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German politicians brand US ambassador a 'brat' and a 'total diplomatic failure' in defence row

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German politicians brand US ambassador a 'brat' and a 'total diplomatic failure' and demand he be expelled after he criticised their plans to cut NATO spending

  • Richard Grenell slammed Germany's 'worrisome' plans to cut defence spending
  • His comments sparked fury in Berlin where politicians accused him of meddling
  • One MP said he was acting like the 'high commissioner of an occupying power' 
  • Donald Trump has accused NATO allies of freeloading on U.S. military might 

By Tim Stickings For Mailonline and Afp

Published: 06:25 EDT, 20 March 2019 | Updated: 07:39 EDT, 20 March 2019

German politicians have reacted with fury after the U.S. ambassador criticised Berlin's plans to cut defence spending. 

Richard Grenell slammed Germany's 'worrisome' budget plans which would see military outlays fall well below the NATO target of two per cent of GDP. 

His comments were the latest flashpoint in a long-running row with Donald Trump, who has accused NATO allies of expecting a 'free ride' on Washington's military might.

Grenell - who has frequently clashed with Berlin - is now facing calls to be expelled as U.S. envoy. 

German politicians have reacted with fury after the U.S. ambassador, Richard Grenell (pictured), criticised Berlin's plans to cut defence spending below NATO targets
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German politicians have reacted with fury after the U.S. ambassador, Richard Grenell (pictured), criticised Berlin's plans to cut defence spending below NATO targets 

Wolfgang Kubicki of the liberal FDP party demanded that Grenell be declared 'persona non grata', Der Spiegel reported. 

'Someone who acts like the high commissioner of an occupying power needs to learn that there are limits to our tolerance,' he said. 

Social Democratic Party whip Carsten Schneider called Grenell a 'brat' and a 'total diplomatic failure', according to German media. 

His party colleague Johannes Kahrs said it was 'unbelievable who can become a U.S. ambassador these days'. 

Fellow SPD member Ralf Stegner said: 'Mr Grenell behaves in the way you expect from the Trump administration: uncouth, boorish and politically unsuited to the role.

'Our relationship with the U.S. is more important than Trump or Grenell.'  

Left Party MP Helin Evrim Sommer said: 'The expulsion of the Trumpist Grenell from Germany is overdue. 

'Someone who meddles in the internal affairs of other states like a feudal lord disqualifies themselves as a U.S. ambassador'.  

U.S. President Donald Trump
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel
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U.S. President Donald Trump (left) has repeatedly accused Berlin of freeloading on Washington's military might but Angela Merkel (right) rejected the American criticism

However a right-wing AfD member came to Grenell's defence, saying: 'You only expel ambassadors in extreme cases, for example at the start of warlike confrontation.'  

During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump said some NATO allies were 'getting a free ride', calling it 'unfair'. 

In 2018 Washington spent nearly $700 billion on defence, compared with just $280 billion for all the European NATO allies combined. 

Germany's finance ministry had yesterday presented its budget planning for coming years, which signalled a drop.

It said defence spending would first rise to 1.37 percent of gross domestic product in 2020 but then likely fall back to 1.25 percent by 2023.

While German defence spending went up from $45 billion to $50 billion last year, the growing economy meant the figure relative to GDP stayed flat at 1.23 per cent. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed back against the U.S. criticism by arguing that Germany was as focused on foreign aid as on military spending.  

Bundeswehr recruits march to be sworn in at the ministry of defence in Berlin, Germany. Angela Merkel has insisted that Germany will not cut aid spending to increase its military
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Bundeswehr recruits march to be sworn in at the ministry of defence in Berlin, Germany. Angela Merkel has insisted that Germany will not cut aid spending to increase its military 

'We have always said that we're headed in the direction of two percent, and that by 2024 we will reach 1.5 percent,' she said.

'I can understand that this is not enough for the American President, it's not enough for many European allies.'

Grenell took up his Berlin posting on May 8 last year.

The envoy immediately irked Germany when he tweeted that day that German companies should stop doing business with Iran, after Trump tore up the nuclear deal.

He stoked further outrage with reported comments to right-wing news website Breitbart of his ambition to 'empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders.'  

Grenell also raised eyebrows by describing Austria's arch-conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as a 'rock star.'     

Recently he appeared to threaten that the U.S. would cut back its intelligence co-operation with Germany if Berlin used Chinese firm Huawei in its 5G telecome infrastructure.  

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German politicians brand US ambassador a 'brat' and a 'total diplomatic failure' and demand he be ...

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German politicians have reacted with fury after the U.S. ambassador ... 'Our relationship with the U.S. is more important than Trump or Grenell. ... its intelligence co-operation with Germany if Berlin used Chinese firm Huawei in its 5G ...
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Robert Mueller Owes the Country Some Answers On His Report

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In 2006, Donald Trump sued me for libel, claiming that a biography I wrote, “TrumpNation,” lowballed his wealth and misrepresented his track record as a businessman. Trump lost the suit in 2011. He had sought $5 billion in damages, which was, more or less, the difference between what he claimed he was worth at the time — about $6 billion — and what my sources believed him to be worth: $150 million to $250 million. ($5 billion was also substantially more than the advance my publisher paid me to write the book.)

During the course of the litigation, my lawyers got their hands on an assessment of Trump’s wealth that German banking giant Deutsche Bank AG had pulled together in 2004. Deutsche figured Trump had a net worth of about $788 million, even though he told them he was worth $3 billion.

Have you “always been completely truthful in your public statements about your net worth,” my attorneys asked the future president during a deposition (in which he had to acknowledge nearly three dozen lies he had told over the years about his business and finances). “I try,” he replied. (Maybe not that hard; in recent congressional testimony, Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said Trump and his accountant, Allen Weisselberg, had routinely conspired to inflate his wealth to insurers and banks.)

When my lawyers inquired about how Trump calculated his net worth, he said his self-assessment went “up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.” He noted later that “even my own feelings affect my value to myself.”

I’ve written about Deutsche’s assessment of Trump’s wealth a number of times more recently, including in 2015, when Trump announced his presidential run, and last November, after German police raided Deutsche’s Frankfurt headquarters as part of a money-laundering probe connected to the Panama Papers scandal. Deutsche is back in the news this week. With the House Financial Services Committee, the House Intelligence Committee and the New York state attorney general all examining Trump’s relationship with the bank, the New York Times published a comprehensive account Monday evening of many of Deutsche and Trump’s business dealings and lending arrangements.

“Deutsche Bank officials have quietly argued to regulators, lawmakers and journalists that Mr. Trump was not a priority for the bank or its senior leaders and that the lending was the work of a single, obscure division,” wrote the Times’s David Enrich. “But interviews with more than 20 current and former Deutsche Bank executives and board members, most of them with direct knowledge of the Trump relationship, contradict the bank’s narrative.”

Large portions of this history, and the people involved in it, are familiar. When Trump nearly went personally bankrupt in the early 1990s, he left a handful of major U.S. banks on the hook for about $3.4 billion in loans he couldn’t repay (and about $900 million of which he had personally guaranteed). Hotels, casinos, real estate, an airline and other parts of his debt-ridden portfolio went into bankruptcy protection. Trump was only able to survive imploding completely because of financial support from his father, whose wealth made up a significant portion of Trump’s own fortune. (Though Trump lied to me about his lifelong reliance on his father’s money, documents he submitted in his lawsuit against me proved otherwise.)

In the wake of his financial collapse, Trump was an outcast whom major U.S. banks avoided. To line up funding for the occasional, small-bore deals he pursued in those years, he had to turn to labor unions and small, local lenders. Into that vacuum stepped Deutsche. The bank was keen in the late 1990s to gain a foothold in U.S. investment banking and commercial lending and was happy to do business with Trump. Enrich adds to all of this a carefully constructed and deeply reported account of how Deutsche’s executives, dealmakers, bond salesmen and loan officers have kept in step with Trump — despite misgivings and sometimes lackluster or disastrous results — for about two decades. Trump secured more than just bragging rights by inflating his wealth to the media and banks; he also secured loans, under circumstances that more circumspect lenders might have deemed perilous.

“Time after time, with the support of two different chief executives, the bank handed money — a total of well over $2 billion — to a man whom nearly all other banks had deemed untouchable,” Enrich wrote.

The Times’s account focuses entirely on Trump and Deutsche’s well-known domestic dealings, however, and that may not be where investigators and law enforcement authorities end up finding their most interesting material.

Deutsche has weathered a series of corporate governance and legal snafus that have helped undermine the bank’s standing and reputation overseas in recent years. German regulators appointed a monitor to oversee the bank’s money-laundering and terrorism-financing controls, and it has been forced to cough up more than $18 billion to settle lawsuits and pay fines since 2008. That amount includes a $7 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in 2017 related to its trading and sales practices in the mortgage market during the financial crisis of the mid-2000s.

Deutsche’s bankers have also been discovered manipulating commodities and debt markets, rigging Libor rates, and helping about $10 billion depart from Russia under suspicious circumstances from Deutsche’s Moscow branch. U.S. and U.K. regulators fined Deutsche about $700 million in 2017 for compliance failures that a New York regulator said could have allowed for money laundering.

The Trump SoHo hotel, which stripped Trump’s name from the property in 2017, was financed in the mid-2000s in part with loans channeled through Icelandic banks that collapsed during the financial crisis. I’ve written extensively about Trump’s involvement with the firm originally behind that project, Bayrock Group LLC; one of Bayrock’s executives, Felix Sater; and about murky funds from Europe that were channeled into the project. While Deutsche was closely involved with Icelandic banks at the time of the collapse, no information has surfaced indicating the bank had a direct role in the Trump SoHo debacle.

Whether investigations of the Trump-Deutsche relationship wind up dovetailing with other federal investigations of Trump’s business, financial and political dealings, as well as his presidential campaign’s intersection with Russia, is still an open question. In the meantime, as the Times noted, plenty of other curiosities remain about the “symbiotic bond” between “a real estate mogul made toxic by polarizing rhetoric and a pattern of defaults, and a bank with intractable financial problems and a history of misconduct.”

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Brooke Sample at bsample1@bloomberg.net

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The Early Edition: March 20, 2019

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Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will stay at the Justice Department “a little longer,” according to a senior department official. Rosenstein – previously responsible for overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian electoral interference and alleged collusion with Trump campaign – had previously indicated that he would leave in mid-March, noting during a public appearance on March 7 that it would be one of his final speeches, Julia Ainsley and Pete Williams report at NBC.

Rosenstein recently discussed his upcoming planned departure with Attorney General William Barr, after which it was decided that he would stay on a short period, according to the official. Rosenstein’s departure has been tied by many to the completion of Mueller’s report, Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein report at POLITICO.

Mueller began investigating President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen nearly a year before the F.B.I. raided Cohen’s properties in New York last April, according to documents unsealed yesterday. The heavily redacted documents, released by prosecutors in response to a court order, indicate that the F.B.I. sought and obtained warrants to search Cohen’s electronic communications as far back as July 2017 and suspected Cohen as potentially acting as an unregistered foreign agent, Morgan Chalfant, Jacqueline Thomsen and Olivia Beavers report at the Hill.

Prosecutors working for Mueller yesterday cited the “press of other work” when asking a judge to give them until April 1 to respond to the court about a request from The Washington Post to unseal records in former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s criminal case. In a two-page filing, Deputy Solicitor General Michael R. Dreeben and prosecutor Adam C. Jed stated: “counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government;” a response had been due March 21, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotoskuy report at the Washington Post.

The complete refusal by the Trump White House to produce any documents or witnesses to the primary investigative committee in the House reflects a decision at the highest levels to deny congressional oversight altogether,” Chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) writes in an Op-Ed at the Washington Post. The Committee has written a number of letters to the White House on issues including coordination with Russia and the provision of security clearances.

Women on the D.C. federal bench are playing a critical role in the Trump-Russia developments. Carrie Johnson explains at NPR.

An updated list of substantive documents in cases related to the Russia investigation is provided at Just Security.

IMMIGRATION

The Trump administration reportedly intends to start pulling back on a controversial plank of U.S. immigration policy, announcing yesterday it will stop sending some migrant families who illegally cross the border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to jail. Starting this week, hundreds of families caught each day in that area are set to be released by Border Patrol agents, instead of being handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for potentially more lengthy periods of detention, according to government officials, Alicia A. Caldwell reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that certain immigrants who have served jail sentences must be held without bail during deportation proceedings, marking the second 5-4 decision in a year to adopt the government’s broad definition of “aliens” subject to mandatory detention. Jess Bravin reports at the Wall Street Journal.

SYRIA

U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces from the Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) yesterday wrested control of an encampment held by the Islamic State group (I.S.I.S.) in eastern Syria, after hundreds of militants surrendered overnight, with the development heralding the group’s collapse after months of fierce resistance. The taking of the camp marks a major advance but not the final defeat of I.S.I.S. in their final stronghold of Baghouz, according to S.D.F. spokesperson Mustafa Bali, Philip Issa reports at the AP.

“This is not a victory announcement … but a significant progress in the fight against [I.S.I.S,]” Bali stated on a message sent on Twitter, claiming that clashes were ongoing and that fighters remain “in several pockets and their presence is not limited to a defined geography.” Reuters reports.

During yesterday’s operations the S.D.F. captured a group suspected of organizing the Jan 16 bomb attack that killed four U.S. citizens and a number of allied Syrian militia fighters, Bali announced. In a message sent on Twitter, Bali claimed that the S.D.F. had used “technical surveillance” to find and arrest the suspects, Ben Hubbard reports at the New York Times.

An account of the S.D.F.’s progress against I.S.I.S. fighters in eastern Syria is provided at AFP.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 99 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria between Feb. 24 and March 9 [Central Command]

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

Israeli Defense Force (I.D.F.) soldiers killed three Palestinian individuals in two separate incidents last night, according to Palestinian health ministry and emergency services. One of those killed – Omar Abu Leila (19) – was suspected of carrying out a deadly stabbing-and-shooting attack in the occupied West Bank two days earlier; in a separate incident two more Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, Al Jazeera reports.

Israel and the U.S. have successfully intercepted a series of medium to long-range ballistic missiles in the course of a joint drill. The missile test in southern Israel was conducted yesterday by the Israeli Ministry of Defense along with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Israeli defense technology company Rafael, the AP reports.

An analysis of the striking similarities between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump is provided by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash at the Washington Post.

VENEZUELA

U.S. President Trump said yesterday that the U.S. could impose harsher sanctions on Venezuela in its campaign to remove incumbent President Nicolás Maduro. Recent power outages across Venezuela illustrate that “something terrible is going on down there” and “we need to put an end” to the current situation, Trump remarked during a joint news conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the White House, Christopher Torchia reports at the AP.

High-level U.S.-Russian talks regarding defusing the Venezuelan crisis ended yesterday at an impasse, with the two sides still at odds over the legitimacy of Maduro. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” U.S. special representative Elliot Abrams told reporters, Reuters reports.

CYBERSECURITY, TECHNOLOGY AND PRIVACY

President Trump claimed yesterday that social media platforms discriminated against members of his party, and accused the organizations of collusion. “It seems to be if they’re conservative, if they’re Republicans, if they’re in a certain group, there’s discrimination, and big discrimination, and I see it absolutely on Twitter and Facebook … and others,” Trump said during a joint White House news conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, adding “we use the word ‘collusion’ very loosely all the time, and I will tell you there is collusion with respect to that because something has to be going on,” Reuters reports.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen yesterday urged private companies to increase efforts to help the federal government identify new cyber threats, claiming that the administration is unable to do so alone. “We need you to focus again on the future of cybersecurity,” Nielsen said, adding “I’ll keep coming back to that because that’s what keeps me up at night is that the rate at which threats and risks are emerging is outpacing our ability to identify, assess and address them,” Jacqueline Thomsen reports at the Hill.

“A landmark legal battle that will unfold later this month in federal court in New York represents a welcome chance for freedom of expression to triumph over falsehood,” Just Security Editor Joshua Geltzer and Harvard Law School Professor Laurence H. Tribe write at POLITICO Magazine, having filed an amicus brief supporting litigants who have sued Trump for blocking free expression by blocking them on Twitter.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Trump said yesterday he was strongly considering N.A.T.O. membership for Brazil as he welcomed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the White House. Reuters reports.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia yesterday ruled that said her injunction preventing the president’s transgender military policy from taking effect remains in place, just days after the Pentagon released a memo to implement the policy. In a three-page order, Kollar-Kotelly wrote that “defendants were incorrect in claiming that there was no longer an impediment to the military’s implementation of the [transgender policy] in this case,” Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

Trump said yesterday that the U.S. Supreme Court will stay at nine judges for at least the next six years. Asked during a Rose Garden news conference about the developing proposal among some Democratic presidential candidates to expand the Court, Trump ruled out the possibility, saying that if the court added justices, it would not be until after the end of his second term – and labelling Democrats hoping to expand the court as sore losers, Caitlin Oprysko reports at POLITICO.

Corruption in the U.S. is a national security threat, Stephen M. Walt comments at Foreign Policy

The post The Early Edition: March 20, 2019 appeared first on Just Security.

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Prosecutor fired by Trump on wire-tapping POTUS & brutal prison - MSNBC

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Prosecutor fired by Trump on wire-tapping POTUS & brutal prison  MSNBC

Watch Ari Melber's full interview with the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. In this extended digital exclusive, Bharara ...



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Deutsche Bank Loaned Trump Billions: Report - Fortune

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Deutsche Bank Loaned Trump Billions: Report  Fortune

In the midst of the New York attorney general's and two different Congressional committees' simultaneous investigations into President Donald Trump's ...

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