Political Roundup

In this week’s headlines…

President Trump was slated to attend the Summit of the Americas in Peru, which would have been his first official visit to Latin America. He canceled at the last minute, citing the conflict with Syria. Vice President Mike Pence took Trump’s place at the summit (ABCNews, “Vice President Pence departs for South America trip in Trump’s place,” 04.13.2018).

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress on April 10 and 11 on the website’s misuse of user data and complicity in Russian election meddling. The two days of hearings before the Senate and House came in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook allowed the political consulting firm, which worked with Trump, access to the data of millions of its users. Zuckerberg’s testimony, in which he confessed he made a mistake, increased Facebook’s share price by 5.7 percent (The New York Times, “2 Days, 10 Hours, 600 Questions: What Happened When Mark Zuckerberg Went to Washington,” 04.12.2018).

Trump on April 12 asked his trade and economic advisors to examine options for rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This decision comes one year after the United States withdrew from the TPP and as the trade war with China intensifies. Trump tweeted that he would consider re-joining the TPP if he would get a better deal than President Obama. Trump has previously said of the deal, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country.” The current members of the TPP would expect significant concessions from the United States if it were to rejoin the trade agreement (The New York Times, “Trump Weighs Return to Trans-Pacific Partnership. Not So Fast, Say Members,” 04.13.2018).

Former FBI Director James Comey published a memoir on Tuesday, April 17. Titled “A Higher Loyalty,” the book compares Trump to a mob boss and characterizes him as unethical. Comey was dismissed at the beginning of May 2017 while eading an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The official reason for his dismissal was mishandling the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump responded to the new book by calling Comey an “untruthful slime ball,” while the Republican National Committee (RNC) launched a website called “Lyin’ Comey” in an attempt to discredit him (CNNPolitics, “Exclusive: Inside the GOP plan to discredit Comey,” 04.12.2018).

The FBI raided the office and the hotel room of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen on April 9. Searching for details and proof that Cohen blocked negative information about Trump during his campaign, they took documents connected to payments to former adult film star Stormy Daniels as well as his business records, emails, phones and a laptop. The raid was personally approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after the official recommendation from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump has called the raid a witch hunt (CNN, “FBI raids Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office,” 04.09.2018).

GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy resigned from the RNC due to reports that he agreed to pay a $1.6 million settlement to a former Playboy model who said she was pregnant with Broidy’s baby. The deal was arranged by Cohen (The Wall Street Journal, “Elliott Broidy Quits RNC Post After Report on Payment to Ex-Model,” 04.13.2018).

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on a bipartisan bill protecting Mueller from being fired by Trump. The bill will allow Mueller to challenge a dismissal in court up to 10 days after termination (Politico, “Bipartisan Senate bill to protect Mueller set to advance,” 04.11.2018).

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has announced that he will not run for re-election in the 2018 midterms. As many as 43 Republicans in the House so far have announced they are leaving office. The high number is a result of disagreements with Trump, as well as several allegations of sexual harassment (CNN Politics, “There is a wave of Republicans leaving Congress, updated again,” 04.11.2018).

Around the world…

In May, a strict new law on the regulation and protection of personal data will come into force in the European Union. Known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the law will overhaul how businesses and the public sector process and handle their customer data. This is one of the biggest changes in online privacy legislation  to date. During his hearing before the House Committee, Zuckerberg committed to the GDPR as a global standard for Facebook, promising that Americans and users worldwide will receive the same protections as Europeans under the GDPR (The New York Times, “A Tough Task for Facebook: European-Type Privacy for All,” 04.08.2018; Euronews, “New EU digital law will ‘protect personal data,’” 04.10.2018).

Hungary’s right-wing prime minister Viktor Orbán won his third mandate on April 8, while his party Fidesz won two-thirds of the parliamentary seats in the recent elections. Orbán campaigned on an anti-immigration platform and opposes increasing the powers of the European Union. On Saturday, April 14, around 100,000 people attended an anti-Orbán protest in Budapest. Many of the protesters were young people, who called the electoral system unfair and demanded a recount of the ballots (The Economist, “Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, wins another landslide,” 04.12.2018).

At least 257 people were killed in an Algerian military plane crash outside the capital of Algiers on April 11. This represents the deadliest plane accident in Algeria’s history (BBC, “Algeria military plane crash: 257 dead near Algiers,” 04.11.2018).

Russian stock markets took a hit on April 9 with stocks falling almost nine percent, while the ruble dropped 2.5 percent against the dollar. The fall came amid Trump’s criticism of Russian support for the Syrian government. The drop was mostly a result of the latest round of America’s sanctions against Russia. The sanctions targeted seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies under their control (Financial Times, “Russian stocks tumble 9 percent on US sanctions worries,” 04.09.2018).

Keeping up with 2020 hopefuls…

Last weekend, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti visited Iowa, where he suggested Iowa and Los Angeles are very similar, saying, “We have the same hopes right now, and we have the same challenges before us.” Some Democrats have mentioned him as a potential 2020 contender, with Chair of the Polk County Democrats Sean Bagniewski saying, “He’s got some of the Obama buzz that we’ve been hearing about—somebody who is coming out of nowhere, but is dynamic, has a great American story, and has the ability to cross [voter lines]” (CNN Politics, “LA and Iowa have ‘a ton in common,’ LA’s mayor Garcetti tells Iowa voters,” 04.16.2018).

Garcetti is not the only major who might potentially be interested in the 2020 presidential elections. Other mayors who may be running include New York Mayor Bill De Blasio; South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Obama (The New York Times, “Will Democrats Find a Presidential Hopeful at City Hall?,” 04.13.2018).

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