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.

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Listen: Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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