After a long and quite public back and forth about the potential for an interview, are President Trump and Robert Mueller close to meeting? Trump’s team has apparently responded to Mueller’s request for interview with a counteroffer on the terms. The two parties have been in discussions since at least January. The basic core of the counteroffer is that Trump is happy to talk about collusion with Russia, but not about obstruction of justice. Though Rudy Giuliani, who is on Trump’s legal team, said they did leave the door open to possible questions on obstruction.
FINSUM: This seems like a positive development. It appears like it would be good for all sides to have this investigation finished once and for all, and a sit down with Trump could potentially resolve things.
Rumors of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen turning on the president have been stirring for weeks. Now it appears to have happened, as CNN has published a recording (which it says is from Cohen) of President Trump and Cohen discussing the “financing” of a payment to a former Playboy model. The conversation was apparently about buying the playmate’s story, a story which involved an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
FINSUM: In our view this will likely just cause another minor firestorm. Trump doesn’t say anything really shocking or incriminating in the recording, so we don’t imagine this will have any significant impact.
It looks like the EU is going to pullout all the stops to try to avoid a trade war with the US. EU commissioner head Juncker is going to meet in Washington this week with President Trump to offer some new avenues for discussion as a way to avoid a broad tariff package. Trump is threatening a $50 bn tariff package on the EU, which he says has taken advantage of the US in trade. Europe is particularly worried for their car exports to the US, which are very vulnerable to Trump’s potential tariffs.
FINSUM: We have a hard time imagining Juncker is going to say anything to dissuade Trump, but maybe the EU has something sweet to offer.
Anyone hoping the current trade war might have stalled will be sorely mistaken today. While Trump says he plans to to impose an additional $200 bn of tariffs on China in September, he has just said he is ready to go to a full $500 bn of tariffs on Chinese imports. When asked if he thought his plans would cause the stock markets to drop, Trump responded “Well, if it does, it does. Look, I'm not doing this for politics. I'm doing this to do this right thing for our country”.
FINSUM: We think the US does currently get a raw deal in a lot of foreign trade, especially with China. However, the manner in which this “negotiation” is proceeding does seem to be unnecessarily disruptive.
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has just formally opened an investigation into Trump’s charity activities. The state accuses the Donald J. Trump Foundation of violating state tax laws regarding campaign financing, self-dealing, and illegally coordinating with the presidential campaign. The state seeks to dissolve the foundation in addition to other measures. The investigation may turn criminal, in which case it could widen in scope to include much of Trump’s personal financial affairs, including his tax returns.
FINSUM: Hard to know how broad this could extend, but it seems like it will certainly intersect with Mueller’s investigation. It could prove a big headache for the president.
President Trump faced nothing short of public and political outrage in the US yesterday, after he essentially sided with Russia’s view of the 2016 election meddling scandal. When asked about Russia’ alleged meddling in the election, Trump insinuated that he believed Putin’s side of the story more than that of US intelligence agencies (though he did not say this outright). That sparked widespread condemnation from political foes and allies alike.
FINSUM: Whatever you think of Trump’s comments, most might agree that these are some of his most provocative and risky comments yet. The reason being that appearing to “side” with Russia might undermine some of his own nationalist voter base.