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The Trump Storm

The Trump Storm

For Signal readers who don’t obsessively track every new development in Robert Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump, here’s an update on the week’s news.


Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight felony charges that could send him to prison for life, unless he cooperates with Mueller. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to felony charges that implicate Trump, and Cohen’s lawyer says Cohen would like to talk with Mueller.

Given the latest developments, it’s time to lay down some scenarios. Let’s imagine how the Mueller drama might play out, and the risks it could create for US relations with other countries. We don’t know when, but unless Trump finds a way to fire him, Mueller will issue a report of his findings to Congress.

Here are the three scenarios and what they might mean:

Scenario 1  Trump Vindication. The report argues Trump is guilty mainly of surrounding himself with untrustworthy people. It reveals no compelling evidence that the president knew about, much less approved, criminal offenses.

In this case, Mueller’s report would strengthen Trump and demoralize his critics. Trump would remain the unquestioned leader of his party, and Democrats would scramble for a single coherent message to use against him in 2020.

Scenario 2 — Hard Evidence.  The report finds Trump committed high crimes against the United States. In particular, it reveals documentary evidence, supported by credible witness testimony, that Trump personally agreed to design policies to help other governments in exchange for their help in winning the 2016 election and/or financial benefit for his businesses.

In this case, the charge would essentially be treason. It would be hard, both politically and morally, for Republican lawmakers to allow Trump to remain in office. If he were forced out, Mike Pence would become president, and the question of a Gerald Ford-style pardon for Trump would immediately dominate Washington.

Scenario 3 — A Mueller Mess. The report relies on testimony of untrustworthy Trump associates and inconclusive documentary evidence to build a case against Trump that Democrats claim is airtight and Republicans dismiss as circumstantial.

In this case, the fight has only just begun.

For now, it’s impossible to know which scenario is most likely, but the second and third options come with two sets of worries. If Trump faces impeachment and a trial in the Senate, his policies could remain in limbo until his fate is resolved—even if this process drags on for months.

The larger foreign-policy risk might come from the president’s frustration. Donald Trump is a punch-thrower. It’s his defining characteristic. He’ll throw punches at Mueller, at Democrats, at Republicans who refuse to defend him, and at the media.

Backed into a corner, he might also be tempted to escalate sharply with China or Europe on the trade front. He could throw military punches at a North Korea that’s not denuclearizing fast enough, or an Iran he says is making trouble.

The bottom line: When the leader of the world’s sole superpower—one who prides himself on toughness and unapologetic defiance—faces this much trouble, there’s plenty of risk to go around.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis

Should big business care about small business in these times?

The answer is yes and for many reasons. First, small business is the lifeblood of our economies. 45% of employment in emerging countries and 70% in the OECD comes from small and medium enterprises. Moreover, these enterprises have been badly hit by the crisis. Surveys indicate as many as 50% of European small to medium enterprises feel they may not survive over 12 months. While SMEs are relying on government support, larger companies do have a role to play. After all, this includes prioritizing small business and procurement by locking in demand for multiple years, thus facilitating access to good credit, paying receivables to small business in time and where possible, ahead of schedule. Cash flow matters most when you're small. Looking out for small businesses that have lower resilience. For example, financial institutions can lend more and in doing so, ensure deeper customer relationships in the future.

In his latest Financial Times op-ed, Martin Wolf argues that the US global role is at stake in this election and that a Trump re-election would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Jeffrey Wright grabbed the Red Pen to argue that a Trump presidency exists in part because of Americans' rejection of the US's post-war leadership role, and these feelings run deeper than the article suggests.

Today, we're taking The Red Pen to a recent op-ed published in The Financial Times from my good friend, the chief economics commentator Martin Wolf. Martin argues the global role of the United States is at stake on November 3rd, and that a Trump reelection would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. There's been a lot of this sort of thing recently. I know, we did it once, but if we do it twice, it's all over and I'm not there. To be clear, we don't totally reject what Martin is presenting in this piece. Rather, we'd argue that a Trump presidency exists because there were feelings that were present in the United States before he came along and they run a lot deeper than the article suggests. In other words, it's really not all about Trump.

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"The top priority will be to announce to the world that the United States they've known for decades is back." Former top Obama diplomat and current CEO of the think tank New America Anne-Marie slaughter predicts an American revival on the global stage if Joe Biden wins the presidency. But at a time when the United States has never been more divided, can any nation, even the world's most powerful, be a global leader if it cannot even keep its own house in order? Ian Bremmer's conversation with Slaughter is part of a new episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: How a "President Biden" could reshape US foreign policy

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