In the hierarchy of distractions, Global Thermonuclear War tends to work better than most. (Made you look!)
As many Americans deal with an anxiety that has largely been absent for some 30 years, Trump keeps ratcheting up the provocative language around nukes in North Korea. Despite his “locked and loaded” rhetoric, much of the world doesn’t really believe the U.S. is on the brink of war with North Korea, and China has warned Kim Jong Un that his country is on its own if it starts something with the U.S. (but will intervene if the U.S. strikes first).
This is a serious situation, as well as a reminder of just how much Donald Trump is unsuited and ill-equipped to be president. At the same time, this does seem designed to draw our attention, and gathering attention is something Trump is suited for as he’s spent so much of his life honing those skills.
We cannot dismiss this distraction because there is no evidence that Trump wouldn’t start a war to cover his tracks.
The Washington Post reminds us today that amid all of the craziness of the North Korean brinksmanship and thanking Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats from Russia, Trump continues to use the presidency to enrich his family. While the Post is primarily talking about the Trump Hotel, there are seemingly a deep web of financial interests at play.
The team of prosecutors assembled by special counsel Robert Mueller is loaded with specialists on financial crimes. The revelation that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s home was subject to a pre-dawn raid by the FBI serving a warrant for Mueller’s investigation suggests the vice is tightening.
Another interesting thread in the financial aspect came up today in a special report from Reuters detailing the ways in which Putin, via Russian state-owned energy firm Rosneft, is taking advantage of unrest in Venezuela to gain leverage over oil fields and access to U.S. markets (via CITGO) despite sanctions.
“Moscow has substantial leverage in the negotiations: Cash from Russia and Rosneft has been crucial in helping the financially strapped government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro avoid a sovereign debt default or a political coup.
“Rosneft delivered Venezuela’s state-owned firm more than $1 billion in April alone in exchange for a promise of oil shipments later. On at least two occasions, the Venezuelan government has used Russian cash to avoid imminent defaults on payments to bondholders, a high-level PDVSA official told Reuters.
“Rosneft has also positioned itself as a middleman in sales of Venezuelan oil to customers worldwide. Much of it ends up at refineries in the United States – despite U.S. sanctions against Russia – because it is sold through intermediaries such as oil trading firms, according to internal PDVSA trade reports seen by Reuters and a source at the firm.”
Republican Senators from several Gulf oil states are urging Trump to hold off on Venezuelan sanctions as they would send Maduro further into Russia’s arms, further harming U.S. energy interests.
How this plays out will be interesting to watch as there are a number of links to people in the Trump orbit. Of course there is Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson who has many connections to Rosneft. But there are also known targets of the Trump-Russia investigation with Rosneft ties, including Manafort and Carter Page. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, outlined some of those ties back in March.
Without putting on the tinfoil hat, just some things to keep an eye out for while comfortable in the knowledge that Mueller’s team likely is all over this. So while we wait for things to blow up on one side or the other, enjoy the weekend with a Nuclear Daiquiri.
Via Cocktail Virgin, the Nuclear Daiquiri is:
3/4 oz Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/3 oz Falernum (Velvet)
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
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