Leader of German Social Democrats’ youth wing could be Merkel’s nemesis

Kevin Kuehnert, leader of the Juso youth wing of Germany's Social Democrats SPD party, speaks during a press conference on Thursday at the SPD headquarters in Berlin. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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Leader of German Social Democrats’ youth wing could be Merkel’s nemesis

BERLIN: On the face of it, a fresh-faced, hoodie-wearing 28-year-old is an unlikely threat to the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), let alone to conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Yet before an SPD vote on Sunday on whether to enter formal talks with Merkel, the leader of the party’s Jusos youth wing has struck a chord with members with his campaign against a re-run of the “grand coalition” that has ruled Germany since 2013.
“The chancellor is hanging on a Jusos drip,” wrote the daily Die Welt this week, reflecting a flurry of headlines about Kevin Kuehnert, Jusos leader since November, as a potential nemesis for the upper middle-aged leaders of Germany’s two main parties.
Three days before SPD delegates decide whether to enter formal coalition negotiations with Merkel’s conservatives, Kuehnert, a Berliner, looked serious but relaxed.
“To keep returning to a grand coalition out of fear that everything else is even worse really diminishes the SPD in the long run,” Kuehnert told reporters.
His style brings a breath of fresh air to the somewhat staid world of German politics. In an open-necked black shirt, jeans and trainers, Kuehnert stood in front of a microphone and spoke articulately without notes.
Despite the age difference, some German media have called him Germany’s Jeremy Corbyn, the 68-year-old leftist leader of Britain’s Labour party leader who has galvanized young supporters.
Kuehnert’s clear message and congenial manner have resonated. SPD rank and file are split over the policy blueprint deal that would be the basis for talks with the conservatives.
“I am very optimistic that on Sunday, we have a real chance of winning the vote,” Kuehnert told reporters at SPD headquarters, a venue he said he chose to emphasize solidarity with the party.
The stakes could barely be higher.
If delegates vote against the blueprint agreed with Merkel, SPD chairman Martin Schulz is widely expected to quit.
Moreover, Merkel would have failed twice at forming a coalition after a previous attempt with other parties collapsed in November, putting a big question mark over her own future. The result could be a minority government or new elections.
However, Kuehnert is at pains not to attack Schulz. “After Sunday, I won’t be calling for anyone to resign,” he said.
A soccer fan whose mother works in a jobs center, Kuehnert sought to demolish the argument made by some in the SPD that it must avoid a new election due to its dismal ratings, by saying an election is not inevitable if there is no grand coalition.
In the September election, the SPD saw its support slump to 20.5 percent, its lowest since 1933 and underlining its loss of identity and profile in a coalition that was dominated by Merkel. Now opinion polls put it on at 18 percent.
Kuehnert is adamant that the SPD needs to go into opposition to reinvent itself. “We are looking for a path that will lead the SPD back to being the big left party again,” he said.
Former Jusos leaders include ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whom Merkel defeated to start her first term in office back in 2005, and Andrea Nahles, who is tipped as a possible successor to Schulz.


Democrats to probe Ivanka Trump’s private email use for gov’t work

Updated 20 November 2018
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Democrats to probe Ivanka Trump’s private email use for gov’t work

WASHINGTON: Democrats called on Tuesday for an investigation into US President Donald Trump’s daughter and top White House adviser Ivanka Trump following reports that she repeatedly used a personal email account last year for government business.
A White House review of Ivanka Trump’s email found she used her personal account up to 100 times to contact other Trump administration officials, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the review.
Use of a personal account for government business could potentially violate a law requiring preservation of all presidential records.
Representatives for the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
President Trump, a Republican, repeatedly blasted his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election campaign over her use of personal email and a private server while she was US secretary of state, and promised to investigate her once in office.
Representatives for US Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the panel would investigate White House communications when Democrats take over the US House of Representatives in January.
“We plan to continue our investigation of the presidential records act and federal records act, and we want to know if Ivanka complied with the law,” his office said a statement, adding that a panel probe of White House correspondence began last year but was dropped by Republicans who currently control the committee. Democrats are taking over following their election gains this month.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer, Abbe Lowell, told the Post that her use of personal email was different from Clinton’s case because there was no private server, none of the messages contained classified information and they occurred before Ivanka Trump was aware of government record-keeping regulations.
He said Ivanka Trump turned over all her government-related emails months ago so they could be stored with other White House records, the Post reported.
Ivanka Trump’s emails came to light when White House officials began reviewing them in response to a lawsuit from watchdog group American Oversight, according to the Post. The paper said she used the personal account for official business fewer than 100 times in 2017.
The New York Times also reported on Ivanka Trump’s email use.
Clinton’s email practices as secretary of state prompted an FBI investigation that overshadowed the 2016 election and still draws ire from Trump and calls from his supporters to “lock her up.”
The FBI concluded Clinton’s actions were extremely careless but did not recommend any charges be filed. Clinton expressed regret for her decision to use a private server but said she violated no rules.
US Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary panel, said there was “no way” Ivanka Trump did not know the rules after the 2016 campaign and that there were larger questions about the Trump family’s mixing of private enterprise and government duties.
“It raises the issue of whether there has been anything improper. There should be some kind of investigation,” either by Congress or the White House ethics office, Blumenthal told CNN.
The White House began reviewing senior aides’ email use last year after reports that Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared Kushner, also a top White House adviser, used private email for government work.