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POLITICO Playbook: McConnell: Quit the charade, impeachment is a 'political exercise' – POLITICO

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DRIVING THE DAY

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL on “Fox and Friends” this morning: “Do you think Chuck Schumer is impartial? Do you think Elizabeth Warren is impartial? Bernie Sanders is impartial? So let’s quit the charade. This is a political exercise. … All I’m asking of Schumer is that we treat Trump the same way we treated Clinton.

“We had a procedure that was approved 100 to nothing — Schumer voted for it, to go through the opening arguments, to have a written question period, and then, based upon that, deciding what witnesses to call. We haven’t ruled out witnesses. We’ve said let’s handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.”

MCCONNELL was asked if he had spoken to Schumer: “Yeah, before we left town. Look, we’re at an impasse. We can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.”

“THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, if they think this is a very significant episode, can take it into account we’re voting [next] year. Most people that I run into, whether they are fans of the president or not, say, ‘Well, why don’t you just let us decide this. We’re in the middle of the election.’”

SWING STATE READ … FRONT PAGE of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, banner headline: “‘Nakedly partisan … disrespectful’: Impeachment of Trump echoes that of Clinton”

THE NEXT BIG OBJECT OF FASCINATION among President DONALD TRUMP’S allies is U.S. Attorney John Durham’s report on his investigation into the origins of the Russia probe — and, more specifically, the intelligence community’s role in it.

WE KNOW REMARKABLY LITTLE about Durham and what he’s up to. POLITICO and others have reported that he’s focusing on former top intel leaders like CIA chief JOHN BRENNAN, but not much else. What we do know is that the president personally and his allies have said — over and over — that they are putting a lot of stock into Durham, which makes him a central figure of the moment.

— KNOWING DURHAM … NYT, A1: “Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case,” by Elizabeth Williamson: “Mr. Durham is known in New England’s close-knit law enforcement community for working long days on his own cases, and providing sought-after guidance on others’.

“Wearing gunmetal-frame glasses and a drooping goatee, he rises early and dresses in the dark, often mismatching his suit jackets and pants. His reputation for discretion, on top of a long record of successful high-profile prosecutions, are among the reasons he has been a go-to person when Washington — under Republicans and Democrats alike — needs someone to handle sensitive tasks. …

“‘He believes in four things: his family, his profession, his religion and the Boston Red Sox,’ said Hugh F. Keefe, a Connecticut defense lawyer who says Mr. Durham is so by the book, he once asked Mr. Keefe whether he had reported a free Red Sox ticket to the I.R.S. ‘If anyone thinks they can lead him like a horse to water, they’re mistaken.’”

THE EVANGELICAL VOTE … SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL FRONT PAGE: “President Donald Trump to rally evangelical voters in Miami,” by Skyler Swisher: “President Donald Trump is going to rally his religious supporters in Miami, a move that comes after an evangelical Christian magazine called for him to be removed from office. Trump is rolling out an ‘Evangelicals for Trump’ coalition on Jan. 3 in Miami, according to his campaign.” Front page

“At one evangelical church, congregants dismiss the Christianity Today editorial — if they’ve read it at all,” by WaPo’s Amy Wang in Brookfield, Wis.

BREAKING IN THE KINGDOM … AP/RIYADH: “Saudi sentences 5 to death for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing,” by Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy: “Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death on Monday for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year by a team of Saudi agents.

“The killing of Khashoggi stunned the international community and also many Saudi citizens, who were deeply shocked that a Saudi national could be killed by 15 government agents inside one of the kingdom’s consulates.

“Another three people were sentenced to prison for a combined 24 years, according to a statement read by the attorney general’s office on Saudi state TV. No individual breakdown for the sentencing was given.”

Good Monday morning. WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS WEEK! Hanukkah started Sunday night. Playbook will still be in your inbox as usual, but just a bit later this week and next. Playbook PM and the Audio Briefing are on hiatus.

MARKET WATCH — “How the economy could make or break Trump in 2020,” by Ben White: “Most of the economic gifts President Donald Trump is going to get for 2020 are already unwrapped and out from under the tree. The Federal Reserve slashed rates and went dark. The phase one China deal is pretty much done. So is the new NAFTA.

“That leaves one big question for a recently impeached president as he heads for a dicey reelection bid: What’s left to goose markets and the economy beyond what most expect will be a pretty blah 2020?

“Even blah — a 2 percent-or-so growth rate with unemployment still near or below 4 percent — could be enough to help Trump overcome a low approval rating and win again. But if he really hopes to romp over the eventual Democratic nominee, he’ll probably need markets to keep popping and growth to bubble higher, especially in the industrial Midwest. And it is far from obvious how the United States can get there from here.” POLITICO

TRADE WARS … WSJ/BEIJING: “China to Cut Tariffs on Range of Goods Amid Push for Trade Deal”: “China will cut import tariffs for frozen pork, pharmaceuticals and some high-tech components starting from Jan. 1, a move that comes as Beijing and Washington are trying to complete a phase-one trade deal.

“The plan, approved by China’s cabinet, will lower tariffs for all trading partners on 859 types of products to below the rates that most-favored nations enjoy, the Finance Ministry said Monday. Most-favored-nation rates are the lowest possible tariffs a country offers to its trading partners.

“The lower levies will apply to frozen pork, as China aims to shore up its meat supplies amid an outbreak of swine fever, as well as semiconductor products and medicines to treat asthma and diabetes. Tariffs on some of the products will go to zero.

“The plan will also cut import levies for more than 8,000 products even lower for 23 countries and regions that have free-trade agreements with China, including Australia, South Korea, Iceland, New Zealand and Pakistan, from the beginning of next year. The statement said China would further cut tariffs on some information-technology products and services from July 1, 2020.”

WE’RE STILL AT WAR … AP/KABUL: “U.S. soldier is killed in Afghanistan; Taliban claim attack”

2020 WATCH …

— “Trump campaign plagued by groups raising tens of millions in his name,” by Maggie Severns: “As President Donald Trump raises money for his reelection campaign, he’s competing for cash with a growing mass of pro-Trump PACs, dark money groups and off-brand Facebook advertisers neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Trump’s campaign, which have pulled in over $46 million so far.

“The groups mimic Trump’s brand in the way they look and feel. They borrow the president’s Twitter avatar on Facebook pages, use clips of Trump’s voice in robocalls asking for ‘an emergency contribution to the campaign’ and, in some cases, have been affiliated with former Trump aides, such as onetime deputy campaign manager David Bossie. But most are spending little money to help the president win in 2020, POLITICO found.

“The unofficial pro-Trump boosters number in the hundreds and are alarming the actual operatives charged with reelecting the president: They suck up money that Trump aides think should be going to the campaign or the Republican National Committee, and they muddy the Trump campaign’s message and make it harder to accumulate new donors, Trump allies say.” POLITICO

— DES MOINES REGISTER FRONT PAGE: “Warren shakes up campaign style in Iowa”

— BOSTON GLOBE: “Elizabeth Warren’s brothers are a silent fixture of her campaign,” by Jess Bidgood in Newcastle, Okla.: “It feels as far away as possible from the chaos and choreography of a presidential campaign: a little red house in a neighborhood surrounded by fields, where almost nothing breaks the straight line of the horizon.

“But the man who lives here, a decorated Air Force veteran who the neighbors don’t see very often, has a crucial role to play in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. So do his two brothers, who live their own quiet lives in Oklahoma City and nearby Norman.

“The men are Warren’s older brothers — Don Reed Herring, John Herring, and David Herring — and, at nearly every campaign stop, she introduces herself to voters by talking about them, weaving folksy family stories with details about their military service, conservative politics, and agreement around her big ideas. Over the past year, they have become a fixture of her pitch, a living link to her upbringing in a financially strained world she says is an indelible part of who she is.

“They also do more: They are a key part of her effort to show she can find common ground with Republicans, offering them as a rejoinder to questions about her electability.” Boston GlobeA1 PDF

— ELENA SCHNEIDER with this AMAZING DETAIL: “How Buttigieg’s childhood pal ended up managing 2020’s breakout campaign”: “Before the Democratic presidential debate in Columbus, Ohio, Mike Schmuhl ventured into the city to get his mop of red hair cut. It wasn’t so much that Schmuhl himself needed a trim — but Pete Buttigieg’s campaign manager wanted to make sure the barbershop was up to the task of a presidential shave.

“Thirty minutes later, after the Royal Rhino Club Barbershop and Lounge passed muster and Schmuhl made an appointment under the name ‘Max Harris,’ another aide who got his hair trimmed, Buttigieg himself appeared for a fresh pre-debate cut.”

— THE HOLLYWOOD VOTE: “Actor Kevin Costner returns to Iowa to support Buttigieg,” by AP’s Thomas Beaumont in Indianola, Iowa

TRUMP’S MONDAY … THE PRESIDENT is in Florida and has nothing on his schedule.

— MERIDITH MCGRAW in West Palm Beach, Fla.: “Escape to Mar-a-Lago: Trump gets a post-impeachment mood lift”: “Friends of the president noted just how content he seemed in the glamorous getaway town of Palm Beach he now calls home, away from it all and back at his Mar-a-Lago resort — what’s described to be like a personal ‘Cheers bar,’ where Trump knows everybody’s name.

“‘He’s very happy to be back at what he calls the winter White House and is happy to take a break from the cold and craziness of his job,’ said George Guido Lombardi, a Mar-a-Lago member and longtime Trump friend. ‘It’s the only time that he’s got to be his real self and let down.’

“For aides, Mar-a-Lago can sometimes be a headache, as there is less control over who gets face time with the president and who might be able to whisper an idea in his ear. But that’s the way Trump likes to be, unfettered and able to do what he loves best — playing host, golfing with friends, watching television and working away from the confines of the West Wing.” POLITICO

PLAYBOOK READS

DAILY RUDY — “Giuliani pals leveraged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal,” by AP’s Desmond Butler and MIchael Biesecker in Kyiv, Ukraine: “The Associated Press reported some details in October of the brash pitch that [Lev] Parnas and [Igor] Fruman made to [Andrew] Favorov in Houston. But in a recent series of interviews with the AP in Kyiv, Favorov painted a more complete picture of his dealings with Giuliani’s associates.

“His tale, corroborated by interviews with other key witnesses, reveals that the pair continued to pursue a deal for months. The campaign culminated in May, at a meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington that included a lobbyist with deep ties to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and a Republican fundraiser from Texas close to Donald Trump Jr. Three people with direct knowledge of that meeting described it to the AP on condition of anonymity because some of the players are under federal investigation.

“The maneuvering over Naftogaz came at the same time that Giuliani, with the help of Parnas and Fruman, were trying to get Yovanovitch out of the way and persuade Ukraine’s leaders to launch an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s work with Burisma, a rival Ukrainian gas company.” AP

— NBC’S JOSH LEDERMAN: “Inside Giuliani’s new push to flip the script on Trump’s impeachment”

TOP-ED — SEN. PAT LEAHY (D-Vt.) in the NYT: “What the Senate Does Now Will Cast a Long Shadow”: “When the Senate ultimately convenes to consider whether to remove the president from office, for just the third time in its history, it will convene not as a legislative body, but as a court of impeachment. And it will not just be President Trump on trial. The Senate — and indeed, truth itself — will stand trial.”

FED WATCH — “Fed Confronts Lack of Diversity in Its Ranks,” by WSJ’s Nick Timiraos: “The economics profession embarked this year on a soul-searching appraisal of perceived hostility to women and minorities in its ranks, and the Federal Reserve—the nation’s largest employer of Ph.D. economists—wants to get ahead of the curve.

“For the Fed, where three quarters of its research economists are men and most are white, facing up to the lack of women and minorities among these employees isn’t just a matter of appearances. A staff that better reflects the U.S. population could limit the potential for groupthink or blind spots that hinder the central bank’s assessment of how the economy is changing. …

“Current and former staffers and private economists who interact with the central bank say the Fed’s attention to diversity issues gained new urgency under former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and has continued under her successor, Jerome Powell. The shift has coincided with veteran female staffers earning promotions to three of the central bank’s most important management positions this year.” WSJ

BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Fur is under attack. It’s not going down without a fight,” by WaPo’s Robin Givhan

ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION FRONT PAGE: “Loeffler reaches out to skeptical Georgia GOP activists,” by Greg Bluestein: “As Kelly Loeffler prepares to be sworn in as Georgia’s next U.S. senator, many of the grassroots activists who form the backbone of the state’s Republican Party remain reluctant to give her a full-fledged endorsement.

“An Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey of dozens of local party officials and county GOP chairmen showed many are taking a wait-and-see approach to Loeffler, a financial executive Gov. Brian Kemp selected for the job who is largely unknown to even many top Republicans.

“Their hesitance will play a major factor as the political newcomer faces a steep task. Her new role will require her to almost instantly take part in impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump, even as she tries to establish her political brand and fend off conservative challengers.” AJCFront page

MEDIAWATCH — “Devin Nunes, Johnny Depp lawsuits seen as threats to free speech and press,” by WaPo’s Justin Jouvenal: “The suits are part of a string of splashy defamation claims by politicians and the A-list star seeking nearly $1 billion in damages in Virginia courts this year, even though many of the cases have only loose connections to the state.

“The plaintiffs argue their names have been smeared and the venues are appropriate, but several of the defendants — including Twitter and Heard — say the filing location is aimed at exploiting the state’s weak protections for defamation defendants. Some legal experts say Virginia law allows those with deep pockets to bulldoze targets with frivolous, protracted and expensive litigation they couldn’t pursue in many other states.

“The true goals of the suits, the defendants argue, are to stifle critics, blunt aggressive journalism and settle scores. Some deride the legal maneuvers as ‘libel tourism’ and see a growing trend not just in Virginia but in other states that similarly lack safeguards. The suits have prompted Virginia lawmakers to look at changing the law.” WaPo

PLAYBOOKERS

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at politicoplaybook@politico.com.

ENGAGED — Jacques Petit, regional press secretary at Giffords, got engaged to Alyssa Harris, a contractor at the Department of Energy. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Steve Thomma, executive director of the White House Correspondents Association. An interesting book he’s been reading: ‘American Caesar.’ It was a gift from David Bradley of Atlantic Media after a conversation about our mutual admiration for the reporting and writing of the late William Manchester. It’s a terrific book, deeply reported, and a reminder to this addict of presidential bios that there really are other lions of American life even if they didn’t make it to the White House.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Bill Kristol … Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) is 67 … Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) is 69 … retired Gen. Wes Clark is 75 … Fox News’ Shannon Bream … Lucinda Guinn, executive director of the DCCC (h/t Cole Leiter) … Michawn Rich, USDA communications director (h/t Alec Varsamis) … Chris Peacock of Stanford University communications is 59 (h/t David Jackson) … POLITICO’s Julia Franklin … Alyssa DiBlasi … Steve Hills is 61 … Dentons’ John Russell IV … Axios’ Claire Kennedy … Julio Negron … Adam Milakofsky … Meghan Stabler … Patrick Burgwinkle … Kelley Moore, communications director for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) … Lauren Kahn …

… Fatima Noor … Jared Gilmour … Dan Shott is 33 … Tom Epstein (h/t Jon Haber) … Lewis A. Kaplan … Melissa Ann Merz … Abe Sutton … Josh Satin … Bill Goodson … Natasha Dabrowski … Trump White House alum Zina Bash … Texas A.G. Ken Paxton is 57 … Louisiana A.G. Jeff Landry is 49 … Brittany Bolen … Google’s Patrick D. Smith … Audrey Kubetin … James Miller … Joe Boswell … Jonathan Zucker is 48 … Hilary Novik Sandberg is 31 … Emil Pitkin, CEO of GovPredict … Elizabeth Bingold … Karen Roberts … Brennan Foley … Deloitte’s Rasheq Zarif … Allison Dobson … Rich Tarplin … Carter Snead … Kevin Hayes … Roy Behr … Doug Vilsack … Mark Clesh

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Who is Andrew Wilkinson? 'An unusual person to be in politics' says former BC Liberal colleague – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
Former cabinet colleague Bill Bennett warns anyone verbally sparring with B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson to be prepared.

“It’s easy to fall into a trap when you’re arguing with Andrew,” Bennett said in an interview. “Without knowing it you end up in a dead-end canyon, wondering how the heck you’re going to get out of it. He’s a very logical person and he won’t say anything more than he has to say.”

The B.C. election is Wilkinson’s first as party leader, and part of his challenge is that his predecessor was Christy Clark, whose magnetic personality was a draw, Bennett said.

“He’s an unusual person to be in politics and he’s probably an unusual person to be running for premier of the province,” said Bennett, who co-chaired Wilkinson’s leadership campaign after Clark resigned in 2017 following the Liberals’ defeat after 16 years in power.

But Bennett said there’s substance to Wilkinson, 63, who attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and worked as a doctor in three small B.C. communities for about three years in the 1980s before becoming a lawyer.

“He’s not charismatic. He’s not Christy, he’s not Ralph Klein,” Bennett said, referring to a former premier of Alberta.

“He’s not colourful, but he’s very smart. And he’s got a good heart. He cares about people, I can tell you that.”

Bennett, who represented the riding of Kootenay East for 16 years and left politics in 2017, said Wilkinson got into politics “for the right reasons,” not for a “popularity contest.”

Where flair sometimes fails him, fairness and a solid argument are among Wilkinson’s best qualities, Bennett said, adding the avid birder who grew up hunting with his father has learned to “measure his words.”

That’s after some of Wilkinson’s words have fallen flat.

In one instance this year he apologized for his choice of words after characterizing an NDP throne speech proposal to give five paid work days to people leaving domestic violence as pay for people in a “tough marriage” during a radio interview.

In a tweet shortly afterwards, Wilkinson said he used the “wrong choice of words and I got it wrong. Victims of domestic violence need their voices heard and our unwavering support, and I want everyone to know they have that with me.”

Wilkinson, who represents the riding of Vancouver-Quilchena on the city’s west side, was criticized by the housing minister as being “out of touch” for saying in a budget speech last year that being a renter can be “a wacky time of life, but it can be really enjoyable.”

He later clarified his remarks, saying on Twitter that as a renter for 15 years and working a low-paying job he knows what “it feels like to worry about making ends meet each month. I know what it feels like to dream of a better situation, more choice and freedom in life.”

He said in an interview that his main interest in becoming leader was to improve the lives of people through policies that spur the economy, including the creation of more daycare spaces and services for those who are addicted to illicit substances in a province where over 5,800 people have fatally overdosed since a public health emergency was declared in 2016.

“We’ve said for two years now that we need to have a pathway to get people off drugs,” Wilkinson said. “As someone who trained in medicine, I have some ideas about that and I’ll be rolling them out in the next week or so.”

Wilkinson, who was born in Brisbane, Australia, said he had “very humble beginnings” in Kamloops, B.C., where his family immigrated in 1962 after his father accepted a job with the federal Agriculture Department as a scientist working on cattle parasites.

“I grew up delivering newspapers as a kid and pumping gas in high school. And I paid my entire way through university with my own funds so I’ve worked hard to get where I did and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a successful life. And I hope to bring those set of skills to this job.”

Wilkinson was elected in 2013 and became technology minister and then minister of advanced education two years later before serving for a short time as attorney general prior to the 2017 election.

He cycles or runs daily and kayaks in the summer while cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter. He has been married since 1993 to Barbara Grantham and the couple has three grown children in their 20s.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2020.

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Large-Scale Political Unrest Is Unlikely, But Not Impossible – The Atlantic

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Protesters during the Bulldozer Revolution in Belgrade in 2000.Braca Nadezdic / Newsmakers / Getty

When a reporter recently asked Donald Trump if he would accept a peaceful transition of power, the president wouldn’t commit. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. In an apparent reference to mail-in ballots, he went on, “We’ll want to have—get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very—we’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” His comments seemed to confirm the worst fears of Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans who have warned for months that he might act illegally to hold on to power.

For Trumpian commentators, Democrats and the president’s other critics are only raising these concerns because they want to orchestrate a coup of their own. In a recent essay, “The Coming Coup?,” the former Trump-administration official Michael Anton warns his readers that Democrats are laying the groundwork for the “unlawful and illegitimate removal of President Trump from office.” Their tactic, he says, is to condition the public into thinking that Trump will try to steal the election so that if he wins, they can cry foul. They will then, Anton predicts, organize “a ‘color revolution,’ the exact same playbook the American deep state runs in other countries whose leadership they don’t like and is currently running in Belarus. Oust a leader—even an elected one—through agitation and call it ‘democracy.’” Anton advises Trump to prepare now to determine who will be loyal in the days after the election so that he can prevail.

Anton’s warning of a color revolution has gone viral on the Trumpian right. But his analysis rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept. I’ve been looking at the history of color revolutions to see if conditions are actually ripe for one in the U.S.

The term color revolution was coined in the early aughts to describe four political revolutions in post-Communist Europe and Central Asia, in which repressive regimes tried to hold on to power after losing an election: in Serbia (the Bulldozer Revolution, named after a protester who used a bulldozer to storm the Parliament building), Georgia (the Rose Revolution, for the flowers that protesters held during demonstrations), Ukraine (Orange, the color identified with the opposition party), and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip, the national flower). Each case involved an election in which the regime committed fraud and was found out by a combination of impartial external election observers, exit polls, and a sophisticated voting-tabulation system. After the announcement of the fraudulent results, students led enormous popular protests, demanding either new elections or a ratification of the results.

The color revolutions deeply unnerved autocrats, particularly in Russia and China, who believed the West had orchestrated them. The uprisings came from within the countries, although Western nongovernmental organizations played a supporting role over time, particularly by shedding light on nondemocratic practices and helping the students organize. Alexander Cooley, the director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, who has studied color revolutions, told me that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the U.S. government was relatively detached and ambiguous about the protests in some of these cases. In Georgia, for example, it initially did not rush to back Mikheil Saakashvili over the incumbent, Eduard Shevardnadze; while in Kyrgyzstan, it worried about the implications for an American military base there.  

By 2005, Moscow and Beijing were actively redefining the term, shifting from indigenous protests against fraudulent elections to exclusively mean externally imposed regime change. Over the next 10 years, color revolution was used to describe many mass protests against autocratic regimes: the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005, the Green Movement in Iran in 2009, the Arab Spring in 2010–12, the Snow Revolution in Russia in 2011–12, and more Orange protests in Ukraine in 2013–14. The Snow Revolution, pushing against Vladimir Putin’s rotation back into the presidency, exacerbated his paranoia about color revolutions.

Protesters try to break into Parliament during the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. (Yoray Liberman / Getty)

While the protesters—students, NGOs, political opposition—learned tactics from one another, so too did the autocrats. Over the years, the leaders developed countermeasures. They denied visas to student leaders from abroad, set up their own pro-regime election monitors, banned NGOs that were advocating for democracy, and rigged elections by using intermediate measures, such as disqualifying candidates before election day.

The United States is not an autocracy, but Trump has embraced this paranoia. As Cooley noted, fears of unrest are borrowed from the Russian hymnbook: “Fear of the street protests, never spontaneous, never motivated by a sense of injustice, activists always paid, always a nefarious agenda—it is straight from the Kremlin’s talking points.” Accusing an opponent of what he is accusing you of—in this case, stealing the election—is a tactic Putin routinely uses to muddy the waters.  

Other than this paranoia, are the conditions in place for an actual color revolution in the United States? In every respect except one extreme scenario—which, astonishingly, Trump has cultivated—the answer is no.  

The 2016 election showed that foreign interference, even rising to the level of collusion with a foreign power, will not prevent the winner from being inaugurated, nor will it topple a president during his term. It may undermine the president’s legitimacy and the country’s confidence in the democratic process, but it won’t spark a color revolution. The 2000 contest proved that disputed elections can be resolved through the courts. Even if tensions are much greater now, it is extremely unlikely that the majority of Joe Biden’s voters will try to overturn a Supreme Court decision through direct action, even if Trump’s nominee to the court is in place. If Biden refuses to concede, which he has shown no signs of doing even though some Democrats have talked about it, his decision will not prevent Trump from being re-inaugurated if he is declared the winner. If the president refuses to leave the White House despite having lost, the legal and political system will take its course and power will transfer to Biden, albeit after an atrocious transition.

The original color revolutions occurred when the perception of clear and massive electoral fraud was widespread and protesters were angry about having democratic rights taken away. The demonstrations were directed at illegitimate regimes with a history of rigged elections, endemic corruption, and repression of political opponents. Trump is the most antidemocratic president in America’s history, but his administration so far does not meet the standard of the regimes affected by color revolutions. The U.S. still has an electoral process and a legal system.

However, one extreme scenario could push the United States toward a color revolution. If Trump actually tries to prevent large numbers of mail-in ballots from being counted by confiscating them, he could irreparably damage the electoral process and prevent the courts from being able to fairly adjudicate it. After all, what are the courts to do if the confiscated ballots have been destroyed or compromised (for instance, if the boxes were opened)? In this scenario, Trump would declare victory on Election Night if he is ahead in votes cast that day, and he would order Attorney General Bill Barr or Chad Wolf, the man Trump claims runs the Department of Homeland Security, to physically stop the count the next day. The president would then pressure Republican state legislatures to ratify his preferred result. This scenario is similar to what my Atlantic colleague Barton Gellman chillingly outlines in his new cover story.  

Daniel Nexon, a political scientist at Georgetown University, told me that in the post-Communist unrest, independent election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe played a crucial role in demonstrating fraud. External monitors have a more limited role in U.S. elections—they are present but in small numbers and few people pay attention to them. Trump, however, doesn’t control the polling stations. Shenanigans in particular districts could go under the radar for a while, but mass fraud—such as the federal confiscation of mail-in ballots—would likely occur in public view. Many Americans, perhaps millions of them, would feel that they had to take to the streets.

Protesters would want the U.S. to count every vote, as demonstrators did in earlier color revolutions, but that simply may not be possible if the ballots are confiscated and compromised. Nexon said that in most of the post-Communist cases, some mechanism existed for a revote, but U.S. law has no allowance for that. Therefore, if the worst case happens and Trump actively interferes in the count, the protests would likely focus on state legislatures and governors asked to ratify results before the count was complete, and on the Supreme Court, which may be asked to adjudicate.

Dodging a color revolution or large-scale political unrest is simple—Trump should not illegally interfere with the election count. If he gives such an order, his officials should not follow it. If they do, Republican members of Congress should oppose it and the courts should quickly intervene to stop him.

To prevent Anton’s theory from gaining further traction among Republicans, Democrats must be careful not to play into the Trumpist narrative that they are looking to delegitimize the president. They must stop suggesting that he can win only by cheating. As for citizens, we can vote early, preferably in person.

The U.S. election should be beyond reproach, but the political reality is making that unlikely. However, a Rubicon is in place that separates instability after the election from a color revolution. Ultimately, Trump and Trump alone will make the decision whether or not to cross it.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Thomas Wright is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the author of All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power.

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Africa in the news: Zambia’s debt, Kenya’s parliament and trade, and politics in the Horn of Africa – Brookings Institution

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Zambia asks to defer its debt payments

On Tuesday, September 22, Zambia’s government announced that it was running out of cash to service its debt, and asked holders of its three eurobonds, worth a total of $3 billion, to defer interest payments worth almost $120 million until April. The deferment makes Zambia the first African country to default on its debt since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government placed blame for the default on a combination of declining revenues—partially driven by decreases in the price of copper, a natural resource that makes up 70 percent of Zambia’s export earnings—and increasing unbudgeted costs caused by the pandemic. As a result of the default, Fitch Ratings downgraded Zambia’s credit rating to “C” from “CC.”

Zambia is not the only African country to face COVID-induced difficulties with debt. Twenty-nine African countries have already participated in the G-20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative, enacted in April to allow low-income countries to concentrate their resources on fighting the pandemic. For more on this topic, see “The unfinished agenda of financing Africa’s COVID-19 response.”

Parliamentary and trade updates in Kenya

On Monday, September 21, Kenya’s chief justice David Maraga advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the country’s parliament, stating that parliament had failed to meet a constitutional provision that stipulates that one-third of seats be occupied by women. Currently, women hold 22 percent of seats in the Kenya’s lower house of parliament and 31 percent in the upper house. In a letter to Kenyatta, Maraga wrote that parliament had “blatantly failed, refused, and/or neglected” to implement the gender rule. However, on Thursday, High Court judge Weldon Korir granted temporary orders stopping the move to dissolve parliament, stating that it raised “substantial questions of law” and ordering a hearing on the issue.

Meanwhile, the United States has stipulated that Kenya support Israel’s political and commercial interests as a condition for a U.S.-Kenya bilateral trade deal currently under negotiation. U.S. objectives include for Kenya to commit to “discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel” and for the elimination of politically-motivated nontariff barriers on trade from Israel. Lobby groups in Nairobi, Kenya, including the East African Tax and Governance Network and the East African Trade Network, have argued that the inclusion of a third party in the negotiation agenda could make the agreement risky and undercut Kenya’s reputation.

In Kenya news, the country introduced its first licensed investment fund for citizens living overseas. The fund, managed by the African Diaspora Asset Managers investment firm, is expected to provide a safe and regulated means for Kenyans living overseas to invest in development projects across the country. The Kenyan diaspora sent an estimated $3 billion in remittances to Kenya last year, and remittances in the first half of 2020 exceeded those sent in the first half of 2019 despite volatility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Political updates in Somalia and Ethiopia

On Wednesday, September 23, Somalia’s parliament unanimously confirmed Mohamed Hussein Roble as the country’s new prime minister. Earlier this year, the parliament removed now-former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire from the position in a no-confidence vote, citing his inability to prepare for democratic elections and manage the unstable security situation posed by al-Shabaab militants. Roble, who previously worked at the International Labor Organization, was appointed as Somalia announced its plan for the upcoming elections.

Notably, in recent months, Somalia has been in talks to revise its electoral system, with initial moves to reform the system to one-person, one-vote as opposed to its current clan-based voting system. The proposed reforms for universal suffrage will not be enacted, however, as the authorities confirmed that the upcoming legislative election will see electoral delegates vote in the members of parliament, who will then elect the president in early 2021, a format similar to that of elections in recent years. Importantly, the upcoming elections will include double the number of delegates of previous ones. Meanwhile, attacks by al-Shabaab (and responding U.S.-led airstrikes) continue, which experts predict will only increase as the election moves closer as al-Shabaab seeks to exploit the fragility of governance institutions and thwart the election.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia continues to face domestic unrest. Spurred by the death of pop star and activist Hachalu Hundessa of the Oromo ethnic group earlier this summer, internet shutdowns, protests, and reactive violence have continued in recent months, leading to the deaths of hundreds. Already, about 2,000 people have been charged in the related violence, including prominent opposition figure Jawar Mohammed, who was charged with terrorism-related offenses, telecom fraud, and other crimes relating to the violence that erupted in July.

In Ethiopian economic news, in an effort to block illegal trade, illicit financial flows, and cash hoarding, the government announced a new set of bank notes earlier this month. Importantly, Ethiopians must replace their old notes in just three months. According to Quartz Africa, local banks have been calling for such a move in recent years, as over 113 billion Ethiopian birr circulates outside of the formal banking system, which creates liquidity problems for the banks.

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