“Very sad day & night in Paris. Maybe it’s time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes? The U.S. was way ahead of the curve on that and the only major country where emissions went down last year!” (Dec. 8)
The Paris climate accord does not take effect until 2020. Each country sets its own environmental goals under the agreement. So Trump could have unilaterally changed the commitments offered by President Barack Obama, who signed the deal in 2016. Instead, Trump withdrew the United States from the climate pact.
In any case, the French are not protesting the Paris climate agreement. They have been protesting a new tax on gas and diesel that French President Emmanuel Macron proposed to finance environmental programs. Aggravating matters further, Macron earlier in his presidency cut taxes on the wealthy. (The gas tax is now off the table.)
In short, the protesters called “the yellow vests” are angry that Macron wanted to saddle the poor and working class with the cost of his green policies. They’re not picking bones with the policies themselves.
The fact is, the yellow-vest demonstrations have never been against Macron’s climate-change policies in general; they have been against the fuel tax in particular, which they see as unfairly targeting lower-income households. “This is not the yellow vests against climate-change policies. It’s the yellow vests against the cost of living, the way politics are done, and how decision makers are doing policy,” says Pierre Cannet, the head of climate and energy at the French offices of the WWF, an environmental nonprofit organization.
The Washington Post reported Dec. 8 that some of the people wearing yellow vests to protest Macron also attended a “March for Climate” rally: “Some in yellow vests were seen among the gathering, and more people turned out for the climate march than for the yellow vests.”
There’s no evidence that French protesters were chanting, “We want Trump." This is an example of Trump spreading unproven claims from dark corners of the Internet. In this case, the false claim appears to have originated with the reality-divorced online community called QAnon.
The president claimed that the United States was the only major country where greenhouse gas emissions declined in 2017. But the EU countries held steady on average and Britain also lowered emissions in 2017. Recent reports by climate researchers estimate that such emissions will rise in the United States in 2018.
“The idea of a European Military didn’t work out too well in W.W. I or 2. But the U.S. was there for you, and always will be. All we ask is that you pay your fair share of NATO. Germany is paying 1% while the U.S. pays 4.3% of a much larger GDP - to protect Europe. Fairness!” (Dec. 8)
Trump often distorts how NATO funding works.
Direct funding for NATO goes to military-related operations, maintenance and headquarters activity. It’s based on gross national income — the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country — and adjusted regularly. With the largest economy in NATO, the United States pays the largest share of these costs, or 22 percent. Germany is second, at 15 percent. A significant portion of the U.S. share is operating the Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet operations, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The U.S. share of the actual military budget is negotiated each year but is largely based on a cost-sharing formula and amounts to less than $500 million a year, according to Defense Department documents.
But Trump is really talking about indirect funding. Since 2006, each NATO member has had a guideline of spending at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense — its own defense, that is. At a 2014 summit, responding to Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO members pledged to meet that guideline by 2024.
It’s important to remember that the United States is a world power with global responsibilities, including in Asia. Iceland, the NATO member that spends the smallest percentage of its GDP on defense, does not even have a standing army.
Germany spends 1.24 percent of its GDP on defense, but the somewhat-arbitrary measure penalizes countries with strong economies. Greece manages to meet its 2 percent commitment mainly because its economy is weak.
“AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!” (Dec. 8)
The cost of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation goes up and down like a roller coaster on Trump’s Twitter feed. A week before the president claimed that the cost had surpassed $30 million, he tweeted that it was “more than $40 million.”
Mueller has reported $17 million in costs from May 17, 2017, the day he was appointed to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, through March 31, 2018. It’s logical to assume more costs since then, though Mueller has yet to give an updated total.
It’s important to keep in mind that Mueller’s investigation is a moneymaker as much as a money-loser. The special counsel’s team has seized several properties and funds from Paul Manafort through asset forfeiture. Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler has estimated the value of these assets at $46 million.
Several FBI and Justice Department officials detailed to Mueller’s team would be getting paychecks anyway if the special counsel’s office did not exist, as we previously reported. In addition, Mueller is reporting indirect costs from his investigation that no previous special counsel added to the tally.
“Watched Da Nang Dick Blumenthal on television spewing facts almost as accurate as his bravery in Vietnam (which he never saw). As the bullets whizzed by Da Nang Dicks head, as he was saving soldiers.... ....left and right, he then woke up from his dream screaming that HE LIED. Next time I go to Vietnam I will ask ‘the Dick’ to travel with me!” (Dec. 8)
Trump often attacks Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) with a surreal, Four Pinocchio story alleging stolen valor. In Trump’s telling, Blumenthal spun a web of intricate lies for years to pass himself off as a Vietnam War hero.
During his first Senate race in 2010, Blumenthal apologized for past comments that left the impression that he had served in Vietnam. Blumenthal enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve during the Vietnam War, but he was based in the United States.
However, Blumenthal’s résumé puffery was nowhere near as vivid or exaggerated as Trump claims. Blumenthal in 2008 told an audience that he had served “in Vietnam.” At an event in 2003, he said, “When we returned from Vietnam, we saw nothing like this.” That’s pretty much it.
Blumenthal never claimed that he fought in Da Nang, that he fought anywhere in Vietnam, that bullets whizzed by or that he saved soldiers. Trump fabricated all these details. He repeats these falsehoods about Blumenthal so often, he’s well on his way to getting another Bottomless Pinocchio.
“The Trump Administration has accomplished more than any other U.S. Administration in its first two (not even) years of existence, & we are having a great time doing it! All of this despite the Fake News Media, which has gone totally out of its mind-truly the Enemy of the People!” (Dec. 9)
Trump has signed a few major pieces of legislation. Judges have been appointed at a faster rate than in previous administrations, and Republicans cut taxes in 2017.
But the whirlwind of accomplishments under presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama exceeds Trump’s efforts. As of Sept. 12, his 600th day, Trump had signed 238 bills, most of which were minor. Trump had signed two more bills and joint resolutions than Obama and 14 more than George W. Bush at comparable points, but was still behind every other president since Eisenhower, according to a calculation by Josh Tauberer of GovTrack. He noted that Trump is just behind Obama in the number of pages, indicating that much of the legislation Trump has signed has been about increasing government spending.
“‘Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun...No Collusion.’ @FoxNews That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution,... ....which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s - but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me). Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!” (Dec. 10)
Russians approached at least 14 people in Trump’s orbit during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition. Mueller’s investigation is ongoing, and it’s possible he has, or may find, evidence of illegal coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia. The special counsel has not made any announcements on this score.
Trump described as “a simple private transaction” the hush-money payments his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, arranged during the 2016 campaign to prevent two women from going public with stories of their alleged affairs with Trump. (Before they became a “private transaction,” Trump spent months disclaiming any knowledge of these payments.)
Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were serious violations of U.S. election law.
“Cohen’s commission of two campaign finance crimes on the eve of the 2016 election for President of the United States struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency,” they wrote in a brief filed Dec. 7. “While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1 [Trump]. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.”
Trump suggests this is a civil case, but Cohen pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Trump suggests that it’s wrong to classify the hush-money payments as campaign contributions that went unreported. But that ship seems to have sailed already, since prosecutors are alleging and Cohen has pleaded guilty to making “illegal campaign contributions.”
Trump suggests that Cohen made the mistake (“not me”), but prosecutors described it as more than an isolated lapse from a lawyer. They described a concerted effort by Trump and his campaign to keep the stories and the hush-money payments under wraps.
“With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” they wrote. “Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1 [Trump]. As a result of Cohen’s actions, neither woman spoke to the press prior to the election.”
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