Trump’s former al­lies plead guilty. US dumps Clean Power Plan. US joint ex­er­cises in NT. Po­lice raid do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence agency in Aus­tria.

The Saturday Paper - - The Week | Contents - Hamish McDon­ald

While the pol­i­tics in Can­berra was tak­ing on Trumpian over­tones this week, the net cast by the former FBI di­rec­tor Robert Mueller around the United States pres­i­dent drew tighter with the rollover of his lawyer and con­vic­tions against his former cam­paign di­rec­tor.

Trump’s former per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen pleaded guilty to eight counts of elec­tion fund­ing vi­o­la­tions, and telling a court in New York that he’d vi­o­lated fed­eral law “in co­or­di­na­tion with and at the di­rec­tion of a fed­eral can­di­date for of­fice”. Co­hen said, “I par­tic­i­pated in this con­duct, which on my part took place in Man­hat­tan, for the prin­ci­pal pur­pose of in­flu­enc­ing the elec­tion.”

One of Co­hen’s le­gal team elab­o­rated out­side the court that Co­hen had “stood up and tes­ti­fied un­der oath that Don­ald Trump di­rected him to com­mit a crime by making pay­ments to two women for the prin­ci­pal pur­pose of in­flu­enc­ing an elec­tion”. The two women were porn star Stormy Daniels and former Play­boy model Karen McDou­gal, paid large sums by Co­hen in 2016 to stay silent about the ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs with Trump, who Co­hen says re­im­bursed him.

A Fed­eral Court jury in Vir­ginia later on Tues­day found Paul Manafort, for a time man­ager of Trump’s elec­tion cam­paign in 2016, guilty on eight charges of tax eva­sion and fraud­u­lent bor­row­ing from banks. These are im­por­tant scalps for Mueller, ap­pointed as a spe­cial coun­sel with sweep­ing pow­ers to in­ves­ti­gate Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 cam­paign and any col­lu­sion with Trump’s team. The tech­nique seems to be to shake down the sus­pects for any dirty fi­nan­cial se­crets and pile up enough charges to have them put away for life, in or­der to get them to talk about the core is­sue. So far 32 peo­ple have been charged.

The Co­hen ad­mis­sions di­rectly im­pli­cate Trump. As Co­hen’s lawyer asked: “If those pay­ments were a crime for Michael Co­hen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Don­ald Trump?”

The Manafort con­vic­tions are more con­cerned with his sleazy con­nec­tions with pro-Rus­sian el­e­ments in Ukraine, and his des­per­ate at­tempts to play these for per­sonal fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage by promis­ing in­flu­ence with Trump. Yet they point to pos­si­ble charges against Trump’s son Don­ald Jr and other fam­ily cir­cle mem­bers over a meet­ing with Rus­sian op­er­a­tives in June 2016 con­nected to the Wik­iLeaks cache of emails em­bar­rass­ing Trump’s Demo­crat ri­val.

Trump was quick to say Manafort’s con­vic­tion “doesn’t in­volve me” and had noth­ing to do with any Rus­sian col­lu­sion. He’s prob­a­bly hop­ing hints of a par­don will keep Manafort sh­tum. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Gi­u­liani, claimed af­ter Co­hen’s plea that, “There is no al­le­ga­tion of any wrong­do­ing against the pres­i­dent in the gov­ern­ment’s charges against Mr Co­hen.”

Ear­lier in the week Gi­u­liani got into a tangle on Fox News about his ad­vice should Mueller sub­poena Trump to tes­tify to his in­quiry. “I am not go­ing to be rushed into hav­ing [Trump] tes­tify so that he gets trapped into per­jury,” Gi­u­liani said. “And when you tell me that, you know, he should tes­tify be­cause he’s go­ing to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly be­cause it’s some­body’s ver­sion of the truth. Not the truth.”

“Truth is truth,” the in­ter­viewer in­sisted.

“No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth,” Gi­u­liani replied.

Coal com­fort

We’ve had no porn stars or Play­mates sur­fac­ing in Can­berra, just a min­is­te­rial af­fair with a staffer, and what Bei­jing ’s at­tack-dog tabloid

Global Times called a “low ver­sion of Trump” (that is, Peter Dut­ton). But we have had coal, and, like many Coali­tion MPs, Trump loves the stuff and the peo­ple who dig it up and burn it.

This week his ad­min­is­tra­tion un­veiled what it calls Af­ford­able Clean En­ergy, dump­ing Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan aimed at help­ing limit global warm­ing by pres­sur­ing power com­pa­nies to switch to green en­ergy sources that emit less car­bon diox­ide.

“We love clean, beau­ti­ful West Vir­ginia coal,” Trump told a rally on Tues­day in the coalmin­ing state. “And you know, that’s in­de­struc­tible stuff. In times of war, in times of con­flict, you can blow up those wind­mills – they fall down real quick. You can blow up pipe­lines – they go like this,” he said, wav­ing his hand down. “You can do a lot of things to those so­lar pan­els. But you know what you can’t hurt? Coal.”

Trump’s plan lets states set their own emis­sion tar­gets and is seen likely to raise coal power gen­er­a­tion by up to 10 per cent by 2035. Aside from the cli­mate ef­fects, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s fine print es­ti­mates that by 2030 it will also cause up to 1400 more pre­ma­ture deaths each year of heart and lung dis­ease, 48,000 new cases of “ex­ac­er­bated asthma” and 21,000 more missed school days due to in­creased pol­lu­tion.

Base ma­te­ri­als

In the back­ground, the link­ages be­tween Aus­tralian and US de­fence forces are get­ting ever closer, with De­fence Min­is­ter Marise Payne re­cently re­veal­ing that $2–3 billion will be spent over the next decade on im­proved fa­cil­i­ties for joint ex­er­cises in the Top End.

These will hap­pen at the air bases in Dar­win and Kather­ine, the bar­racks in Dar­win where even­tu­ally a full US Marine Corps bat­tle group will be housed for six months ev­ery year, and train­ing grounds and bomb­ing ranges far­ther out in the ter­ri­tory. Payne says the spend­ing will be split but is not say­ing in what pro­por­tions for “na­tional se­cu­rity rea­sons”, which sug­gests Can­berra is foot­ing most of the bill.

Un­der­writ­ing this is a “force pos­ture agree­ment” stat­ing that US forces and their con­trac­tors “shall have unim­peded ac­cess to Agreed Fa­cil­i­ties and Ar­eas for all mat­ters re­lat­ing to the pre-po­si­tion­ing and stor­age of de­fence equip­ment and sup­plies in­clud­ing de­liv­ery, man­age­ment, in­spec­tion, use, main­te­nance and re­moval of such pre-po­si­tioned ma­te­rial. As mu­tu­ally de­ter­mined by the Par­ties, air­craft, ve­hi­cles and ves­sels op­er­ated by or for United States Forces shall have ac­cess to aerial ports and sea ports of Aus­tralia and other lo­ca­tions, for the de­liv­ery to, stor­age and main­te­nance in, and re­moval from, the ter­ri­tory of Aus­tralia of United States Forces’ pre-po­si­tioned ma­te­rial.”

Crit­ics say this cre­ates, in ef­fect, US bases in Aus­tralia from which of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions can be di­rectly launched against third coun­tries. Can­berra in­sists this is just a reg­u­lar “ro­ta­tion” of US forces, and would no doubt claim a right to veto any at­tack from Aus­tralian soil. The agree­ment is for 25 years, but can be ter­mi­nated by ei­ther party at a year’s no­tice.

Kickl inside

Vladimir Putin was a guest at the wed­ding last Satur­day of Aus­trian for­eign min­is­ter Karin Kneissl, at a vine­yard in alpine Gam­litz, and had a dance with the dirndl-clad bride, while re­cently elected chan­cel­lor Se­bas­tian Kurz, his deputy from the far-right Free­dom Party, HeinzChris­tian Stra­che, and other cabi­net mem­bers looked on.

But stranger things are hap­pen­ing in Vi­enna. On Fe­bru­ary 28, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Her­bert Kickl, also of the Free­dom Party, sent po­lice into the head­quar­ters of the do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence agency, the BVT, from where they carted off crate-loads of se­cret files. To old Can­berra hands, it will re­call then at­tor­ney-gen­eral Lionel Murphy’s 1973 “raid” by fed­eral po­lice on the Aus­tralian Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Among the rea­sons Kickl gave for his search war­rant was a bizarre one: that the BVT was work­ing with South Korea’s spooks to pur­loin blank copies of North Korean pass­ports, which are printed in Aus­tria. Kickl’s real rea­son, many an­a­lysts think, was to see what the BVT had on vi­o­lent right-wing groups, in­clud­ing Is­lam­o­phobes and anti-Semites, who tend to sup­port the Free­dom Party, founded in the 1950s by a former SS of­fi­cer.

Many of Aus­tria’s in­tel­li­gence part­ners would ap­plaud such an op­er­a­tion against the North Kore­ans, along with the BVT’s work against Is­lamic ex­trem­ists and Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence, and are said to have sus­pended in­tel­li­gence

• ex­changes with Vi­enna.

Michael Co­hen ex­its Fed­eral Court in New York City on Tues­day.

HAMISH McDON­ALD is The Satur­day Pa­per’s world ed­i­tor.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.