Europe/Americas update: July 11 2017

I’m going to be totally honest here and say that there’s really not much to talk about here beyond the spiraling-out-of-control Donald Trump Jr. situation. That’s not really my area though I try to keep abreast of the story because it obviously has implications in international affairs, so what I’m saying is that this post is going to be fairly short and extra-heavy on excerpts.



Separate from the Trump(s)-Russia scandal, Moscow is talking like it’s on the brink of taking some retaliatory action against the US for last year’s expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of Russian diplomatic compounds:

“The situation is outrageous,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian media during a visit to Austria on Tuesday.

“I believe that for such a great country like the United States of America, this advocate of international law, it’s just shameful to leave the situation in mid-air,” he said in comments posted on his ministry’s website.

“We are now thinking of specific steps.”

It’s important to note that Lavrov may be bluffing a bit, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see some minor retaliation from Moscow in the next couple of months, if for no other reason than to maybe play down the Trump-Russia story a bit. The fact is that the scandal has made it so that President Trump wouldn’t be able to, say, return those compounds to the Russians without setting off a new firestorm.


The US is trying to sell Germany on the merits of the F-35, a task that would undoubtedly be easier if there were any. Even if the F-35 actually worked, there would be tremendous political pressure on the German government to produce its own next-generation aircraft thanks to the country’s strong organized labor movement (ask your parents), and intra-European pressure to at least keep its defense business on the continent.


Theresa May seems to be coming around to the fact that her political strength has cratered, appealing to the Labour Party for its input on Brexit. Her Brexit Secretary, David Davis, is acknowledging that there will probably have to be a transition period before the UK fully leaves the EU, though he’s pretending that’s because other countries need it and not because UK politics are a burning tire fire at this point. But there’s still at least one leading Tory who refuses to leave Delusion Island:

Boris Johnson has suggested European leaders can “go whistle” if they expect Britain to pay a divorce bill for withdrawing from the European Union.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the foreign secretary also told MPs that the government had “no plan for no deal” because of its confidence in securing a strong Brexit settlement with the bloc.

He went on to say the sums demanded by Brussels as a price for a deal were “extortionate” and signalled that the UK would refuse to pay.

For some reason Johnson still thinks the UK has enough leverage not only to dictate the terms of its departure from the EU, but to do so while its foreign secretary acts like a crass dipshit about the whole situation. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had something to say about that:

Johnson’s warning to the EU was dismissed by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who said it was “ridiculous for the foreign secretary to approach important and serious negotiations with that silly, arrogant language that he so often employs”.

“Treat people with respect and there’s a fair chance you will be treated with respect in return. If you start on the basis of those silly remarks, what kind of response does he expect to get?” he said.



Here’s a pretty succinct summary of today’s big news from the New York Post:

We see one truly solid takeaway from the story of the day: Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot.

I mean, it’s pretty hard to get around that at this point. The New York Times published its fourth exposé on the meeting Donald Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner took with a Russian lawyer during last year’s presidential campaign, and it’s perhaps the most damaging one yet:

The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

If the future president’s eldest son was surprised or disturbed by the provenance of the promised material — or the notion that it was part of a continuing effort by the Russian government to aid his father’s campaign — he gave no indication.

He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

What? It’s part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump? In that case, I love it especially later in the summer. I mean, I’m no lawyer so what do I know about making a criminal case, but the political case seems pretty open and shut: somebody told Donald Trump Jr. that he could put Trump in touch with a person peddling Russian government information on Hillary Clinton and Trump leaped at the opportunity. Questions about whether the person he met with actually had any ties to the Russian government or was able to provide such information are irrelevant–Donny was fully prepared to collude with the Russian government. The notion that he just wanted to hear what this person had to say is similarly irrelevant.

The NYT got these emails independently, but you don’t have to take their word for it. Donald Jr. tweeted the whole exchange himself earlier today, apparently under the belief that it would somehow exonerate him:

He’s an idiot. But he wants a cookie for his transparency…except that he’s been obviously trying to obfuscate this whole story for days now, as Vox’s Dara Lind has catalogued.

Meanwhile, Jared Kushner, who is inexplicably still allowed to work in the White House, went to this same meeting under the pretext that he was meeting with a representative of the Russian government to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. is getting all the attention here but Kushner is the one who actually has a government job and who apparently lied on his security clearance forms–which itself is a crime.

The White House, as you might expect, is in an even greater state of disarray than usual in the wake of these new revelations:

President Trump — who has been hidden from public view since returning last weekend from a divisive international summit — is enraged that the Russia cloud still hangs over his presidency and is exasperated that his eldest son and namesake has become engulfed by it, said people who have spoken with him this week.

The disclosure that Trump Jr. met with a Russian attorney, believing he would receive incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as part of the Kremlin’s effort to boost his father’s candidacy, has set back the administration’s faltering agenda and rattled the senior leadership team.

Even supporters of Trump Jr. who believe he faces no legal repercussions privately acknowledged Tuesday that the story is a public relations disaster — for him as well as for the White House. One outside ally called it a “Category 5 hurricane,” while an outside adviser said a CNN graphic charting connections between the Trump team and Russians resembled the plot of the fictional Netflix series “House of Cards.”

Even Vice President Pence sought to distance himself from the controversy, with his spokesman noting that Trump Jr.’s meeting occurred before Pence joined the ticket.

Kushner is reportedly trying to get Reince Priebus fired, because clearly he’s been the problem (?), the whole family is angry about leaks even though there’s a good chance that some of these Donald Jr. leaks have come from Kushner to try to keep media attention off of him, and they seem to be coalescing around a narrative that poor, naive Donald Jr. is so new to politics that he had no idea any of this would be considered wrong in any way. Or in other words, this:

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