Trump Steers into Global Economy Collision Course

U.S. President Donald Trump is currently steering his country into economic isolation. Bodies like the IMF, the G-7 and the G-20 fear for the future of the global financial system. They want Germany to take on a stronger role in standing up to the Americans.

  David Lipton is a man of firm convictions -- particularly regarding himself and the role he plays. He consistently comes across as a man deeply pursuaded of his own importance; self-doubt is not an emotion he is overly familiar with. During past visits to Berlin, the American has demonstrated a fondness for presumptuous rhetoric and a pedantic tone when instructing his hosts about their shortcomings.

Germany's budget and trade surpluses are too high, he used to insist, and Berlin invests too little. The country should likewise show a little more generosity toward Greece, pressing less for austerity and forgiving more debt, says Lipton, who is, after Christine Lagarde, the No. 2 figure at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Recently, the deputy IMF head was once again in Berlin. But this time, the people he met with -- government representatives and parliamentarians -- were introduced to a whole new side of Lipton. "He was friendly, attentive and thoughtful," one participant reported after a meeting.

There is a reason for the shift. And he has a name: Donald Trump.

The world has become an unsettled place since the new American president took office -- not just for Lipton, but for the entire IMF. No, he told his hosts, rising prices for commodities aren't the greatest risk for the global economy, and neither are financial or currency crises. The true threat is that of a "geopolitical recession," the American told them. The reference is to political developments like Brexit, but even more to populist economic policies from the new U.S. government that call for the erection of trade barriers and could throw the global economy off track.

Justified Worries
Lipton's reservations transcend party lines and animosities. Sure, the deputy IMF head may have Democratic Party leanings; he was appointed to his post by the Obama administration. And as a high-ranking employee for many years in the U.S. Treasury Department, he counts among the political elite that Republican President Trump is now waging war against.

But the worries harbored by the finance professional are in no way unjustified given that Trump and his team have placed a question mark over just about everything the IMF has stood for in its 70 years of existence: the benefits of free trade, open and liberalized markets and, not least, international solidarity when a country runs into financial difficulties.

The new American government, by contrast, is placing its emphasis on isolation, import barriers and the one-sided assertion of its own interests. During his inaugural address, Trump sang a hymn to unilateral economic policies. "Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength," he said.
The real-estate mogul appears to be alone in his analysis. If he were right, then North Korea would be an economically powerful land of plenty.

The fact is that Trump's market nationalism stands in stark contrast to the vast majority of economic theory over the past 250 years. In particualar, it clashes with the fate of similar policies put in place in the early 1930s. The retreat from free trade merely exacerbated the raging Great Depression. Prosperity shrank dramatically and millions of workers in Western countries lined up at unemployment centers and soup kitchens.

Ego Trip
The week before last, the White House newbie and his team offered a preview of how serious they are about their economic policy ego trip. During her visit to Washington, Trump told German Chancellor Angela Merkel he wanted "fair trade" and complained that the U.S. had been taken for a ride with previous agreements.

His treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin issued the same complaints, verbatim and at the same time, during a meeting of G-20 member states in Baden-Baden, Germany. True to his mandate, he also prevented the inclusion of the pledge against protectionism that had always been part of such closing statements in past.

Trump and his team seem to be emitting an astoundingly un-American sense of self-pity, presenting the world's last remaining super power as global trade's loser. This, however, overlooks the fact that the United States itself is largely responsible for globalization and opened up markets around the world for its companies and products. Earlier administrations had few inhibitions when it came to using their influence within international organizations like the IMF or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which spent decades preaching the gospel of open markets for goods and services. The U.S. is the largest contributor to the budgets of both organizations and it can also easily block important resolutions. It is extremely difficult for other countries within the organizations to successfully challenge the will of the Americans.

Today, though, American economic expansionism has given way to whiny victimization. No one knows for how long the self-centered hegemon is prepared to continue working with international organizations, for how long the U.S. will continue to participate in bodies like the G-7 group of Western industrialized nations or even the G-20.

Pressure for Greater German Leadership
Lipton and Lagarde view Washington's new political direction as no less than an attack on global economic peace. To save what can be saved, both are now looking to Germany of all countries.
As Lipton attended appointments in German parliament and the Finance Ministry, IWF head Lagarde paid a courtesy visit to Chancellor Merkel. Both came to Berlin with the same message: The Germans need to assume a greater leadership role in Europe. They need to fill the vacuum the Americans are leaving in their wake -- at the IMF, but also within the G-7 and the G-20.

Merkel's government, it seems, is going to have to get used to the idea that it is now the leader of the free West and that the fate of the liberal world order is now in Germany's hands. In his meetings, Lipton said that other major economic powers like Britain or Japan could not be relied upon, noting caustically in the private meetings that the leaders of those countries couldn't seem to ingratiate themselves with Trump quickly enough.

Merkel was flattered, but also reserved in her response.

Just how important Germany has become to the IMF can be seen in policies relating to Greece. Recently, after close to a year-and-a-half of dispute, the IMF surprisingly shifted its position on Greece to back the German government's demand for long-term primary budget surpluses from Athens. The question of debt relief, also an enduring bone of contention, has now apparently been delayed until next year.

The IMF leadership, in short, is loathe to create any additional difficulties for its last reliable ally. There are more important things at stake than Greece: namely the future of the international financial architecture, global trade and the role the organization plays in the global economic system.
For the Greek government, the political shift in Washington isn't making things any easier. Athens used to be able to rely on the Obama administration to apply pressure on Europe and the IMF to reach favorable deal with Greece for the sake of the global economy. With Trump in the White House, however, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras can no longer rely on that kind of backing. It seems likely that Trump cares as little about the fate of the small Mediterranean country as he does about the well-being of the global economy.

Guessing Game
At this stage, it remains entirely unclear what kind of relationship the new American government will develop with the IMF. Christine Lagarde telephoned twice with Mnuchin before the meeting in Baden-Baden and the two ate together once, but she and her staff are still in the guessing stages as to what the Trump administration is planning.

Publicly, the IMF has been wary of criticizing its most important donor. So far there's been nary a word of warning about the potential damage Trump administration policies could inflict on growth and prosperity. IMF sources say this is the traditional position. They say that too little is known about possible border adjustment taxes, punitive tariffs or the planned bilateral trade agreements to comment on them at this point. Such statements will only be issued once those plans become more concrete, they say.

It is odd, however, that the IMF adjusted its economic growth forecast earlier this year, issuing an upward revision for the U.S. The decision, officials said, was based on tax relief and expenditures on infrastructure that have been announced by the Trump administration.

The real test will come this summer when the IMF assesses American economic policies in the context of its Article IV consultations as it does annually with each member state. Generally, the organization is known for showing little regard to the sensitivities of the governments under review.

Uncertainty, Anxiety, Helplessness
The OECD likewise seems to be taking a cautious approach at the moment. Not a word has been heard from the organization about Trump's potentially damaging trade and tax policy proposals. With so many tax reform plans under consideration, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in Baden-Baden, it is too early to judge. He did, however, welcome the infrastructure investments that have been announced by the administration.

Yet concerns about the direction the U.S. might take have been making the rounds at OECD headquarters in Paris for some time now. In his first budget draft, Trump ordered cuts to the contributions paid by the U.S. to a number of international organizations in areas like development aid, but also economic cooperation. "We have to wait and see how it affects us, but it appears inevitable that it will," a Gurría staffer says.

Uncertainty, anxiety and helplessness: Such are the emotions being triggered by the Trump administration, even among its traditional allies. And the message coming from Washington seems clear: First, we are going to do what we want. And second, we are going to do that which benefits us.
A good example of this was the recent disconcertment unleashed by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin during his visit to Baden-Baden. His mechanical reading of his prepared statement was so rote that it was unclear if it reflected his views or whether it had been dictated by the White House. Either way, the newcomer's stubbornness also had an unexpected effect. "Seldom have I seen representatives of the EU present such a united front," said one participant, who has taken part in such negotiations for years. All EU representatives, he said, pleaded to preserve free trade and condemn protectionism.

Brazil's finance minister also issued words of warning to Mnuchin, saying that his country's own experience with protectionism has been a painful one. It doesn't help anyway, he said. On the contrary, it just makes poor people even poorer. But the Americans don't seem prepared at this point to learn from the mistakes of others.

A G-20 Summit Debacle?
The person who seemed to suffer most at the meeting was German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, who, as host, had to hold back his annoyance and instead assume a mediating role -- one that ultimately bore no fruit. Chancellor Merkel will have to take on a similar role at the upcoming G-20 summit in Hamburg in July.
Indeed, rather than basking in the glow of the prestigious role during an election year, Merkel and Schäuble are faced with managing yet another crisis. If the U.S. doesn't change its political course between now and the summit, the German G-20 presidency could end in disaster.

As such, it is cold comfort that Germany has become the go-to place for the countries most troubled by Trump. Representatives of Japan and South Korea are currently seeking to close ranks with Germany.

The three countries share similarities that make them suspicious to the Americans: They all generate substantial trade surpluses with the United States because they export more products to the country than they import from it. All three countries are also dealing with the problems associated with aging societies and tend to save more than the Americans would like to see. And, last but not least, all three spend less money on defense than Trump would like and rely too heavily on the United States for their protection. The South Koreans and Japanese have now proposed coordinating their positions with Germany in order to gird themselves from the accusations coming from Washington.

Within the G-7, confidential meetings are also now taking place at all possible levels -- and without the presence of the Americans. All sides want to know what the others are thinking about the outlandish statements and actions coming out of Washington and how best to react to them.
The IMF's spring meeting is scheduled to take place the week after Easter. Traditionally, it is also a time for the finance ministers of the G-7 and G-20 to hold talks. The main question hovering over the talks is whether the Americans will attend. And if they do, how will they behave?


Trump signs order at the EPA to dismantle environmental protections

The email arrived at lunchtime Tuesday from a top aide to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Our Big Day Today!” read the subject line of the message, which went to thousands of EPA employees.

It detailed how President Trump would be visiting the agency, whose budget he recently proposed cutting by nearly a third, to sign a sweeping executive order aimed at unraveling efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to combat climate change.

“This is an important moment for EPA,” chief of staff Ryan Jackson wrote. “As the Administrator has mentioned many times, we do not have to choose between environmental protection and economic development.”

Jackson cautioned that there was “limited space” to see Trump sign his order in the EPA’s wood-paneled Map Room. But there was also limited interest from many of the agency’s career employees.

At the EPA, scientists are encountering renewed skepticism of their work, many employees have seen their offices slated for elimination altogether, and regulators are facing the prospect of dismantling environmental rules many of them spent years creating. Trump’s visit to headquarters Tuesday was met with frustration, resignation and varying levels of angst.

“What an insult,” said one longtime employee, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

“Needless to say, morale is at rock bottom,” said another, who noted that some employees had worn buttons that read “scientific integrity” in quiet protest.

But elsewhere in the building, the president and members of his Cabinet joined in celebrating a shift in policy direction with representatives from several energy industries that had been on the losing end of the previous administration’s policies.

Trump showed up at 2 p.m. as scheduled, surrounded by coal miners and coal executives, as well as Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Vice President Pence.

“Today, we’re taking a great step in breaking the restraints that have become burdens,” said Perry.

“We’re not going to allow regulations here at the EPA to pick winners and losers,” Pruitt promised.
The president, who devoted much of his remarks to praising coal miners, pipelines and U.S. manufacturing, declared, “We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country.”

The far-reaching order he unveiled Tuesday instructs federal regulators to rewrite key Obama-era rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions — namely the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s electric plants. It also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

In sum, it amounts to a wholesale rebuke of Obama’s environmental efforts.

Several of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to change broader economic trends that are pushing the nation toward cleaner sources of energy than coal. But the order sent an unmistakable message about the direction in which Trump wants to take the country — toward unfettered oil and gas production, with an apathetic eye to worries over global warming.
Reactions to the new order came swiftly.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America’s president and chief executive, Barry Russell, who was at the event, said in a statement that his group welcomed Trump’s “bold decision to tackle the growing regulatory state and identify rules that harm the economy and threaten American jobs.”

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association chief executive Jim Matheson, who also attended and whose group challenged the Clean Power Plan in federal court, said in an interview that he does not anticipate that many of his members will start building new coal-fired plants. But for those who already have invested heavily in keeping their coal plants operating, he said, “It has given them much greater flexibility to maintain more reasonably priced and affordable power for our consumers.”

Meanwhile, former Obama administration officials expressed outrage.

“President Trump’s executive order to roll back vital climate and clean air protections this afternoon is the most brazen and transparent assault on the health of Americans in my lifetime,” said Heather Zichal, former deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

Lisa P. Jackson, who headed the EPA during Obama’s first term and is now Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said in a statement that “limiting climate protections threatens the certainty businesses need to continue to innovate.”

And several governors said that they would press ahead with their own plans to cut carbon emissions.
Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) noted in an interview that he had spent part of Tuesday in Snohomish County, heralding the “biggest battery in the world to integrate solar and wind into the grid,” whose development was underwritten in part by state taxpayers.

And California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said in an interview that he, like Inslee, was prepared to take the new administration to court over its regulatory rewrite. “Gutting the Clean Power Plan is a colossal mistake and defies science itself,” he said. “Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else.”

Outside the EPA on Tuesday afternoon, protesters shouted and waved signs, biding their time for a larger protest later in the day outside the White House. Inside, some employees watched the president’s remarks on YouTube, while others went for a walk. In the Map Room, Trump sat at a small table and scribbled his signature on the order.

“Come on, fellas. Basically, you know what this is?” Trump said to the coal miners gathered around him. “You know what it says, right? You’re going back to work.”


Lawsuit Seeks Transparency as Searches of Cellphones and Laptops Skyrocket at Borders

By Murtaza Hussain 

A lawsuit filed today by the Knight First Amendment Institute, a public interest legal organization based at Columbia University, seeks to shed light on invasive searches of laptops and cellphones by Customs and Border Protection officers at U.S. border crossings.

Documents filed in the case note that these searches have risen precipitously over the past two years, from a total of 5,000 searches in 2015 to 25,000 in 2016, and rising to 5,000 in the month of February 2017 alone. Among other questions, the lawsuit seeks to compel the federal government to provide more information about these searches, including how many of those searched have been U.S. citizens, the number of searches by port of entry, and the number of searches by the country of origin of the travelers.

Civil rights groups have long claimed that warrantless searches of cellphones and laptops by government agents constitute a serious invasion of privacy, due to the wealth of personal data often held on such devices. It is common for private conversations, photographs, and location information to be held on cellphones and laptops, making a search of these items significantly more intrusive than searching a simple piece of luggage.

A number of recent cases in the media have revealed instances of U.S. citizens and others being compelled by CBP agents to unlock their devices for search. In some instances, people have claimed to have been physically coerced into complying, including one American citizen who said that CBP agents grabbed him by the neck in order to take his cellphone out of his possession.

The legality of warrantless device searches at the border remains a contested issue, with the government asserting, over the objections of civil liberties groups, that Fourth Amendment protections do not apply at ports of entry. Some particularly controversial cases of searches at the border have involved journalists whose electronic data contains sensitive information about the identity of sources. Last year, a Canadian journalist was detained for six hours before being denied entry to the United States after refusing to unlock devices containing sensitive information. It has also been alleged that border agents are disproportionately targeting Muslim Americans and people with ties to Muslim-majority countries for both interrogation and device searches.

This February, Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security head John Kelly stating that he was “alarmed by recent media reports of Americans being detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and pressured to give CBP access … to locked mobile devices.”
Wyden’s letter also indicated plans for legislation that would require agents to obtain a warrant before conducting these searches.

The rapidly growing number of searches has prompted a legal effort to demand constraints and controls on the practice. In a press release issued today announcing the lawsuit, the Knight First Amendment Institute indicated more plans to scrutinize these searches in the future.

“These searches are extremely intrusive, and government agents shouldn’t be conducting them without cause,” said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director. “Putting this kind of unfettered power in the hands of border agents invites abuse and discrimination and will inevitably have a chilling effect on the freedoms of speech and association.”


David Cay Johnston Speaks Out About Receiving & Revealing 2 Pages of Trump's 2005 Tax Returns

AMY GOODMAN: Calls are growing for President Trump to release his full tax returns after part of his 2005 return was made public Tuesday. Two pages from Trump’s tax return were obtained by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston of DCReport, who appeared last night on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Soon after Maddow teased her big scoop, the White House confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but the White House continues to refuse to release any other tax returns from Trump.

The 2005 tax return shows Trump earned $153 million—that’s more than $400,000 a day. Trump paid out $36.6 million in federal income taxes, much of it in the form of what’s known as the alternative minimum tax, which Trump now wants to eliminate. The document also shows Trump wrote off more than $100 million in business losses to reduce his federal taxes. But the documents also leave many questions unanswered about Trump’s finances and his sources of income. In January, Trump dismissed calls to release his tax returns.
HALLIE JACKSON: Will you release your tax returns to prove what you’re saying about no deals in Russia?
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I’m not releasing tax returns, because, as you know, they’re under audit.
HALLIE JACKSON: But every president since the ’70s—
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Oh, gee, I’ve never heard that. Oh, gee, I’ve never heard that. I’ve never heard that. You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters. OK? They’re the only ones. But—
HALLIE JACKSON: You don’t think the American public is concerned about that?
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: But, no, I don’t think so. I won. I mean, I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all. I think you care. I think you care.
AMY GOODMAN: This morning, President Trump tweeted, quote, "Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!" unquote. That’s despite the fact that the White House confirmed the authenticity of the documents on Tuesday.

For more, we’re joined by that man that Donald Trump is describing, David Cay Johnston, the journalist who obtained the two pages of Donald Trump’s 2005 1040 tax forms.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, David. So, well, this morning, Donald Trump is questioning how you got those tax returns.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah, I must have gotten under Donald’s skin pretty deeply, that he has issued this tweet, whoever heard of me. I don’t know. Donald and I have been talking to each other for 30 years. And, clearly, he is at war with his own Press Office. By the way, I’m very pleased, Amy, that you got correctly in your intro facts that both my former newspaper, The New York Times, and The Washington Post got wrong. You had the right amount of tax and some other figures that were wrong in those major newspapers. And I think that says a lot about the quality of the work that you do, and your viewers should know that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, David, can you talk about how you got these two pages of his 2005 tax return?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I was in Palm Beach on Monday. And I had my cellphone in hand, and I was shooting pictures across the water of Mar-a-Lago, because I’m working on a new Trump biography, a second one—I have one out now, this one for Simon & Schuster—when I got a text from one of my eight grown children, said to call right away. And she had opened the mail at our home in Rochester, New York, and here was this envelope with the two pages of tax data. So, I immediately, you know, began to go to work on it, so that we could get the story out right away at

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what you see in these two pages, what you found, David, most significant.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, the most significant thing, I believe, is that Donald Trump wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax. Almost all affluent Americans, people who own a home, have more than two children and live in the high-tax states, are on—and make more than $75,000 or $80,000 a year, are on the alternative minimum tax. Because of the alternative minimum tax, Donald paid $36.6 million in income tax. But if that was repealed—and he wants to repeal it—he would have paid only $5 million of income tax on $153 million of income. That is a tax rate of less than three-and-a-half percent. You know who pays a three-and-a-half percent tax rate in this country? The poorest half of Americans. They pay a little more than three-and-a-half percent. Donald Trump would have paid a lower tax rate than people who make less than $33,000 a year, if his tax plan had been in effect in 2005. So, you know, when Donald Trump says, "I’m the champion here of working people," don’t pay—don’t pay attention to that. When he says, you know, wages are too high, that’s one sign. But here’s one: his tax plan? Man, you make thirty—you make $600 a week, you’d be more heavily taxed than he is.

AMY GOODMAN: So how did he end up paying the amount of taxes he did?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Donald had $103 million of negative income. That may be a hard concept for people to get around, but in tax law you can have a negative income, just like your bank account can be overdrawn, and then you have a negative bank balance. Donald’s negative income, I’m pretty confident, comes from a dubious tax shelter that he bought in 1995. That allowed him to get out of a very big tax bill. Donald did not pay back to his bankers $918 million that he borrowed from them. Now, ordinary people, they have to pay taxes on that. If you borrow money from a bank and don’t pay it back, that’s taxable income, according to the U.S. Congress. Donald bought a tax shelter that turned into tax savings for him.

Now, when the Republicans in Congress learned about this tax shelter, they shut it down right away. I mean, it was just considered odious. It only took them a couple days to shut it down. It was incredible how fast they moved in Congress to do this. But as often is the case, our Congress said, "Oh, those of you who already bought this dubious tax shelter, you can keep your ill-got tax savings." And so, Donald had $918 million that he could write off of negative income against his positive income. And this return, 11 years later, shows that he had $103 million left, although he may have had some additional tax losses in the meantime. But assuming that that represents the residue from the $918 million, it also tells us that Donald’s average income from 1995 through 2004 was $81.5 million a year.

AMY GOODMAN: What doesn’t these—what doesn’t the two pages tell us?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, it doesn’t tell us a lot of really important things we need to know. It doesn’t tell us who are the sources of his income. It’s only the kinds of income he gets: capital gains, business profits, wages. We don’t know how much money Donald is getting from the Russian oligarchs. We know he gets money from the Russian oligarchs, but we don’t know how much. And the Russian oligarchs are essentially a state-sponsored network of international criminals.

Secondly, we don’t know who his partners are in the various entities he has. Donald has over 500 partnerships and S corporations and other business entities.

Third, and perhaps most important, we don’t know who he is paying money to. We know he’s borrowed a lot of money from the Bank of China. That’s kind of remarkable to think about having a Republican president of the United States who has borrowed a huge sum from a communist government-owned bank, which, by the way, is also the biggest tenant in Trump Tower.

So, you know, we really need to know, on matters both of criminality and national security, who the president is doing business with, who his partners are, who his sources of income are, who he is paying fees to and who’s paying fees to him. And we need his complete tax returns for the last 30 years to do that. Other people running for office—Hillary Clinton, for example—have made public their complete tax returns going back into the 1970s.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s very interesting about China, considering Donald Trump is very laudatory of Russia. There’s a lot been made about his relationship with Russian oligarchs, but you don’t hear as much about China.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Right, right. Well, and right now there is a deal in which a sketchy Chinese company is proposing to buy 666 Fifth Avenue in New York. That’s a building owned by the family of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And the offer is apparently for $1 billion more than the Kushners paid for the building a decade ago. The Kushners get all sorts of other special goodies in this. And this certainly raises the specter of whether the Beijing government may have decided that the best way to have decent relations with this White House is to bribe the president’s family.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the White House statement yesterday. Today, they’re questioning how you got these documents. I mean, clearly, Donald Trump knows exactly who you are, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked for years at The New York Times. You wrote a book about Donald Trump. But last night, the White House said—just before you went to air, they wrote:

“You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago.

“Before being elected President, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world with a responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required.

“That being said, Mr. Trump paid $38 million dollars even after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million dollars, as well as paying tens of millions of dollars in other taxes such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes and this illegally published return proves just that.

"Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns. The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans."

Again, that from the White House last night. These illegally acquired and—published, rather, tax returns. So, David Cay Johnston, can you respond?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah, Amy, there is so much falsehood in that statement, including the amount of tax the president paid. He paid $36.6 million, not $38 million. It just makes my head spin. It is absolutely well-established law in the United States that when a journalist receives a document that they did not solicit, then they can publish it. And there’s nothing illegal whatsoever about publishing this. This is part of the effort by Donald Trump to confuse people and that furthers his very authoritarian views. I mean, Donald clearly talks about his office as the president as a dictator. Judges don’t agree with him? "Bad judges," etc.

And what happened here is, somebody familiar with my work—and I’m very well known for my coverage of taxes, I won a Pulitzer Prize, I’ve been called the de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States because of my exposés of the tax system—decided to send me, rather than some other journalist, this document. Maybe it was sent to other journalists, and they haven’t looked in their mailbox. My report on what’s in that is absolutely accurate. The White House confirmed it.
And, you know, Amy, the White House did something actually quite unethical yesterday. I have been dealing with White Houses since Richard Nixon. I’ve been at this 50 years, and I’ve been dealing with White Houses since Nixon. I have never before sent the White House a document to allow them to comment on it and have them take my exclusive story and give the information to other reporters. And that’s what they did. They never responded to me. They instead went to other reporters and said, "Here’s what’s going to happen." That is just the most base, unethical conduct by the White House Press Office that I have ever seen. If they don’t want to answer the questions, they don’t have to answer your questions. But to do this is just indicative of the utter lack of moral character of Donald Trump, who I’m sure approved and roughed out that statement.

AMY GOODMAN: David, are you saying you gave the two pages that you had for verification—

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yes, of course. Of course.

AMY GOODMAN: —to them, and they gave those two pages out to other press outlets?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I don’t know if they actually gave the two pages. They clearly gave the numbers out. There are some journalists who wrote about this. I have not read their stories—my wife has simply told me about them—because I haven’t had time to look at them. But it’s very clear from various press reports. And when I was on another TV station today, the producer said to me, you know, "Did you know Trump gave out your story just before it went public at" And then I went on The Rachel Maddow Show a minute later. And that really is just not the way you do things. It is—it lacks honor. Of course, Donald Trump lacks honor, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Donald Trump doesn’t have any idea what honor is.

AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, when you got this envelope that had the two pages in it, where were you?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I was using my cellphone to shoot a picture in Palm Beach of Mar-a-Lago from across the water, because it was part of the research I was doing for my next Trump biography. I have a book out now, The Making of Donald Trump. I have a new one that’s going to come out at the end of the year. And that’s when I got this message. And my—one of my eight grown children said, "You won’t believe what came in the mail," and then sent to my cellphone a PDF of the document. And I immediately said, "I’ve got to go to the airport and get back to work."


Can Merkel Bring Trump to Reason?

Angela Merkel is planning a dual strategy for her first face-to-face meeting with Donald Trump on Tuesday. She wants to foster close personal relations with the new U.S. president, but she also wants to make clear the Berlin is armed for a trade war against Washington. By SPIEGEL Staff

The world already knows how Angela Merkel feels about Silvio Berlusconi. The former Italian prime minister allegedly sought pleasure with underage prostitutes, he wasn't particularly fastidious about the rule of law and he sought to grin away his country's problems. Italian newspapers also reported a few years ago that he made some rather untoward remarks about the German chancellor's posterior in a telephone conversation. Berlusconi was precisely the kind of politician Merkel abhors.

Nevertheless, she usually got what she wanted from him. At an EU summit in December 2008, she deployed a mix of charm and toughness to secure his agreement on her climate policies. It was a fabled event, and diplomats still tell stories today about how she wrapped the vain Italian leader around her little finger.

Merkel's people are hoping for some similar magic at an upcoming encounter that will be even more sensitive. On Tuesday, she will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. It will be the first in-person meeting between the two since the U.S. election in November. And it could be the most difficult meeting Merkel has ever faced as chancellor.

The two couldn't be more different. On the one side is an unsophisticated yet self-absorbed political neophyte who has made it clear that there is nothing he won't sacrifice to achieve what he sees as America's interests. On the other is one of the most experienced leaders in the world, one who many see as being the last defender of democracy and Western values -- a view that Merkel herself considers to be a dangerous misjudgment given the limits of German power. Indeed, she calls it "absurd."

The task at hand could hardly be more important. Trump is not only the most powerful man in the world. He has also shown that he cares nothing about the rules of Western political game. His plans could rupture the European Union and weaken Germany economically.

Trump has announced that he plans to fight Germany's export surplus. And although his statements on NATO have been contradictory, it is clear that he wants alliance partners to increase their defense spending. Plans for his foreign policy with Russia are also half-baked. Will he back the Western sanctions against Moscow that Merkel worked hard to implement? Merkel and Trump will have no lack of issues to discuss.

Merkel Will Seek Good Relations
But sources close to Merkel are certain about one thing: The chancellor will seek to establish a good relationship with the president. Trump relies less on the traditional mechanism of politics than his predecessors and he often makes decisions impulsively, without regard to well-established procedures.

"Trump's actions are driven more by his instincts and business experience than by political rationality," says Norbert Röttgen, the foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). He traveled to Washington a few weeks ago for talks. "That doesn't make dealing with him any easier."

Merkel doesn't want to rely on a charm offensive alone. She's also prepared to stand her ground on some issues, especially trade policy. The chancellor will be accompanied on her trip by Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser and BMW head Harald Krüger according to an agreement she reached with US Vice President Mike Pence at the Munich Security Conference in February.

Kaeser and Krüger are to explain to Trump how many jobs and training positions their companies create in the United States. The president has greater trust in executives than politicians and Merkel is hoping that Trump will listen to the heads of two blue chip Germany companies.

Cautious Optimism
In terms of foreign policy, Merkel is said to be less pessimistic than she had been right after Trump's election. Thus far, the president hasn't moved to implement his most radical demands. The nuclear deal with Iran is still in place and the idea of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been delayed for now.

The clarity with which U.S. representatives at the Munich Security Conference in February expressed their support for NATO also calmed some of the worst fears. Officials in Berlin believe that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will lean much more toward pragmatic realpolitik than initially feared.

In addition, Trump's new National Security Adviser Herbert Raymond McMaster is regarded in Berlin as being much more calculable and well-informed than his addled predecessor Michael Flynn, who was forced to step down because of his misrepresentation of contacts he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States prior to the election.

During a video call with McMaster, Merkel's foreign policy adviser Christoph Heusgen's impression was of a man firmly rooted in traditional Republican foreign policy and that McMaster is someone Germany can work well with.

Merkel has been studying Trump from afar. She has watched his speeches and she is certain that he intends to do what he can to fulfill his promises. She is also convinced that direct contact with Trump is vital, something she realized during an extensive phone call she had with him on Jan. 28, during which she explained the Ukraine conflict to the new president.

A Shift on Russia
That Saturday afternoon, the president telephoned first with Merkel and afterward with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Officials in the Chancellery believed that the Americans had arranged the sequence intentionally so that Trump, a Putin admirer who has spoken out in favor of a new deal with the Kremlin, could first get an introduction to Russian policy from Merkel. It appears that less Moscow-friendly actors in Washington hoped that the strategy might help prevent Trump from getting too close to Putin.

The plan seems to have worked. Since then, hope has been mounting in Berlin that Washington, even under Trump, will continue to back the Minsk peace process and that it will not move unilaterally to lift sanctions. Merkel also sees it as a good sign that Fiona Hill, a recognized expert on Russia who is also a sharp critic of Putin, was appointed to the National Security Council.

Merkel is hoping to see the same kind of shift on a host of other issues important to the international community, including the Iran deal, the situation in Libya and climate change.

She also plans to explain the tenets of the European Union to the president. Officials in Berlin say that a person who found it surprising after the election that the promises he made about U.S. health care policy would be difficult to implement may have some catching up to do on other issues as well.
The trick will be finding the right tone -- to teach without sounding pedantic. "We have to fight for the trans-Atlantic relationship by proposing projects that will lead to mutual success," says Röttgen. That is Merkel's view as well. She is likely to point out to Trump, for example, that Germany has already begun implementing the U.S. president's demand for increased military spending.

A Great Threat to the Global Economy
Even though there is cautious optimism in the Chancellery about foreign policy, Merkel and her staff are preparing for the worst when it comes to trade. Even as vague as they may still be, Trump's plans could become the greatest threat to the global economy since the financial crisis, with Germany standing directly in the firing line.

Almost 50 percent of all jobs in Germany are dependent on exports. The Americans alone last year purchased 107 billion euros worth of German goods, whereas only 57 billion worth of U.S. goods got imported to Germany. The country would suffer severely if the U.S. started a trade war with Europe or China.

In order to assuage Trump, Merkel is deploying a dual strategy. In addition to her charm offensive, she also wants to send the message that, if push comes to shove, she has a nastier side as well.
On the one hand, Merkel wants to emphasize in the meeting the significant degree to which the Americans also benefit from good trans-Atlantic relations. German Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries put together a package of data for the chancellor following a meeting with trade associations last week. It shows that one-third of German foreign investment flows into the United States. It also shows that German car companies now manufacture more automobiles in the country than they export to it from Germany.

But what happens in the likely event that Trump sticks to his "America First" plans? If that happens, then Merkel is expected to push for a united EU front to blockade Washington. At a summit in Brussels on Thursday, Merkel noted, "We renewed our support for free trade."

Europe To Brace for Trade War
A few days earlier, European trade ministers met for a working lunch in Brussels and agreed to a joint position. The agreed that the EU should not fuel the conflict, but it should prepare for the possibility of a trade war with the United States.

The goal, in such a case, would be that of isolating the U.S. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström was asked to begin negotiating further agreements with other countries and regions of the world. She is currently touring the Far East in order to expedite current talks on trade agreements with Japan, India and Australia. At the same the, the EU countries are pushing ahead with their plans for public courts that would arbitrate conflicts relating to controversial investment projects. It's an initiative that the Trump administration wants to put a stop to at all costs.

Trump's trade policy adviser Peter Navarro has been the most outspoken about calling Germany the enemy. The Harvard graduate views it as a "serious issue. Germany is one of the most difficult trade deficits that we're going to have to deal with but we're thinking long and hard about that." He has also accused EU politicians of deliberately devaluing the euro to give European exporters a price advantage over their American competitors.

Even before Trump's election, Navarro had been considered an outsider with his views. Now he's the president's chief ideologist on trade. Many of Trump's allies are pushing for a radical tax policy measure to stop the stream of goods from abroad, a measure referred to in official jargon as a border adjustment tax -- a plan whereby exports would be exempt from taxes but companies would not be able to deduct money they spend on imports.. "We are taking this very seriously," says one high-ranking source in the Chancellery.

On her first visit with Trump, Merkel plans to be very open about her views on the tax plans. Her preparatory paper for the meeting states that she plans to call the punitive import measure a "protective tariff" and the tax relief for American exports a "export subsidy." She views both as being hostile acts that could trigger a trade war.

Merkel also plans to note that a levy like that would violate the pre-existing tax agreement between Germany and the U.S. They would also be out of compliance with World Trade Organization rules. The implicit threat is that Germany would not shy away from lodging a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

How Germany Could Strike Back
If none of that bears fruit, the Chancellery has begun reviewing ways it could strike back at the U.S. One idea would be to incrementally increase duties on American imports. Agreements reached within the World Trade Organization framework provide enough maneuvering room to allow for that. Another possibility would be to allow German companies to write off the U.S. import tax on their German tax declarations, thus compensating them for their competitive disadvantage.

Ultimately, Germany could also take a bigger step: lowering corporate taxes and the amount of social contributions employers are required to pay here. Both would make Germany more attractive to international corporations, but they would also cost tax payers billions of euros -- initially at least.
As the defenses are mounted against Trump, Merkel is counting on the European Commission, which recently said it wants to significantly bolster its arsenal for potential trade wars. Last November, the EU executive paved the way for improving its defense instruments, which it had originally planned to deploy against China.

But they might also help bring Trump to reason if they are approved by the European Council, the powerful body comprised of leaders of the EU member states, and the European Parliament. Furthermore, the EU has long been investigating Google for competition violations and other companies such as McDonald's and Starbucks for tax-evasion models. If need be, those investigations could be broadened at any time.

Merkel is hoping things won't get that bad. Her trip would already be considered a success if she were able to find a reasonable basis for discussion with the U.S. president. At the same time, Merkel is up for re-election in September and she will also have to keep voters in Germany in mind. She can't alienate the new president, but it also wouldn't play well domestically if she allowed herself to be treated as a supplicant the way British Prime Minister Theresa May recently did during her visit with Trump.

The fact that a discussion in the Chancellery is even necessary regarding how far the chancellor can go in her criticism of Trump's violations of Western values and principles is in itself indicative how the situation has changed. In the past, these were the kinds of considerations that Merkel's staff made prior to trips to Russia or China. Now it's the government in Washington, once one of Germany's closest partners, that worries the government in Berlin. "In terms of international policy," Merkel adviser Röttgen says, the U.S. has now become an "element of uncertainty of a structural nature."


Paul Ryan Fundraised With Health Insurance Lobbying Firm Just Before His PowerPoint

by Lee Fang and Nick Surgey

Just hours before House Speaker Paul Ryan held a press conference to sell his health care overhaul legislation — using a PowerPoint presentation mocked for misrepresenting basic facts  — he was doing something he’s much better at: fundraising.

The two things were related. The Thursday morning breakfast fundraiser he attended was hosted by a lobbying firm working to unwind the Affordable Care Act on behalf of health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the big winners of Ryan’s proposed legislation.

The breakfast, according to an invitation, was sponsored by McGuireWoods PAC, the political action committee for the lobbying firm McGuireWoods. Blue Cross Blue Shield, an Anthem company, pays McGuireWoods $120,000 a year to lobby on changes to health reform, records show. Attendees of the event paid were asked to pitch in as much as $10,000.

Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which rolls back most of the revenue-generating provisions of the ACA, reduces premium subsidies, and imposes deep cuts to Medicaid, has largely been panned by medical professionals, health policy experts, and political advocacy groups from across the ideological spectrum.

But the bill enjoys enthusiastic support from some corners of the health care industry — primarily health insurance firms and medical device companies that directly benefit from the legislation.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group that lobbies on behalf of health insurance companies, wrote a letter to Congress on Wednesday praising much of the AHCA.

“The proposed legislation includes a number of positive steps to help stabilize the market,” wrote AHIP president Marilyn Tavenner, citing the bill’s provisions on “continuous coverage” and added flexibility for “health plans to offer consumers more choices.”

Alissa Fox, the senior vice president for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, another health insurance lobby group, also provided a statement praising the bill.

The ACHA includes a special 30 percent premium surcharge insurers can charge anyone who has gone without health coverage for at least two months. The bill also reduces the types of medical coverage Medicaid policies are required to cover — the type of flexibility insurers have sought in order to cover less health care costs.

As we reported earlier this week, insurance lobbyists are particularly fond of a tax change made by the Republican health bill that removes limitations on deductions for executive compensation. That reversal will reduce the tax bill for health insurance companies while incentivizing higher pay for insurance employees.

The ACHA would also permanently repeal the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device tax, which was imposed by Obama’s health reform law. AdvaMed, the lobby group representing the largest medical device firms, released a statement commending the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee for the repeal of the tax.

While some media outlets praised Ryan’s “wonky” style and use of bar graphs to make his case for the bill on Thursday, many reporters noted that the speaker stumbled when asked basic questions about the legislation.

Ryan notably called the ACA system of younger, healthier people helping to subsidize the insurance of elderly, sick patients a “fatal conceit.” But that general principle — of high- and low-risk consumers alike pooling their resources — is a fundamental element of all health insurance programs. Ryan also “made a series of misleading statements,” noted Politico’s Danny Vinik, who pointed out that the speaker cherry-picked data to exaggerate ACA premium increases.

Despite the perception of Ryan as a policy expert —  a brand carefully manufactured by friendly D.C. reporters — the speaker has devoted himself to relentless fundraising. Records show Ryan spent much of the year flying to resorts and huddling with lobbyists to raise huge amounts of cash to maintain his party’s control of the House of Representatives. The Team Ryan joint fundraising committee, hosted by McGuireWoods on Thursday morning, is allowed to raise as much as $244,200 per person.

How Trump Is Beating the Russia Rap

Kremlin ties could unravel the new administration—but Dems wounded own cause by downplaying Russian threat for so long


Throughout the six weeks since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has been buffeted by waves of allegations regarding his links to Russia. Leaks about calls to the Russian embassy in Washington led to the embarrassing resignation of Mike Flynn, Trump’s first National Security Advisor, after just three weeks on the job. Further leaks indicated that the Intelligence Community intercepted numerous calls last year, during the election campaign, between members of Trump’s inner circle and senior Russian intelligence officials. For a new White House still finding its way, shadowy Kremlin ties have become more than a mere distraction.

Many in Washington, including at least a few of our spies, think the administration will eventually be overwhelmed by its shady relationship with Vladimir Putin and his unpleasant regime. The president’s ham-handed efforts to dismiss the Russia story as “fake news” have not quieted his critics, by no means all of whom are on the Left. Rumors of unsavory connections to the Kremlin swirled around Trump throughout the presidential race, but neither his rivals nor the media dug as deeply into those allegations as they should have. To compensate, parts of the mainstream media have now gone into overdrive, searching meticulously for proof of unethical and perhaps illegal ties between the White House and Putin.

So far no smoking gun has emerged. But, as someone who tried to shed light on Trump’s questionable Kremlin links long before the election, I’m relieved to see this issue finally getting the attention it merits, but in not every case is late better than never. Allegations of serious misdeeds—espionage and perhaps worse—not supported by hard evidence inevitably smack of trying to overturn a democratic election, ex post facto, by undemocratic means.

It is imperative that we get to the bottom of President Trump’s links to Russia. That country, contrary to our commander-in-chief’s repeated claims, is no friend of ours. In truth, the Putin regime is our adversary, and it opposes American interests wherever and however it can. Not to mention that Russia has several thousand nuclear weapons pointed at us. Moscow in recent years has taken to calling the United States its “main adversary” again, in retro-Cold War fashion, and they mean it.
Dull amateurism matched with naked partisanship constitutes most of what passes for media analysis of this critical issue.

However, it increasingly seems that the Republican-controlled Congress is not up to the task of conducting a rigorous inquiry into the president’s Kremlin connections. Although both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are running concurrent investigations of Trump’s Russia links, the former’s chair, Sen. Richard Burr, is a strong Trump backer, so it’s worth asking if he can really be as non-partisan as an inquiry of such seriousness mandates.

Worse still is Rep. Devin Nunes, the latter committee’s chair, who is nakedly pro-Trump and who has accused Democrats of engaging in “McCarthyism” in their ardor to investigate the president. Coincidentally or not, “McCarthyism” is the charge leveled at anybody who’s suspicious of Trump’s Kremlin connections by friends of Putin, including the Russian state media. Rep. Nunes’ previous strange obsession—moving as many Pentagon spy offices as possible to the remote Azores, his family’s ancestral home, appears quaint compared to his obvious desire to quash any serious House investigation of President Trump.

This is precisely why an independent special prosecutor, perhaps in tandem with a bipartisan Congressional commission, is needed to get to the bottom of this complex issue. However, it’s too soon to expect that will happen, and it’s plain to see that most Republicans in Congress will follow the White House’s lead here. Until more and worse information is leaked regarding Russia, don’t expect GOP members of the House and Senate to muster sufficient political courage to put country, and our national security, before party.

It must be said that President Trump is greatly helped by his adversaries on this issue. Strategists know that having a cooperative enemy is just about the best gift anyone can hope for, in politics as in war, and Trump has just about the most cooperative enemies imaginable here. After decades of low-balling the Russian threat, when not mockingly denying it outright, liberals suddenly see the Kremlin bear lurking menacingly around every corner. Leftists who castigated American intelligence as the enemies of civil liberties, openly hailing defectors to Moscow like Edward Snowden as heroes, now regard our spies as the saviors of our democracy.

This kind of naked partisanship isn’t fooling anybody in the Intelligence Community, which is skeptical of all partisan politics. Worse, the Left has embraced many White House critics whose sole credential is vehement loathing of Republicans in general and Trump supporters in particular. Many of the talking heads cited whenever the issue of Trump and Russia comes up are self-proclaimed experts, while others are outright frauds (MSNBC is particularly egregious in this regard).

Yet this case, given its importance and complexity, demands real expertise—and it can’t be denied that expertise in general is under attack in our society, as elaborated in an excellent new book, The Death of Expertise. Simply put, you need to know a lot of things to grasp the full scope of Russian spy-games against America and how they impact our politics right now.

You need a deep understanding of Russian spycraft, what Moscow calls konspiratsiya (yes, “conspiracy”), which goes back a century and more. The good news is that Kremlin spy-games have remained remarkably consistent over time; the bad news is they’re very intricate and long-term. Russian intelligence agencies are far more aggressive and risk-taking than Western counterparts and they are much more patient. In Moscow, successful espionage operations are measured in decades, not years.

You also need a deep understanding of how the Russians conduct offensive counterintelligence operations, particularly the recruitment of moles inside the enemy’s spy services. The Trump presidency is one piece of a complex Putinist puzzle which includes the long-term, far-reaching penetration of American intelligence agencies by Russian spies. Here the Snowden Operation forms a portion of a much bigger espionage story which must be unraveled to understand how 2016 happened.

Last, you need a deep understanding of how Russian intelligence disseminates propaganda, what the Kremlin calls Active Measures, against their foes. Particularly important is the use of disinformation, which the KGB and its successors have perfected over decades, and they now can disseminate it quickly and easily online. Above all, what’s required to get to the bottom of the Trump mystery is a well-honed ability to unravel the full scope of interlocking Russian spy-games in their strategic—not just tactical—complexity.

The good news for the White House is that the number of people in the West who can grasp all that is rather small. Even in our Intelligence Community, this specialization is rare and customarily considered somewhat odd. You need to understand the Russian mindset, which means you should speak their language and comprehend how they think. You need extensive knowledge of Kremlin spy-cum-propaganda operations going back many decades. That expertise is hardly ever achieved by scholars, so we’re talking about people with a lot of education but also practical experience in high-level counterespionage against the Russians.

To say nothing of the fact that the Russians routinely use provocateurs and fake opposition to muddy the waters whenever questions arise about nefarious Kremlin activities. Vociferous haters of Moscow and all its works have an odd habit of turning out to be secretly on the payroll of Russian spy services, while the Kremlin has employed provocation on an industrial scale for more than a century to confuse the West in its efforts to understand what the Russians are really up to. Chekists like Vladimir Putin take enormous pride in their seasoned ability to run rings around confused foreigners until they get lost in the vaunted “wilderness of mirrors.”

To sum up, the knowledge required here can’t be obtained by reading a few books and consulting Wikipedia. Neither does partisan hackery help in getting to the bottom of Trump’s murky Russia ties. However, dull amateurism matched with naked partisanship constitutes most of what passes for media analysis of this critical issue, and as long as that continues to be the case the president will skirt the serious inquiry the country needs to unravel Donald Trump’s strange relationship with the Kremlin.

John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer. A specialist in espionage and terrorism, he’s also been a Navy officer and a War College professor. He’s published four books and is on Twitter at @20committee.