Sep 192018
 
 September 19, 2018  Posted by at 8:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Landscape with butterflies 1956

 

Trump: Exposing ‘Corrupt’ FBI Probe Could Be Crowning Achievement (Hill)
Trump: Expect Decision On US Role In Syria Soon (ZH)
China Hits Back At US With $60 Billion Of New Tariffs (G.)
Just How Wildly Exuberant is the Junk-Credit Market?” (WS)
Bernie Sanders’ Anti-Amazon Bill Is an Indictment of the Media, Too (Taibbi)
North And South Korea Sign Joint Agreement In ‘Leap Forward’ For Peace (Ind.)
Michel Barnier Rebuffs UK Calls For Flexibility On Irish Border (G.)
Keir Starmer Clashed With Corbyn On Brexit ‘To Brink Of Resignation’ (G.)
Rightwing Thinktanks Unveil Radical Plan For US-UK Brexit Trade Deal (G.)
Tesla To Be Investigated By US DOJ Over Elon Musk Tweets (Ind.)
Monsanto Asks US Court To Toss $289 Million Glyphosate Verdict (R.)

 

 

Let’s see what the declassified files have to say.

Trump: Exposing ‘Corrupt’ FBI Probe Could Be Crowning Achievement (Hill)

President Trump in an exclusive interview with Hill.TV said Tuesday he ordered the release of classified documents in the Russia collusion case to show the public the FBI probe started as a “hoax,” and that exposing it could become one of the “crowning achievements” of his presidency. “What we’ve done is a great service to the country, really,” Trump said in a 45-minute, wide-ranging interview in the Oval Office. “I hope to be able to call this, along with tax cuts and regulation and all the things I’ve done… in its own way this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt,” he said. Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017 [..]

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.” [..] He criticizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court’s approval of the warrant that authorized surveillance of Carter Page, a low-level Trump campaign aide, toward the end of the 2016 election, suggesting the FBI misled the court.

“They know this is one of the great scandals in the history of our country because basically what they did is, they used Carter Page, who nobody even knew, who I feel very badly for, I think he’s been treated very badly. They used Carter Page as a foil in order to surveil a candidate for the presidency of the United States.” [..] The president spared no words in criticizing Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, lawyer Lisa Page and other FBI officials who started the probe. He recited specific text messages Page and Strzok traded while having an affair and investigating his campaign, arguing the texts showed they condoned leaks and conducted a bogus probe. Those texts are to be released as a result of Trump’s announcement on Monday. “It’s a hoax, beyond a witch hunt,” he said.

Read more …

If only that could be true:“Is it possible that Trump will take the window of opportunity to get out of Syria, and walk back from prior US threats?”

Putin’s deal with Turkey has made US threats empty: civilians and terrorists will be separated. Israel has no reason to bomb anything either.

Trump: Expect Decision On US Role In Syria Soon (ZH)

President Trump indicated that a decision on the future of US policy in Syria is coming soon in remarks made at a press conference with his Polish counterpart. Speaking alongside President Andrzej Duda, Trump said the Monday night downing of a Russian maritime surveillance plane by accidental Syrian friendly fire was “a very sad thing”. Trump’s remarks did not include criticism of Putin, and seemed to signal regret over Monday night’s dramatic escalation over Syria after a massive Israeli attack. Earlier in the day Tuesday, Russia had pointed the finger at Israel for purposefully provoking the mishap, something Israel has since denied in a military statement that ultimately put blame on Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah.

Trump also said that the US fight against ISIS in Syria could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said of the Pentagon mission against ISIS. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.” [..] Only months ago the president expressed a desire “to get out” and pull the over 2,000 publicly acknowledged American military personnel from the country; but the new report said that Trump has approved “an indefinite military and diplomatic effort in Syria”. The report revealed that “the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community.”

But is it possible that Monday’s attack involving missiles flying over the Mediterranean and an “accidental” downing of a Russian plane and 15 dead Russian crew members might have jolted Trump back to his prior position of wanting to withdraw from the Syrian quagmire? [..] Monday’s events also came just after Russian President Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a demilitarized zone in Idlib will be formed by October 15. [..] The Russia-Turkey deal over Idlib has at least temporarily deflated US threats that it could intervene should Syria launch a brutal assault on the province —something the US promised to do especially if chemical weapons are used. Is it possible that Trump will take the window of opportunity to get out of Syria, and walk back from prior US threats?

Read more …

Go sit around a table, all of you, including EU and japan.

China Hits Back At US With $60 Billion Of New Tariffs (G.)

China is to slap tariffs on an additional $60bn of imports from the US in retaliation against $200bn of new trade sanctions on Chinese goods announced by Donald Trump. The latest moves represent a new step towards a full-scale trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Further escalation is deemed likely because Trump is facing low approval ratings ahead of the US midterm elections in November, while China will not want to be seen to back down. Trump announced his latest escalation of the bitter trade standoff late on Monday, promising to introduce the additional border taxes of 10% on Chinese goods from next week.

The tariffs – designed to make US domestic products more competitive against foreign imports – apply to almost 6,000 items, including consumer goods such as luggage and electronics, housewares and food. The US president threatened further tariffs on an additional $276bn of goods if Beijing unveils retaliatory measures – a step that would mean tariffs on all Chinese imports to the US and equate to 4% of world trade. Early on Tuesday he tweeted to accuse China of “actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me”. The US president added: “What China does not understand is that these people are great patriots and fully understand that China has been taking advantage of the United States on trade for many years.

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‘Buying’ a company and loading it up with lousy debt. Business 101.

Just How Wildly Exuberant is the Junk-Credit Market?” (WS)

This is considered a door-opener Leveraged Buyout (LBO): If it flies and investors buy this $13.5 billion pile of deeply junk-rated debt today, even riskier and bigger LBOs may fly. It’s the fourth largest LBO since the Financial Crisis and the ninth largest of all times in the US and Europe: Thomson Reuters Corporation is separating its largest division, the financial information, analysis, and risk businesses, now called “Refinitiv,” to sell a 55% stake to a group of investors led by private equity firm Blackstone Group. This being a “leveraged” buyout, the Blackstone consortium is making the target company, Refinitiv, borrow in total $13.5 billion to fund most of its own buyout. This consist of $9.25 billion in “leveraged loans” and $4.25 billion in secured and unsecured bonds.

Some pieces are denominated in dollars, others in euros. This debt sale is being completed today. The Blackstone Consortium will infuse $3.025 billion in cash equity. Thomson Reuters will retain a 45% stake and will receive a special dividend from Refinitiv of approximately $17 billion, according to Moody’s. And there are some other details involved. Alas, Moody’s gives Refinitiv a corporate credit rating of B3, six steps into junk, considered “highly speculative.” [..] This deal is “reminiscent of the kind of deal I would have seen in 2006 and 2007,” Scott Roberts, head of high-yield investments at Invesco, told the Wall Street Journal. In addition to the large amount of debt being issued, “you have a covenant package that’s extremely weak.”

OK, but weak covenants have become a pandemic. Companies issuing leveraged loans love weak covenants, and creditors will rue the day, but for now everything flies. The share of these so-called “covenant-lite” (“cov-lite”) loans compared to all leveraged loans outstanding keeps setting new records. LCD of S&P Global Market Intelligence reported today that cov-lite loans in August accounted for 78.6% of outstanding leveraged loans, and up from 55% in mid-2014:

Read more …

Globalism hollows out economies. And societies.

Bernie Sanders’ Anti-Amazon Bill Is an Indictment of the Media, Too (Taibbi)

[..] it’s become increasingly clear that [Bernie Sanders] lost patience waiting for the news media to pay attention to this particularly loathsome problem of CEOs using public subsidies to pad their bottom lines. The issue in his campaigns against companies like Disney, Walmart, Burger King and Amazon is simple: our biggest and most successful companies use a business model that involves giant workforces earning beneath-subsistence wages, if not worse (particularly abroad). This business model would not work without the active cooperation of governments around the world.

Amazon and Walmart are particular villains on this score. On the supply end, they gobble up super-cheap products assembled in unfree labor zones like China, where workers are treated so badly that some have threatened mass suicides to improve conditions. Then, on the distribution end, in wealthy consumer countries like the U.S., these same companies pay many workers such low wages that they end up on public assistance. One study showed that in Arizona, for instance, 1 in 3 Amazon workers are on food stamps. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is worth $160 billion, and, according to one infuriating study, earns the median salary of an Amazon employee every nine seconds.

If you go by net worth in stock holdings, Bezos earns about $277 million a day. This set of circumstances is a profound comment on how the modern global economy functions. Misguided policies like the establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China long ago committed us to a world in which the industrial democracies of the West would be increasingly reliant upon human rights abusers in places like China to serve as mercantile suppliers. As manufacturing headed to the third world, domestic distributors became concentrated and de-unionized.

Read more …

They really want peace. Don’t stand in their way.

North And South Korea Sign Joint Agreement In ‘Leap Forward’ For Peace (Ind.)

The North and South Korean leaders presented a joint agreement during their summit in Pyongyang on Wednesday that Kim Jong-un said represented a “leap forward” for peace on the peninsula. At a joint press conference after the signing, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in said North Korea had agreed to “permanently” shut down all of its nuclear and missile testing facilities, in the presence of international experts, as long as the US takes reciprocal measures. The two sides agreed that Mr Kim would visit Seoul, in what would be a first for a North Korean leader. And the two leaders agreed a number of wide-ranging measures designed to increase cooperation and reduce the risk of armed clashes on the border.

Mr Kim said the pair had agreed to turn the Korean peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats”. The US had called for concrete developments regarding denuclearisation during Mr Moon’s three-day visit to Pyongyang, and Donald Trump suggested the joint agreement did not disappoint. “Very exciting!” was his response to the news on Twitter. “Kim Jong-un has agreed to allow nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts. In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing,” Mr Trump said.

Read more …

Trying to paint the picture that if only the EU wanted to, it could give the UK whatever it desires.

Michel Barnier Rebuffs UK Calls For Flexibility On Irish Border (G.)

Michel Barnier has rebuffed British calls for the EU to change its stance on the contested issue of the Irish border, and said a “moment of truth” was fast approaching on a Brexit deal. The EU’s chief negotiator said the bloc was ready “to improve” its proposal on avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, but stopped short of accepting British ideas for compromise, after the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, called on the EU to show flexibility. “The European Council in October will be the moment of truth, it is the moment when we shall see if we have an agreement,” Barnier said. The Irish border has emerged as the biggest stumbling block to the Brexit deal that Theresa May hopes to strike with the EU this autumn.

While the EU and UK have agreed there should be no hard border to prevent any return to violence, they are deadlocked over how to manage what will become a 310-mile frontier between the UK and EU. Both sides have proposed fallback plans, known as backstops, that would kick into place if trade talks fail to settle the question. The EU’s involves Northern Ireland following EU law on customs and goods, a plan May has said no British prime minister could ever accept. Barnier said the EU was working to improve its proposal, adding that the problem had been caused by “the UK’s decision to leave the EU, its single market and the customs union”. Seeking to counter British criticism that the EU plan eroded UK sovereignty, he said: “What we talking about here is not a land border, not a sea border, it is a set of technical checks and controls. We respect the territorial integrity of the UK and we respect the constitutional order of the UK.”

Read more …

I include this to show how the Guardian shapes the discussion. After running over 100 headlines aimed at connecting Corbyn and anti-semitism in less than a year, they seamlessly move into internal divisions in Labour. All of this stuff comes from the Blairite neo-liberal side of the party.

Keir Starmer Clashed With Corbyn On Brexit ‘To Brink Of Resignation’ (G.)

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, was pushed to the brink of resignation early this year after Jeremy Corbyn and his allies tried to kick his customs union plan into the long grass, senior Labour sources have told the Guardian. Labour’s Brexit policy has evolved over the past 18 months through a series of painstaking negotiations between key players at the top of the party, the most fraught of which came at a stormy meeting of the “Brexit subcommittee” early this year. Corbyn’s close allies ambushed Starmer with a paper which shelved the decision on joining a customs union, a policy he had been pushing privately for weeks.

Several people present at the meeting told the Guardian the general feeling in the room was that Starmer was willing to resign rather than accept the proposals, numbered copies of which were handed out at the start of the meeting and retrieved at the end. “He looked close to telling them to shove it – and I think that did count for something,” said one MP present. “I think Jeremy was slightly surprised at how angry Keir was, and how pissed off he was.” Another witness to the confrontation said: “Jeremy started speaking, and Keir just said, enough, this was just completely outrageous. He did lose his temper. I think they were genuinely shocked at his reaction. They tried to bounce him and it completely backfired.”

Read more …

The ultimate plan all along in some circles.

Rightwing Thinktanks Unveil Radical Plan For US-UK Brexit Trade Deal (G.)

A radical blueprint for a free trade deal between the UK and the US that would see the NHS opened to foreign competition, a bonfire of consumer and environmental regulations and freedom of movement between the two countries for workers, is to be launched by prominent Brexiters. The blueprint will be seen as significant because of the close links between the organisations behind it and the UK secretary for international trade, Liam Fox, and the US president, Donald Trump. Its publication follows a week of policy launches by the European Research Group of Conservative MPs designed to pressurise the prime minister into “chucking Chequers”, her softer Brexit proposal, in favour of a harder, clean break from the European Union.

The text of the new trade deal has been prepared by the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) – a thinktank founded by the longtime Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan, one of the leaders of Vote Leave – and the Cato Institute, a rightwing libertarian thinktank in the US founded and funded by the fossil fuel magnates and major political donors the Koch family. The “ideal UK-US free trade deal” was due to be launched later on Tuesday in both London and Washington but the Cato Institute appears to have accidentally posted it online early. The policy initiative was shaped in consultation with a group of other conservative libertarian thinktanks on both sides of the Atlantic, the blueprint explains. These include UK organisations whose funding is opaque, such as the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Adam Smith Institute among others in the UK, and others in the US including the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Read more …

“In the US, the number 420 is associated with April 20, when annual marijuana celebrations take place.”

Tesla To Be Investigated By US DOJ Over Elon Musk Tweets (Ind.)

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation looking at whether Tesla CEO Elon Musk broke the law by musing on Twitter about taking the company private. The firm was contacted by the Department of Justice after Mr Musk made the comments on Twitter last month in a tweet that spurred theories the tech CEO was trying to communicate he was smoking marijuana because he suggested he would take his company private once shares had reached $420 a share. In the US, the number 420 is associated with April 20, when annual marijuana celebrations take place.

“Last month, following Elon’s announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,” a Tesla spokesperson told The Independent in an emailed statement. The spokesperson continued: “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process. We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received.”

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They have limitless legal budgets.

Monsanto Asks US Court To Toss $289 Million Glyphosate Verdict (R.)

Bayer unit Monsanto on Tuesday asked a California judge to throw out a $289 million jury verdict awarded to a man who alleged the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers, including Roundup, gave him cancer. The company said in motions filed in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California that the jury’s decision was insufficiently supported by the evidence presented at trial by school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson. Johnson’s case, filed in 2016, was fast-tracked for trial due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, that he alleged was caused by years of exposure to Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto herbicide that contains glyphosate.

Monsanto asked Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos, who oversaw the trial, to set aside the verdict or, in the alternative, reduce the award or grant a new trial. A hearing on the motions is set for Oct. 10. The company, which denies the allegations, has previously said it would appeal the verdict if necessary. Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial over allegations that glyphosate causes cancer. Monsanto is facing some 8,000 similar lawsuits across the United States. Shares in Bayer, which bought Monsanto this year for $63 billion, slid following the Aug. 10 jury decision and the stock was still trading some 20 percent below its pre-verdict value of 73.30 euros ($85.45) on Tuesday.

“The jury’s decision is wholly at odds with over 40 years of real-world use, an extensive body of scientific data and analysis … which support the conclusion that glyphosate-based herbicides are safe for use and do not cause cancer in humans,” Bayer said in a statement on Tuesday. Bayer said Johnson failed to prove glyphosate caused his cancer and the scientific evidence he presented at trial “fell well below the causation standard required under California law.”

Read more …

Oct 292017
 
 October 29, 2017  Posted by at 2:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dalí The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus 1959

 

Let’s get one thing straight: Donald Trump is as American as apple pie (even if both are imports). He’s brash and loud and abrasive and entirely focused on money, he’s given to exaggeration, he stretches the truth, he constantly seeks to appear bigger and richer than he really is; he ticks all the boxes of what it is to be American.

Trump’s role in US society is that he’s a mirror for America, he’s not just holding up a mirror, he is the mirror. But many Americans don’t like what they see reflected in him. They’re really just looking at themselves, and their society, but they don’t want to acknowledge that. They just want to get away from the mirror, or preferably, break it. But when someone holds up a mirror to you, the idea is for you to learn something, not break it.

Of course not every individual American fits the picture, but he’s very much the almost perfect reflection of what the country, the society, has become. And one point in which Trump is different from other ‘leaders’ is that he doesn’t try to look different from what he is, he doesn’t play a role like just about every other politician does.

He has that in common with Bernie Sanders, which is ironic given how different the two men are. Neither tries to, or even has the ability to, concoct a cool and calculated attempt at pleasing their viewers and listeners and voters at every twist and turn. With both Bernie and the Donald what you see is what you get.

That they appeal to different groups of people is obvious. As is the fact that Sanders is much less of an (arche)typical American than Trump is. Which means he has to work harder to get his points across. Sanders appeals to a part of America that people have largely forgotten.

Another thing that is true for both is that they are candidates for parties that are deeply broken, and inside a system that has no tolerance for other parties. Which makes you wonder whether it’s not the system itself that is broken. Where Hillary Clinton’s people managed to shove aside Sanders in the Democratic primaries, Trump’s Republican party had no such ‘luck’. Trump’s too all-American.

Of course the next issue must be that neither truly represent either party. They’re both ‘outsiders’ who’ve taken over existing -but failing- structures. Where this leads is unclear. Trump is busy ‘sanitizing’ the GOP, aka draining the swamp’, a process that may or may not cost him his job, and the Democrats would do well to undertake a similar spring cleaning. But the incumbent squids have their tentacles everywhere. Then again, that didn’t stop Trump. So far.

 

Then we get to the litany in investigations that are being conducted. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has apparently laid the first charges in the Russia collusion investigation. Of course, like every single move in the case, this one too has to be as confusing and murky as possible. The indictment was sealed by a judge, and subsequently leaked to the press. Which is probably highly illegal.

We have no idea who’s going to be indicted, it will all be revealed on Monday. Or not. If Mueller’s team has confined itself to investigating whether the Trump campaign has colluded with the Russians, there wouldn’t seem to be too much at hand. But Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller to pursue “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”, so the net is cast so broadly it sounds like anything goes.

They may go after Paul Manafort, known for his involvement with people in Russia and the Ukraine. Whether that included anything illegal is unclear. That it would have amounted to outright collusion by the Trump campaign is highly unlikely. Manafort has been gone from the Trump entourage since August 2016.

But there are so many people involved in the campaign, who knows? If you have a former FBI head hiring lawyers and researchers left and right for six months without any constraints, budgetary or otherwise, it would be baffling if they found nothing at all. Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner?

 

What’s more interesting to come out of this circus is the picture of Washington -all of it- as an absolute cesspool and shithole. That these are the people, on either side of the aisle, that get to make the decisions is so worrisome it should make people think of leaving the country.

You have a conservative group led by the Free Beacon, funded by hedge-funder Paul Singer, that starts an ‘opposition research’ project to dig up dirt on Trump during the primaries. When that fails to halt Trump, the DNC and Clinton campaign take over the funding and expand it to include Washington dirt digger firm Fusion GPS, who in turn hire Christopher Steele to produce a very dubious dossier. Fusion GPS execs all took the fifth when asked.

Somewhere along the way the FBI got involved too. That means James Comey and Robert Mueller. Who has such a ‘great reputation’ for being impartial. What a swamp it is. The echo chambers on both sides know exactly, and in advance, who’s to blame. But anyone who finds those chambers too deafening must be awfully confused and conflicted by now. Who to believe?

The Russia collusion thing has been going on for a long time, first in the press, then on Capitol Hill, in the FBI and then the Special Counsel. During the process, both the same FBI and the Hillary camp, including the DNC have been exposed as having ties to Russian elements.

No proof has been presented of Putin supporting Trump through illegal channels. Will Mueller’s indictment(s) be the turning point? If Mueller doesn’t deliver clear and strong, if he doesn’t have something and someone too obvious to dispute, the whole scene may get a lot more hostile.

 

Over the past week, we’ve witnessed the exits stage left of Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, in sometimes dramatic fashion decrying anything Trump. Who simply reacts by saying neither would have been re-elected anyway (about Corker: “he couldn’t get elected dog-catcher in Tennessee”).

Essentially, what these guys do is try and play Trump’s game. But he’s much better at it than they are. The game has changed profoundly, and they missed out on that. Which is the number one reason why Trump got elected president, and none of the ‘old guard’ did. Well, that and all GOP candidates in the primary debates looked completely lost.

A description from the Guardian:

Battle Hymns of the Republicans: Trump Civil War is Just Getting Started

“It is time for our complicity and our accommodation for the unacceptable to end,” Flake said, in explosive remarks that were instantly labeled as a historic act of defiance. “There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.” The senator delivered a 17-minute speech, framing the moment as an existential crisis for the party, taking direct aim at Trump’s conduct and what his presidency symbolized in a lacerating critique. It was an extraordinary event that would have otherwise been regarded as a major breach of decorum. But this is Washington in 2017. The norms have already been broken.

A handful of Flake’s colleagues sat stony-faced in the chamber as he implored Republicans not to acquiesce on core principles in the pursuit of appeasing Trump’s angry nationalist base. “We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal,” he said. Flake went on, thrusting the knife even further into Trump, though avoiding naming him: “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”

Among those who bore witness to Flake’s remarks was John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona who just a week previously blasted “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in a coded attack on so-called “Trumpism”. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, looked on stoically. As the speech reached its conclusion, one senator applauded: Ben Sasse, a young Republican from Nebraska who, like Flake, declined to endorse Trump in the 2016 election. Many of the Senate’s 52 Republicans were nowhere to be found.

They had just left a closed-door lunch with the president, dining over chicken marsala, green beans and Trump’s favorite, meatloaf, before a major push to overhaul the tax code. Much of the meeting featured Trump – characteristically – singing his own praises, according to some attendees. There was general discussion of taxes, but few specifics from a president who takes little interest in the policy details. It was nonetheless a cordial meeting, by Trump’s standards, embodied by the takeaway quote of John Kennedy, of Louisiana: “Nobody called anyone an ignorant slut.”

Many anti-Trump voices now speculate that he will try to fire Robert Mueller. Given how close the longtime FBI chief is to many of the parties involved, that might not be that crazy, but it would be explosive. He could also recuse himself on exactly those grounds. He won’t.

Then again, if he stays on, he will have to broaden his investigation to include the Clintons, the DNC and possibly the FBI itself. From the New York Post, and yes, I know what they are, but if I quote one article each from both sides of the echo chamber, maybe I find some balance:

Robert Mueller Should Resign

Their claim that nobody in the campaign or the DNC knew anything about the deal doesn’t pass the smell test. When as much as $12 million goes out the window for a document that aimed to win the election — and failed — everybody knows something. While the link to Clinton answers some questions, it raises others. For example, while it is certain her campaign spread the dossier among the media last summer, it remains uncertain whether the dossier was used by the White House and the FBI to justify snooping on the Trump campaign. One hint that it was is that Comey, while still in office, called the document “salacious and unverified,” but briefed Obama and President-elect Trump on its contents last January.

[..] the FBI never denied reports that it almost hired Steele, the former British spy, to continue his work after the campaign. The mystery might soon be solved because the FBI, after months of stonewalling, agreed last week to tell Congress how it used the dossier and detail its contacts with Steele. If the bureau did use the dossier to seek FISA warrants to intercept communications involving the Trump campaign, it would mean the FBI used a dirty trick from the candidate of the party in power as an excuse to investigate the candidate from the opposition party. Somewhere, Richard Nixon is wondering why he didn’t think of that.

There is also the issue of the “unmasking” of Trump associates caught up in the snooping, with the names leaked to anti-Trump media. It is essential to investigate that angle, but it would lead right to the Obama White House, which is why Mueller is not the man for the job. As for Clinton, the dossier revelation was not her only new problem. In fact, the second blow might be the most serious yet. At the urging of Congress and Trump, the Justice Department lifted its gag order on an informant who can now testify to Congress about bribery and other wrongdoing surrounding Moscow’s gaining control of 20% of US uranium production.

The 2010 transaction was approved by Obama officials, including Clinton, then secretary of state. About the same time, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a speech to a Russian bank involved in the transaction. Later, tens of millions of dollars — $145 million by one estimate — were said to be donated to the Clinton Foundation by individuals having a stake in the deal. The informant’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told Fox News the speech fee and the donations amount to a “quid pro quo” for Hillary Clinton’s help. “My client can put some meat on those bones and tell you what the Russians were saying during that time,” Toensing said.

Is it a disgrace that Trump is president? Perhaps it is. Ideally, the country should do much better. But he didn’t get America into the troubled situation it’s in. He is not the rot in the system, he just lays it bare. He simply came along at the appropriate moment to expose what the country has become, and to what extent its political system has devolved into a veritable swamp of special interests and incumbent squids.

And Trump hasn’t won a thing yet. Don’t be surprised if the whole sordid Harvey Weinstein tale is used, if not set up from the start, to go after the Donald. In a cynical link to that, George H.W. Bush has been accused of groping women, at the same time his role in the JFK assassination was questioned. He was the only American who didn’t remember where he was when the murder took place. Turns out, the CIA operative happened to be in Dallas.

Interestingly, Trump will fly to Asia on November 3. By then we should know who Mueller has indicted. Will Trump even be allowed to return? It would be better for America if he is, because there are a lot of lessons left to be learned.