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Attorney General Merrick Garland: the iceberg cometh for Trump

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A week later and Washington, the political class, the media and much of the country are still reeling from the USS Trump’s collision with the iceberg that is the Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland

Only a portion of the AG’s work is visible above the surface, but beneath is a massive juggernaut that can inflict serious damage on those who collide with it.  Trump is listing, his momentum slowed.

Trump does not own the documents from his presidency, whether they were classified or not, whether he took them out of the White House or not, whether he destroyed any or not.  

The website of the National Archives of the United States is absolutely clear:

The Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, 44 U.S.C. ß2201-2209, governs the official records of Presidents and Vice Presidents that were created or received after January 20, 1981 (i.e., beginning with the Reagan Administration). The PRA changed the legal ownership of the official records of the President from private to public, and established a new statutory structure under which Presidents, and subsequently NARA [National Archives], must manage the records of their Administrations. 

No president, current or former, owns presidential records.  The American people do.

Trump took boxes of documents from the White House on January 20, 2021, the day he left office and became the former president.  The National Archives has tried to track those down and have them returned ever since.  Finally, after months of efforts, several boxes were recovered.  But not all, and the Archives obtained a subpoena for the rest.  Trump never responded to it.  Finally, after showing a Federal judge the necessity of recovering the documents – principally because of the national security implications of the materials –  the AG obtained a search warrant and Garland approved the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. Multiple boxes and documents were recovered.

No former president has ever been subject to such a law enforcement action. 

Former U.S. President Trump

Richard Nixon was pardoned for his Watergate crimes by President Gerald Ford, insulating him from further investigation.  No other former president has aroused any such concerns about the lawfulness of their activities after leaving office.  No other former president was impeached twice or treated the basic rules of the handling of intelligence matters with such contempt. 

For Trump – and especially for Trump’s base and his supporters, who yearn for his restoration – the raid  was a vicious persecution by the Deep State, the Regime, who wants him destroyed politically.  . Trump extremists have labelled the FBI as traitorous, and calls to defund the bureau.  

But as these events unfolded, and the seriousness of the reckless handling of these documents became evident – especially those that are top secret, and which can only be held and viewed under stringent security protocols – the mood among some Republicans has shifted.

There are real issues here which are adding to the baggage Trump is carrying as he prepares to declare for the 2024 presidential campaign – baggage which makes him less attractive to those Republicans who want to turn the page on Trump and his obsession with the past and instead turn to the future.

What is also extraordinary is how Trump can continue to dominate the news cycle.  The intensity of coverage over this last week rivalled the frenzy in 2017-19 over Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia and whether Trump obstructed justice. 

The past week has been a breathless, wall-to-wall engagement.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks and signs documents endorsing Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO, in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, U.S., August 9, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

And it has pushed to below the fold on p1 what the current president, Joe Biden, has achieved.  Biden has had his best two months since taking office:  a black woman jurist has joined the Supreme Court, a bipartisan gun safety bill was signed into law, a bipartisan multibillion program to secure America’ s leadership in computer chips, and all they drive in our economy, is now law.  Gasoline prices have declined 20% from their peak.  Inflation is slowing.  Congress has passed – and Biden will sign into law this week – the largest investment in clean energy in the history of US environmental law, lower prescription drug process and health insurance costs, and minimum taxes on the biggest corporations in the country. 

Together with last year’s Covid recovery programs and the trillion-dollar infrastructure investment to rebuild the country, and with leadership with allies on Ukraine – the Senate approved Sweden and Finland joining NATO –  Biden now has a record of a consequential president.

A wave of anger about the Trump Supreme Court’s repeal of a woman’s constitutional right to abortion is moving across the country – even in conservative states like Kansas.  Women trapped in states hostile to reproductive health care are getting the message:  the only way to restore abortion rights is to vote for Democrats.

The bottom line is that prospects for the Democrats for the midterm elections have improved.  

The FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago follows the weeks of hearings this summer of the January 6 Committee. 

What has been presented is an exceptionally compelling case of a conspiracy conceived and executed by Trump and his minions to overturn the presidential election he lost in 2020.

There has been immense pressure by many Democrats, historians, and legal experts for the Attorney General to seek Trump’s indictment for the insurrection and attack on the Capitol. 

There has been open frustration from these advocates that Garland, in the face of Trump posing a clear and present danger to America’s democracy, is not moving fast enough – is not sufficiently committed – to bringing Trump to justice.

What the past week shows is that they are only seeing the tip of the Garland iceberg.  It is clear from the FBI raid that Garland has been working quietly and deliberately to ensure that Trump is not above the law. There may yet be indictments for violation of the Espionage Act and other national security laws.  There is a grand jury currently working on the very issues posed by the insurrection. It is the biggest investigation in the history of the Justice Department.  Many witnesses who testified before the January 6 Committee are appearing before the grand jury.

Trump may well collide – again – with the Garland iceberg. It could be titanic.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Watered down meetings for Pacific leaders

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Solomon Islands Prime Minster concludes his second overseas trip in a week as strategic competition heightens

It’s hard to believe a time when leaders from the Pacific jumped on board their emissions-spurting jets to meet with the U.S. President.

But last week 12 leaders from across the Pacific gathered in Washington to meet with President Joe Biden in the first U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit.

“We honoured the history and values that our nations share and expanded our cooperation on key areas that will benefit our people for years to come,” President Biden said.

What was the meeting about?

Leaders from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia were among the guests at the summit.

They discussed maritime security, climate change, and economic development.

Of course, climate change is a crucial issue for these Pacific Island states, many of which are low-lying and vulnerable to the impacts of rising temperatures and sea levels.

These countries are already experiencing higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, and rising sea levels.

There are also long-term climate variables, which are expected to occur in the future.

The U.S. believes the summit was a platform to “reaffirm its commitment to the Pacific region” and “strengthen its relationships”.

But it was only a matter of time before the climate guise was dropped.

“The security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security, and the security of the Pacific Islands.”

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT

Security is the key word here, because President Biden’s definition of this, may differ from the low-lying states of the Pacific.

Why was it important?

One word: China. When Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi blitzed through 10 Pacific countries earlier in the year, he had a big deal on his mind: a regional security pact.

“China practices the diplomatic principle of equality among all countries,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The Pacific sensationally declined to sign up to the sweeping deal, which included greater economic and security ties.

Wang said the Pacific region should not to be “too anxious” about Beijing’s intentions.

“China is not a newcomer, but rather an old friend with Pacific Island countries,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Solomon Islands is the key example here, especially after Prime Minster Manasseh Sogavare’s stance on the Declaration following last week’s U.S.-Pacific Partnership.

Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said he watered down the initial language because it “put us in a position where we’d have to choose sides”.

He added there were “indirect” references to China, however, officials later found “common ground” and Solomon Islands signed up.

It’s no surprise Sogavare was then seen standing next to President Joe Biden for the official photo at last week’s Washington Summit. Fiji’s leader Frank Bainimarama was also strategically on the other side.

It was the first time in 40 years where a Fijian Prime Minister had an official audience with the U.S. President.

Why is Solomon Islands at the centre of this?

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare met with Australia’s leader Anthony Albanese in Canberra today, where the pair reiterated their relationship as “proud Pacific nations”.

“I look forward to engaging with Prime Minister Sogavare on building a strong and prosperous Pacific region, based on principles of transparency, respect and partnership.”

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA

Australia remains Solomon Islands’ largest development partner. But Sogavare’s state visit largely remained behind closed doors, with no media opportunities scheduled.

Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed Australia’s $16.68 million commitment to support the 2023 Pacific Games, and offer to support the next Solomon Islands’ election—an issue where earlier friction was caused.

Sogavare’s visit was part of Canberra’s plan to reduce friction between the two nation.

Earlier this year, Honiara signed a security alliance with Beijing. It stirred a diplomatic pot over concerns a Chinese military base could be established on the island nation.

Australia’s Prime Minister meets with Solomon Islands Prime Minister.

Australia’s then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for greater transparency over the deal.

But Sogavare lashed out at Australian officials in his nation’s parliament, asking where the same transparency was over the AUKUS alliance between Australia, Britain and the U.S.

“I learnt of the AUKUS treaty in the media. One would expect that as a member of the Pacific family, the Solomon Islands and members of the Pacific should have been consulted to ensure this AUKUS treaty is transparent.”

MANASSEH SOGAVARE, PRIME MINISTER OF THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

The recent Washington summit was the perfect opportunity for President Biden to roll out the red carpet and discuss his administration’s plans for the Indo-Pacific region.

On the other hand, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “will keep in close communication with all parties” and “make good use of the mechanism of China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting”.

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How close to a full scale nuclear war are we really?

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Since President Vladimir Putin’s latest warning that he is ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, the question of whether or not the former KGB spy is bluffing has become much more urgent.

There are several reasons why Putin’s nuclear warnings have the West worried. First, Russia has been increasingly aggressive in its actions in recent years, from annexing Crimea to intervening in Syria. This has led to a feeling that Putin is becoming more and more reckless and unpredictable.

Second, Russia has been beefing up its nuclear arsenal, with reports indicating that it now has more nuclear warheads than any other country in the world. This increase in firepower makes Putin’s threats all the more credible.

Last but not least, there is the fact that Putin is a former KGB agent. This means that he is no stranger to playing games of brinkmanship and bluffing. In the past, he has used nuclear threats as a way to get what he wants. For example, in 2008, he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at European cities unless the United States agreed to drop plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

The West is worried

Given all of this, it’s no wonder that Putin’s latest nuclear threats have the West worried. Only Putin knows if he is actually bluffing, but given his track record, it’s certainly a possibility.

If a nuclear weapon were used in Ukraine, it would cause a massive humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people would be killed or wounded, and millions more would be displaced. The economic and social damage would be enormous, and Europe would be plunged into chaos.

In addition, the use of nuclear weapons would also have devastating consequences for the rest of the world. The nuclear non-proliferation regime would be dealt a serious blow, and there would be a renewed risk of nuclear war.

The world would become a much more dangerous place.

Nuclear impact

A nuclear explosion in Ukraine would have a regional impact, but it could also have global consequences. The use of nuclear weapons would violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and this could lead to other countries acquiring nuclear weapons. In addition, the risk of nuclear war would increase, and this would have a negative impact on the entire world.

The UN has condemned Russia’s threats of nuclear war, and it has called on all parties to refrain from any actions that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. The UN Secretary-General has said that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and he has urged all sides to return to the negotiating table.

Russia has several allies in its war against Ukraine. These include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia also has the support of China and Iran.

The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on energy prices.

Due to the conflict, there has been a disruption in the supply of natural gas and oil from Ukraine. This has led to an increase in prices for these commodities.

The West can only threaten Putin further, as they’ve done all year, since President Biden warned that Russia was about to invade Ukraine.

Every step of the way, Putin has done exactly what the West has feared.

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“These are the guys?” Putin’s Dad’s army

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Vladimir Putin’s army is in a bit of a pickle. They’ve been drafting retirees, and telling conscripts to use tampons for bullet wounds.

This isn’t exactly the most impressive fighting force we’ve ever seen. In fact, they look more like dad’s army than anything else.

It’s clear that Putin is desperate to beef up his forces, but it seems like he’s just throwing bodies at the problem instead of actually preparing them for battle.

Pictures from Sevastopol in Crimea show groups of men — many well into their 50s and 60s gripping weapons and wearing uniforms.

Several appear in questionable fighting shape.

This could be a big problem for Russia if they actually get into a serious conflict. We hope for their sake that they never have to find out.

Thousands of Russian men are fleeing the country to avoid conscription. This just goes to show how unpopular Putin’s policies are, even among his own people.

The Kremlin is now trying to catch thousands of Russian men as they try and leave the country. But it’s not going to be easy.

Many of these men are willing to risk everything to avoid being drafted into Putin’s army.

It’s estimated that up to 100,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine since the conflict began.

This is a huge loss of life for Russia, and it’s all thanks to Putin’s reckless policies.

Many of these soldiers were just boys, barely out of their teens. They had their whole lives ahead of them, but they’ll never get to experience it now.

It’s tragic, and it’s all thanks to Putin. He needs to be stopped.

At the same time, a video shared on social media shows a Russian officer telling new recruits what to expect.

“I say right away if you are near the fire, you are f***ed,” she says, before reeling off a list of items they will need to acquire themselves before entering the war zone.

“Take sleeping bags with you, you will sleep where you have to.”

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