What a roller coaster of a week for President Trump. It starts with his saving the world from nuclear conflict in the Korean peninsula but ends with the heat of the Mueller Inquiry being turned up significantly on two of his ex colleagues.
The media coverage of the Trump – Kim summit was surely the triumph of wishful thinking over common sense. It would be foolish to expect this event to get the level of coverage its potential impact deserves. It was always going to be a media fest with the President of the economically strongest country on the planet meeting the leader of one of the economically weakest. However, the spectacle seemed to dazzle commentators into suggesting, albeit guardedly, that this was some kind of step forward.
Whilst it can be nothing but a relief that the views of John Bolton, the national security advisor, for whom the term hawkish sounds wimpish, seemed to be ignored. It must, however, be a concern that the man at the centre of the negotiations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s best effort was a plain vanilla statement about the two sides commitment to motherhood and apple pie.
It would be interesting to know what Mr Pompeo thought when he heard his boss had carefully negotiated a cessation of war games in South Korea in exchange for … nothing. He really is some kind of deal maker. His defence of the cessation on money saving grounds, as well as being beside the point, betrayed all the sophisticated insight that is the hall mark of the man. Talking of the planes that participate in the games from the Guam air base he said “That’s a long time for these big massive planes to be flying to South Korea to practice and then drop bombs all over the place and then go back to Guam,… I know a lot about airplanes. It’s very expensive.” Priceless, but scary.
In essence the summit involved two people who think truth is whatever was the last thing to come out of their mouths, meeting, getting photographed a lot and signing a document where the words detracted from the communicative force of a blank sheet of paper.
So that was the successful part of the week for President Trump. The close of the week has been much more threatening. First comes news that Mike Cohen, Trumps long time personal lawyer, is looking for a new legal team. This is important as it may be an indication he is about to flip to become a co-operating witness for the Mueller Inquiry.
Following raids on Cohens home and office an enormous cache of documents was seized. In an attempt to prevent Mr Mueller seeing the documents Mr Cohen claimed the documents were subject to legal privilege. After a review of the thousands of items of evidence by independent legal experts the courts seem to have recognised the protection of privilege for a tiny fraction of them. Those not protected are due to go to the Special Counsel’s office today. This might help Mr Cohen’s decision to turn against the boss that has already disowned him.
Probably the greatest increase in heat has been applied to Paul Manafort. Mr Manafort was briefly candidate Trump’s campaign chairman. A man with a colourful history of working in the Ukraine to support its former leader Viktor Yanukovych. That was before Mr Yanukovych fled to Russia following the 2014 Ukranian Revolution. Mr Manafort also has links to Russian oligarchs including Oleg Deripaska who is now suing Mr Manafort for monies he claims disappeared in one of their join tbusiness ventures.
Mr Manafort was subject to a dawn raid on his home and offices and subsequently indicted for money laundering and other offences. He was subject to house arrest and had to wear an ankle bracelet tracking device. He pleaded innocent to all the charges and has so far given no indication of flipping to become a co-operating witness. Today he has gone to jail as a judge found him guilty of witness tampering. Again this might start to focus his mind on how loyal he wants to remain to President Trump. He might think a pardon is coming his way although there is no sign of it yet and of course that might increase the President’s personal legal jeopardy in relation to obstruction of justice.
It may of course be that these men have nothing to tell the Special Prosecutor about President Trump. You would certainly think this was the case given the way President Trump has disowned them. On the other hand the President’s redeeming feature is he is stupid.
One suspects that stress levels in the Trump camp will increase significantly over the weekend. Expect some lashing out next week and further attacks on the FBI, the Attorney General, the Justice Department and most of all the Special Prosecutor.
A weeks a long time in politics!