Trump’s Second-Worst Day
- What does the U.S. do about a president who has been implicated in a crime?
- A guilty verdict gives Trump’s former campaign chairman reasons to “break.” And it won’t help the president’s popularity, either.
- Loyalty is having the worst week ever.
- OPEC is forced to manage with lower income from oil exports.
- India’s prime minister has his priorities wrong.
So, How Was Your Day?
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- U.S. President Donald Trump sounded like a dissatisfied customer scribbling on Yelp. “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” the president tweeted Wednesday about his longtime personal attorney and, as of this week, a person who pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions, and said he did so at Trump’s direction.
Maybe the president is unhappy with his legal representation because, Noah Feldman writes, Cohen’s plea makes Trump criminally liable as an accomplice for giving an order to break the law. It’s an unprecedented moment in U.S. history, and it’s still unclear what happens now. Noah notes that U.S. Department of Justice guidelines don’t allow for presidents to be criminally charged while in office. The best scenario for Trump is if the crime is seen as technical.
Noah writes that the ball is in the court of Congress, which now faces a tricky call on how to read the “high crimes and misdemeanors” portion of the Constitution — a.k.a., the part dealing with presidential impeachment. And, Noah says, this is a moment of reflection for elected representatives and the U.S. electorate: “Can the country tolerate having a president who has been directly implicated in violating the law?”
Cohen for years was Trump’s fiercest protector, and claimed he would take a bullet for the man. That makes it all the more striking for Cohen to blame Trump for telling him to commit a crime. “The gap between then and now for Cohen can only be accounted for by the recognition that loyalty runs one way on every street in Trumplandia,” Tim O’Brien writes. Other figures in Trump’s orbit, including White House Counsel Don McGahn, also have woken up the limits of loyalty when it comes to this “disloyalist-in-chief,” Tim says.
There was also another former Trump associate who appeared in court, this time to be declared guilty of tax fraud and other crimes. The charges against Paul Manafort, the onetime campaign chairman for Trump, aren’t directly connected to the president. And he commended Manafort on Twitter for refusing to “break” under legal scrutiny.
But Trump isn’t off the hook. It’s damning that Trump either didn’t know or didn’t care that Manafort — and Trump’s first national security adviser, who has pleaded guilty to fraud — had deeply compromising ties to foreign nations, Jonathan Bernstein writes. Trump’s litany of scandals is having an impact. Jonathan notes that Trump’s disapproval ratings are the worst for this point in a U.S. presidency.
Manafort’s conviction also makes him more motivated to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, in exchange for a shorter prison term, Noah Feldman writes. (That might be called “breaking,” under the president’s definition.) Noah says that Manafort — who had closer ties to Russia than all the other Trump campaign participants — may be able to connect the dots between the campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A presidential pardon for Manafort may not shield Trump, either.
Bonus Reading: Bloomberg’s editors say the Cohen and Manafort dramas show that the U.S. system of checks and balances is mostly holding up in the face of Trump’s efforts to derail these investigations.
It’s Tough to Plug Holes in the Oil Barrel
The OPEC cartel of oil-producing nations is raking in more cash, which paradoxically highlights OPEC members’ perilous position, writes Liam Denning. OPEC revenue rose 26 percent last year, according to the latest U.S. assessment of OPEC’s exports, but that worked out to the roughly the same revenue per-capita as OPEC generated in 2004. That’s not enough to satisfy the needs of growing populations in countries such as Nigeria and Venezuela.
The figures help explain why the cartel’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, has been trying to wean its economy from its reliance on oil income. But Liam writes that the Saudis may not be able to thread the needle between increasing oil prices just enough to stimulate more revenue but not so much as to crimp oil demand or provoke complaints from partners such as the U.S. Read the whole piece here.
It’s Never Infrastructure Week
A recent theme in these parts is governments’ failures to invest in roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure, and the potentially heart-breaking consequences of those choices. Anjani Trivedi writes that the deadly flooding in India’s southern state of Kerala shows how that country’s government has been diverting spending to farm subsidies and other priorities that win votes, and neglecting flood management and control. The consequences in Kerala: hundreds of deaths, hundreds of thousands of people left homeless and billions of dollars in losses to banks.
Xiaomi Corp. can’t escape the reality that the non-smartphone parts of the company aren’t working, Tim Culpan writes.
Target Corp. was the latest U.S. retail chain to report strong sales. Sarah Halzack says Target is benefiting from Americans’ willingness to spend, and its own savvy strategies.
The fast-growing leveraged loan market isn’t pricing in a heap of risks, Brian Chappatta writes.
The U.K. has a range of mostly terrible paths to Brexit. – Therese Raphael
Strapped Pakistan is stuck between the IMF and China. – Mihir Sharma
The Federal Reserve is overly concerned about inflation. – Jim Bianco and Ben Breitholtz
U.S.-style suburbs can help China increase its birthrate. – Conor Sen
A generational transfer of power in the Middle East may bring the political transformation that has been elusive. – Bobby Ghosh
Car-parts suppliers should benefit from the shift to autonomous electric vehicles. This one isn’t doing so well. – Chris Bryant
MTV is urging young people to guilt their friends into registering to vote. Clap emoji, ballot box emoji, thumbs up emoji.
He thought it was just an art installation. He fell into an eight-foot hole in the floor.
Your saliva may help you to enjoy those bitter greens your mother urged you to eat.
Please no more depictions of egomaniacal, unethical female journalists in pop culture.
Chose your own Brexit adventure. Everyone’s a loser.
Note: I’m replacing the irreplaceable Mark Gongloff for the week. Please send leafy greens, suggestions and kicker ideas to Shira Ovide at email@example.com.
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Shira Ovide is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. She previously was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
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