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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Analysis: Why The Anonymous Op-Ed Sets A Dangerous Precedent

The New York Times recently published an anonymous op-ed from a “senior official” in the Trump administration. In the op-ed, the unnamed author describes President Donald Trump as “impetuous, adversarial, petty, and ineffective.” He or she depicts a White House in which the author – together with like-minded colleagues – work to undermine the president’s “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless” decisions.

A tweet from the president, in what appears to be in reference to the op-ed, asked: Treason?

Some commentators, making clear that they had difference of opinion with President Trump’s policies, nonetheless, condemned the author for writing the piece – and for working to undermine the decisions of a sitting president.

Steven Pike, a former diplomat in both the Obama and Bush administrations, for example, wrote that the legal remedy for a genuinely incapacitated president involves the use of the 25th Amendment. As Pike observes, if the author believes the president is genuinely not up to the job, then the available recourse is to follow the Constitution, not to “improvise.”

Regardless of its legality, as a scholar who studies political ethics, I would argue the decision to write this op-ed is likely unethical, and could set a dangerous precedent.


What John McCain’s Death Means for Republican Control of the Senate

John McCain’s death will deprive the Senate of one of its longest-serving members, its leading military hawk and champion of interventionist U.S. foreign policy, and a Republican who regularly sought—and often struck—significant accords with Democrats.

But in the short term, the loss of the Arizona senator and elder statesman is likely to bolster the GOP’s majority in the chamber, as well as its party unity.

McCain had not voted on the floor since December as he underwent treatment for brain cancer in Arizona—an absence that reduced the already narrow Republican advantage of 51–49 to a single vote. Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican seeking reelection this fall, will name McCain’s successor, who will serve until a special election is held in 2020 to fill out the remainder of his term. McCain had won a sixth term in 2016 that goes until 2022.

Ducey has said little about who he might pick, and his office said over the weekend that the governor would wait until after McCain is buried on Sunday to announce his selection. But he is required by Arizona law to pick a Republican, and that fact alone should make it easier...

Trump’s Meeting With Putin Draws Alarmed Responses From Both Parties

“Surreal.” “Extraordinary.” “Disgraceful.” Lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad appeared shell-shocked on Monday following President Trump’s press conference with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in which Trump again refused to condemn Putin for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, even going so far as to deny the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was responsible.

“I think we have both been foolish,” Trump said, when asked by a reporter whether he would hold Russia accountable “at all, for anything in particular.”

“We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, before I got to office,” Trump continued. “And I think we are all to blame.” Asked later whether he would denounce Russian interference and ask Putin to never do it again, Trump said he didn’t “see any reason why it would be Russia” that interfered, and began discussing the Democratic National Committee server that, according to the Justice Department, was hacked by Russian intelligence officers in 2016. “I really want to see the server,” Trump said, appearing to cast doubt on his administration’s conclusions. (The FBI obtained copies of the DNC server from the private firm hired to investigate the hack).


Trump Blames Bad Relations With Russia on Everything but Russia

During his press conference with Vladimir Putin in Finland on Monday, Donald Trump was given a chance to walk back his tweet from earlier in the day blaming poor U.S.–Russia relations on past American presidents and Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in U.S. politics. The real culprit, according to Trump, was not Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election or illegal annexation of Crimea or support for Syria’s murderous dictator, but rather “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” (“We agree,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted in response to the American president.)

“Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?” asked Jeff Mason of Reuters. At first it seemed like Trump might: “I hold both countries responsible,” the president said. “We have both made some mistakes.” But that was essentially the extent of his reflection on Russia’s actions. He proceeded to boast about his victory over Hillary Clinton, deny that his campaign colluded with the Russian government, and describe Mueller’s probe into the the Kremlin’s efforts to disrupt the U.S. democratic process—not the efforts themselves—as a...

Analysis: Corruption in the Trump Administration Is Spreading

You’ve got to at least give credit to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for finding the silver lining—or the gold one, as it were.

It was late October 2017, just days before the so-called Paradise Papers, a tranche of leaked documents, would reveal that when he divested some of his holdings upon taking office, Ross had retained assets in a shipping company enmeshed in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Ross had not disclosed the investment, and apparently had no legal obligation to do so. Still, the realization that the commerce secretary held a stake in a company tied to Putin at a time of Russo-American tension was likely to be damaging, no two ways about it.

So he apparently decided to make a buck off the bad news. Three days after a New York Times reporter contacted Ross to inquire about the stake in Navigator Holdings, the company, he took a short position on it—in effect, betting the value of his investment would drop. Lo and behold, when reports about Ross’s stake were published, the stock dropped somewhat. Ross then made a profit of between $100,000 and $250,000, according to disclosures. It looks like an...