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Another departure from the White House, but then it is almost a weekly affair now.  This time it is Gary Cohn his chief economic adviser.  A former president of Goldman Sachs, he was the head of the National Economic Council.  Apparently he was furious at Donald Turmp’s import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Mr. Trump believes the scales are weighted against American products; the truth is more in  line with Angela Merkel’s remark after Trump complained about U.S. cars not being sold in Germany.  If you want to sell cars in Germany, why don’t you make cars Germans want to buy, she said.

Consumer Reports (CR) is a U.S. magazine.  It tests products in order to advise consumers.  In the March 2018 issue, it tested sport utility vehicles (SUV).  Now General Motors products were prominent in ads during the Winter Olympics.  Here is how they fared.

Among compact SUVs, the Subaru Forester was tops scoring 84 points, GM’s Equinox was at number 8 (scoring 65 points) and its GMC Terrain was last at number 10 with 55 points.  In the Luxury Compact segment, at the top was a BMW X3; GM did not place in the top 10.  In the Large and Midsize group, Audi’s Q7 was the leader with 90 points.  GM’s Chevrolet Traverse Premier scored 67, its Buick Enclave 63 points and the GMC Acadia Denali 57 points.

Consumer Reports did not recommend any of these GM vehicles for purchase.  The obvious question:  If CR is unable to recommend a GM SUV to Americans, why would any sane German want to buy one?  Angela Merkel had a point and a good one.

To make matters worse, Mr. Trump was also sued this week.  Now Donald Trump has been involved in a myriad lawsuits but this one is different.  Stephanie Gregory Clifford is an American pornographic actress known professionally as Stormy Waters, Stormy Daniels or plain Stormy.  On January 12, 2018, The Wall Street Journal ran a story claiming that Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, paid Stormy $130,000 in October 2016 (just before the presidential election) for her silence about a sexual liaison with Donald Trump in 2006.  Mr. Cohen claims he paid the money out of his own pocket implying it was without Trump’s knowledge.  Wouldn’t anyone love a personal lawyer like Mr. Cohen?

To complete the transaction Mr. Cohen first set-up a company in Delaware, a state with the most convenient rules.  This company then paid a Stormy Daniels representative.  Why such elaborate precautions?  At the time, she was in talks with the Good Morning America TV program and Slate magazine to relate the story of her affair.

Cohen denies his client had an affair, denies he was reimbursed by Trump, has a letter supposedly signed by Daniels denying the affair and the hush money.  He claimed in a statement to The New York Times on February 13, 2018 that the money was for matters with no connection to Trump.

Shortly after The Wall Street Journal story, In Touch Weekly published excerpts of a 2011 interview with Daniels on the subject of her alleged affair with Trump in 2006 after she passed a lie-detector test.

Daniels’ new law suit seeks a judgement that the nondisclosure agreement is not binding, because Trump has not signed it and because Cohen by disclosing the payment has violated its confidentiality.

There are of course other sources with claimed knowledge of the affair.  An affair initiated a series of events leading to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which he was able to fight off eventually.  What happens to Trump, only time will tell.  He is certainly not better off than he was before this story developed.

The announcement this morning of Trump — Kim Jong Un talks scheduled for this May is a huge surprise and possible relief for Mr. Trump as it makes Stormy Daniels passe for the moment.  As late as Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson felt any North Korean meeting was a long way off.  Credit therefore goes to the South Koreans as President Moon’s ‘sunshine policy’ cold-shouldered by the Trump administration has clearly paid off.

While the White House will no doubt trumpet sanctions as the reason for the turnaround, it is worth noting the North Koreans have lived with sanctions a long time and there was little else left to sanction.  It is also likely that Kim Jong Un has taken note of the new China model of lifetime presidency, one party rule, economic freedom but limited political and personal autonomy.

South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-Yong and intelligence head Suh Hoon are the diplomats primarily responsible for bringing Mr. Moon’s ideas to fruition.  The latter has a long history of arranging talks between the two Koreas going as far back as the 1990s.  Given the South Korean role, it was befitting for Mr. Chung to make the historic meeting announcement from the White House with Mr. Suh Hoon by his side.

Mr. Trump breathes a sigh of relief.

Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.  His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.

 

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