TBR News November 8, 2017

Nov 08 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., November 8, 2017:”Every year, the American public pays out trillions of their earned dollars, automatically and without redress, to a government who delights in spending it on projects that benefit it and not the people. Everywhere are signs of corruption, favoritism, greed and deceit that daily grow greater and with a greater potential damage to the silent tax-payers. If a way were found to make tax payment voluntary, Washington would have to fold up shop and go back to the social zoo they crept out of.”

Table of Contents

  • Democrats’ victories in Virginia mark a key shift in American politics
  • The Undrained Swamp: Trump’s Washington, One Year On
  • A Year After Trump, Democrats, Socialists, and Populists Sweep Elections
  • Business as Usual at the Pentagon
  • US spent $5.6 trillion on wars since 9/11 – study
  • Leaked German military doc predicts EU collapse & rise of pro-Russian ‘Eastern bloc’ by 2040
  • Ashamed to work in Silicon Valley: how techies became the new bankers
  • Paradise Papers: Apple shifted billions offshore to avoid tax


Democrats’ victories in Virginia mark a key shift in American politics

Backlash against Donald Trump energised suburban voters for the party and helped spark a national trend

November 8, 2017

by Ben Jacobs in Richmond, Virginia

The Guardian

Hillary Clinton was right about how Democrats could win major victories. On Tuesday night’s evidence, it appears they just needed elections without her name on the ballot.

Democrats won overwhelming victories in race after race across the country, but they enjoyed particular success in the type of high-income suburban areas that the Clinton campaign was convinced would be sufficiently repulsed by Donald Trump to overwhelmingly back her.

In 2016 they weren’t. But in 2017, Democratic candidates romped home with victories that went far beyond the wildest expectations of the party’s partisans.

The crown jewel for the Democrats was Ralph Northam’s win in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Northam, the state’s incumbent lieutenant governor, far exceeded the expectations of pundits and the analysis of pollsters by winning with a 54-45 margin.

The Virginia Democrat had run a much-criticised campaign and even Republicans had marvelled at its miscues. “Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” as the Republican state senator Dick Black put it.

But Northam still won by overwhelming margins in suburban and exurban areas, taking 60% of the vote in both Prince William and Loudoun counties, rapidly growing suburbs and exurbs of Washington DC. When Gillespie ran for Senate in 2014 against the popular incumbent Mark Warner, he won Loudoun County and lost Prince William by less than 3%.

Democrats also won a surprising number of races for the Virginia House of Delegates, putting them in position to potentially win the majority in that chamber.

These trends continued in other states, with victories in county executive races in the populous New York suburbs of Nassau County and Westchester County and mayoral races in swing state cities such as Charlotte, North Carolina; St Petersburg, Florida; and Manchester, New Hampshire.

The results don’t necessarily mean a Democratic blowout in all areas in the 2018 midterms. Northam significantly underperformed past Democrats in south-west Virginia, coal country where Trump won by landslide margins in 2016.

Rather, they mark a shift in American politics. Although the Virginia governor election may have been “a referendum on the administration”, in the words of Republican congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia, opinions of Trump’s performance don’t necessarily fall along traditional party lines.

Instead, Tuesday’s results reinforce a growing cultural chasm between white non-college educated voters and the rest of the electorate. These shifts matter less in a high turnout presidential election than in midterm and off-year elections.

But the backlash to Trump energised these suburban voters for Democrats and helped to spark a national trend. The seats that Republicans are worried about in 2018 are in suburban and exurban areas in comparatively blue states such as California, New York and New Jersey that are similar to the counties that Northam won overwhelmingly on Tuesday. If the midterm electorate looks like the one that turned out in Virginia, Nancy Pelosi has a good chance of becoming Speaker again in 2019.

The midterms are a year away and a lot can happen between now and then. But the changing political demographics of the US, combined with Trump’s low approval ratings, mean that Democrats can feel confident they are on the right track at present. They may no longer be the party of coalminers in Appalachian hollows but, based on Tuesday’s result, they are now the party of an increasing number of suburban subdivisions.


The Undrained Swamp: Trump’s Washington, One Year On

It has been one year since Donald Trump was elected to the White House, but the mutual hatred between the president and Washington D.C. has not dissipated. And the city has refused to back down to the Trumpian bluster.

November 08, 2017

by Christoph Scheuermann


Washington is not a place known for humility or modesty. So really, Donald Trump should fit right in. It’s a city of gigantic egos and expense accounts, police escorts and armored limos. Everything is about status and power, even when socializing at night. The city challenges its residents and promotes the ambitious, which isn’t always a good thing. It has produced great deeds and great power, and often violence as well – ever since George Washington planted the heart of democracy in a mosquito-infested swamp 200 years ago.

The streets and avenues are too broad, the massive steps to the Capitol are too big, the buildings, statues and monuments too imposing. There’s no center, no core. Only expanse, size, symmetry. A chessboard built for giants. For presidents like Abraham Lincoln, good old Lincoln, who sits on a throne of stone in his own temple on the National Mall, four or five times the size of a mere mortal.

No other city is hated quite as much by the rest of the country. Trump swore that he would drain the swamp, the conglomerate of politics, lobbyism, think tanks and business that has settled here. The disdain is mutual: Ninety-one percent of its residents voted for Hillary Clinton.

It’s been a year since the election that pushed the liberal West into crisis. The White House is now occupied by a man who is constantly triggering a new uproar, a man who is perennially angry, wayward, erratic, a besieged, unstable king, almost Shakespearian. Under Trump, the capital has turned into the set of a reality TV show. Old Lincoln, sitting on his throne, appears even more worried than usual.

First, Trump gave his family, his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, posts in the administration. Many in the city found that unbearable enough – a real estate clan running the country, the Kardashians of politics. More recently, he threatened North Korea with nuclear war, launched attacks on senators from his own party and voiced understanding for Nazis and racists. His actions haven’t just been chaotic, they’ve been dangerous. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is alleged to have referred to the president as a “fucking moron” after he supposedly suggested a tenfold increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal.

And then there is this administration’s original sin: In May, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because he wouldn’t let go of “this Russia thing.” For months now, special counsel Robert Mueller has been probing how much influence Vladimir Putin might have had on the U.S. election and whether Trump’s team had outside help in defeating Hillary Clinton.

A Lot at Stake

There’s a lot at stake, perhaps even the Trump presidency itself. At the very end of October, Mueller filed charges against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Richard Gates, with the indictments including money laundering, tax evasion, failure to register as agents for foreign interests and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. Both men had been long-time advisors to the Ukrainian government back when it was pro-Russian.

The case of George Papadopoulos, who was also indicted, is even more severe. He is alleged to have pursued contacts to Russia with the knowledge of the campaign team, and to have lied to investigators. He is now cooperating with the FBI. Mueller’s investigation is coming closer and closer to the president, something that has provoked euphoria in liberal Washington.

The White House seems like a besieged fortress these days. “Everyone is freaking out,” one Republican told The Washington Post. Trump woke up a week ago Monday at the crack of dawn and followed developments on TV as Manafort turned himself into the authorities at the FBI’s Washington headquarters. The president reacted to the news with exasperation and disgust, White House staff said. At 10:28 a.m. he tweeted: “There is NO COLLUSION!”

A few minutes later, the charges against Papadopoulos were announced – and Trump went silent.

On such days, Washington can seem even more tremulous than normal. For 12 months, the city has simmered with anger, conspiracy, disbelief and breathlessness. Every tweet from Trump causes thousands of cellphones to vibrate, every press conference in the White House results in “breaking news.” And most U.S. news outlets have had to implement an early shift just to turn Trump’s early morning tweets into newsflashes. Many residents feel like they are constantly just seconds away from a major catastrophe. Nothing can be ruled out with Trump: nuclear war, impeachment, or a huge, messy demise.

In the spring, writer David Frum described in The Atlantic how the U.S. could descend into an autocracy under Trump – in a cynical, divided country in which an almost all-powerful president could use aggression and populist decisions to secure a second term. Frum’s article resonated widely, a form of dictatorship really seemed possible. So far, the dystopia hasn’t arrived and Trump’s approval ratings are collapsing. Although he has little respect for the country’s institutions, he governs too shortsightedly to pose a real threat to them.

The real question is what sort of damage can this president inflict while in office and what happens now? Can one man endanger democracy?

This drama is playing out in a tiny area, stretching for just three or four kilometers. It’s just a 10-minute drive down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. On the way, one passes by the FBI headquarters and, across the intersection, the Trump International Hotel, the city’s new nerve center of power and money.

Washington was not built for love, like Paris, or money, like London, or adventure like New York. It is a place of discipline, of Prussian-like morality. A triumph of the will. The alarm rings at 5:30 a.m. for a short burst of exercise before the office. Nowhere are there quite as many well-toned bodies sitting behind desks.

Gold Curtains: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

The Oval Office is the nucleus of American democracy, the most famous office in the world, where the threads of a global power come together. Franklin D. Roosevelt worked here during World War II, John F. Kennedy addressed the nation about the Cuban Missile Crisis from here, and Richard Nixon spoke with the Apollo astronauts during their moon landing. Under Trump it has become the epicenter of a destructive fury. The man who campaigned against the system suddenly found himself at its very center.

Trump’s first mission was to erase all traces of his predecessor. He wanted to destroy the health care system, with which Barack Obama had delivered health insurance to around 12 million U.S. citizens who previously had none. He wanted to cancel trade deals with Mexico and Canada. And he called alliances and organizations into question, such as NATO. But first, he focused on the office itself.

Every newly inaugurated president decorates the Oval Office to his own taste, but none have been quite so radical as Trump. The man with hardly any sense of the past decided to fill his office with history. He cleared out the bust of Martin Luther King and hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson, a military hero and man of the people who became president in the early 19th century. It’s how Trump sees himself, a glorious outsider, brought to power by the people.

He hung six additional flags behind the massive wooden desk once placed in the office by Jackie Kennedy. He replaced Obama’s gray couches with brocade sofas, he replaced blinds with gold curtains and chose a damask print to replace the yellow-stripped wallpaper. It looks as though he wanted to replicate a luxury suite in one of his hotels, a “presidential suite” that can be rented for a few thousand dollars.

Trump spends much of his time in a small antechamber where a flat screen TV hangs on the wall. It’s usually tuned to Fox News, Trump’s favorite channel, where the commentators are just as obsessed with Hillary Clinton as he is.

Early on, global events landed without any vetting on Trump’s desk. Because he didn’t trust the intelligence agencies, he believed Fox journalists and friends more than he did officials at the CIA or Pentagon. He read texts recommended to him by those he trusted, such as a Breitbart article about Obama’s alleged bugging of Trump Tower in New York. He promptly tweeted about it and unleashed an absurd scandal.

In August, Vice reported that twice a day Trump is handed a folder full of only positive newspaper reports. His former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, tried and failed to stem the flow of information and visitors.

Since then, though Priebus has been fired and his replacement John Kelly has imposed stricter control over access to the president. He oversees who and what the president sees, but he must be careful. Trump hates nothing more than the feeling of being patronized.

Undisputed Access

Kelly is the second most powerful man in the White House and the current victor of this early phase of the presidency, alongside National Security Advisor Herbert Raymond McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Three military men, all generals, control access to the commander in chief. Ever since Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief ideologue, left the White House, they have had undisputed access to power.

It’s impossible to overstate their influence on the president. They are the ones who in April persuaded Trump to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian-government airfield following a nerve gas attack. They were also the ones who advised the president to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan by 4,000 soldiers, against the advice of Bannon. Both decisions lost Trump favor with the isolationists. Even today Bannon supporters speak of a “generals’ coup.”

Trump has, with few exceptions, enormous respect for those who have served in the military and the generals’ influence shows how much fear there is in the White House that the president could spin out of control. Kelly and Mattis have reportedly made a pact that one of them should always to be in the country so as to be able to monitor Trump’s orders.

There was a phase a few months ago when Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared seemed to have taken on the role of well-meaning advisors. They were the so-called globalists, the good guys in this story. While their opponents were the isolationists, Bannon and Trump’s speechwriter Stephen Miller.

These assigned roles spoke more to the hopes that many in Washington had placed in Ivanka and Jared than to their actual influence. They couldn’t tame the old man. All that remains are the strange images of Kushner in shades and an overly-tight bullet-proof vest in Iraq.

Trump combines business and family like a mafia godfather, just as he has done his whole life. Under his watch, the White House has become a bastion of the patriarchy once again. Old, rich, angry men make up the personnel. Most of those that Trump has invited to serve in his cabinet are political novices like him, alpha males who are used to private jets. In July, Forbes estimated the combined worth of this supposedly populist cabinet to be $4.3 billion.

And like the court of Henry VIII, they do all they can to remain in the president’s good graces. Trump enjoys this, it gives him power over conflicting personalities. It’s how he ran his real estate business in New York and it reflects his world view, where brutal social Darwinism rules.

The Swamp Hotel: Trump International Hotel, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue

Unlike most of his predecessors, Trump is not very familiar with Washington. He mostly catches glimpses of the city from the back seat of the “beast,” his armored limo. Trump’s favorite place in town is his own hotel, a three-minute drive from the White House.

The first thing one notices in the hotel is the African-American employees who act as valets and porters. The receptionists, meanwhile, are young, female and white. It’s as if time has stood still.

The lobby is unobtrusive, airy and expansive, a mix of marble, light carpets and blue silk: a touch of the Ottoman Empire. Crystal chandeliers hang from iron beams beneath the glass dome of the old post office building that now houses the hotel.

Most of the few guests on this particular afternoon are men in suits, drinking white wine. The cheapest cut of meat in the steakhouse costs $55.

This is new center of power in the city. Sean Spicer used to come here when he was still press secretary. In June, the Romanian president ate croissants here with his wife, while Trump’s treasury secretary addressed bankers in the ballroom. Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway often comes by, as does Corey Lewandowski, another of his former campaign managers. The president himself was here with his wife Melania a week ago Saturday.

The hotel has become a luxury extension of the White House, an unofficial office. Many who eat or stay here are hoping to find favor with the president. Trump, the patriarch, sees nothing untoward in this, but in the city’s history, it’s unheard of – that the president, with his own name in huge golden letters, would promote his own company. Trump and his hotel are inseparable, something his own marketing department has understood. The management admits to primarily targeting conservative clients from the president’s circle of supporters. And, it must be said, the $55 steaks are delicious.

A year ago, just a week after the election, the hotel invited a hundred diplomats from around the world to a champagne reception to hear its sales pitch. Representatives of 180 countries work in Washington and their embassies spend millions every year on hotel rooms and conference halls. Why not avail of the president’s firm, if that enables access?

Time magazine called it the “Swamp Hotel,” arguing that it showed the degree to which the lines between politics and business had been blurred. Trump is first and foremost a businessman, that is one of the problems with this presidency. It’s why he has never really fully divested himself from his company, only handing over day-to-day operations to his sons. If he wanted, he could take over again tomorrow.

There are currently three lawsuits against him pending, all of them to do with emoluments. The first lawsuit was filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a lawyers group. The second case came from the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, while the third is backed by almost 200 Democratic lawmakers. Trump has been accused of violating the Constitution by accepting foreign gifts and payments, because foreign diplomats are staying in his hotels. Ultimately, after all, the question must be answered as to whether Trump the businessman influences the decisions of Trump the president.

The Investigator: FBI Headquarters, 935 Pennsylvania Avenue

The J. Edgar Hoover Building, diagonally across from the Trump International Hotel, takes up an entire block, as though it were preordained to be there – a 1970s bunker-like structure is dark and defiant. Robert Swan Mueller III is a creature of this building: It was from here that, as FBI boss, he hunted down the suspects involved in 9/11. In the Hoover building, he’s known as Bob.

Mueller is the quiet eminence in this drama. A lean, ascetic 73-year-old, he has a preference for dark suits paired with a blue or red tie. His gray hair looks like it’s been parted with an ax. His alarm is set for 5 a.m.

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate him. For 12 long years, he led the FBI through the War on Terror. After leaving the position, he went to work for WilmerHale, a prominent law firm – until the Justice Department appointed him as special counsel in May.

Mueller rarely gives interviews and doesn’t like to appear before cameras or go to parties. He is difficult to find and only a few people know where is office is located. The writer Garrett Graff spoke with him in depth for his book “The Threat Matrix,” which described him as a relentless hustler who went through five chiefs of staff right at the start of his tenure as FBI director. It’s not that Mueller was unfair or unfriendly, Graff writes, just “unforgiving and demanding.”

There’s a certain irony in the fact that Trump’s main opponent is a prototype of the Washington bureaucrat, one who has spent his entire professional life in the swamp without getting dirty. Mueller embodies the ideal Washington: upstanding, patriotic and a bit boring. One could hardly wish for a better adversary for Trump.

Mueller’s team consists of two dozen lawyers, money laundering and finance experts, tax inspectors and investigators with experience in mafia cases. His mandate has been broad from the very beginning, allowing him to investigate crimes that are only tenuously linked to Russia, such as Paul Manafort’s case. There’s no better means of applying pressure to suspects than the prospect of a long prison sentence.

Trump can fire Mueller, or he can sabotage him, and many supporters, including Steve Bannon, are pushing him in this direction. Richard Nixon did the same thing back in 1973, when he fired the special prosecutor who was investigating the Watergate break-in. Firing Mueller, though, would be the last resort. It would also be an admittance of guilt, or at least that is how it would be interpreted by the public at large. And it would perhaps be the beginning of the end.

At the moment, the White House’s only option is to limit Mueller’s room for maneuver, to the extent such a thing is possible. Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, has been saying for several days that Mueller’s investigation will end soon. Bannon, meanwhile, has suggested cutting the special counsel’s funding.

Nixon quickly lost support after he fired the special prosecutor looking into Watergate, and a year later, he resigned to avoid impeachment. But would the same thing happen now in today’s deeply divided Washington? Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow says that his client is not considering firing Mueller.

Goldrush: A Lobbyist’s Office in Georgetown

Robert Stryk came to Washington at the start of the millennium for an internship at the office of a Republican lawmaker. Later, he set himself up as a self-employed lobbyist, just one of many seeking their fortune in the capital, a small fry who no one knew. That all changed last January.

Stryk is sitting on the sofa in his office in Georgetown, on the west side of town, and gushing about how great he finds Donald Trump. A rosy-cheeked 41-year-old, he is wearing jeans and cowboy boots – no sign of a suit or tie. Every now and then he pauses and laughs as if he can’t quite believe his luck. “This is my first real office, man.”

It all started when he began to work for the election campaign of a Republican in California. Stryk got to know donors, election campaigners and Trump supporters. He collected phone numbers, which later gave him a competitive advantage. Even the number of Trump’s cleaning lady could be valuable.

All the lobbyists were looking for contacts in the White House but none had any. None except for Stryk. He secured a contact to Trump’s transition team for the prime minister of New Zealand, allowing the leader of the small country the opportunity to congratulate the incoming president on his victory. Then, in January, he organized a party at the New Zealand Embassy, which ended up being the biggest party in the city on inauguration night. That was how Stryk made his name.

It’s only possible to understand his promotion to the big leagues if one looks at what happened to the State Department after the election. Trump’s ideologues were convinced that the State Department was a nest of ultra-liberal do-gooders, who would do anything to damage the new government. A home of the “deep state” that had to be eliminated. Rex Tillerson, the new secretary of state, barricaded himself into his office on the seventh floor and only showed his face to fire people. Holes quickly appeared in the U.S. diplomatic corps, and people like Stryk sought to fill them.

Empty Corridors

A visit to the State Department these days is a depressing experience. The corridors in what should be the headquarters of Western diplomacy are empty and many posts are still not filled nine months after the new administration took office. There’s no U.S. ambassador to South Korea, nobody responsible for East Asian and Pacific affairs. High-ranking diplomats have resigned in frustration, including David Rank, a former senior diplomat in Beijing.

Robert Stryk wants to step in and do what the State Department can no longer afford to – support governments in modernizing their countries. In his office, he speaks enthusiastically about the “privatization of diplomacy” and he has already signed contracts with Kenya, Afghanistan, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. Saudi Arabia is paying him $5.4 million for his services.

There are 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington in a market that is worth a total of $3 billion. Trump promised to run them out of town, but the opposite has happened. In the first six months, his administration hired more than 100 people who had previously worked for companies or associations. A former agricultural adviser now works in the Department of Agriculture, an educational lobbyist now works at the Department of Education.

The gold rush has continued, it’s just that different people are profiting now. Young men in cowboy boots. To govern efficiently you need good staff, but Trump has never had that. In Washington talent usually bides its time at think tanks or universities, waiting to switch to government when the right call comes. But even Republicans have little desire to be associated with Trump and many have turned down offers to work for his administration. The result is that the current government lacks professionals.

Refugees: United States Capitol

Imagine, for a moment the U.S. Capitol Building like a giant, stony brain, with the countless corridors, passageways and paths between offices and meeting rooms acting as synapses. Every representative or senator that hurries along these paths is a signal, a flash that is flowing through this gray mass. Information travels here at the speed of light. Everything is connected. Like a labyrinth, seemingly chaotic but one that, ideally, follows a higher order.

Congress has the task of proposing and passing laws while at the same time acting as a check on the president’s power, the limbs, if you will. In the best-case scenario, the brain and limbs should be halfway coordinated in order to reach a result acceptable to all sides. What is happening at the moment, however, is that the body is moving uncontrolled while the brain has become overheated and is incapable of making decisions.

One example is health care reform. For years, Republicans have been complaining about Obamacare, having unanimously rejected the plan when Obama tried to force it through Congress. Trump, for his part, pledged to overturn the legislation and replace it with a new, improved version. He didn’t really care what this new version looked like. That was his first mistake. His second mistake was not really understanding his own party.

The brain, or the Republican part at least, was stuck in a dilemma. Conservative senators like Rand Paul, who would love nothing more than to reduce the federal budget to zero, wanted to simply dump health insurance and not replace it with anything. Moderate Republicans, like Susan Collins from Maine, preferred to reform and improve Obamacare. Trump didn’t care about compromises, he just wanted action. He wanted a victory. He might have had more success if he had read up on the issue, but in the end three of his own senators voted against the legislation.

No Longer Apply

The conflict over health care reform shows how muddled things have become on Capitol Hill. Brain and limbs are no longer working in coordination. The old rules that governed how American democracy functions no longer apply.

It’s a Wednesday in October and Senator Jeff Flake opens the door to a meeting room on Capitol Hill and walks into the corridor. Behind him, the Senate Judiciary Committee is in session and is questioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions about Russia, something that has improved Flake’s mood. Sessions and Flake couldn’t be more different, even though both are Republicans. Flake has criticized Trump since he first announced his candidacy, while Sessions was the first Republican senator to back Trump. Sessions was handed the Justice Department while Flake has been the target of angry tweets.

When asked if the town had changed since the election, Senator Flake pauses briefly and then says: “Read my book.”

The 140-page volume, which appeared in August, is titled: “Conscience of a Conservative.” It could just as easily be called: Why I hate Trump, by Jeff Flake. In the book, he describes the president as a cynical enemy of democracy. It is an appeal for a return to decency and also a criticism of Trump’s style of governing. Is Flake a hero? Or are others just too cowardly?

The next mid-terms take place in 12 months, with 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 Senate seats up for grabs. Every Republican who has opposed Trump risks facing competing, pro-Trump candidates in the primaries.

Bob Corker seems cheerful as he crosses the floor. The chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee began his anti-Trump offensive in August when he said that Trump had displayed neither the competence nor stability the office required. Since then, he’s usually surrounded by the press. In early October, he described the White House as an “adult daycare center.” It has been rare up to now to hear a Republican speaking so sarcastically about Trump.

There are not many lawmakers here who feel as unencumbered as Flake and Corker. One might regard them as idealists, but such people rarely survive long on the Hill. Bob Corker knew from opinion polls that he was likely to lose his Senate seat to a Trump loyalist. Better to leave the circus with a roar.

Jeff Flake enters the elevator and says: “I hope that this will remain a short interlude.” A week later he also announced that he wouldn’t be standing again.

Godzilla’s Revenge: BLT Steak, 1625 I Street

Mark Leibovich moved to the Potomac 20 years ago, first as a reporter for The Washington Post and then for The New York Times Magazine. Hardly anyone knows Washington and its establishment better. In his book “This Town,” he divides the city up into a catalogue of types: the powerful, the desperate, those on their way up, those on their way down and party animals – and all of them, without exception, are influenced and deformed by power: “The golden, incestuous carnival of Washington at the start of the 21st Century.” It is the story of Washington before Trump.

Leibovich enters BLT Steak, located just a short walk from the White House. The waiters carry plates of half raw meat to the tables, where steak knives are brandished like weapons. It’s one of those restaurants that frequently appear on expense accounts, a meeting place for predators. Who is spotted eating with whom is often featured in the morning newsletters of publications like Axios and Politico.

Leibovich calls Trump a “Godzilla,” like the monster in the movie. He says Trump has fundamentally changed a lot of things in this town. For one thing, it’s a lot easier to know what moves the president to the core of his being, you just have to follow him on social media. Godzilla pours his heart out on Twitter.

Secondly, access has become more relative. Trump is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you can meet him personally. You can, though, send him a message if you like. You can approach him, Leibovich says, by getting yourself booked onto a television program, ideally onto his favorite show, “Fox & Friends” on Fox News. It’s not difficult to do in Washington, you just have to know someone who books guests for the channel.

And thirdly, you have to keep your ears open and eat in the right restaurants, like BLT Steak for example. Just a few tables away, one of Leibovich’s colleagues recently heard a conversation between Ty Cobb and John Dowd, two lawyers representing Trump in the Russia affair. The lawyers were discussing how to deal with Robert Mueller and his investigation into the “Russian thing.” They didn’t spot Leibovich’s colleague, and the scoop followed a short time later. That’s the way things work in the new Washington.

Leibovich orders a jumbo shrimp cocktail and says he loves this city. It fascinated him from the very beginning, this Hollywood for the unsightly. All these characters who make an appearance every day – he thought it was terrific. When he was doing some reporting at the White House in July, Trump’s advisor asked him if he wanted to see “him.” A short time later, Leibovich was standing opposite Trump in the TV room next to the Oval Office. As he said, rule two, access is really not very difficult.

Lies: Press Center, West Wing, White House

The “Briefing Room” is a long, narrow cave-like room on the ground floor of the West Wing, the part of the White House that also houses the Oval Office. It has 49 seats, which are reserved for the country’s most prominent media organizations. Or at least used to be. Here too, Trump has thrown the old order into chaos. His people opened the door to right-wing provocateurs like the conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich and propaganda outlets like Breitbart, Gateway Pundit and The Daily Caller.

The press conferences are usually held shortly after noon. Trump’s new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, likes to start her daily diversionary tactics with a joke. On that recent Monday when the entire world was discussing the latest Russian investigation news, she spoke for 10 minutes about tax reform. The next day, which was Halloween, she said she had been expecting the reporters to arrive in costumes.

Most of her attempts at humor fall flat. She has undergone perhaps the strangest transformation of all those working at the White House, metamorphosizing from being an open, relaxed woman, to being a sarcastic, heavily made-up ball of fury at the lectern. It’s not clear what exactly has caused this dramatic change. Perhaps it’s the man watching just a few rooms down the corridor, who often takes time out from his presidential calendar at midday to watch Sanders at work.

It is astounding how quickly Sanders learned to make statements that are obviously misleading or false. After last Monday’s Mueller indictments, she said: “Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president.” It was far more about Hillary Clinton, she claimed.

Half the government has been warped by Trump, even people who had seemed to have integrity. Everyone who works for this president eventually becomes a liar. It’s as if Trump’s character rubs off on all his underlings.

Trump has an obsessive relationship with the media. He needs its validation and hardly anything is more important to him than media attention. At the same time, he hates it because in his view, it never treats him fairly. In October, he threatened to withdraw NBC’s broadcast license because, he alleged, it reported unfairly.

The consequence is that many Americans have given up believing in facts, and the country has become much more cynical. Sanders’ press conference is a perfect example of how difficult it has become to even agree on the basic facts. Is an apple really an apple? Everything is a matter of opinion, of who shouts the loudest.

Even American institutions like CNN and The New York Times have become symbols of bias to Trump’s supporters. No wonder, then, that conspiracy theories are experiencing a renaissance. Only one third of Americans still completely trust the media anymore. Here too Trump’s instincts have proven correct.

It’s been one year since the election of Donald Trump. Just one year. But so much has happened in that time that it feels like at least twice as long. Yet even Trump’s Washington is still Washington.

One man alone cannot destroy a democracy, not if it is still halfway intact. But he can damage it and he can accelerate the divisions in society to the extent that the democracy becomes weak and sick. His election itself was already a sign that something in the system is not working and this feeling of crisis has only grown stronger since his election.

His administration has so far failed to do almost everything that it set out to achieve, and that’s not necessarily bad news. It means that the useless wall at the Mexican border has still not been built, that NATO is still intact, as is the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, and Obamacare is still around.

It shows that the checks and balances are still functioning, though the safeguards are being strained. Parts of Trump’s party are preventing him from spending too much money, something that is a prerequisite for a successful populist. The special counsel is still in office, the FBI is still working independently, as is the press.

And Trump has allowed himself to make too many mistakes in such a short time, and has made too many enemies, including conservative ones. It looks as if he’s simply too much of an amateur to blow up this town. At the same time, the opposition of the Democrats has been weak. Washington seems to consist solely of Trump.

This president has contributed to making politics more vulgar, has demeaned the office of the president and has seen to it that Washington increasingly operates like a reality TV show. He has bolstered the far-right nutjobs and neo-Nazis, perhaps the most dangerous impact of his presidency. He has opened the door to kleptocracy by bringing a family to the White House that is profiting from the Trump brand.

It has been a terrible year for Washington. The election campaign still hasn’t come to an end and the city is trying to eject Trump like a foreign body.

Maybe it just has to be patient. After all, it has managed to overcome everyone else.


A Year After Trump, Democrats, Socialists, and Populists Sweep Elections

November 8 2017

by Zaid Jilani, Ryan Grim

The Intercept

A civil rights attorney who delights in suing the police is the new district attorney in Philadelphia. A democratic socialist shocked an incumbent Republican in Virginia. A black woman who prosecuted a white cop for shooting a black teenager was re-elected as prosecutor. Three months after Charlottesville, a black lieutenant governor was elected in Virginia. A transgender woman who focused on traffic problems knocked out a longtime culture warrior who focused on bathrooms. A criminal justice reformer flipped the Washington state Senate to Democrats. A wet bag of mulch beat a race-baiting lobbyist in Virginia by a stunning nine points. Maine voters expanded Medicaid. Long-held Republican seats in Georgia flipped in a special election. New Jersey, finished with Gov. Chris Christie, elected a Democrat in a landslide.

Facing what looked to pundits like an insurmountable 32-seat gap, Democrats are on the brink of taking back the Virginia House of Delegates, a result that now comes down to recounts.

In special elections since last November, Democrats have dramatically outperformed at the polls, though Republicans have dismissed each flipped seat as a one-off, and not as evidence of a pattern. Tuesday will be much harder to write off.

Look, for instance, to a pair of special elections in the very red state of Georgia. Two statehouse seats were up for grabs, both being vacated by Republicans. Democrats won them both. One of those Democrats, Deborah Gonzalez, raised $55,000 for her campaign; her opponent failed to best her even after raising around $200,000.

Also in Georgia, Liliana Bakhtiari, a Working Families Party and Our Revolution-backed queer Muslim woman lost to an incumbent Atlanta City Council member.

A year ago, Bernie Sanders ran an insurgent campaign that helped popularize democratic socialism and resurgent populism among American progressives. On Tuesday, populist candidates won in places you may not expect — from Manassas, Virginia to Knoxville, Tennessee.

In Virginia, Democratic Socialists of America-backed Lee Carter defeated the GOP whip Jackson Miller in the House of Delegates. Richmond-Times Dispatch reporter Patrick Wilson noted that the state Democratic Party offered little support to Carter. He won anyway. Numerous wings of the broader party united behind Carter, including factions, such as Planned Parenthood, who had backed Hillary Clinton last year

Across the country, DSA candidates took offices, winning both as Democrats and independents. Socialist Seema Singh Perez won a seat on the Knoxville City Council. In Pittsburgh, a pair of DSA-backed candidates won, including Mik Pappas, an independent candidate who defeated a 24-year incumbent Democrat to become the 31st Magisterial District judge. Pappas ran strong on criminal justice reform, focusing on restorative justice rather than punitive measures.

In Somerville, Massachusetts, DSA members JT Scott and Ben Ewen-Campen unseated long-time incumbents to join the Board of Aldermen. DSA member Charles Decker will represent Ward 9 in New Haven, Connecticut.

And in Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner — also backed by DSA — will soon take office promising to radically overhaul the city’s criminal justice system.

There were a few low points for populists. In Ohio, a drug price control referendum went down by a huge margin after the industry spent $60 million opposing it, and a slate of Our Revolution-backed candidates went down in local Columbus elections.

In the Atlanta mayoral election, populist Vincent Fort was edged out by conservative Mary Norwood and business-friendly Democrat Keisha Lance-Bottoms, the incumbent mayor’s hand-picked successor, who will make the runoff. While Fort did not succeed in the race, his campaign successfully pressured the Atlanta City Council to raise the wages of city workers to $15 an hour and decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In Minneapolis’s mayoral and city council election, progressive criminal justice reformer Ray Dehn and Socialist Alternative candidate Ginger Jentzen performed well in first-preference votes, but because the city uses a ranked-choice voting system, final results will not be available until later this week — leaving the possibility that the Democratic establishment maintains its hold.

In Seattle, socialist Jon Grant, despite building a strong public-financed campaign organized by recruiting the homeless, was defeated in his bid for city council; meanwhile, the most business-friendly candidate was elected mayor. In Brooklyn, Green Party socialist Jabari Brisport ran a spirited race but failed to defeat the Democratic incumbent; Brisport, however, won more votes than any third-party candidate running in the city.

Correction: Nov. 8, 2017, 11:19 a.m.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Liliana Bakhtiari won the Atlanta City Council District 5 seat. She lost to incumbent Natalyn Mosby Archibong.


Business as Usual at the Pentagon

November 8, 2017

by William J. Astore


The revolving door between major defense contractors and the Pentagon is spinning ever more rapidly, notes FP: Foreign Policy. Here’s a telling report from last week:

McCain says enough, but does he mean it? During a hearing Thursday to vet several Trump administration nominees for top Pentagon jobs, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he was tired of seeing defense industry executives go to work in the Pentagon.

But he indicated he’ll support the Mark Esper, chief lobbyist for for Raytheon – the fourth largest defense contractor in the United States – for secretary of the Army, telling Esper his concerns “grew out of early consultations I had with the administration about potential nominations, including yours.” McCain added that “it was then that I decided I couldn’t support further nominees with that background, beyond those we had already discussed.”

Lots of defense industry execs already at work. But at least one more will soon pass through McCain’s Senate Armed Services Committee, however. At some point in the coming weeks, John C. Rood, senior vice president for Lockheed Martin International will testify for the under secretary of defense for policy job, the third highest position in the Defense Department.

The Senate has already approved former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan to be deputy defense secretary – the second highest position in the Pentagon – and Ellen Lord, the former chief executive officer of Textron Systems, to be undersecretary of defense for acquisition.

In short, there are no fresh thinkers at the Pentagon: just men and women drawn mainly from the corporate world or from the ranks of military retirees (or both). They’re hired because they know the system – but also because they believe in it. They’re not going to rock the boat. They believe in “staying the course.”

The result is a system with no new ideas. Consider Afghanistan. Sixteen years after the initial invasion after 9/11, American forces are still bogged down there. As FP: Foreign Policy reports today, we finally have an official number for the latest mini-surge orchestrated by retired Generals John Kelly and James Mattis:

We have a surge number. After months of tapdancing around exactly how many more U.S. troops are are heading to Afghanistan, Monday’s request asks for $1.2 billion to support an additional 3,500 US troops in Afghanistan.

Somehow, a few thousand extra US troops are supposed to reverse the growth of the Taliban while improving Afghan security forces and reining in Afghan governmental corruption. In short, sixteen years’ experience has meant nothing to US decision makers.

It puts me to mind of a great description of military thinking from C.S. Forester’s “The General,” a remarkable novel about British generalship in World War I (and one of General John Kelly’s favorite books). Here’s what Forester had to say about the persistence of military folly among the generals planning major offensives in that war:

“In some ways it was like the debate of a group of savages as to how to extract a screw from a piece of wood. Accustomed only to nails, they had made one effort to pull out the screw by main force, and now that it had failed they were devising methods of applying more force still, of obtaining more efficient pincers, of using levers and fulcrums so that more men could bring their strength to bear. They could hardly be blamed for not guessing that by rotating the screw it would come out after the exertion of far less effort; it would be a notion so different from anything they had ever encountered that they would laugh at the man who suggested it.”

Forester goes on to write that:

“The Generals round the table were not men who were easily discouraged–men of that sort did not last long in command in France. Now that the first shock of disappointment had been faced they were prepared to make a fresh effort, and to go on making those efforts as long as their strength lasted.”

That’s the US military in Afghanistan in a nutshell: fresh efforts, but no fresh thinking. How could it not be so? The same generals are in charge, men like Mattis and Kelly, who led previous “surges,” backed by civilian leaders drawn from private military contractors, whose main priority it is to spend this year’s massive defense budget while ensuring next year’s budget will be even more massive.

There’s no incentive in the system for fresh thinking, and certainly none for saving money. Instead, it’s all about showing “resolve,” even if resolve in this case means hammering and pulling away at so many screws. And this even makes a weird sort of sense, for there’s a lot of profit to be made in the name of developing better pincers and levers and fulcrums to tackle “screws” like Afghanistan.


US spent $5.6 trillion on wars since 9/11 – study

November 8, 2017


Washington has expended a whopping $5.6 trillion on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan since 2001, according to a new study. That figure is more than three times what the Pentagon has claimed in official estimates.

Research from the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University found that as of late September, the US wars combined with “additional spending on Homeland Security and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs” had totaled more than $4.3 trillion since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. That number surged to $5.6 trillion once likely costs were added for fiscal year 2018, along with estimated future spending on veterans.

The study noted that its figure is drastically different from the $1.52 trillion which the Pentagon claims the wars have cost US taxpayers between fiscal years 2001 and 2018. That number was given in an earlier Pentagon report titled ‘Estimated Cost to Each Taxpayer for the Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.’

The Watson Institute claims to have used a “more comprehensive estimate” of the global ‘War on Terror,’ citing a total approximate cost of $23,386 per US taxpayer. “The difference between this Costs of War Project estimate and other estimates is that it includes not only Pentagon/Department of Defense military spending, but other war-related costs, including war-related spending by the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security,” says the report.

The extra cost considerations include expenses such as providing long-term medical care for veterans. Such expenditures are important to include when dealing with the estimated cost of wars, according to study author Neta Crawford.

“War costs are more than what we spend in any one year on what’s called the pointy end of the spear,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “There are all these other costs behind the spear, and there are consequences of using it, that we need to include.” Crawford noted that the US government wasn’t trying to be deceptive, but that its calculations do not include the “real costs” of war.

Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), who is hosting a panel of speakers on the topic on Wednesday, said the research is “very important because it describes and quantifies the costs beyond just the narrow bounds of the Department of Defense,” the Journal reported. Reed also noted that the costs of war include borrowing cash to pay for them.

“Even if we stopped [the wars] today, we would add $7.9 trillion to the national debt,” Reed said. The study seems to support that statement, noting that the accumulated interest on the money borrowed could add an additional $8 trillion to the national debt over the next several decades.

“By 2056, a conservative estimate is that interest costs will be about $8 trillion unless the US changes the way that it pays for the wars. Although it is unlikely, Congress could decide to increase taxes or sell large numbers of war bonds rather than continue to pay for the wars through borrowing,” the study states.

As for the costs of specific wars, the study notes that the “two largest categories of expenses have been for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” It says that “spending for these wars peaked, respectively, in 2008 and 2011.”

However, the study did not break down costs for each of the war zones in detail, noting the difficulty of doing so. Hurdles in coming up with such an analysis included the fact that the Department of Veterans Affairs does not track injuries by war zone, but by time of service.


Leaked German military doc predicts EU collapse & rise of pro-Russian ‘Eastern bloc’ by 2040

November 7, 2017


The German military has outlined six “worst-case” scenarios for the future of Europe by 2040. The leaked secret document predicts that more states will leave a disordered, chaotic and conflict-prone EU – to join a Russian-led “Eastern bloc.”

A secret Defense Ministry paper leaked to Spiegel magazine has shed light on Berlin’s main concerns about the breakup of the European community, a scenario apparently feared in most Western capitals. Entitled ‘Strategic Perspective 2040’ (Strategische Vorausschau 2040), the 102-page policy paper imagines six scenarios that strategists in Berlin deem plausible

They range from an East-West conflict in which some EU states side with Russia, to a “multipolar Europe,” where some states adopt a Russian political or economic model in defiance of EU agreements.

One such scenario, titled ‘The EU in Disintegration and Germany in Reactive Position,’ sees a world suffering from “decades of instability.” It also describes the departure of other states from the EU as well as Britain, and an end to the bloc’s expansion, stating: “The EU enlargement has largely been abandoned, [while] more states have left the European community that lost its global competitiveness.”

“An increasingly disordered, sometimes chaotic and conflict-prone world has dramatically changed the security environment of Germany and Europe,” the military strategists write. Another scenario, dubbed ‘West against East,’ envisages the demise of European integration due to the transition by some EU countries to an “Eastern bloc,” an apparent allusion to the group of Moscow-allied states during Soviet times.

A scenario called ‘Multipolar competition’ predicts extremism on the rise in Europe as some EU members appear to move closer to Russia’s “state capitalism model.” All scenarios, drawn by the German military’s Planning Department, are viewed as conceivable by 2040.

Europe’s integrity has been pushed to its limits since 2016, when the UK opted to leave the EU during a nationwide referendum. Britain, one of Europe’s financial hubs, is set to depart the bloc in 2019. The simmering Brexit talks are currently focused on the cost of the departure as well as the status of UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU and vice versa. Far-right parties in France, the Netherlands and Austria have in the past called for ‘Frexit,’ ‘Nexit’ and ‘Oexit’ votes respectively.

Germany, the EU’s economic powerhouse, has a long tradition of in-depth strategic planning for every eventuality in the continent. It all began with the decorated Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Moltke in the 1850s, and was applied in at least three major conflicts, namely in 1871 during the war against France, as well as during World War I and World War II.



Ashamed to work in Silicon Valley: how techies became the new bankers

Wall Street has long been the industry people love to hate. But as big tech’s reputation plummets, suddenly a job at Facebook doesn’t seem so cool

November 8, 2017

by Olivia Solon in San Francisco

the Guardian

When Danny Greg first moved to San Francisco to work at Github in 2012, he used to get high-fives in the street from strangers when he wore his company hoodie.

These days, unless he’s at an investor event, he’s cautious about wearing branded clothing that might indicate he’s a techie. He’s worried about the message it sends.

Greg is one of many people working in tech who are increasingly self-conscious about how the industry – represented by consumer-facing tech titans like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Twitter and Uber – is perceived: as underregulated, overly powerful companies filled with wealthy tech bros and “brilliant assholes” with little regard for the local communities they occupy. Silicon Valley has taken over from Wall Street as the political bogeyman of choice, turning tech workers – like it or not – into public ambassadors for the 1%.

“I would never say I worked at Facebook,” said one 30-year-old software engineer who left the company last year to pursue an alternative career. Instead, at dinner parties he would give purposefully vague responses and change the subject. “There’s this song and dance you learn to play because people are quick to judge.”

Like Wall Street before, the tech industry is a justifiable punchbag. “MBA jerks used to go and work for Wall Street, now wealthy white geeks go to Stanford and then waltz into a VC or tech firm.”

Patrick Connelly, founder of health-tech startup Corevity, also sees the Wall Street parallels.

“The focus of Silicon Valley used to be innovation with the wonderful bonus of money on the side of that, but those two things seem to have switched – just as the pencil-pushing mentality of finance in the 70s became the champagne lifestyle in the 2000s,” he said. “People have come to have too much swagger and not enough insights.”

With that swagger comes bad behavior, as highlighted at Uber, the subject of a litany of scandals including allegations of sexual harassment, intellectual property theft and driver manipulation.

“We have this habit of highlighting and celebrating brilliant assholes like Steve Jobs and [Uber co-founder and ousted CEO] Travis Kalanick, when the reality is they are awful human beings,” said Greg, head of technology at e-commerce startup Brandless, adding that it is women and people of colour who tend to bear the brunt of their behaviour.

“It reminds me of stories that came out of Wall Street in the 1980s, when sexism was part and parcel of the culture,” he added. “Stories like that become public very quickly and people find out and paint tech with one brush.”

Some of this behaviour stems from the hubris that positions profit-seeking corporations as benevolent forces in the world.

“You are selling ads, you’re not really making the world a better place,” noted the former Facebooker. “But most people drank the Kool-aid.”

It’s a view echoed by one current Googler in her 20s, who is embarrassed by tech companies’ cluelessness about their reputation outside of the Silicon Valley bubble.

“Internally I don’t think they have a good read on how they’re perceived,” she said, citing the backlash after it was discovered that ads were appearing around videos promoting extremist views on YouTube or the investigation into possible Russian interference in the US election, including buying ads on Google, Facebook and Twitter.

“[Googlers] will say ‘why are the papers making a big deal out of this, I don’t get it’. Are you fucking joking? These people don’t realise the scale of what they are doing,” she said.

“Some of these folks aren’t the most socially gifted people and therefore suddenly having a culture encouraging this experience for them bleeds into everything, giving them a sense of self-importance and entitlement. It’s effectively like dealing with children all the time,” Greg said, referencing his time at Dropbox when people would “fly around the office on these stupid scooters and skateboards”.

The combination of the toxic culture in some tech companies combined with rising inequality and gentrification in local communities leads to “aggression and suspicion”, he added.

Greg first experienced this in San Francisco in 2014, when protesters would picket the tech shuttle buses, which had become a symbol of gentrification and a lack of community engagement, and display signs saying “techies go home”.

Being in tech puts a badge on you. Things are going bad for a large section of the economy in this area and here’s a shiny beacon of people getting paid far too much for what they do. It’s a very easy target especially if you mark yourself as one,” he said.

Greg mentions one particularly excruciating clash, captured on video, where a group of Dropbox employees awkwardly tried to move a bunch of local kids off a soccer pitch.

All of this feeds into the perception that techies are, according to the former Facebooker, “pod people” who aren’t part of the community.

“You wake up, get the shuttle bus, go to the bubble of campus and order food via an app when you get home. You are not a citizen, just a bizarre leech who makes money,” he explained.

While there’s still plenty of fodder for the satirical TV show Silicon Valley, Greg is hopeful the industry can become less embarrassing. When hiring for his own team he screens interviewees carefully to weed out “covert brilliant assholes”.

“There’s a large and growing number of people who have negative emotions about how it is right now and really want to change it.”


Paradise Papers: Apple shifted billions offshore to avoid tax

New revelations about Apple’s tax avoidance strategy are making headlines as the Paradise Papers scandal unfolds further. EU finance ministers are due to discuss the issue during talks in Brussels on Tuesday.

November 7, 2017


Apple has denied accusations in the Paradise Papers investigation that it moved its operations from Ireland to an offshore center to avoid tax.

Documents cited by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday suggested that offshore law firm Appleby, which is based in multiple tax havens, helped the iPhone maker move billions of dollars in revenues collected in Ireland to the Channel Islands to head off increased European Union scrutiny of its tax affairs in Dublin.

The revelations, which were also published by the BBC and New York Times, suggested that Apple had transferred funds to the island of Jersey, near the coast of Normandy, which is largely exempt from European Union tax regulations and where no corporate income tax is levied.

The Paradise Papers are the result of a year-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which studied some 13.4 million leaked documents revealing the scale of offshore tax avoidance schemes employed by large multinationals and the rich and famous.

The iPhone maker insisted the new report contained several “inaccuracies” and said it made changes to its corporate structure in 2015, which were designed to preserve tax payments to the US, not to reduce taxes elsewhere.

Apple said in a statement that it pays taxes at the statutory US rate of 35 percent on investment income from its overseas cash. It added that it follows the law in each country where it operates. The EU and US were informed of the reorganization at the time, it added.

The Cupertino, California-based company said it was the largest taxpayer in the world, paying $35 billion (€30 billion) in corporate income tax over the last three years, including $1.5 billion in Ireland.

Both the US and EU have been scrutinizing Apple for its use of tax avoidance schemes using offshore finance centers. In 2013, a US Senate subcommittee found the tech giant had eluded tens of billions of dollars and that some $128 billion in profits had not been taxed by US authorities.

The company is also facing an EU demand for about $14.5 billion in taxes based on a ruling that its tax structure in Ireland amounted to illegal state aid.

This week’s revelations could see Brussels step up efforts to force EU member states to close tax loopholes. France has recommended taxing multinationals on revenues generated in EU countries rather than profits, as they are more difficult to hide.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Monday singled out Apple, Google and Facebook for censure in response to the Paradise Papers revelations.

She said “greed” and “power” were a very “poisonous cocktail” used by big multinationals to drive out competition.

Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Vestager also highlighted the difference in policy between the EU and US over free markets.

“We want free markets, but we understand the paradox of free markets, which is that sometimes we have to intervene. We have to believe that it’s not the law of the jungle, but the law of democracy that works.”




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