Trump distances himself from indicted former aides

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 30, 2017. (AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM)
Updated 31 October 2017
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Trump distances himself from indicted former aides

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump moved quickly Monday to distance himself and the White House from the indictment of his former campaign chairman and another aide, saying Paul Manafort’s alleged misdeeds occurred “years ago” and insisting there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Responding to news that two former senior campaign aides were charged by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating interactions between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, the president tried to shift the focus elsewhere, asking on Twitter why Hillary Clinton and the Democrats aren’t the focus of the probe.
Trump’s tweet: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????“
He tacked on this addendum: .”...Also, there is NO COLLUSION!“
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the indictments have “nothing to do with the president,” because “most” of the alleged crimes occurred before they worked Trump.
Sanders also dismissed former foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous — who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI — as a “volunteer” on the Trump campaign and said he served on a committee that only met once. Mueller’s office announced Monday that Papadopolous pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to FBI agents about the timing and detail of his attempts to line up meetings between Russian government officials and the Trump campaign.
Sanders said Papadopolous’ actions were not sanctioned by the campaign.
The three men were the first to be charged by Mueller.
Manafort and Rick Gates surrendered to federal authorities Monday to face felony charges of conspiracy against the United States, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and several other financial counts involving tens of millions of dollars routed through offshore accounts. They pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday afternoon.
The indictment against Manafort and Gates alleges criminal activity through “at least 2016,” when the presidential campaign was in full swing.
White House allies privately expressed relief that the charges against Manafort and Gates did not specifically pertain to Russia or the Trump administration.
Over the weekend, Trump had taken to Twitter to allege that the “facts are pouring out” about links to Russia by Clinton, his former presidential opponent.
“DO SOMETHING!” Trump urged in one of five tweets on Saturday.
Trump and the White House insist there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia. Both have pointed a finger at Clinton and have suggested that the real story of collusion with Russia is the sale of uranium to Moscow when Clinton was secretary of state.
US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered with the election to benefit Trump, a finding that Trump has not fully accepted. Mueller and Congress are looking into allegations of ties between Trump associates and Russia.
In his weekend tweets, Trump referenced the fact that Clinton’s presidential campaign helped fund political research into Trump that ultimately produced a dossier of allegations about his ties to Russia. He also pointed to the uranium sale, the tens of thousands of emails from Clinton’s time at the State Department that she later deleted from a private email server, and the decision by then-FBI Director Jim Comey to not bring criminal charges against Clinton for possible mishandling of classified information.
“Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia ‘collusion,’ which doesn’t exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s are now fighting back like never before,” Trump says across several tweets. “There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!“
Trump also suggested that Russia’s re-emergence into the conversation is no accident, tweeting that “All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!“
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers are scheduled to release a tax cut bill that is being pushed by the GOP lawmakers and Trump.


France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

Updated 19 May 2019
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France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

  • His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent
  • In his country, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as Europe’s savior and next week’s European Parliament elections as a make-or-break moment for the beleaguered European Union.
But Macron is no longer the fresh-faced force who marched into a surprising presidential victory to the rousing EU anthem two years ago. His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent. And at home, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies.
Macron wanted the May 23-26 European Parliament elections to be the key moment that he could push his ambitions for a stronger Europe — but instead, nationalists and populists who criticized the 28-nation bloc could achieve unprecedented success.
They argue that EU leaders have failed to manage migration into the continent and remain out of touch with ordinary workers’ concerns.
“We have a crisis of the European Union. This is a matter of fact. Everywhere in Europe, when you look at the past five to six years, in our country but in a lot of countries, all the extremes, extreme-rights, are increasing,” Macron said Thursday, making an unexpected appeal for European unity on the sidelines of a technology trade show.
“On currency, on digital, on climate action, we need more Europe,” he said. “I want the EU to be more protective of our borders regarding migration, terrorism and so on, but I think if you fragment Europe, there is no chance you have a stronger Europe.”
In person, the 41-year-old Macron comes across as strikingly, sincerely European. A political centrist, he’s at ease quoting Greek playwrights, German thinkers or British economists. France’s youngest president grew up with the EU and has been using the shared European euro currency his whole adult life, and sees it as Europe’s only chance to stay in the global economic game.
Macron has already visited 20 of the EU’s 28 countries in his two years in office, and while he acknowledges the EU’s problems, he wants to fix the bloc — not disassemble it.
Macron won the 2017 presidential election over France’s far-right, anti-immigration party leader Marine Le Pen on a pledge to make Europe stronger to face global competition against the Unites States and China. Since then, he’s had to make compromises with other EU leaders — and clashed with some nations where populist parties govern, from Poland to neighboring Italy.
Four months after his election, Macron outlined his vision for Europe in a sweeping speech at Paris’ Sorbonne university, calling for a joint EU budget, shared military forces and harmonized taxes.
But with Brexit looming and nationalism rising, Macron has had to reconsider his ambitions. He called his political tactics with other EU leaders a “productive confrontation.”
“In Europe, what is expected from France is to clearly say what it wants, its goals, its ambitions, and then be able to build a compromise with Germany to move forward” with other European countries, Macron said last week.
Macron stressed that despite her initial reluctance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed last year to create a eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency.
In March, Macron sought to draw support for a Europe of “freedom, protection and progress” with a written call to voters in 28 countries to reject nationalist parties that “offer nothing.”
And he proposed to define a roadmap for the EU by the end of this year in a discussion with all member nations and a panel of European citizens.
“There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different paces, and that is open to all?” he asked.
France and Germany are the two heavyweights in Europe, and Macron can also count on cooperation from pro-European governments of Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and others.
He has made a point, however, of not yet visiting Hungary or Poland, two nations led by populist leaders whom Macron accused last year of “lying” to their people about the EU.
France has also been entangled in a serious diplomatic crisis with Italy over migration into Europe. Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly criticized Macron and is backing his rival Le Pen’s National Rally party in the election this week that aims to fill the European parliament’s 751 seats.
Macron has little chance to repeat Europe-wide what he did in France: rip up the political map by building a powerful centrist movement that weakened the traditional left and right.
The campaign for Macron’s Republic on the Move party is being led by former European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau under a banner called “Renaissance.” The party wants to associate with the pro-market ALDE alliance to create new centrist group at the European Parliament.
But across the continent, the centrists are not expected to come out remotely on top but rank third or even lower behind the parliament’s traditional two biggest groups, the right-wing European People’s Party and the left-wing Socialists and Democrats group.
Even at home, Macron is far from certain of being able to claim victory in the European vote. Polls suggest his party will be among France’s top two vote-getters in the election, which takes place in France on May 26.
But its main rival, the far-right National Rally party, is determined to take revenge on Macron beating Le Pen so decisively in 2017.
Macron’s political opponents across the spectrum are calling on French voters to seize the European vote to reject his government’s policies.
While he won 64% of the presidential vote in 2017, French polls show that Macron’s popularity has been around half that for the past year.
It reached record lows when France’s yellow vest movement broke out last fall, demanding relief from high taxes and stagnant wages for French workers, then slightly rose as extensive violence during yellow vest protests, especially in Paris, dampened support for the movement’s cause.
Still, the yellow vests are not going away. New protests against Macron and his government are planned for the EU election day.