Many small updates from Trumpland tonight, including one I’m saving for the end of this update. First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee as it investigates links between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia. Sessions is going to be questioned about his own contacts with Russian officials, but he’s likely to refuse to answer any questions about private conversations he’s had with President Donald Trump. Trump will apparently be watching Sessions’ testimony, and given his reported feelings about his Attorney General these days, Sessions’ job may actually be on the line.
You know who else’s job is apparently on the line? Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump, who apparently never heard of Richard Nixon before, is reportedly thinking about canning Mueller and thereby deepening the constitutional crisis in which the country already finds itself. I have a hard time believing that even Trump is this stupid, but then he’s always managed to exceed my expectations for stupidity, so I suppose anything is possible.
The White House is non-denying reports that Trump recently told UK Prime Minister Theresa May that he doesn’t want to make a state visit to Britain until the British public wants him to visit–or, in other words, never. Both May’s office and the White House are saying that Trump’s plans to visit the UK are unchanged–which, since it’s not clear he has any immediate plans to visit the UK, is not really a denial.
Oh, and the Senate is gradually circling a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something that will undoubtedly be much worse for people who aren’t rich and aren’t going to benefit from the massive upper class tax cut that awaits at the end of this grotesque process. Health care isn’t my area, but it seemed worth mentioning.
The European Union is preparing to escalate its dispute with member states who have rejected the bloc’s collective refugee policy:
The European Union’s executive will decide on Tuesday to open legal cases against three eastern members for failing to take in asylum-seekers to relieve states on the front lines of the bloc’s migration crisis, sources said.
The European Commission would agree at a regular meeting to send so-called letters of formal notice to Poland and Hungary, three diplomats and EU officials told Reuters. Two others said the Czech Republic was also on the list.
This would mark a sharp escalation of the internal EU disputes over migration. Such letters are the first step in the so-called infringement procedures the Commission can open against EU states for failing to meet their legal obligations.
The eastern allies Poland and Hungary have vowed not to budge. Their staunch opposition to accepting asylum-seekers, and criticism of Brussels for trying to enforce the scheme, are popular among their nationalist-minded, eurosceptic voters.
Of course it’s not clear that anything the EU could do to either the Hungarian or Polish governments would outweigh their xenophobic core principles, particularly when any penalty would likely have to go through years of legal processes before it could actually be levied.
A few thousand protesters marked Russia Day–the holiday marking Russia’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1992–with anti-corruption protests in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and in other cities across the country. Hundreds of those protesters were arrested by Russian police.
A snap election held on Sunday appears to have been won by a coalition of former Kosovar rebels led by President Hashim Thaçi’s Democratic Party of Kosovo, which took almost 36 percent of the vote. Also doing well was the leftish nationalist Vetëvendosje party, which won close to 27 percent of the vote on an anti-corruption message, almost twice what it won in 2014. Some kind of coalition government is going to be necessary.
For the past several days, protesters have been demonstrating against government corruption in the country’s capital, Bratislava, and its second-largest city, Košice, but on Monday those protests spread to two other cities–Prešov and Zilina. The protests started a week ago, over a corruption allegation against Interior Minister Robert Kalinak related to his ties to a businessman suspected of tax fraud. In Central and Eastern Europe, these sorts of movements are starting to become a trend:
Anti-corruption protests have mushroomed across the EU’s eastern wing in recent months. Poland, Hungary and Romania have seen large anti-government protests, and thousands of Czechs took to the streets in May to protest against the finance minister.
Something interesting happened here over the weekend:
Italian voters have rejected the populist 5-Star Movement in mayoral elections, favoring established center-left and center-right tickets, but its leader vowed Monday to press on until national power is achieved.
With a majority of ballots counted from elections a day earlier in some 1,000 small cities and towns, the 5-Star Movement had imploded in all big races, including in Genoa, home of its leader and founder, comic Beppe Grillo.
Voters thrashed the anti-euro movement, which bills itself as anti-establishment since supporters’ online selections generally determine their slate of candidates.
The anti-establishment, heterodox (they’re hard to pin down on a left-right spectrum), anti-Europe 5-Star is supposedly the most popular party in Italy, but you wouldn’t know it from what happened on Sunday. The answer may lie in the party’s biggest electoral success to date–last year the party’s Victoria Raggi was elected mayor of Rome, and her administration has apparently been a bit of a hot mess.
Theresa May is headed to France for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday. In addition to discussing Brexit, the two leaders are expected to talk about some kind of joint effort to pressure social media and other internet companies to do more to combat online extremism.
In the wake of her shocking electoral fumble last week, May says she’s prepared to continue on as prime minister for as long as her Conservative Party wants her–which, let’s be honest, may not be long. In a meeting with the Tories’ parliamentary caucus, known as the 1922 Committee, May was reportedly apologetic for the election outcome but tried to argue that she’s the right person to fix her own mess.
In a sign that British politics are still in disarray, May announced that the “Queen’s Speech,” the traditional opening of a new parliament in which the sovereign sets the expectations for the new legislative session, is going to be postponed. It was supposed to be delivered on June 19, but May still needs to nail down her deal with the Democratic Unionist Party and try to figure out what the DUP is going to want in return for keeping her in office. The sovereign’s speech has to be approved by parliament as recognition of the new prime minister and his/her government. Normally this is a formality, but in this situation you can’t take anything for granted. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is reportedly working on his own Queen’s Speech…just in case.
A few of these items are things I didn’t get to last night, just FYI.
President Michel Temer’s chances of evading consequences for the corruption allegations swirling around him are probably not going to be helped by the revelation (which Temer’s people are naturally denying) that he may have used Brazil’s Abin spy agency to spy on Supreme Federal Court Justice Edson Fachin. Fachin is the justice responsible for investigating the charges surrounding Temer.
Nicolás Maduro’s plan to hold a July 30 vote to form a constitutional assembly seems like a pretty naked power grab. Stymied by an opposition-controlled legislature and with approval ratings around 20 percent, he’s looking to amend the country’s constitution to get around the legislature and, probably, postpone next year’s election. Opposition parties are planning to boycott the vote, which is massively unpopular according to opinion polls:
A survey published this week by the respected Datanalisis polling firm found that 85 percent of Venezuelan respondents were opposed to Maduro’s plan for a constitutional assembly. The countdown to the event is intensifying anti-government anger, and it could boil over if opposition leaders’ worst fears come true and it ends up throwing Venezuela’s electoral calendar out the window.
The catch, of course, is that if the vote happens anyway, the boycott will let Maduro stack the assembly with his people. And all of this is only intensifying the country’s political violence the closer July 30 gets. Venezuela’s economic collapse isn’t all Maduro’s fault–a country that depends on one asset can’t survive when the global price for that asset drops off a cliff–but this is really not the way to handle it when your popular support craters.
Panama has broken diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognized the People’s Republic of China instead. This reduces Taiwan to a scant 20 countries that still recognize it and not the PRC, most of them in Latin America.
I try to have answers for you folks on this blog rather than questions, so I apologize for this, but can somebody please tell me what in the absolute fuck is happening here:
This is the first meeting of the full Trump cabinet, and they literally spent about 20 minutes going around the table while each of the assembled plutocrats and kleptocrats showered praise upon Kim Jong-dumb, the Dear Leader of the United States of Juche. I know a lot of things that have happened with this dipshit in the White House have been unprecedented, but holy shit is this unprecedented. And, to be honest, a little terrifying.
This was so stupid that even Chuck Schumer was able to make fun of Trump for it:
Look, maybe this is oversimplifying things, but if Chuck Schumer is dunking on you, you’ve made a terrible mistake somewhere along the way and need to rethink how you’re approaching life.
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