Trump Eases Off Trigger on Russia Probe Chiefs
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Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may have just saved his job — and that of the lead investigator into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election campaign — for now.
Our Washington team exclusively reports that Rosenstein told President Donald Trump he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry or a separate probe into his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen.
The assurance — volunteered during a White House meeting last week — helped dampen the president’s ardor to fire either man.
Trump told advisers afterwards that it’s not the right time to remove Rosenstein or Mueller. One person said Trump doesn’t want to take any action that would drag out the affair. U.S. stocks pared their decline on the news.
Yet it doesn’t mean Trump is in the clear. He may not officially be a target, but Mueller hasn’t ruled out making him one in the future, just as the president hasn’t promised not to fire Rosenstein and Mueller down the road.
Border skirmish | The EU still rejects British proposals for avoiding checks on the Irish border after Brexit. As Ian Wishart and Dara Doyle report, the European Commission opposes the idea of the U.K. retaining some elements of single market and customs union membership. That’s stoked pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to ditch her pledge to quit the customs union.
Punctured optimism | Trump’s trade policies are taking some air out of the high-flying economic attitude that had prevailed since his election. Confidence gauges spanning small businesses, factories and the public at large are coming off the boil as U.S. tariffs on imported metals— along with threats and counterthreats over Chinese goods — roil the stock market. That could spell trouble for Republicans in November’s midterms.
Abe’s cold homecoming | Shinzo Abe returns to Japan with little to placate voters still seething over a swirl of domestic scandals after the prime minister’s chummy round of golf and cheeseburgers with Trump in sunny Florida. The U.S. president’s criticism of Japanese trade practices and refusal to grant Abe an exception to metals tariffs made the task of rescuing his government that much harder.
Europe’s population time bomb | Many of Eastern Europe’s young homegrown workers are leaving in search of greater opportunity in the west, and the populist wave sweeping the region has made it almost impossible for refugees from Africa or the Middle East — Syrians are the biggest group — to take their place. The UN sees a catastrophe lurking.
Trump’s ruble | The president’s tweet accusing Russia of “playing the Currency Devaluation game” days after the toughest U.S. sanctions to date sent the ruble tumbling has baffled analysts. They say the White House, not the Kremlin, is responsible for the uncertainty roiling Russian markets. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who called the Trump’s comment a “warning shot,” said yesterday that the sanctions against Russian oligarchs had the “necessary impact” and didn’t rule out further penalties.
Expensive friendly fire | The surge of Democratic enthusiasm that’s produced a record number of Congressional candidates this year has come at a cost: spread-out donations and campaign accounts drained by expensive primary fights. Bill Allison and John McCormick found that Republican candidates have more money in the bank in 17 of 23 districts rated as toss-ups in November, a trend that could help Trump’s party keep its majority.
And finally… The last absolute monarch in Africa, Swaziland’s King Mswati III, reckoned the name of his southern African nation was too easily confused with Switzerland — so yesterday he changed it. From now on, the impoverished nation with the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate will be known as the Kingdom of eSwatini, which means “land of the Swazis.” He made the announcement during celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of independence from the U.K. — and his 50th birthday.
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