Quick Takes: Jared Kushner Is the “Person of Interest”

* NBC News got the bombshell scoop today.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.

Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him.

The FBI’s scrutiny of Kushner places the bureau’s sprawling counterintelligence and criminal investigation not only on the doorstep of the White House, but in the Trump family circle.

* Speaking in front of a 9/11 and Article 5 Memorial at the new NATO headquarters, Trump lectured our allies while lying shamelessly.

Trump just tried to shake down the other NATO leaders. The looks on their faces. He doesn’t even get what NATO is. http://pic.twitter.com/Qkr9LDZbs0

— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) May 25, 2017

* Josh Marshall gets to explain the lies this time:

A few years ago, NATO decided to require all member states to spend 2% of GDP on defense spending. The great majority of member states currently spend less than 2%. The ones who do meet that number are the US and a handful of states mainly on NATO’s eastern periphery. But they have until 2024 to reach that goal. So even on the terms of the agreement itself, they’re not behind.

But the key point is that these are not payments owed to the US. They are spending on each country’s own military. There are lots of reasons for that, not least of which is keeping the alliance a real alliance and not one superpower military along with other armies which are either so small or have such low readiness that they don’t add to the force the US can bring to bear on its own.

The relevant point is that that this is a relatively new agreement, which most of the key states are increasing spending to meet – though some faster than others. They’re not behind schedule. They have until 2024.

This is a lie that Trump has repeated over and over again. I’m sure there are probably one or two people in his Cabinet who understand NATO and have tried to explain this to him. Obviously, that’s not what he wants to hear. So what is Trump’s agenda in repeating the lie?

* Kevin Drum provides us with a translation of a report from Der Spiegel:

US President Donald Trump complained bitterly about the German trade surplus on his meeting with the EU top in Brussels. “The Germans are evil, very evil,” said Trump. This was learned by the SPIEGEL from participants in the meeting. Trump said, “Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US, and we’ll stop that.”

….According to a report from the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, the EU side was terrified about the lack of awareness of the Americans about trade policy. Apparently, it was unclear to the guests that the EU countries concluded trade agreements only jointly.

Here’s Kevin’s commentary, which might sound familiar:

…when are the Trumpies going to learn that they can’t do a trade deal with only Germany? It’s the whole EU or nothing. Last month we heard reports that Angela Merkel had to tell him a dozen times before he finally got it, but it sounds like he’s already forgotten.

* Why do these facts seem so elusive for Trump? Let’s go back to Josh Marshall on that one.

Each of these aims, each of these goals lines up more or less perfectly with the strategic ambitions of the Russian Federation, which sees NATO as a bulwark of Western/US military strength hemming Russia in behind borderlands it sees as within its proper sphere of influence and with the EU, representing a liberal internationalist order which it has set itself against. A lot of this thinking comes from the Bannonite/”nationalist” part of the Trump crew, though Trump has espoused elements of this vision for years. That group, in turn has deep ties to various European rightist parties which share this anti-NATO, anti-EU, politically illiberal stance. Many or most are funded by Russia. Whether or not this is being done on Putin’s behalf, it clearly lines up within Putin’s and Russia’s aims. Putin wants a fragmented Europe; Trump does too.

* Stateside, the “Bannonite/nationalist part of the Trump crew” got some bad news today.

The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., on Thursday refused to reinstate President Trump’s revised travel ban, saying it discriminated on the basis of religion. The decision was a fresh setback for the administration’s efforts to limit travel from several predominantly Muslim countries.

Mr. Trump had narrowed the scope of his first executive order, issued in January, in response to an earlier appeals court decision halting it. But the basic flaws in his approach remained, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled.

The case is now likely to go to the Supreme Court.

* This is a fascinating account of the discussion going on among Senate Republicans about how to repeal/replace Obamacare. First of all, they want to stabilize insurance markets and delay changes until 2020.

Senate Republicans are weighing a two-step process to replace Obamacare that would postpone a repeal until 2020, as they seek to draft a more modest version than a House plan that nonpartisan analysts said would undermine some insurance markets.

Republicans — in the early stages of private talks on the Senate plan — say they may first take action to stabilize premium costs in Obamacare’s insurance-purchasing exchanges in 2018 and 2019.

From there, they want to get rid of high risk pools, tie tax credits to both income and age, and have automatic enrollment in health insurance (the alternative to a mandate). Sounds an awful lot like Obamacare, doesn’t it?

* The contrast with Trump’s activities today was hard to ignore.

Barack Obama received a hero’s welcome when he reunited with Angela Merkel for the first time since leaving office, calling on the audience to engage in democracy and telling the tens of thousands in Berlin: “We can’t hide behind a wall.”

Speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate, which was once cut off by the Berlin Wall, the former US president was greeted with cries of “Barack, Barack” as he urged the 70,000-strong crowd to “push back against those trends that would violate human rights or suppress democracy or restrict individual freedoms” and to “fight against those who divide us”.

Huge crowds in Berlin waiting for Obama http://pic.twitter.com/zvTviAFKRZ

— Fiona. (@fiona_day) May 25, 2017

* Finally, Paul Simon got an assist from Stephen Colbert in updating an old tune for the Trump era.

.@PaulSimonMusic wasn’t feeling groovy about 2017 so he updated “The 59th Street Bridge Song” and performs it with Stephen tonight on #LSSC! http://pic.twitter.com/oDffPmQ40v

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) May 25, 2017

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2qVdvFV

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