John, we also talked about it in a parallel thread to this one. Additionally, Europeans are tired of Russia. See this article and video about meeting between Macron and Putin. Macron was made aware of Russia's trying to influence French elections:
Post by JustJohn or JJ on May 30, 2017 8:11:28 GMT -7
Bolton: Politics Part Of Merkel’s Decision To Speak Out Against Trump
"Chancellor Merkel has said this before."By Jack Davis
on May 29, 2017 at 12:34pm
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton on Monday dismissed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s criticism of President Donald Trump as motivated by both her own political concerns and Trump’s pressure on Europe to pay for its own defense.
Merkel recently expressed her dissatisfaction with Trump’s refusal to say that he would agree to abide by the Paris accord on climate change, which he had criticized as a candidate.
“The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” Merkel said Sunday in remarks viewed as a direct criticism of Trump. “And that is why I can only say: We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.” She described the climate talks as “very difficult, if not to say, very unsatisfactory.”
“Here is a situation where it’s six, seven if you include the EU, against one,” she said. “That means there are so far no signs whether the United States of America will remain in the Paris agreement or not.”
Merkel said EU members wish to maintain “good neighborly relations wherever possible” with other nations, but added that “we have to know that we have to fight for our future and our fate ourselves as Europeans.”
Speaking on Fox News Monday, Bolton said Merkel, who was a close ally of former President Barack Obama, was motivated by two main issues.
“There’s a German election coming up and that has a lot to do with it,” he said.
The wider issue at stake, he said, is Trump’s rejection of what Bolton called “EU theology” that calls for “greater government control over the economy and ceding of power to “institutions of global governance.” “Chancellor Merkel has said this before,” Bolton said. “Her ire is directed not only against the United States on the Paris agreement but also against Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom, who joined with President Trump on many key issues.”
At the end of its recent meeting, the G7 noted that the United States was a holdout on the Paris accord.
“I thought it was extraordinarily unusual for the G7 to have a communiqué that isolated one of its members. I’m not aware that that has ever happened before on any significant issue,” said Bolton.
“You do not have to believe that the political approach of the Paris accord is the right way to go,” Bolton said.
Underneath it all, Bolton said, Merkel and others were “stung” by Trump’s public scolding of NATO members to pay their agreed-upon share to support Europe’s defense.
“It was the right thing to say publicly,” Bolton noted, because past administrations that have made private pleas have seen those requests ignored.
As You Travel Down The Road Of Life, Whatever Be Your Goal- Keep Your Eyes Upon The Doughnut And Not Upon The Hole...
A Danger to the World It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse.
May 19, 2017 06:18 PM Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.
He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.
Trump is a miserable politician. He fired the FBI director simply because he could. James Comey had gotten under his skin with his investigation into Trump's confidants. Comey had also refused to swear loyalty and fealty to Trump and to abandon the investigation. He had to go.
Witnessing an American Tragedy
Trump is also a miserable boss. His people invent excuses for him and lie on his behalf because they have to, but then Trump wakes up and posts tweets that contradict what they have said. He doesn't care that his spokesman, his secretary of state and his national security adviser had just denied that the president had handed Russia (of all countries) sensitive intelligence gleaned from Israel (of all countries). Trump tweeted: Yes, yes, I did, because I can. I'm president after all.
Nothing is as it should be in this White House. Everyone working there has been compromised multiple times and now they all despise each other - and everyone except for Trump despises Trump. Because of all that, after just 120 days of the Trump administration, we are witness to an American tragedy for which there are five theoretical solutions.
The first is Trump's resignation, which won't happen. The second is that Republicans in the House and Senate support impeachment, which would be justified by the president's proven obstruction of justice, but won't happen because of the Republicans' thirst for power, which they won't willingly give up. The third possible solution is the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which would require the cabinet to declare Trump unfit to discharge the powers of the presidency. That isn't particularly likely either. Fourth: The Democrats get ready to fight and win back majorities in the House and Senate in midterm elections, which are 18 months away, before they then pursue option two, impeachment. Fifth: the international community wakes up and finds a way to circumvent the White House and free itself of its dependence on the U.S. Unlike the preceding four options, the fifth doesn't directly solve the Trump problem, but it is nevertheless necessary - and possible.
No Goals and No Strategy
Not quite two weeks ago, a number of experts and politicians focused on foreign policy met in Washington at the invitation of the Munich Security Conference. It wasn't difficult to sense the atmosphere of chaos and agony that has descended upon the city.
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 21/2017 (May 20, 2017) of DER SPIEGEL.
The U.S. elected a laughing stock to the presidency and has now made itself dependent on a joke of a man. The country is, as David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times, dependent on a child. The Trump administration has no foreign policy because Trump has consistently promised American withdrawal while invoking America's strength. He has promised both no wars and more wars. He makes decisions according to his mood, with no strategic coherence or tactical logic. Moscow and Beijing are laughing at America. Elsewhere, people are worried.
In the Pacific, warships - American and Chinese - circle each other in close proximity. The conflict with North Korea is escalating. Who can be certain that Donald Trump won't risk nuclear war simply to save his own skin? Efforts to stop climate change are in trouble and many expect the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because Trump is wary of legally binding measures. Crises, including those in Syria and Libya, are escalating, but no longer being discussed. And who should they be discussed with? Phone calls and emails to the U.S. State Department go unanswered. Nothing is regulated, nothing is stable and the trans-Atlantic relationship hardly exists anymore. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Norbert Röttgen fly back and forth, but Germany and the U.S. no longer understand each other. Hardly any real communication takes place, there are no joint foreign policy goals and there is no strategy.
In "Game of Thrones," the Mad King was murdered (and the child that later took his place was no better). In real life, an immature boy sits on the throne of the most important country in the world. He could, at any time, issue a catastrophic order that would immediately be carried out. That is why the parents cannot afford to take their eyes off him even for a second. They cannot succumb to exhaustion because he is so taxing. They ultimately have to send him to his room - and return power to the grownups.
Paris Disagreement Donald Trump's Triumph of Stupidity
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other G-7 leaders did all they could to convince Trump to remain part of the Paris Agreement. But he didn't listen. Instead, he evoked deep-seated nationalism and plunged the West into a conflict deeper than any since World War II. By SPIEGEL Staff
Photo Gallery: Trump's Fateful Climate DecisionPhotos AP
June 02, 2017
Until the very end, they tried behind closed doors to get him to change his mind. For the umpteenth time, they presented all the arguments -- the humanitarian ones, the geopolitical ones and, of course, the economic ones. They listed the advantages for the economy and for American companies. They explained how limited the hardships would be.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the last one to speak, according to the secret minutes taken last Friday afternoon in the luxurious conference hotel in the Sicilian town of Taormina -- meeting notes that DER SPIEGEL has been given access to. Leaders of the world's seven most powerful economies were gathered around the table and the issues under discussion were the global economy and sustainable development.
The newly elected French president, Emmanuel Macron, went first. It makes sense that the Frenchman would defend the international treaty that bears the name of France's capital: The Paris Agreement. "Climate change is real and it affects the poorest countries," Macron said.
Then, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reminded the U.S. president how successful the fight against the ozone hole had been and how it had been possible to convince industry leaders to reduce emissions of the harmful gas.
Finally, it was Merkel's turn. Renewable energies, said the chancellor, present significant economic opportunities. "If the world's largest economic power were to pull out, the field would be left to the Chinese," she warned. Xi Jinping is clever, she added, and would take advantage of the vacuum it created. Even the Saudis were preparing for the post-oil era, she continued, and saving energy is also a worthwhile goal for the economy for many other reasons, not just because of climate change.
But Donald Trump remained unconvinced. No matter how trenchant the argument presented by the increasingly frustrated group of world leaders, none of them had an effect. "For me," the U.S. president said, "it's easier to stay in than step out." But environmental constraints were costing the American economy jobs, he said. And that was the only thing that mattered. Jobs, jobs, jobs.
At that point, it was clear to the rest of those seated around the table that they had lost him. Resigned, Macron admitted defeat. "Now China leads," he said.
Still, it is likely that none of the G-7 heads of state and government expected the primitive brutality Trump would stoop to when announcing his withdrawal from the international community. Surrounded by sycophants in the Rose Garden at the White House, he didn't just proclaim his withdrawal from the climate agreement, he sowed the seeds of international conflict. His speech was a break from centuries of Enlightenment and rationality. The president presented his political statement as a nationalist manifesto of the most imbecilic variety. It couldn't have been any worse.
A Catastrophe for the Climate
His speech was packed with make-believe numbers from controversial or disproven studies. It was hypocritical and dishonest. In Trump's mind, the climate agreement is an instrument allowing other countries to enrich themselves at the expense of the United States. "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," he said. Trump left no doubt that the well-being of the American economy is the only value he understands. It's no wonder that the other countries applauded when Washington signed the Paris Agreement, he said. "We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won't be. They won't be."
Trump's withdrawal is a catastrophe for the climate. The U.S. is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases -- behind China -- and is now no longer part of global efforts to put a stop to climate change. It's America against the rest of the world, along with Syria and Nicaragua, the only other countries that haven't signed the Paris deal.
But the effects on the geopolitical climate are likely to be just as catastrophic. Trump's speech provided only the most recent proof that discord between the U.S. and Europe is deeper now than at any time since the end of World War II.
Now, the Western community of values is standing in opposition to Donald Trump. The G-7 has become the G-6. The West is divided.
For three-quarters of a century, the U.S. led and protected Europe. Despite all the mistakes and shortcomings exhibited by U.S. foreign policy, from Vietnam to Iraq, America's claim to leadership of the free world was never seriously questioned.
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 23/2017 (May 27, 2017) of DER SPIEGEL. FAQ: Everything You Need to Know about DER SPIEGEL Reprints: How To License SPIEGEL Articles That is now no longer the case. The U.S. is led by a president who feels more comfortable taking part in a Saudi Arabian sword dance than he does among his NATO allies. And the estrangement has accelerated in recent days. First came his blustering at the NATO summit in Brussels, then the disagreement over the climate deal in Sicily followed by Merkel's speech in Bavaria, in which she called into question America's reliability as a partner for Europe. A short time later, Trump took to Twitter to declare a trade war -- and now, he has withdrawn the United States from international efforts to combat climate change.
A Downward Pointing Learning Curve
Many had thought that Trump could be controlled once he entered the White House, that the office of the presidency would bring him to reason. Berlin had placed its hopes in the moderating influence of his advisers and that there would be a sharp learning curve. Now that Trump has actually lived up to his threat to leave the climate deal, it is clear that if such a learning curve exists, it points downward.
The chancellor was long reluctant to make the rift visible. For Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, the alliance with the U.S. was always more than political calculation, it reflected her deepest political convictions. Now, she has -- to a certain extent, at least -- terminated the trans-Atlantic friendship with Trump's America.
In doing so, the German chancellor has become Trump's adversary on the international stage. And Merkel has accepted the challenge when it comes to trade policy and the quarrel over NATO finances. Now, she has done so as well on an issue that is near and dear to her heart: combating climate change.
Merkel's aim is that of creating an alliance against Trump. If she can't convince the U.S. president, her approach will be that of trying to isolate him. In Taormina, it was six countries against one. Should Trump not reverse course, she is hoping that the G-20 in Hamburg in July will end 19:1. Whether she will be successful is unclear.
Trump has identified Germany as his primary adversary. Since his inauguration in January, he has criticized no country -- with the exception of North Korea and Iran -- as vehemently as he has Germany. The country is "bad, very bad," he said in Brussels last week. Behind closed doors at the NATO summit, Trump went after Germany, saying there were large and prosperous countries that were not living up to their alliance obligations.
And he wants to break Germany's economic power. The trade deficit with Germany, he recently tweeted, is "very bad for U.S. This will change."
An Extreme Test
Merkel's verdict following Trump's visit to Europe could hardly be worse. There has never been an open break with America since the end of World War II; the alienation between Germany and the U.S. has never been so large as it is today. When Merkel's predecessor, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, refused to provide German backing for George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, his rebuff was limited to just one single issue. It was an extreme test of the trans-Atlantic relationship, to be sure, but in contrast to today, it was not a quarrel that called into question commonly held values like free trade, minority rights, press freedoms, the rule of law -- and climate policies.
To truly understand the consequences of Trump's decision, it is important to remember what climate change means for humanity -- what is hidden behind the temperature curves and emission-reduction targets.
Climate change means that millions are threatened with starvation because rain has stopped falling in some regions of the planet. It means that sea levels are rising and islands and coastal zones are flooding. It means the melting of the ice caps, more powerful storms, heatwaves, water shortages and deadly epidemics. All of that leads to conflicts over increasingly limited resources, to flight and to migration.
In the U.S., too, there were plenty of voices warning the president of the consequences of his decision, Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner among them. Others included cabinet members like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, along with pretty much the country's entire business elite.
Companies from Exxon and Shell to Google, Apple and Amazon to Wal-Mart and PepsiCo all appealed to Trump to not isolate the U.S. on climate policy. They are worried about international competitive disadvantages in a world heading toward green energy, whether the U.S. is along for the ride or not. Google, Microsoft and Apple have long since begun drawing their energy from renewable sources, with the ultimate goal of complete freedom from fossil fuels. Wind and solar farms are booming in the U.S. -- and hardly an investor can be found anymore for coal mining.
A long list of U.S. states, led by California, have charted courses that are in direct opposition to Trump's climate policy. According to a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, almost three-quarters of Americans are opposed to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The Absurdity of Trump's Histrionics
On the other side are right-wing nationalists such as Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who deny climate change primarily because fighting it requires international cooperation. Powerful Republicans have criticized the climate deal with the most specious of all arguments. The U.S., they say, would be faced with legal consequences were it to miss or lower its climate targets.
Yet international agreement on the Paris accord was only possible because it contains no punitive tools at all. The only thing signatories must do is report every five years how much progress they have made toward achieving their self-identified climate protection measures.
The cover of this week's issue of DER SPIEGEL DER SPIEGEL The cover of this week's issue of DER SPIEGEL Therein lies the absurdity of Trump's histrionics. Nothing would have been easier for the U.S. than to take part pro forma in United Nations climate-related negotiations while completely ignoring climate protection measures at home -- which Trump has been doing anyway since his election.
In late March, for example, he signed an executive order to unwind part of Barack Obama's legacy, the Clean Power Plan. Among other measures, the plan called for the closure of aging coal-fired power plants, the reduction of methane emissions produced by oil and natural gas drilling, and stricter rules governing fuel efficiency in new vehicles. Without these measures, Obama's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025, in comparison to 2005, will hardly be achievable. But Trump is also planning to head in the opposite direction. To make the U.S. less dependent on energy imports, he wants to return to coal, one of the dirtiest energy sources in existence -- even though energy independence was largely achieved years ago thanks to cheap, less environmentally damaging natural gas.
German and European efforts will now focus on keeping the other agreement signatories on board, which Berlin has already been working on for several weeks now. Because of the now-visible effects of climate change and the falling prices for renewable energies, German officials believe that the path laid forward by Paris is irreversible.
Berlin officials say that EU member states are eager to move away from fossil fuels, as are China and India. Even emissaries from Russia and Saudi Arabia, countries whose governments aren't generally considered to be enthusiastic promoters of renewable energy sources, have indicated to the Germans that "Paris will be complied with." On Thursday in Berlin, Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang demonstratively reaffirmed their support for the Paris Agreement. Keqiang even spoke of "green growth."
China and India are likely to not just meet, but exceed their climate targets. China has been reducing its coal consumption for the last three years and plans for over 100 new coal-fired power plants have been scrapped. India, too, is abstaining from the construction of new coal-fired plants and will likely meet its goal of generating 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil fuels by 2022, eight years earlier than planned. Both countries invest in solar and wind energy and in both, electricity from renewable sources is often cheaper than coal power.
Isolating the American President
The problem is that all of that still won't be enough to limit global warming to significantly below 2 degrees Celsius, as called for in the Paris deal. Much more commitment, much more decisiveness is necessary, particularly in countries that can afford it. German, for example, is almost certain to fall short of its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 relative to 1990.
In Taormina, Chancellor Merkel did all she could to isolate the American president. In the summit's closing declaration, she wanted to specifically mention the conflict between the U.S. and its allies over the climate pact. Normally, such documents tend to remain silent on such differences.
At the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Merkel plans to stay the course. She hopes that all other countries at the meeting will stand up to the United States. Even if Saudi Arabia ends up supporting its ally Trump, the end result would still be 18:2, which doesn't look much better from the perspective of Washington.
Merkel, in any case, is doing all she can to ramp up the pressure on Trump. "The times in which we could completely rely on others are over to a certain extent," she said in her beer tent speech last Sunday.
It shouldn't be underestimated just how bitter it must have been for her to utter this sentence, and how deep her disappointment. Merkel, who grew up in the Soviet sphere of influence, never had much understanding for the anti-Americanism often found in western Germany. U.S. dependability is partly to thank for Eastern Europe's post-1989 freedom.
Merkel has shown a surprising amount of passion for the trans-Atlantic relationship over the years. She came perilously close to openly supporting the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and enjoyed a personal friendship with George W. Bush, despite the fact that most Germans had little sympathy for the U.S. president. Later, Merkel's response to the NSA's surveillance of her mobile phone was largely stoic and she also didn't react when Trump called her refugee policies "insane."
As such, Merkel's comments last Sunday about her loss of trust in America were eye-opening. It was a completely new tone and Merkel knew that it would generate attention. Indeed, that's what she wanted.
A Clear Message to the U.S.
Her sentence immediately circled the globe and was seen among Trump opponents as proof that the most powerful woman in Europe had lost hope that Trump could be brought to reason.
Prior to speeches to her party, such as the one held last Sunday, she always gets a manuscript from Christian Democratic Union (CDU) headquarters in Berlin, but she herself writes the most decisive passages. The comment about Europe's allies was a clear message to the U.S., but it was also meant for a domestic audience. Her speech marked the launch of her re-election campaign.
Merkel knows that her campaign adversaries from the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) intend to make foreign policy an issue in the election. After all, it has a long history of doing so. Willy Brandt did so well in 1969 and 1972 in part because he called into question the Cold War course that had been charted to that point. Gerhard Schröder managed to win in 2002 in part because of his vociferous rejection of German involvement in the coming Iraq War.
Last Monday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a senior SPD member, took advantage of a roundtable discussion on migration in the Foreign Ministry to lay into Trump. The largest challenges we currently face, such as climate change, he said, have been made "even larger by the new U.S. isolationism." Those who don't resist such a political course, Gabriel continued, "make themselves complicit." It was a clear shot at the chancellor.
But her speech last Sunday shielded Merkel from possible accusations of abetting Trump, though she nevertheless wants to keep the dialogue going with Washington. Speaking to conservative lawmakers in Berlin on Tuesday, she said that the trans-Atlantic relationship continues to be of "exceptional importance." Nevertheless, she added, differences should not be swept under the rug.
Merkel realized early on just how difficult it would be to work with the new U.S. president, partly because she watched videos of some of his pre-inauguration appearances. Speaking to CDU leaders in December, she said that Trump was extremely serious about his slogan "America First."
The chancellor's image of Trump has shifted since then, but not for the better. The first contacts with the new government in Washington were sobering. When Christoph Heusgen, her foreign policy adviser, met for the first time with Michael Flynn, who was soon to become Trump's short-lived national security adviser, he was shocked by his American counterpart's lack of knowledge.
But there were still grounds for optimism. Early on, Merkel thought that the new U.S. government's naiveite might mean that Trump could be influenced. She was hoping to play the role of educator, an approach that initially looked like it might be successful. In a telephone conversation in January, Merkel explained to Trump the situation in Ukraine. She had the impression that he had never before seriously considered the issue and she was able to convince him not to lift the sanctions that had been placed on Russia.
The new president has likewise thus far refrained from moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He has also left the Iran deal alone and revised initial statements in which he had said that NATO was "obsolete." In the Chancellery, there was hope that Trump could in fact become something like a second-coming of Ronald Reagan.
Those hopes have now been shattered. Because Trump has had difficulty fulfilling many of his campaign promises, he has become even more intransigent. Merkel watched in annoyance as Trump did all he could in Saudi Arabia to avoid upsetting his hosts only to come to the NATO summit and cast public aspersions at his allies. The bad thing about Trump is not that he criticizes partners, says a confidante of Angela Merkel's, but that in contrast to his predecessors, he calls the entire international order into question.
At one point, Merkel took Trump aside in Sicily to speak with him privately about climate protection and the president told her that he would prefer to delay his decision on the Paris Agreement until after the G-20 in July. You can postpone everything, Merkel replied, but it's not helpful. She urged that he make a decision prior to the Hamburg summit.
He has now done so.
To the degree that one can make such a claim, Trump has a rather functional view of Merkel. He wants her to increase defense spending and to reduce Germany's trade surplus with the U.S., even if it is a political impossibility. And he wants Merkel to force other European leaders to do the same, even though Merkel doesn't possess the power to do so.
In Trump's world, there are no allies and no mature relationships, just self-interested countries with short-term interests. History means nothing to Trump; as a hard-nosed real-estate magnate, he is only interested in immediate gains. He cares little for long-term relationships.
Two close advisers to the president contributed a piece to the Wall Street Journal this week that can be seen as something like a "Trump Doctrine." "The world is not a 'global community,'" wrote Gary Cohn and Herbert Raymond McMaster, Trump's economic and security advisers. The subtext is clear: The global order, which the United States helped build, belongs to the past. There are no alliances anymore, just individual interests -- no allies, just competitors. It was a clear signal to America's erstwhile Western allies that they can no longer rely on the United States as a partner.
Yes, there is a great deal of ground stomping in the Chancellors office, and the dust is beginning to cloud the issue. In the short term, the Brixit is of course an issue in its self, but in the long run, it will work its self around. For the Englanders need both the European market as a reciprocal market in as well as a reliable mutual intelligence exchange for protection against those that wish to bring harm in both scenarios being both European and the home lands of The UK. what will most likly change will be the before hand, status with membership in the EU. In as fore of military mutual assistance, more then likly this will go unchanged. For what occures in Europe, will in time, occure in the EU, and the Brits as natural, do not wish this to occure.
In as for as Mr. Trumps tyried at the Paris G7 summat climate meeting. His abusive manner is some what understandable whilst in memory of some of his promise statements in his presidentual campagn promises. That is to bring back American jobs and American business. Mr. Trump is a business man, and not a politician and plainly is not in step with international leadership.
As a business man, President Trump thinks in dollars and cents, and with the coming requirement of American businesses to pony up the expense of currant cheap electrical generation plants that operate on coal and earth gas,, this then to be replaced by more expensive renewable resources. Of course,, he will reject such planning. If memory serves correctly, I believe this was not to come into effect until year 2021.
A Danger to the World It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse.
Well, it has been a year, and we more or less survived. Here is a follow-up article by Der Spiegel, reflecting another opinion expressed.
Interview with James Comey 'What Am I Doing? How Did I End Up Here?'
In a DER SPIEGEL interview, former FBI Director James Comey discusses how U.S. President Donald Trump resembles a mafia boss, the dangers of egocentrism and why impeachment would let the American people off the hook.
Interview Conducted by Christoph Scheuermann and Mathieu von Rohr
April 20, 2018 DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Comey, let's jump right into this.
Comey: Yeah. Hit me. Hit me.
DER SPIEGEL: You have written a book about leadership, and while U.S. President Donald Trump is certainly not the only focus, you do spend quite a bit of time discussing him. Then, in your interview with ABC, you said Trump was "morally unfit" to be president. Why?
Comey: The way I'd sum it up is: Anyone who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who speaks about and treats women like pieces of meat and who lies constantly about things big and small, and then insists that America believe it, in my view, is not morally fit to be president. And one of the reasons I say it that way is because of all the stuff we heard following the publication of "Fire and Fury," about whether he is medically fit. I don't buy that. I never saw any indication of that.
DER SPIEGEL: Almost exactly a year has passed since Trump fired you from your position as director of the FBI. What was that like?
Comey: It was surreal in a way. I had been touring the L.A. field office, and there was a group of employees gathered in a big room that had three TVs on the back wall. I was speaking to them and saying what I would typically say about the values of the FBI and our mission - and I got distracted because on the TVs in the back, it said: "Comey resigns." There are a lot of funny people at the FBI, so I thought it was a joke. I turned to my staff off to the side and said: "That took a lot of work." I continued speaking and then the TVs changed to "Comey fired." It was a bizarre experience.
DER SPIEGEL: Is your book a way of getting revenge on Trump?
Comey: I'm really not interested in getting revenge by virtue of what I am doing. I would actually rather not be doing this, but my thinking was I can be useful, especially now. This is something that I really have an obligation to do, and that's why I'm doing it.
DER SPIEGEL: The president has called you a "slimeball," a "liar" and a "leaker." He has also suggested that you be jailed. What is your reaction?
Comey: One is a shrug. The second is: We can't all simply shrug at this. It's not normal in this country for the president of the United States to say that a private person should be in jail. That's not consistent with American values. It's really important that Americans not become numb to it and accept it as normal behavior. We have to realize that this is not the way our leaders behave. It's not consistent with our values.
DER SPIEGEL: You also attack Trump personally in your book, writing that he looks shorter than expected with a "slightly orange" face and "bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles." You even point out that his hands are smaller than your own. With such passages, are you not undermining your own arguments about morals and decency?
Comey: I don't think they're attacks. I didn't intend them as attacks and I really don't think they can reasonably be thought of as attacks. I've never been an author before, and my editors would say to me: Bring the reader with you. Show the reader what's inside your head. Let them be in the room with you. In the room, that's what I was struck by, that his face looked orange and he had white circles under his eyes and his hair was very impressive. And I'm not looking to make fun of his hand size, but I remembered in the moment that there had been this business about hand size - and I remember thinking as I went to shake his hand: How big is it?
DER SPIEGEL: You really didn't think he would strike back if you wrote about his hand size?
Comey: (Grinning) The thought never entered my mind.
DER SPIEGEL: Your first meeting with Trump was in early January 2017 when you informed him together with the heads of the NSA and the CIA of Russia's meddling in the presidential election. You write that the meeting in the Trump Tower in New York reminded you of a meeting with a mob boss. Where did that comparison come from?
Comey: I know the mob very well from my work here in New York (Eds. Note: Comey was an assistant U.S. attorney in New York in the early 1990s) and when the president-elect and his team shifted immediately to political spin with us still at the table, this image popped into my head. It felt like the effort of a boss to bring everybody into the family. I pushed it away because I thought it was too dramatic, but in my encounters thereafter, it kept coming back into my head.
DER SPIEGEL: Isn't the comparison of Trump to a mafia boss a bit overwrought?
Comey: I'm not trying to suggest Donald Trump is out breaking legs or firebombing stores or hijacking trucks. I'm trying to compare it to a leadership style where loyalty to the boss is everything, where there are no external reference points. Most leaders - all ethical leaders - have some external reference points that they look to when making decisions, whether it be philosophy, religion, logic, tradition or history. But with a boss like the ones I've dealt with over the years, it's about the boss. What can you do for me? How are you serving me? And I was struck by the comparison of that leadership culture to his leadership culture. That's what I mean by the comparison.
DER SPIEGEL: For Trump it's all about Trump?
Comey: I was struck that the only reference point seems to be internal. What will be good for me? What will bring me the affirmation that I need?
DER SPIEGEL: You write that Trump tried to turn you into a kind of accomplice from the very beginning. At a meeting in the White House, he even seemed to try to kiss you on the cheek.
FBI Director James Comey shaking hands with U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House on Jan. 22, 2017.
Comey: The alleged kiss - and there was no kiss, by the way - was excruciating. It's a scene that, in my mind, plays in slow motion because I was trying very much to avoid appearing to be close to the president of the United States. Since Watergate, the U.S. has developed a tradition that the FBI stays at a distance from the president. One of the abuses of Watergate was that J. Edgar Hoover (Eds. Note: Hoover was director of the FBI at the time) was too close to presidents.
DER SPIEGEL: On that day, Trump was receiving U.S. security officials to thank them for their work during his inauguration. Initially, you didn't want to attend.
Comey: I was very, very keen to maintain that distance. I was trying to hide, as you probably know, literally in a blue curtain. After the Trump-Clinton campaign (Eds. Note: the reference here is to the scandal surrounding the FBI's role in the Hillary Clinton email affair), I was very concerned about the appearance that I was somehow one of his people. When the president summoned me forward, I walked across that room determined not to let him hug me. I resisted the hug, but he tried to pull me down and then whispered in my ear: "I really look forward to working with you." The problem was that the cameras were on the other side, and so the whole world, my children too, saw a kiss. The optics of that were very concerning to me.
DER SPIEGEL: Then came your famous one-on-one dinner with Trump, during which he famously asked you to pledge loyalty to him. Why didn't you just tell him that the question was inappropriate?
Comey: That's a really good question. Probably because I'm not as strong as I should be. Probably because I was surprised, stunned by the request, and it's difficult to describe being at dinner alone with the president of the United States. I don't know how many people would say: "Mr. President, you shouldn't be saying that." In a way, I did so because I met his first request with silence. Then, even though it was hard to get a word in, I spoke about the importance of the distance between the president and the Justice Department and the FBI. Despite that, he came back and asked again.
DER SPIEGEL: Ultimately, you settled for "honest loyalty."
Comey: Right. He said again that he needs loyalty, and I said: "I'll always be honest with you. You'll always have honesty." He replied by saying: "That's what I want. Honest loyalty." I accepted that as a way of getting out of a very awkward conversation, but also because I think I had made clear how he should understand "honest loyalty."
DER SPIEGEL: Back to your first visit with Trump on Jan. 6, 2017. You had to tell him about the dossier compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele. Included in the dossier is a claim that Trump was in a Moscow hotel room with prostitutes. What exactly did you tell him?
Comey: My goal was to put him on notice, to alert him that this material was out there. I wasn't saying that I believed it, but we thought it was our obligation as the intelligence community to let him know. I didn't go into all the details. I did talk about prostitutes in Russia, but I didn't think it was necessary to go into the other parts of it - that people call the "golden showers" thing. I was deeply uncomfortable with the whole thing. I was actually floating above myself looking down thinking: "What am I doing? How did I end up here?"
DER SPIEGEL: You didn't tell him that the dossier claimed that the prostitutes had urinated on each other?
Comey: No, I did not.
DER SPIEGEL: How did he react?
Comey: Defensively. And he interrupted me very quickly and then began talking about accusations that women had made against him. He then asked me, I assumed rhetorically, whether he looked like a guy who needed the service of hookers. The conversation, in my judgment, was starting to spin out of control. It was at that moment that I told him for the first time that we weren't investigating him personally. I just needed him to know this because the press was likely to report on it soon. One of our jobs at the FBI is to protect the presidency, and if someone was trying to blackmail him, one of the ways we deal with it is to make sure the person knows the FBI knows.
DER SPIEGEL: Did Trump understand the seriousness of the situation?
Comey: I think so, yeah, because he then later called me to talk about it again. I think he got it.
DER SPIEGEL: On the one hand, you're supposed to protect the president. On the other, you had an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the elections, which involved people close to Trump. Isn't that a fundamental conflict?
Comey: Well, it can be. There's a natural tension between the FBI's obligation to protect the government and its obligation to investigate parts of the government. But I think it's a conflict that can be navigated.
DER SPIEGEL: What was your view of the veracity of the Steele dossier?
Comey: I didn't know at the time. It came from a reliable source who had an established source network in Russia. And I knew that one of the central assertions of this collection of materials was true, namely that the Russians were engaged in a massive effort to influence the American election. People talk all the time about how the Steele dossier was unconfirmed. That part, in our experience, was confirmed. The rest of it, the details and the salacious things, I didn't know. An effort was underway when I was fired to try to evaluate it in a deeper way, but I don't know where that finished.
DER SPIEGEL: At the center of this whole thing is the question, currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as to whether part of the Trump campaign actually colluded with Russia. Did it happen?
Comey: One of the duties of the special counsel is to investigate exactly that. There was certainly a basis for the investigation. As you now know, because it's public, the FBI had information that a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor had been in touch with a Russian representative about obtaining emails damaging to Hillary Clinton. I don't know what the ultimate conclusion will be, but I do know that if Mueller is allowed to do his work, he'll find the truth.
DER SPIEGEL: Was Trump attempting to obstruct justice when he asked you to suspend the investigation into Michael Flynn, his security adviser for a short time, and by then firing you?
Interview with James Comey 'What Am I Doing? How Did I End Up Here?'
Interview Conducted by Christoph Scheuermann and Mathieu von Rohr
Comey: I don't know. There is some evidence of obstruction of justice, especially in the encounter relating to Flynn. In this circumstance, I'm a witness, so I don't know where the special counsel will end up.
DER SPIEGEL: Should the president be impeached?
Comey: Ultimately, the law, the facts and our Constitution will decide that. This may sound like a strange answer, but in a way, I hope not because I think that would let the American people off the hook. The American people have very strong, common values that are more important than our policy fights over guns or something. If Donald Trump were impeached or removed from office, that would, in a way, bake in some of our disagreements. I think the American people owe it to themselves to stand up and vote their values.
DER SPIEGEL: Are you concerned that Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign, could be fired by the president?
Comey: Of course, I worry about it. It would be an enormous mistake and an attack on the rule of law. I also think it would be a mistake as a practical matter, because as important as the special counsel is, I'm confident that the work would continue. To stop the work, the president would have to fire everyone in the Department of Justice and the FBI, and that's not possible.
DER SPIEGEL: Mueller's investigation is, as we have discussed, also focused on possible obstruction of justice by the president - and you are an important witness. Is there a danger that, with your book and the interviews you have given, you could compromise yourself as a witness?
Comey: That's a reasonable question. I don't think so because my testimony is locked down at this point. I've testified in front of the Senate about it. I wrote memos about the key encounters, so there's a concrete record. And so long as I continue to tell the truth - and if you tell the truth, you'll be consistent - I don't see that as an issue.
Hillary Clinton is convinced that James Comey cost her the presidency. Doug Mills/ The New York Times/ Laif Hillary Clinton is convinced that James Comey cost her the presidency.
DER SPIEGEL: But if you're seen as being partisan, that could cast doubt on the credibility of your testimony or your memos.
Comey: Maybe. Although if someone were looking to cross-examine me, they would ask those same questions whether or not I wrote a book. So I don't see a significant issue there.
DER SPIEGEL: Currently, you are the archenemy of many Trump supporters. Back in October 2016, it was the other way around. That was when you sent a letter to Congress, with just 11 days to go until the election, informing lawmakers that the FBI had resumed its investigation into Hillary Clinton because a laptop turned up with her emails on it. You were attacked by the Clinton people and defended by the Trump campaign.
Comey: You know, it's funny. My wife has said: "When you started this, you knew you were going to anger half of the political partisans. I never imagined that you would anger both halves." I think because they don't talk to each other, they don't deal with the logic. I can't be both on Clinton's side and on Trump's side.
DER SPIEGEL: Did you cost Hillary Clinton the presidency? She is convinced that you did.
Comey: I don't know. I really, really hope not, but I don't know.
DER SPIEGEL: She plunged in the polls afterward. Your letter clearly had an influence.
Comey: Obviously, it could have, but I wasn't making the decision for political reasons. My whole life in government was devoted to institutions that I loved because they had nothing to do with politics. But sometimes you're stuck.
DER SPIEGEL: Yet in your book, you write about your own political considerations. In July 2016, for example, you gave a controversial press conference in which you personally announced the end of the investigation into Clinton even though that was the task of the Department of Justice. You did so to demonstrate your independence. Why didn't you just play it by the book?
Comey: I'd love to find that book. We have an expression in English: a "500-year flood." Remember, the FBI was criminally investigating one of the two candidates for president of the United States during the election year in the middle of one of the angriest partisan periods in our nation's history. The reason I hope people read my book is not to be convinced I was right. It's instead to see somebody trying to make decisions in an ethical way. I pray no FBI director ever has to try and figure this out again because it was just a series of no-win situations, where all the options were terrible.
DER SPIEGEL: You have also admitted to having been influenced by the assumption that Clinton would win when you sent that letter to Congress in late October 2016.
Comey: I don't remember thinking about the polls, but it is possible given that the whole country was assuming Hillary Clinton was going to be elected. Did that have an impact? Of course, it's possible.
DER SPIEGEL: You have been accused of forcing your way into the spotlight. You have admitted yourself that you are a bit too ego-driven at times. Are you too egocentric?
Comey: How dare you? (Laughs) Nobody in their right mind could comment on their own ego in that way. You'd have to ask other people. As I say in the book, I've worried since I was a teenager about ego and pride because I know it's a weakness of mine.
DER SPIEGEL: In your career as a public prosecutor, as deputy attorney general and as director of the FBI, you've been privy to many of the largest scandals in America's recent past. In the 1990s, you were involved in the Whitewater investigation into the Clintons' controversial real estate investments. You were in charge of the investigation into the billionaire Marc Rich. You were involved in the question as to whether U.S. soldiers in Iraq had tortured detainees ...
Comey: You really have read the book.
DER SPIEGEL: Of course. Yet you keep coming back to Trump. Why?
Comey: You can't write about ethical leadership without including stories about him because he's the counterpoint.
DER SPIEGEL: You also reveal in your book that Trump's current chief-of-staff, John Kelly, wanted to quit after you were fired but that you asked him to stay. But you also say that Trump taints everyone who works with him. What should his staff do? Stay or go?
Comey: Great question, and I don't think anyone can answer it except the person. I can't from the outside say at what point things come out of balance between your efforts to protect the country and the personal compromise. I think there are people now who are serving because they love this country and want to uphold its values. It is an intensely personal judgment about the point at which you're becoming so stained as a person - that you're becoming an enabler - that it makes no sense to stay.
DER SPIEGEL: You would have stayed?
Comey: I definitely would have stayed because I thought I had an obligation to try and protect the FBI.
DER SPIEGEL: You compare this presidency to a forest fire. What makes Trump so dangerous to America?
Comey: One of the core values of this country is that the truth is our touchstone, and we have always graded our politicians by their distance from that touchstone. When George W. Bush spoke about Iraq, when Barack Obama talked about Obamacare, we spent a tremendous amount of time in this country determining whether they were telling the truth. The danger is that Donald Trump lies so often that we will lose that touchstone.
DER SPIEGEL: A forest fire burns everything down in its path. Is that what Trump is doing?
Comey: I hope he doesn't burn everything down. It will damage. It will hurt. But it will go out, and then remarkable things will grow. And I already see it growing. Seeing those kids all over the country in the wake of the Parkland shooting, marching and talking about public policy and guns. It impressed me. I think parents all around America are talking about values and truth and prejudice and fairness in a way they didn't before. I don't care whether the next president is Republican or Democrat. This isn't about politics for me. But it has to be someone who embodies those values and talks about the importance of representing those values in America and to the world.
DER SPIEGEL: Do you sometimes miss Barack Obama?
Comey: Yes. Yeah. Yep. And I told him that when he was leaving. I was not a supporter of his, I gave money to his opponents. But I came to respect him. He's not a perfect person, but he was someone who cared deeply about those institutional values.
DER SPIEGEL: Prior to publication, the FBI took a look at your book. Is "censored" an accurate word to use?
Comey: Pre-publication review. We never call it "censorship."
DER SPIEGEL: Did they make many changes?
DER SPIEGEL: None at all?
Comey: Some. I was the director of the FBI and I wrote it so that it would be acceptable to them. I knew I couldn't include classified information or sensitive investigative details. So I didn't. The things they suggested I change were all very small and marginal.
DER SPIEGEL: You repeat in several parts of the book that your goal was to keep the FBI out of politics. But now, you are being accused by both sides of the political spectrum that you politicized the FBI. What did you do wrong?
Comey: I reject the premise. I really don't think the FBI is politicized. The FBI is being politically attacked, especially now by the Republicans, which is very shortsighted.
DER SPIEGEL: You said at the beginning of your tenure that "FBI director is the best job I've ever had."
DER SPIEGEL: What comes afterward?
Comey: I don't know. I wrote a book. I'm going to speak about ethics and leadership and I've signed up to teach next year at the college I graduated from (Eds. Note: College of William and Mary in Virginia), which I'm really excited about. But I will always miss the FBI job. I had planned to be there another six years.
DER SPIEGEL: Will you run for office?
DER SPIEGEL: Never?
DER SPIEGEL: That is a definitive answer.
Comey: Yeah, you got it. That's not my thing.
DER SPIEGEL: Shortly before you were fired, you began tweeting. As your screen name, you chose Reinhold Niebuhr, the American theologian who died in 1971. Why him?
Comey: Because Niebuhr was a huge influence on me as a university student, and I wanted something that people wouldn't figure out.
DER SPIEGEL: It didn't take long.
Comey: But Niebuhr still speaks to me.
DER SPIEGEL: How so?
Comey: Niebuhr embraced the idea that people are capable of tremendous bad, but he also said that's not an excuse for not trying to achieve justice in the world. That always appealed to me because I could see the dark side of humanity, but Niebuhr was able to frame it in such a way that said: "So what? You have an obligation to try and help people and do good." He also was very good about reminding Americans of the irony of American history, that people don't always appreciate your good intentions. And the last thing is: He was a constant reminder. He used to call it the "sin of pride," and that's something I've always worried about.
DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Comey, thank you for this interview.