Balance of Power: Mueller’s the Elephant in the Room This DecemberBy
December will be a make-or-break month for U.S. President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul bid, and coincides with a dangerous distraction: signs that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia election meddling investigation may be zeroing in on Trump’s inner circle.
News that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s legal team has stopped sharing information about the probe with Trump’s lawyers could mean Flynn, who the president fired in February, is in discussions of some kind with Mueller.
While the revelation doesn’t necessarily mean Flynn holds any information damaging to the president, its timing is perilous for Trump and Republicans who’d rather spend next month focused on efforts to enact a tax overhaul and secure a legislative victory during Trump’s first year in office.
But with one former Trump campaign aide already accepting a guilty plea as part of Mueller’s probe, and two others — including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — under indictment, it could mean Mueller, and not the president, will end up driving the story in Washington in the coming weeks.
Will Zimbabwe’s cheers last? | Enthusiastic crowds gathered at today’s inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Robert Mugabe as president of a nation in crisis where only 1 in 10 people have a job. But the former spy chief known as the “crocodile” is steeped in Zimbabwe’s violent past, and if he fails to revive what was once one of Africa’s more developed economies, the joy of political change may quickly fade.
Australia’s radical fringe | With major political parties struggling to regain voters’ trust, an anti-Muslim, anti-immigration politician is on the verge of winning a critical set of seats in this weekend’s election in Australia. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party could become a junior partner in the Queensland state government and have a say in the fate of the controversial A$16.5 billion ($12.6 billion) Adani coal mine.
Ukraine’s graft morass | An imbroglio among Ukrainian law-enforcement bodies couldn’t have come at a worse time. The arrest of the interior minister’s son, leaked tapes and competing investigations by prosecutors and the main anti-graft agency paint a grim picture as officials arrive in Brussels for a summit with the European Union. Four years after a similar meeting triggered Ukraine’s second pro-EU revolt in a decade, fatigue is setting in as those who replaced the Russian-backed government fail to uphold promises to wipe out corruption.
Brexit clarity? | By the end of today investors will have a clearer sense whether Brexit talks will move to trade or remain mired in uncertainty. Prime Minister Theresa May is meeting EU President Donald Tusk to put more money on the table to settle the divorce. But she will want something concrete in return. One false move could derail the whole choreography being put in place.
Betting on Catalonia | As separatists in Catalonia consider a more conciliatory approach in their push for independence ahead of next month’s vote, Todd White and Cecile Gutscher look at one California fund manager that has a history of betting on separatist politics — and winning. A snap election is planned for Dec. 21.
And finally... After detaining billionaire Russian Senator Suleiman Kerimov at the airport in Nice, French prosecutors charged him with money laundering and froze four luxurious villas — including the one where the 1988 film `Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ was filmed — allegedly linked to him. Kerimov’s lawyers say they’re confident he’ll be cleared, and shares in the gold producer his family owns recovered most of their initial losses. The case has triggered an angry response from Moscow, where a top official warned it could be the start of a “witch hunt” in the West against prominent Russians.
— With assistance by Michael Winfrey