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China releases video to scare Pelosi from Taiwan

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The new broke mid-morning Monday in Washington.  The Wall Street Journal reported that House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to Taiwan. 

SUMMIT COUNTY COLORADO – Neither the Speaker’s office nor the White House would confirm the trip, but spokesman John Kirby, speaking from the briefing room and seeking to frame what is unfolding ahead of the visit, said:

“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding U.S. policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile our actions are not threatening and they break no new ground. Nothing about this potential visit — potential visit — which by the way has precedent, would change the status quo.”

So Pelosi in Taiwan is on, after days of speculation and significant angst over what Pelosi’s visit would mean, especially in light of China’s exceptionally hostile words about Pelosi’s trip.  

As Australia knows from the bitter rhetoric and harsh punitive measures China has inflicted on Australia over trade, the messages from Beijing on this trip have risen to high-decibel levels. After the long telephone call last Thursday between President Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping, the official readout from Beijing was emphatic:

“Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.” There have been clear intimations of  military displays near Taiwan to coincide with Pelosi’s visit.  There are even concerns that China might target her airplane as it headed towards Taipei.

Many see Pelosi’s visit as exceptionally provocative, and it is clear China expected President Biden to do something about it, particularly after Biden said to the media 10 days ago that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”  

In this photo provided by Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and Singapore President Halimah Yacob shake hands at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. Pelosi arrived in Singapore early Monday, kicking off her Asian tour as questions swirled over a possible stop in Taiwan that has fueled tension with Beijing. (Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore via AP)

The White House and State Department almost certainly received messages from several foreign countries, including close allies, that the trip was ill-timed and would make a tense situation even more tense at a moment when many are hoping, given all the global shocks flowing from the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s alliance with Xi, that the objective should be to lower – not raise – the temperature on US-China strategic issues.

It was clear over the weekend, however, that the distilled consensus was that as long as the Speaker was intent on visiting Taiwan, buckling to Chinese pressure on the visit would set a most unacceptable precedent. 

Why?

It is not unprecedented for a Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan.  Newt Gingrich did it in 1997.

It would be unprecedented for a President to seek to block a foreign trip by a Speaker of the House. Biden can advise, but consent is not his to give. Under the United States Constitution, there are three co-equal branches of the government.

The Executive, who exercises power over foreign policy.  The Congress, which appropriates money to fund the government, and passes laws affecting all official activities, including foreign policy, and fully exercises oversight authority over what the Executive does.  And the Judiciary. No one branch is subordinate to the other two.

Biden can counsel but cannot tell the Speaker not to go Taipei.  She has every right to go to Taipei and assess the situation to inform what Congress should – or should not – do with respect to American foreign policy interests regarding China and Taiwan and new laws that may warrant enactment.

If China could muscle the Speaker from visiting Taiwan, then China can feel it can muscle the United States from any and all other actions it may undertake with respect to Taiwan.

In Washington, that would be an unacceptable precedent.

The White House has stressed, just before the Pelosi visit gets underway, that nothing has changed with US policy:  that the United States is committed, by law, to the “One China” policy and has said repeatedly that the United States “opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo.”

Translation:  China must not invade Taiwan.  Taiwan must not declare itself independent of China. “One China” must be fully realised peacefully.

The truly big question for today and tomorrow is:  What will Pelosi’s message to Taiwan and China be when she is there?  What signals will she send?  What she says will directly affect strategic calculations of how to further play out the long game over Taiwan.

I met Nancy Pelosi when she was in her first term as a member of the House.  It was days after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. We were at a small dinner in Washington.  All the talk was of the man before the tank – the lone soul stopping the beast in its path.  But the beat slaughtered those seeking more freedom.

Famous image of man in front of the tank in Tiananmen

 Pelosi talked with conviction and passion that what China did was wrong, and that Tiananmen had to inform the United States’ relationship with China.

That is where Nancy Pelosi was on the issues and who she was then.  That is where she is and who Nancy Pelosi is now.

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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Trump’s campaign tactic – debase and disgrace the legal process

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Donald Trump, former president of the United States, hated Arraignment Day I in Manhattan two months ago, the first time a former president had been criminally charged. 

Trump was being forced against his will into a proceeding he had utter contempt for.  He was being arrested and fingerprinted and photographed under an indictment under the jurisdiction of Manhattan in New York City for allegations of hush money payments and fraudulent bookkeeping practices to conceal criminal activity. Trump heard the charges read out against him and he entered a plea of not guilty.

Trump had a terrible day. Trump wore a scowl throughout. His countenance was fearsome.  What Trump hated most about his arraignment in New York is that he had to sit at a table with his counsel side by side with him — equal to him — and with the judge above him looking down on him. Trump could not control the discussion and could not interrupt to make his points.

Trump was subordinate to the judge. He was subordinate to no one as president.

Arraignment Day II

Arraignment Day II in Miami will be worse from Trump, even more stressful.  The charges are substantially more serious:  the alleged violation of federal criminal statutes involving the alleged mishandling and illegal possession of classified documents, lying to legal authorities, and obstruction of justice.  Potential penalties run to years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

Trump throughout his business life had always crafted his affairs to avoid being a defendant. But in his term in office, he was caught up in it big time. He was a defendant in two impeachment trials – again, unprecedented events – and left office in disgrace.

But Trump does not feel disgraced. He never does.  Trump does not have a reverse gear.  He never retreats.  Never admits. Never concedes. Never yields.  Trump is never embarrassed. Trump never feels ashamed. When something goes wrong, it is always the fault of someone else.

And Trump never repents.

Trump can feel this way because Trump is waging war on behalf of his armies in “the final battle” for the future of the county. In his first, fiery post-indictment speech in Georgia, Trump said, “They’ve launched one witch hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people.  In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you … “Either we have a Deep State, or we have a Democracy…Either the Deep State destroys America, or WE destroy the Deep State.”

It is a powerful formulation, and his true believers love it.

Hours later, In North Carolina, Trump mainlined his distilled message for the Republican crowd:

“We are a failing nation. We are a nation in decline. And now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement.

It’s totally corrupt and we cannot let it happen.

This is the final battle.

With you at my side we will demolish the Deep State.

We will expel the warmongers from our government.

We will drive out the globalists.

We will cast out the communists.

We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country.

We will roll out the fake news media.

We will defeat Joe Bide and we will liberate America from those villains once and for all.”

Any lesser mortal would be staggered by these events.  Any other presidential candidate would be driven from the race.  But not Trump.

Debase and disgrace

Trump is using the same playbook today as he successfully triggered after being charged in New York:  debase and disgrace the legal process by terming it completely political.  Trump said the federal indictment is “election interference at the highest level.”

Almost every other Republican running for president has adopted this line, insulating Trump from pressure to leave the field.

Trump’s chief opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said after these indictments: “The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation.”

Republican congressperson Nancy Mace: “This is a banana republic. I can’t believe this is happening.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Democrats are arresting their political enemies. and they work together in their corrupt ways to get it done.”

Trump is using his affliction to raise millions of dollars from his base.

Trump will likely face Arraignment Day III in Georgia in August.  A state prosecutor is expected to charge Trump with criminal interference in the certification of Georgia’s vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

As of now, there is no sign of cracks in Trump’s support among Republican voters.  There is no surge to another candidate.  What remains to be seen is whether Republican voters, as they see Trump spend his days in courtrooms and his evenings at rallies around the country, reach a conclusion that this is a spectacle too far, too much to bear, and that they want to turn to another conservative populist who stands for them in the political trials— and not the criminal trials – of 2024.

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Donald Trump’s legal woes will serve him well

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It’s not often that a U.S. President faces federal indictment, but if it’s going to happen to anyone, it might as well be Donald Trump first.

The news that Donald Trump is facing a federal investigation over the removal of secret documents from the White House in 2021 came as no surprise.

Keen watches of the Washington soap opera have seen this playbook before, albeit in a different form.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a Washington outsider. But as seriously damaged as he may be (thanks to the events of January 6), his support base has only grown whenever he faces scrutiny.

For his supporters, his legal woes mirror their own relationship with the government – a giant, unfair beast that picks and chooses its fights.

Trump is accused of storing sensitive documents—including those concerning matters of national security—in boxes, some even in a shower.

The documents were seized last August when investigators from the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.

The Department of Justice has historically avoided charging people who are running for public office. Whether they should do that is a debate for another day. But it’s happening now. And it’s making it all too easy for Trump to claim there is a concerted campaign to get him away from the White House.

Trump exposed the deep state. IF they exist, they probably don’t want him back in power. Whether they exist doesn’t matter really, because plenty of Trump’s supporters agree with him, and believe the secret state is working against them. Call it QAnon, call it a conspiracy – it doesn’t matter in a democracy.

The DoJ now has to go all in. Failing to secure a conviction would be a serious embarrassment for the department.

This is the second time Trump has been indicted in recent months, yet the opinion polls show he only increases his popularity among MAGA and Republican voters. It leaves the Republican party in a difficult position. Support their leading candidate or support the law?

As other Republicans rallied around the embattled candidate, Trump held on to his loyal base of supporters.

For the Democrats, and for Biden, another reality will soon sink in – if Trump becomes President, and they lose office next year, how will a Trump-run DoJ deal with them?

Broadly, the tit-for-tat one-up-manship of U.S. politics is breaking tradition and potentially breaking the country.

 

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