not cited anywhere in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has held it to be ‘fundamental to the operation of government and inextricably rooted in the Separation of Powers under the Constitution.’  Separation of powers keeps apart the executive branch, the legislature and the judiciary, meaning each one cannot interfere with the other.

Nancy Pelosi is under increasing pressure from the young firebrands.  Rep Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has already expressed the view that it is time to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump given the obstruction of lawmakers’ oversight duty.

Speaker Pelosi is a long-time politician with political blood running through her veins — her father was Mayor of Baltimore and like herself also a US Representative.  To her the situation as is, is quite appealing.  Trump’s behavior fires up Democrats across the country and they respond by emptying their pockets to defeat the Republicans in 2020.  Democratic coffers benefit so why harm this golden goose — a bogeyman they have an excellent chance of defeating — also evident from the numbers lining up to contest the Democratic presidential primaries, currently at 24. 

Will Trump be impeached?  Time will tell but at present it sure doesn’t look likely.

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