One of the most specific accusations in Christopher Steele’s dossier on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia was that Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen had made a trip to Prague in August or September 2016 to meet several high-level Russians connected to the Kremlin. They discussed Russian assistance to the Trump campaign.
Cohen flatly denied this in a tweet:
No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague.
Now McClatchy reporters say that the Mueller inquiry has evidence Cohen was lying and did in fact travel to Prague at that time. They don’t say they have evidence he met any Russians. But why should Cohen have lied about the trip if he didn’t? Points to Steele. Cohen may be engaging in literal truth-telling, if the meeting was held at a country hotel like this one. That won’t help him.
If Mueller has information about the meeting, it is probably reliable. It doesn’t seem likely that the Czech intelligence services would fail to keep tabs on visiting Russian spooks and politicians. It would be characteristic of the Trumpistas to underrate the competence of mere Slavs. Reinhard Heydrich did too, and in May 1942 the Czech government in exile in London ordered him killed – knowing very well that savage reprisals were likely. But the Germanisation programme stalled under Heydrich’s successor Ernst Kaltenbrunner, a man just as evil, but without Heydrich’s charisma and drive, and distracted by his main job as head of the secret police.
The claim also helps to make more sense of the apparent overkill of the search warrants on Cohen’s office, home and hotel room, which had to be approved by officials at a very high level in the DOJ. He may well have committed crimes against US election law in the botched payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, but that’s a garden-variety story. Conspiring with the Kremlin to rig an American election is on a different level, and justifies the risk of going after the personal lawyer of the US President. The point holds even if the Prague meeting was outside the scope of the warrants and the offloaded investigation.
Prague is very nice place to visit, even if you only have a day or so. It was undamaged in WWII, and gives an idea what other central European cities – Dresden, Lübeck, Nuremberg, Vienna, Budapest – must have looked like before they came under the loving attentions of RAF Bomber Command, the USAAF, or the artillery of the Red Army. All I know about sub rosa tradecraft is from John le Carré, but if it had been me, I’d have combined business with pleasure, and “accidentally” bumped into the Russians in a beer cellar.
Even in a day trip just walking around the centre, you come across a startling statue outside the opera house, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni premiered in October 1787. Side view of the Commendatore:
The front view is pure Tolkien:
Harold Pollack predicted here that Trump’s political career will end in disgrace. We were both wrong about the election, but I still think he was right about the destination. I can’t guess either what form disgrace will take. However, the Commendatore reminds us that the height of Trump’s fall is not bounded by that of Richard Nixon. Nixon was forced to resign in shame, but after Ford’s pardon was left alone in a dignified retirement. There are circles of disgrace much lower than this. The bottom is represented by the deaths of Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci near Milan in May 1945. They were shot by partisans without trial, and their bodies hung upside-down in a square in Milan for the crowd to spit and jeer at. Trump won’t face this. But his possible futures do include death in prison, followed by a semi-secret funeral that hardly anyone outside his immediate family will attend.
I doubt there will be a Trump presidential library.
Two reading recommendations for understanding Britain’s decision to leave the EU and what the future of the EU looks like sans Britain.
On the former topic, I am bit late to it as the revised and updated edition of Tim Shipman’s All Out War came out last year, but it’s an astounding feat of political journalism. He clearly had Bob Woodward-level access to all the key players in the Leave and Remain camps and he weaves together their experiences and observations brilliantly in an exhaustive (600+ pages) but never boring book. I may have found it slightly more intriguing than the average reader because I know personally some of the politicians concerned, but anyone interested in politics should find All Out War compulsively readable. Shipman captures the strategies and tactics of each side as well as the human side of the key political players. He also highlights the freakish little things (e.g., a slightly mis-typed address in an email) on which hotly contested, nail-biting political campaigns can turn. And to his credit, it’s very hard to divine what side Shipman was on personally because he works so hard to give both sides their due. For what little it may be worth coming from a D-List blogger at Washington Post, my hat is off to Shipman as a truly remarkable journalist.
On the latter topic, I recommend a new essay by Hans Kundnani, who has forgotten more about European politics than most people will ever know (definitely including me). His point of departure is the European Commission’s recent proposals for greater financial integration within the Eurozone:
…there are two quite different ways of thinking about the Commission’s proposals. For Macron, they were part of a vision for a “Europe qui protege” in which there would be greater “solidarity” between citizens and member states. In the context of this vision, the new European Monetary Fund would be a kind of embryonic treasury for the eurozone. But many in Germany, including Wolfgang Schäuble, seem to support the same idea for entirely different reasons. They see it as a way to increase control over EU member states’ budgets and more strictly enforce the eurozone’s fiscal rules and thus increase European “competitiveness”. If that vision were to prevail, “more Europe” would mean “more Germany” – as many of the steps that have been taken in the last seven years since the euro crisis began have.
You can read Hans’ full analysis here.
My own view is that without Britain, the EU might as well rename itself “Germany and its regional branch offices”. Some French analysts would object to my characterization, having long seen their country as Germany’s peer or even master in the EU (“France riding a German horse”). But I find that perspective rather arrogant and delusional. The golden rule of politics is that he who has the gold makes the rules. Germany’s unemployment rate is 3.5%, France is excited to have recently gotten unemployment down to 8.9% for the first time in 9 years (And French unemployment hasn’t been down to the level of Germany or Britain since dinosaurs walked the earth). France also has huge and growing deficits whereas Germany is flush. The horse in short can throw the would-be rider and trample him (as well as the even smaller and poorer other Eurozone members) under its mighty hooves any time it pleases.
Trump administration abandons crackdown on legal marijuana. Trump and Gardner strike deal on legalized marijuana ending nomination standoff. Trump to support major marijuana legislation. John Boehner just came out for marijuana reform.
Cuomo lays groundwork for legalizing New York marijuana. Cuomo and de Blasio just say no to New York recreational marijuana. Cynthia Nixon puts legalizing marijuana front and center of New York campaign. Jersey City marijuana plan.
California not meeting revenue projections for commercial cannabis, analyst says. California slow to accept Prop. 64. Challenges mount to growing legal marijuana outdoors in Sonoma Co. California. Colorado restaurant workers most likely to use legal weed. Deschutes Co. Oregon wants to increase marijuana enforcement.
Utah officials concerned about marijuana shop 3 miles from border.
We held a University of Chicago event tonight for the GPHAP program. Some pictures were taken from the fifth floor of our Gleacher Center.
I was watching a 2008 BBC documentary about the role of Leader of the Opposition, which focused on how different politicians had performed in the role through history, going back to Churchill’s time between his shock 1945 defeat and his return to power in 1950. And then something dawned on me: I couldn’t remember the last time someone had lost the role of UK Prime Minister and stayed on as Leader of the Opposition. It took me almost 10 minutes of thinking followed by paging through a history book to figure it out.
Can you name who it was? (Answer after the jump)
John Kasich was elected governor in Ohio in 2010 as a strong Tea Party advocate. One of his first legislative campaigns in 2011 (Senate Bill 5) was to restrict collective bargaining for public employees: police, firefighters, and teachers. After it passed the hue and cry was huge: before the year was out a referendum put its repeal on the ballot, where it was soundly rejected – and since then Kasich has been a more moderate governor.
From 2002 to 2012 I spent a lot of time in Columbus, Ohio, and played handball at an athletic club there, with mostly Republican members. One of the regulars there was a retired state policeman who was on Kasich’s security detail. I remember him saying to us, “We told him, don’t go after the police and fire, just the teachers,” because he assumed that it would be an easy win to focus on a mostly female profession.
This is no longer the case. The strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, coupled with the Parkland students’ activism, make me think about how social media has changed the way people organize – and that unions may be strengthened (or even superseded) by social networking, Facebook, and tweets. When a union calls a strike, it’s often a top-down decision. True, the leadership polls its membership to make that decision, but then it issues a proclamation. With social media involved in strikes it’s based on networking, which to my mind is a much more powerful way to rally support.
An additional note: it seems to be going worldwide. Today’s NY Times has articles about the Dalit (formerly “untouchables”) in India and physicians in Togo using social media to push for change. While we may deplore its use by Cambridge Analytica to promote lies and influence elections, it can also be used to foster positive change.
Cary Coglianese and Nancy Nord of the University of Pennsylvania Law School organized a panel called “The Cannabis Conundrum: An Experiment in Federalism or States’ Rights Run Amuck?” with Peter Conti-Brown of Wharton talking about banking regulation and Judge James Colins of the Commonwealth Court talking about a case brought against the Commonwealth by some unsuccessful applicants for growing and distribution licenses under Pennsylvania’s new medical-marijuana program. I’m on (from about 9:45 to about 26:45, aka “too long”) talking about how the states are screwing up legalization and only federal legalization can unscrew it.