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posted on 20 May 2017

Early Headlines: Green Antarctica, No Impeachment, Russia Probe Heats Up, Comey To Testify, Florida Drought, Blow Up Obamacare, Duterte Says China Threatened War, And More

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Early Bird Headlines 20 May 2017

Econintersect: Here are some of the headlines we found to help you start your day. For more headlines see our afternoon feature for GEI members, What We Read Today, which has many more headlines and a number of article discussions to keep you abreast of what we have found interesting.

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Global

U.S.

To remove Trump from office via impeachment, you need a two-thirds majority of the Senate. Even if all 48 Democrats and Democratic-aligned independents voted in lockstep to impeach, you'd still need 19 Republican senators to join them. That's a fantasy - at least based on what we know now, both about Russia and about the GOP-held Senate. It probably wouldn't even happen if, as Trump himself once imagined, the president shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.

Remember, neither of America's impeached presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, was actually convicted and removed from office via such a Senate vote. Why? Because it's really, really hard to do.

  • New Russia probe leaks threaten to derail Trump's foreign trip (Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump was hit on Friday by embarrassing leaks that a senior adviser was a "person of interest" in a probe of possible collusion with Russia during last year's election campaign and that Trump had boasted to Russian officials of firing the man heading the investigation. The reports, emerging just as Trump jetted off to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip as president, were likely to extend the turmoil engulfing his administration since the May 9 firing of former FBI Director James Comey. The Washington Post, citing sources familiar with the matter, did not identify the senior Trump adviser except to say that the person of interest was close to Trump, a Republican who entered the White House four months ago. See also Trump hit by twin Russia bombshells as he departs for foreign trip (Politico).

  • Comey Agrees to Testify to Senate as Trump's Crisis Week Endures (Bloomberg) Former FBI Director James Comey agreed to testify in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the bureau’s probe into Russian meddling with the 2016 U.S. election, intensifying Donald Trump’s troubles at the start of his first foreign trip as president. The announcement late Friday from committee Chairman Richard Burr, of North Carolina, and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat, came hours after The Washington Post reported that the FBI’s Russia investigation had identified a senior White House adviser close to the president as a significant person of interest. The Post didn’t name the official.

  • Trump tells advisers he wants to end key Obamacare subsidies (Politico) President Donald Trump has told advisers he wants to end payments of key Obamacare subsidies, a move that could send the health law's insurance markets into a tailspin, according to several sources familiar with the conversations. Many advisers oppose the move because they worry it would backfire politically if people lose their insurance or see huge premium spikes and blame the White House, the sources said. Trump has said that the bold move could force Congressional Democrats to the table to negotiate an Obamacare replacement. See also Trump reportedly wants to make a move that experts say could make Obamacare 'explode' (Business Insider)

  • White House looking at ethics rule to weaken special investigation: sources (Reuters) The Trump administration is exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation into ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia, two people familiar with White House thinking said on Friday. Trump has said that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's hiring of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation "hurts our country terribly". Within hours of Mueller's appointment on Wednesday, the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year after their hiring, the sources said. An executive order signed by Trump in January extended that period to two years.

Mueller's former law firm, WilmerHale, represents Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with a Russian bank executive in December, and the president's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is a subject of a federal investigation.

Legal experts said the ethics rule can be waived by the Justice Department, which appointed Mueller. He did not represent Kushner or Manafort directly at his former law firm.

"Telling the Russians - the adversary at issue the investigation itself - that firing Comey would ease pressure is compelling evidence of corrupt intent under normal circumstances. Many a criminal defendant have gotten convicted on evidence of their intent just like that."

EU

  • ‘People Here Think Trump Is a Laughingstock’ (Politico) For months, the American president has raised unprecedented questions about the future of the American-led alliance that has persisted since the end of World War II. He has slagged off NATO, evinced skepticism about the European Union, cheered for like-minded right-wing populists, boosted antidemocratic strongmen like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and vowed to rip up free trade deals - and Europe’s political class has been outraged, confused and even terrified. But now a feeling of ridicule is emerging in Europe and people are less worried than they were six weeks ago. The author says:

Many I spoke with said they had made a fundamental mistake of viewing Trump primarily as an ideologue with whom they disagreed rather than what he increasingly appears to be: an ill-prepared newcomer to the world stage, with uninformed views and a largely untested team that will now be sorely tried by a 9-day, 5-stop world tour that would be wildly ambitious even for a seasoned global leader.

Syria

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Philippines

  • Duterte Says China's Xi Threatened War If He Pushed Sea Dispute (Bloomberg) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said China threatened to go to war after he asserted the Southeast Asian nation’s sovereignty over disputed territory. In an unspecified meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Duterte said he will drill for oil in the South China Sea, citing an international arbitration tribunal ruling upholding the Philippines’ claim. That prompted a retort from Xi, according to Duterte. Duterte on Friday quoted Xi as saying"

“Well, if you force this, we’ll be forced to tell you the truth. We will go to war. We will fight you."

China

  • Stiglitz's China Whiz Says Excavator Demand Shows Growth Isn't Over (Bloomberg) Surging Chinese demand for excavators shows that the current of fiscal stimulus running through the nation’s economy has a long way to go. That’s according to Mo Ji, chief economist for Asia ex-Japan at Amundi Asset Management, who called a bottom to China’s slowdown in late 2015 well before it was a consensus view. Now, Mo’s using high-frequency data sets -- like sales of construction equipment -- to form her view on the economy’s underlying trends.

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