The Trump Presidency After One Year

Is it really this bad?

In “Fire and Fury”, Michael Wolff’s gossipy tale of the White House, the leader of the free world is portrayed as a monstrously selfish toddler-emperor seen by his own staff as unfit for office. America is caught up in a debate about the president’s sanity. Seemingly unable to contain himself, Mr Trump fans the flames by taking to Twitter to crow about his “very stable genius”

In office Mr Trump’s legislative accomplishments have been modest, and mixed. A tax reform that cut rates and simplified some of the rules was also regressive and unfunded. His antipathy to regulation has invigorated animal spirits, but at an unknown cost to the environment and human health. His proposed withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and the fledgling Trans-Pacific Partnership was, in The Economist magazines’ view, foolish, but hardly beyond the pale of Republican thinking.

The danger of the Trump character obsession is that it distracts from deeper changes in America’s system of government. The bureaucracy is so understaffed that it is relying on industry hacks to draft policy. They have shaped deregulation and written clauses into the tax bill that pass costs from shareholders to society. Because Senate Republicans confirmed so few judges in Mr Obama’s last two years, Mr Trump is moving the judiciary dramatically to the right (see article). And non-stop outrage also drowns out Washington’s problem: the power of the swamp and its disconnection from ordinary voters.

Mr Trump has been a poor president in his first year. In his second he may cause America grave damage. But the presidential telenovela is a diversion. He and his administration need to be held properly to account for what they actually do.

Advertisements

Donald Trump’s big test in 2018 – The Economist video

The ninth in The Economist series of films previewing some of the big themes of 2018 considers America’s mid-term elections. A bad result for Donald Trump could lead to his impeachment. Can he unite and rally Republican voters?

Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S.

A draft report by government scientists concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. Credit Branden Camp/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states. A copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.

The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency did not immediately return calls or respond to emails requesting comment on Monday night.

The report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at least an additional 0.50 degrees Fahrenheit (0.30 degrees Celsius) of warming over this century compared with today. The projected actual rise, scientists say, will be as much as 2 degrees Celsius.

A small difference in global temperatures can make a big difference in the climate: The difference between a rise in global temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius and one of 2 degrees Celsius, for example, could mean longer heat waves, more intense rainstorms and the faster disintegration of coral reefs.

In the United States, the authors write, the heat wave that broiled Texas in 2011 was more complicated. That year was Texas’ driest on record, and one study cited in the report said local weather variability and La Niña were the primary causes, with a “relatively small” warming contribution. Another study had concluded that climate change made extreme events 20 times more likely in Texas.

Based on those and other conflicting studies, the federal draft concludes that there was a medium likelihood that climate change played a role in the Texas heat wave. But it avoids assessing other individual weather events for their link to climate change. Generally, the report described linking recent major droughts in the United States to human activity as “complicated,” saying that while many droughts have been long and severe, they have not been unprecedented in the earth’s hydrologic natural variation.

Worldwide, the draft report finds it “extremely likely” that more than half of the global mean temperature increase since 1951 can be linked to human influence.

Read the Draft of the Climate Change Report

Read the complete article in the New York Times.

 

Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump. Free pdf

Biographies of famous people always include some of the subject’s wise and witty sayings. Donald J. Trump is no exception. Here within are the up-to-this-date collection of sayings by Donald J. Trump which have earned him a top spot in the annals of American Presidents.

Download your free copy in PDF format…. Wit & Wisdom of Donald J Trump

And the Oscar for worst President EVER goes to….

Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Donald Trump.

And the Oscar for the worst supporting actor to the President is…

Stephen Bannon, chief strategist for Donald Trump. CNN.

Stephen Bannon, chief strategist for Donald Trump. CNN.

Stephen Bannon, the chief strategist for Donald Trump. Isn’t he doing a terrific job? Just fabulous. Wonderful. The best. The greatest. Ask him. Ask Donald. They’ll both tell you Stephen Bannon is amazing. He’s done such a fabulous job so far. It’s amazing. Really. It’s amazing.

How Donald Trump became Deutsche Bank’s biggest headache

 Since Trump’s election, Deutsche has fielded numerous calls from the media on a possible financial trail to Moscow. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images


Since Trump’s election, Deutsche has fielded numerous calls from the media on a possible financial trail to Moscow. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump has become a big headache for Deutsche Bank. Here’s how.

The language was scathing, the tone sarcastic. “[Donald] Trump proclaims himself the archetypal businessman, a deal-maker without peer,” the memo said.

It mentioned Trump’s boast that he was worth “billions of dollars”. And it listed his interests in “numerous extraordinary properties” across the world, from New York to Panama, not to mention his latest golf course in Scotland.

Another document noted: “Trump is no stranger to overdue debt.”

The angry memos were written by lawyers acting on behalf of Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest lender, which was suing the billionaire.

It was November 2008. Three-and-a-half years earlier the bank had loaned Trump the cash to build one of his grandest projects yet: a hotel and mega-tower in Chicago.

Trump had given his personal guarantee he would repay the $640m. As per agreement, he was now due to hand over a large chunk, $40m.

There was only one problem: the future 45th president of the United States was refusing to pay up. Deutsche initiated legal action. Trump responded with a blistering, scarcely credible writ of his own, a 10-count complaint in New York’s supreme court, in the county of Queens.

In it, Trump adopted a highly unusual defence, known as “force majeure”. He claimed that the 2008 economic crisis was a “once-in-a-century credit tsunami”, an act of God that was equivalent to an earthquake.

Since it couldn’t have been anticipated, and it wasn’t his fault, he wasn’t obliged to pay Deutsche anything. It wouldn’t get the $40m or the outstanding $330m, his writ said.

He went further. Trump claimed Deutsche Bank had actually helped cause the crunch. Therefore it owed him. Trump demanded $3bn from Deutsche in compensation.

Its New York property division first loaned money to him in 1998 at a time when the bank was attempting to expand its commercial real estate portfolio. By that stage, other major banks were becoming cautious about Trump, in part, the Wall Street Journal has said, because of frustration with his business practices.

A decade later, Deutsche was to find out for itself quite how capricious and unpredictable he could be.

Then came Trump’s Scottish golf course venture.

It was what happened next that strikes many in the banking world as unusual – bizarre, even. In 2005 Trump had borrowed money from Deutsche’s commercial real estate division. In 2010 the parties settled their legal differences.

But rather than walking away, the bank’s private wealth division then resumed lending to Trump, the troublesome four-times bankrupt client who had defaulted on a major loan.

Why? It’s unclear what assurances Trump offered. He had given his word before, only to break it.

Deutsche has refused to discuss its lending arrangements to the first family. Its clients also include Trump’s daughter Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, and Kushner’s mother, Seryl Stadtmauer.

Kushner is a senior White House adviser. Just before the US election Deutsche refinanced $370m he owes against commercial property in Manhattan belonging to Kushner’s company.

Sources inside Deutsche say the investment banking side of the business is entirely separate from the private bank that handles the Trumps. Personal relationships also play an important role in private banking.

Even so, banking experts have told the Guardian it is unusual for a private bank to take on such loans, and unbelievable that a bank would continue to deal with a man who had refused to pay his debt, and then countersued using force majeure.

One former Deutsche employee, based in New York, said: “Real estate refused to deal with him [Trump]. Only the private bank is willing to accept personal guarantees.”

Joe Crowley, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said: “President Trump’s web of global financial entanglements are of serious concern. When a foreign-owned bank that is under investigation by the Department of Justice holds hundreds of millions in personally-guaranteed debt for the president, that is problematic for ethical, diplomatic, and judicial reasons. This is why we must know more about all of Donald Trump’s business ties.”

Crowley also said he wanted the president to release his elusive tax returns.

Deutsche has not explained why it continued to bankroll Trump and his real estate deals. Even before the 2008 legal dispute, Trump’s chequered business record was infamous. Other financial houses in New York refused to give him credit, following a string of failed ventures including an airline and a casino empire in Atlantic City.

Bloomberg reported that Deutsche was now trying to restructure Trump’s $300m debt, which is guaranteed by four of his properties. The difficulty is obvious: conflict of interest. The president owes the bank money. At the same time the Trump administration and its Department of Justice is investigating Deutsche over its Russian money laundering scheme.

According to an analysis by Bloomberg, Trump now owes Deutsche around $300m. He has four large mortgages, all issued by Deutsche’s private bank. The loans are guaranteed against the president’s properties: a new deluxe hotel in Washington DC’s old Post Office building, just round the corner from the White House; his Chicago tower hotel; and the Trump National Doral Miami resort.

Trump and his businesses have a long history with the German bank, which this month posted its latest net loss, of €1.4bn. It has been the only financial institution willing to lend Trump significant sums. In the 1990s other Wall Street banks, which had previously extended him credit, turned off the tap after Trump’s businesses declared bankruptcy four times.

Trump remains the bank’s most high-profile client. He is also, increasingly, its biggest PR headache.

Read more on The Guardian newspaper here and here.

 

Palm Beach businesses stung by cost of hosting Trump’s weekend retreat

 Donald Trump arrives at Palm Beach international airport on 3 February. County aviation officials say the president’s four-day visit cost more than $250,000 in lost revenue. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Donald Trump arrives at Palm Beach international airport on 3 February. County aviation officials say the president’s four-day visit cost more than $250,000 in lost revenue. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Trump’s four-day visit last weekend caused more than $250,000 in lost revenue from fuel sales and landing fees, according to a dossier released this week by county aviation officials, mostly at Palm Beach international airport, where Air Force One lands and departs.

At Lantana general aviation airport, inside the 30-mile flight restriction zone around Mar-a-Lago imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, all operations cease during presidential visits. Jonathan Miller, chief executive of airport operator Stellar Aviation, said the repeated groundings, including training and sightseeing flights, are forcing several Lantana tenants to consider their futures. Palm Beach Aircraft Services estimates losses could reach $2m a year and several private plane owners have already switched to other airports, Miller said.

“When [the president’s] here for three days we lose at least $30,000. Our small businesses can’t survive, they’ll either shut down or leave,” said Miller, who added that more than 400 people work at the airport.

“People will just say I’m not going to stay in the Palm Beaches, I don’t need the aggravation. It’s going to grind our economy to a halt,” said Jeff Greene, a hotel owner who says that he has already lost bookings from prospective guests at his upmarket Tideline Ocean Resort and Spa further south along Ocean Boulevard from Trump’s waterfront estate.

“And basically the opportunities in a town like this are exactly the times he’s planning on being here, Christmas, New Year, Presidents’ weekend, Easter and all these other weekends, like last weekend and this coming weekend. In our hotel we depend on February and March to make 50% of our annual profit.”

While hoteliers such as Greene are unable to yet put a dollar figure on their expected losses, Palm Beach County’s airports, flight schools and other aviation-related businesses are already counting the cost.

While the airports’ losses grow, Palm Beach is also seeking relief for security costs to protect Trump, including policing of demonstrations. About 3,000 people took part in a peaceful protest at Mar-a-Lago last weekend and another is planned for Sunday.

The Palm Beach sheriff’s office did not respond to the Guardian’s request for cost details of last weekend’s visit, or Trump’s extended Christmas and New Year break at Mar-a-Lago, but its overtime bill alone topped $250,000 for the then president-elect’s short Thanksgiving sojourn.

“Back in the 1960s John F Kennedy was here but it was a different town then, much smaller and quieter,” said Laurel Baker, a longtime Palm Beach resident and executive director of the town’s chamber of commerce.

Baker said tourists had always come to gawk at the Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Maseratis parked outside the upscale jewellery and fashion stores along Worth Avenue, but the challenge now is turning Trump’s notoriety into financial gain for the island’s business owners.

“People want to see the winter White House but they’re drive-bys, which is a terrible word to use, but that’s what it is,” she said. “It’s all well and good, but it doesn’t help unless they also stop for a bite to eat.”

There are, of course, no such worries inside Mar-a-Lago, where the opulent dining room is full every dinnertime when Trump is in residence, and the non-refundable membership fee doubled to $200,000 within weeks of his election victory.

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.