Ethics Scandal Threatens Canada’s Golden Boy
(Bloomberg) -- Justin Trudeau lost another minister, and now the survival of the Canadian leader — who once enjoyed near rock-star status — may hinge on whether she’s the last.
The resignation yesterday of Jane Philpott, a star minister at the Treasury Board, was the second high-profile woman to quit the cabinet over a raging ethics controversy. The departures are devastating for Trudeau and his brand, built in part on gender inclusivity.
The scandal was sparked by his one-time attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who says he and key aides pressured her to end the prosecution of the construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group on corruption charges. She didn’t, was later shuffled into a different post and then quit. Trudeau says he was just trying to save jobs at the company.
As he joined other key ministers in a climate rally in Toronto, Trudeau thanked Philpott but said his Liberals must stay the course and that voters “need our total commitment to tackling the big things and getting them right.”
Nixonian precedent | If Donald Trump claims executive privilege to keep Robert Mueller’s report secret, it’s likely to trigger a crucial test of presidential power. Democrats say they’re prepared to subpoena the special counsel’s report on Russian election meddling, as well as the evidence underlying it. That could potentially spark a legal clash reminiscent of the landmark 1974 Supreme Court case in which Richard Nixon’s White House tapes were sought in a criminal case stemming from the Watergate scandal.
- Attorney General William Barr announced that — unlike his predecessor — he won’t recuse himself from oversight of Mueller’s probe, setting himself up as Democrats’ chief adversary if he withholds parts of the report.
Righting ship | China's economy took the spotlight as its most powerful officials gathered in Beijing for the National People’s Congress, where the government will lay out its annual agenda. Today’s key reveals included lowered goals for growth and military spending, and $298 billion in tax cuts. Even as China works to steady its economy, those moves signal that clouds still hang overhead despite an expected trade deal with the U.S.
Bibi’s bane | Benjamin Netanyahu is facing his first serious rival in a decade as he seeks a fifth term as prime minister. Former military chief of staff Benny Gantz has the security bona fides and a clean-hands image that’s in stark contrast to the Israeli leader. After last week’s draft indictment against Netanyahu on bribery and fraud charges, polls suggested a bloc led by Gantz and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid could form the next government. But don’t count him out: He’s confounded the pundits before.
Putin’s firewall | President Vladimir Putin is backing legislation to enable officials to isolate Russia from the global internet. The “Sovereign Internet’’ bill is being presented as a defensive move against potential U.S. cyber attacks. Amid rising public discontent with Putin, however, critics say the measure allowing regulators to analyze and reroute traffic really seeks to emulate China by tightening central control and blocking online access during political unrest.
Shifting winds | A number of Republican lawmakers are scrambling to confront climate change after years of sowing doubt about or ignoring it altogether. The shift reflects the public’s growing anxiety after hurricanes, flooding and wildfires linked to global warming – as well as increased Democratic fervor over the issue. Yet Trump remains dismissive, setting up a potential collision with some members of his own party.
What to Watch
- Trump announced he plans to end trade preferences for India and Turkey, starting a 60-day countdown before the president can take the action on his own authority.
- French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a Europe-wide agency to protect voting from cyber attacks, as he attempts to rally pro-integration parties ahead of EU elections in May.
And finally… If cancer surgery slowed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg down, she’s hiding it well. The 85-year-old liberal icon issued two of the Supreme Court’s three opinions yesterday, including one in a case argued while she was at home recuperating from the Dec. 21 surgery to remove cancerous growths from her left lung. Since her return to the bench on Feb. 19, Ginsburg — whose early career is the subject of a 2018 feature film – has written three of its nine opinions in cases argued before the justices.
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