From NATO Antics to a Pelosi Rebuff: Highlights of This Week

As of this post, only 332 days remain until the 2020 Election. Almost certainly, the days and weeks leading up to it will be filled with eyebrow-raisers that far overshadow the fundraisers. Here are just a few of the events that happened this week.

On Monday, in retaliation against France’s new digital services tax, the Trump Administration announced a proposal to levy tariffs on up to $2.4 billion worth of French imports. The French tax is aimed at preventing tech giants from avoiding taxes when they place their headquarters in low-tax countries in Europe. It would impact companies whose yearly global sales exceed 750 million Euros ($830 million) and French earnings over 25 million Euros. Such American companies as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, would be affected, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative called it “discrimination” against American companies.

Trump also attended the NATO summit this week, and what stands out most, at least for Tuesday, is not the official discussions or negotiations, but an informal chat. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught on video mocking Trump in an exchange with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Later, during a press conference, Trudeau didn’t comment directly on whether he had mocked Trump, but tried to explain that he had been making a reference to the fact that “there was an unscheduled press conference (for Trump)” before his meeting with Trump.

Trump responded to Trudeau’s remarks about him with, “Well, he’s two faced.”

Also on Tuesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris announced that she was ending her campaign for the 2020 election.

“I’m not a billionaire,” Harris said, explaining her decision to withdraw. “I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it has become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete. In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do.”

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held an 8 1/2-hour public hearing featuring three legal scholars and one Constitutional expert, each of whom provided testimony as to whether Trump committed bribery and other impeachable offenses by allegedly conditioning military aid to Ukraine, as well as a White House visit, on a public announcement by Ukraine’s new President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of investigations into Trump’s political rivals.

The three legal scholars, Stanford University professor Pamela S. Karlan, Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, and University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt, all chosen by Democrats, testified that, yes, Trump had committed impeachable offenses, and that he had obstructed Congress.

Constitutional expert Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University professor called by the GOP (though he noted that he had not voted for Trump), disagreed, saying that if impeachment were to take place in this case, it “would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.”

Gerhard, however, testified, “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that House committee chairs will begin drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump.

“The president’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution, especially when he says and acts upon the belief, Article II says I can do whatever I want. No, his wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution, a separation of powers, three co-equal branches, each a check and balance on the other,” said Pelosi.

Many believe that impeachment is almost certain, though a vote to remove Trump from office is unlikely in the Republican-led Senate.

Republicans hold that Democrats want to impeach Trump simply because they “hate” him. When asked by a journalist if she hated Trump, Nancy Pelosi responded, “As a Catholic I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me … So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

Trump calls Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” after NATO hot mic gaffe | CBS News [2019-12-04]

Rep. Biggs pushes back on Pelosi’s impeachment announcement |
Fox News [2019-12-05]

Mr. Trump Goes to Europe…and Disgraces the U.S.

Donald Trump spent his recent trip to Europe lobbing insults, make-believe “facts,” and worrisome statements that even some of the usual Trump supporters have called a disgrace. We can only hope that “disgrace” adequately describes the damage that has likely been done by Trump’s behavior abroad.

As if Monday’s meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin (and the press conference that followed) wouldn’t have been troubling enough for the United States, before that meeting even took place, a few other Trumpian nuggets disgraced the United States this week:

The Disgrace of the NATO conference

Trump started off his trip by insulting U.S. allies at the NATO conference in Brussels. Grossly exaggerating the amount of energy Russia provides Germany, Trump proclaimed that Germany is “totally controlled by Russia.” In reality, natural gas is the only energy resource Germany receives from Russia, and it comprises just 20 percent of Germany’s total sources of energy.

Demonstrating his lack of knowledge about current NATO agreements, Trump pressured nations to increase their defense spending to 4 percent of their GDP, claiming that this was in accordance with a 2014 formal agreement. President Emmanuel Macron of France confirmed that according to the  agreement, the goal for each country was 2 percent of its GDP to defense spending by 2014, not 4 percent. Again citing false figures, Trump inflated the actual U.S. contribution, as well.

In a press conference, spouting wildly inaccurate dollar figures, Trump claimed “The United States has been paying a tremendous amount, probably 90 percent of the cost of NATO.” Though Trump later amended the figure to 70 percent, he was still grossly exaggerating. The United States pays more than its share, but our payment is only 22 percent of the NATO common fund – not 90 or even 70 percent.

Trump’s disgraceful visit to the UK

Donald Trump began his visit to the UK greeted by throngs of protestors. Even so, he remarked that the British “like me a lot.”

While in Britain (one of our closest allies), Trump gave an interview with The Sun, a British tabloid, in which he criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May for, among other things, how she is handling Brexit. Though the audio recording of the interview with Trump’s disparaging remarks was broadcast globally, Trump denied making the remarks.

May reported to the BBC that Trump suggested that she should sue the EU rather than negotiating with them. At another point in his trip, Trump described the EU as a trade foe of the United States, singling out Germany as an example.

Trump also openly criticized London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, saying he’s “doing a terrible job,” and blaming Khan for the terrorist attacks on London. He went on to proclaim that immigration is “damaging the fabric of Europe.” One has to wonder if Khan’s ethnicity has anything to do with Trump’s comments.

The president ended his trip to the U.K. by visiting the Queen. Photographs show Trump, during the Inspection of the Guard at Windsor Castle, awkwardly walking around and in front of the Queen, appearing to be unaware of the disrespect he was showing someone who is not only a queen, but a 92-year-old woman.

Donald Trump, United States President, doesn’t appear to have a clue about decorum, diplomacy, or, for that matter, how to tell the truth. It would be entertaining, perhaps, if it were just a reality TV host we were assigning those buffoonish qualities to. But buffoonery doesn’t play well in the company of statesmen doing their work. As some Americans continue to put spin after spin on his words and actions, the disgrace of Donald Trump continues to accelerate globally.

Trump’s UK visit ends in controversy ahead of Putin meeting | Channel 4 News [2018-07-15]

London Mayor Sadiq Khan responds to Trump | CNN [2018-07-13]