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A Pertinent Insight into the Last 30 Years of Politics – RKK ICDS

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I am part of a generation who can recollect the 1990s only through a few personal childhood memories.

Long summers in the countryside, nighties sewn by my mother, the ground floor of the Tallinn department store at Christmas and the bookshop on Pärnu maantee where one could inspect a volume only if one asked the shopkeeper for it from the shelf.

Memories of the 2000s are more detailed and colourful. I was in primary school. Mobile phones began to spread and everyone could order a ringtone to match their favourite song from the back of a magazine. The first computers appeared in homes and after school we went to visit classmates whose parents had bought one and allowed us to use it. The events of 9/11 entered my mind through a youth programme on TV that started just as I came home from school and heated something to eat on the stove.

The first memory that comes to mind of the 2007 Bronze Soldier unrest is of a helicopter buzzing in the sky all night long. I was home alone and tried to calm my mother over the phone, as she had gone on a work trip for two days, explaining that everything was calm in Kadriorg and I would go to school the next day, if it was open.

Eiki Berg. Vähem on parem. Varrak, 2019. 254 pp.

I’m recollecting these memories to underline the thought that my generation was not politically active during the 1990s and 2000s. Our political awakening occurred sometime in the early 2010s.

For me, NATO and the European Union weren’t choices for which to strive or to oppose. For me, Estonian membership in these organisations has been a fact. Thus, I can sympathise with those who endeavoured to make Estonia’s accession happen but I don’t share their knowledge of what it means to be outside these organisations.

Eiki Berg’s collection of articles, Vähem on parem (Less is More), provides an insight into these events and the last 30 years of Estonian politics. I’m part of the first generation who has to learn about the events that happened in the 1990s and 2000s and can’t discuss matters that have now become the norm based on their personal experiences. That is why this collection is relevant—it explores the dilemmas and choices Estonia faced in those years.

To seasoned observers, Eiki Berg’s book must be a nostalgic trip down memory lane and a reminder of their journey. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to look back and recall the choices and dilemmas with which we have been confronted. After all, the decisions taken don’t erase the opposing party or their viewpoints. Sometimes looking back helps us to understand better the present day and consider our next steps.

I’d also like to touch upon a subject Eiki Berg mentions in several articles—the multi-speed EU. The idea is as follows: member states that wish to cooperate in a certain field can do so and move forward with the integration process, while countries that don’t want to cooperate on that matter can stand aside but won’t hinder the activities of members who are open to collaboration. This methodology gave rise, for example, to the Schengen area, the eurozone and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), part of the EU’s security and defence policy.

The multi-speed integration of Europe is a hot topic in Brussels and the capitals of member states. It doesn’t exactly reach the front pages of newspapers but it is still actively discussed by researchers and practitioners. I’d like to point out one aspect Berg doesn’t mention in his articles: a multi-speed Europe is a technical solution to political problems. Member states don’t cooperate because they aren’t able to agree on a golden mean, since their wishes and restrictions differ. Take, for example, fighting climate change. Let’s say that Germany, Croatia, Portugal and Finland want to cooperate more closely in resolving climate issues than the 28 member states together. If these four countries start to collaborate, does that solve the climate change-related challenge Europe must face? No, because while the aforementioned quartet diligently follow their climate policies, the other 24 member states continue with their old ways.

Fighting climate change is a collective undertaking, just like several other challenges Europe must tackle, where size matters and borders don’t. If the EU wants to be at the forefront of combating the climate crisis, it is only possible if all member states are able to reduce the volume of European emissions as a result of changing their collective behaviour. The activities of my make-believe quartet are good and commendable, but don’t solve the problem as such. Thus, a multi-speed Europe is the appropriate choice if the purpose is to demonstrate a European cooperation of sorts, but it doesn’t offer solutions to issues and, rather than increasing efficiency, it may lead to a “diffused union”, in Erki Berg’s apt wording. This means that everyone would carry on with their business independently without a strong centre.

One must therefore inevitably ask: what is the purpose of the EU and European integration? Is it to carry out superficial cooperation or to be a competitive and relevant organisation?

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'He's just checked out of politics': Kushner disappears from Trump's inner circle – CTV News

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As Donald Trump plotted his Conservative Political Action Conference appearance last week, and a broader, more-robust plan to return to politics as an omnipresent disruptor, one person was conspicuously absent from the confab.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was notably not on the list of advisers assisting the former president. Kushner, who previously served as chief adviser-cum-micromanager with far-reaching responsibilities and had virtual carte blanche, has tapped out, say several people who worked closely with Kushner at the White House or are familiar with his thinking and told CNN on background in order to maintain relationships.

“Right now, he’s just checked out of politics,” says one person, echoing the mindset of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, who is so over the political bubble she has told friends and colleagues of late to not utter anything to do with Washington.

Given Trump’s election loss and current out-of-power position, Kushner’s absence from the aftermath follows a pattern critics have previously pointed out: being present for the wins and MIA from the losses. A person with close ties to Kushner told CNN that Trump’s son-in-law is enjoying “some much needed time with his family,” and his retreat is unrelated to the ebb and flow of the former president’s popularity.

During the administration, Kushner was more than happy to speak on behalf of the moments that turned out well for the White House — but also conveniently skip the parts embroiled in turmoil.

As far back as 2017, when Trump’s health care plan floundered and failed, Kushner and his family were on the slopes of Aspen, Colorado. In 2018, they were vacationing in Florida amid the government shutdown, even though the White House insisted Kushner was actively leading negotiations. And in 2019, when Trump was under fire for multiple issues, from background checks to comments about Jews and Democrats, the couple was having downtime in Wyoming, something even Trump noted with a tweet of a photo of them on vacation: “Two incredible people. I can’t believe they’re not working (few work harder)!”

A Trump spokeswoman did not provide an on the record response to CNN’s request for comment.

It’s not clear, however, who is instigating this — at least for now — breakup. Some who have been in contact with Kushner place it at the feet of being done with his father-in-law’s antics. Sources closer to Trump say he’s angry with his son-in-law over the election loss.

TRUMP’S REGULARS, MINUS ONE

That Kushner has now developed anathema to his father-in-law’s political appetite is questionable in its timing, an indicator that Kushner again is putting space between his image and Trump’s, in the wake of the delusional flow of falsehoods after Election Day and the deadly Trump-incited insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Yet several people told CNN that Kushner is truly — this time — effectively done with Trump’s rhetoric.

Kushner and Ivanka Trump got out of their posh Washington rental home soon after Jan. 20, the last moving trucks rolling towards their new high-rise, beachside Miami rental departing within 24 hours of President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Another person familiar with Kushner’s new chapter, says he wants closure and a fresh start, one that doesn’t include advising his father-in-law on a daily basis.

Yet two other people who spoke with CNN indicated the schism was instigated by Trump, who has been telling those in his inner circle he is angry with Kushner.

Late last week, when Trump convened what he believes is his strongest political brain trust for a meeting to discuss his political future he did not include Kushner. The group looked at the 2022 midterms and, more and more likely, say people who have spoken to Trump of late, a presidential run in 2024.

Ensconced in Trump’s private quarters at Mar-a-Lago, his club/post-White House headquarters/home in Palm Beach, the advisers consisted in part of former campaign manager Bill Stepien, adviser Jason Miller, former White House social media director Dan Scavino, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and another former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who Kushner fired at Trump’s request last summer and replaced with Stepien.

On the table was a push to create a super PAC to raise money, as well as a broader discussion of who would do what as Trump determined where and when and to whom to dole his outsized influence within a fractured Republican Party.

For Kushner not to be present at a strategic roundtable struck many who know his deep involvement in every aspect of Trump’s political messaging as odd.

“That’s about as 180 a turn as he could ever make,” said a third person, who worked inside the Trump White House with Kushner. “This was a guy who for four years did everything on behalf of President Trump. He lived that job.”

Another former White House colleague expressed surprise at Kushner’s decision to walk away, adding there was nothing in the administration’s portfolio that Kushner didn’t “meddle” in, according to this person.

From domestic policy, foreign policy, staffing, speechwriting, national security, criminal justice reform, budget, COVID-19, Kushner had a hand in it all.

“He was an ‘expert’ in everything,” said the former colleague, who noted Kushner’s flitting from one topic to the next was often the bane of some senior West Wing staff’s existence.

DISTANCED RELATIONSHIP

But Kushner’s — and similarly Ivanka Trump’s — ability to manoeuvre in and out of topics, day-in and day-out, was due in part to being family.

“It’s not like Trump could fire his son-in-law, or give him a nickname and attack him on Twitter,” said the person who worked inside the Trump White House.

As such, Kushner was able to be a chief strategist and an influential voice for the then-president.

Not so much now.

Two of the people who spoke to CNN say Kushner’s relationship with Trump, son-in-law or no, has been fractured since Trump’s re-election loss.

Trump, they say, has at times in the last several weeks expressed to those close to him that he faults Kushner for losing.

A person who speaks with Kushner frequently strongly denied any contention between the two men, noting Kushner and Trump met for lunch Wednesday in Florida at Trump’s Doral property.

Kushner, however, would be a plausible surrogate, seeing it was he who orchestrated much of the administration’s response to, essentially, most things, from the economy to immigration reform and ultimately coronavirus — and who can forget Kushner’s pledge last April during an interview that the United States would be “really rocking again” by July?

“We know the boss isn’t going to blame himself” (for losing the election), said one source speaking to the nature of their relationship, highlighting Trump’s habitual avoidance of personal responsibility.

However, if it is Trump who is keeping Kushner at arm’s length, or vice versa, one thing is clear to those who have talked to Kushner in recent weeks: “He wants a break,” said a person familiar with his thinking. But the source predicted that after a cooling-off period, and if and when Trump decides to launch a 2024 campaign, Kushner would likely come back into the fold as an adviser.

For now, however, Kushner is more than willing to see Trump Jr. or even Parscale assume the role of Trump whisperer and loyal first lieutenant, though Kushner’s close associate said he keeps tabs on Stepien, Parscale and Miller, and speaks with them frequently.

Several of the people who spoke to CNN noted Kushner’s peripheral interests still include an ongoing focus on the Middle East, brokering peace deals and helping ensure they take hold.

He would also like to be part of advancing criminal justice reform, such as reviving parole in the federal prison system, something that was eliminated in 1984 and Kushner feels deserves reexamination.

“He is trying to be someone you would go to on the Republican side to put a deal together,” said the person familiar with Kushner’s potential career path.

Yet for the foreseeable future, don’t expect to spot Kushner among the former presidential advisers eagerly volunteering for a second tour.

“The drama of politics wore him down. Eventually, Trump wears everyone down,” the person said.

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'Leave the politics to the politicians,' Crown lawyer urges judge in Meng case – North Shore News

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VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the “geopolitical winds swirling around” Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. 

Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng’s legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. 

“With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians,” Frater said Thursday.

He made the comments in response to claims from Meng’s legal team that Trump’s words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings.

Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would “certainly intervene” if he thought it was necessary. 

Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny.

Her lawyers allege Trump’s comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings.

It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May.

“Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it,” Frater told the judge.

“We’re confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion.”

On Wednesday, Meng’s team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China.

Huawei’s success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an “existential threat” to the United States and Meng’s case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to “debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei,” her lawyer Richard Peck said. 

Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. 

Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a “threat to the security of the U.S.,” Peck said. 

“This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today,” he said. 

Frater, representing Canada’s attorney general, sought to redirect the judge’s attention Thursday. 

There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng’s argument doesn’t pass it, he said. 

The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused’s right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. 

In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn’t a “powerless” person. 

Someone with “the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual,” Frater said. 

Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng’s celebrity makes her a “higher value target” for interference, adding that a person’s resources shouldn’t affect how they are treated by the court. 

Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump’s failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. 

“This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there’s been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it,” Frater said. 

The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. 

“They’ve had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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'Leave the politics to the politicians,' Crown lawyer urges judge in Meng case – The Tri-City News

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VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the “geopolitical winds swirling around” Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. 

Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng’s legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. 

“With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians,” Frater said Thursday.

He made the comments in response to claims from Meng’s legal team that Trump’s words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings.

Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would “certainly intervene” if he thought it was necessary. 

Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny.

Her lawyers allege Trump’s comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings.

It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May.

“Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it,” Frater told the judge.

“We’re confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion.”

On Wednesday, Meng’s team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China.

Huawei’s success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an “existential threat” to the United States and Meng’s case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to “debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei,” her lawyer Richard Peck said. 

Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. 

Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a “threat to the security of the U.S.,” Peck said. 

“This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today,” he said. 

Frater, representing Canada’s attorney general, sought to redirect the judge’s attention Thursday. 

There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng’s argument doesn’t pass it, he said. 

The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused’s right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. 

In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn’t a “powerless” person. 

Someone with “the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual,” Frater said. 

Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng’s celebrity makes her a “higher value target” for interference, adding that a person’s resources shouldn’t affect how they are treated by the court. 

Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump’s failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. 

“This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there’s been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it,” Frater said. 

The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. 

“They’ve had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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