Former U.S. president Barack Obama endorsed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Thursday, calling him an “effective leader and a strong voice for democratic values.”
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Some dramatic reports this week about Donald Trump trying to subvert the results of the 2020 election and slight signs that some of his own Republicans may be willing to distance themselves from him. Joined now by NPR’s Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: Let’s begin with those handwritten notes taken by a former Justice Department official – this is right after the 2020 election – detailing the pressure President Trump then was applying to the DOJ, notes about phone calls that include this sentence, quote, “just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me.”
ELVING: This is serious business, Scott. These are notes from a phone call top justice officials had with the then-president on December 27, well after votes had been certified by the governors of all 50 states and nearly two weeks after the Electoral College had voted decisively. Yet, here was Trump still trying to get someone in the Justice Department to help him overturn the election. The officials told him in no uncertain terms that they had looked hard and found no corruption. So Trump replied, just say it was corrupt; leave the rest to me. He wanted something he and his allies in Congress could use to disrupt the constitutional transfer of power.
This is the same time period when we know Trump was trying to bully appointed and elected Republican officials in the states in a similar fashion. So there is a case to be made that all of this violates not only his oath to uphold the Constitution, but other state and federal laws as well.
SIMON: Department of Justice also said yesterday the Treasury Department must furnish – that was the phrase – six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, which has been trying to see those returns since 2019. Is this going to happen now?
ELVING: Yes, so it would seem. But don’t expect to see Trump’s 1040 form in the Sunday paper tomorrow. It’s still going to be a while before it’s all made public, if indeed it ever is. Trump can go to court and at least delay the process. Yet, there is more reason now than ever to believe that these records will be furnished, at least to the House Ways and Means Committee. And eventually, at some point reasonably soon, relevant parts should be part of the public record.
SIMON: Donald Trump seems to conspicuously enjoy exercising influence over the Republican Party. There are people who visit him at Mar-a-Lago and try and receive his political blessing. This week, were there some signs that his influence isn’t ironclad?
ELVING: There have been some disturbances in the force, the force that is Trumpism and that holds so many Republicans in its grip. Earlier this week, a Republican candidate for Congress whom Trump had strongly supported lost in a special election runoff in Texas. The winner was a more moderate Republican whom Trump did not endorse. So there are always lots of factors in any special election, but Trump had been assumed to be the controlling factor here, so it did get people’s attention.
Then at midweek, on Wednesday we saw 17 Republicans in the Senate defy Trump’s instructions and vote to proceed with a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Now, Trump wanted an infrastructure bill when he was in office, but a bill now before the Senate he calls socialism and a big, beautiful gift to Biden. So Trump had roundly denounced any Republican who might vote for it, yet 17 did.
SIMON: Ron, you said the magic word, (imitating buzzer) infrastructure. Is there more indications that massive bipartisan infrastructure bill is moving forward now in the Senate? Will it get to the House? How much momentum does it have?
ELVING: It suddenly has quite a bit, Scott, mainly because it helps senators in both parties do something good for their home states and something good for their own reelection prospects. Now, we should remember that this bill has been greatly reduced since its introduction, cut roughly in half in its overall scope. It’s a bitter pill for many progressives to accept the reductions in their priorities, especially as they pertain to climate change. But right now, this looks like the place where the center could hold and the deal-makers in both parties can win.
SIMON: NPR’s Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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Singh’s NDP has one of the boldest climate policies of the major parties. The party platform includes reducing carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stresses that it “will put workers front and centre of their climate action plan”, and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
Avi Lewis, the longtime documentary filmmaker and climate activist running as the NDP candidate for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country district, told openDemocracy that “there is no party on Earth that is currently addressing the climate movement in the way it needs to be”. For Lewis, the climate emergency isn’t just a climate emergency, “it’s also a housing emergency, transit emergency, inequality emergency”.
However, Lewis decided to run as an NDP nominee because he “sees a sense of urgency in the platform”. “All these emergencies are linked,” he says, “but so are the solutions.”
According to Maggie Chao, campaign director at Leadnow, an independent progressive campaigning organisation, the parties are “moving in the right direction” and recognise that “climate change is a pressing issue”. However, Chao insisted that “we’re nowhere on the scale and pace we need to be”.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama endorsed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Thursday, calling him an “effective leader and a strong voice for democratic values.”
Obama said in a Twitter post Thursday that he wishes his friend Trudeau “the best in Canada’s upcoming election,” and that he is “proud of the work we did together.”
The high-profile tweet comes as the Liberals remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle with the Conservatives in the polls, just days away from the vote, on Monday.
The former Democratic president’s endorsement could help sway some progressive voters to cast their ballots for the Liberals instead of the NDP, given that Obama is a “progressive icon” who remains popular across Canada, said Daniel Béland, a professor of political science at McGill University.
“The NDP is a threat to the Liberals and the Liberals want the NDP to stay where it is or even decline in the polls, so they will want to frame this as a major endorsement that could sway progressives,” Béland said.
But it’s unclear whether it will actually make a difference.
“Will this actually generate any significant shifts in the polls? You know, I’m a bit skeptical. I will have to look over the next few days,” he said, adding it “can’t hurt” the Liberal chances.
“I think it favours the Liberals, probably to the annoyance of the NDP,” said University of Ottawa professor Errol Mendes. To what extent depends on the amount of attention the endorsement gets in the news media, he said, adding “it will have an impact if it’s played up a lot.”
Obama, for many Canadians, is still a major world figure, Mendes noted.
Obama voiced his support for Trudeau in the 2019 election. The endorsement from the first Black president of the U.S. came at a critical time for Trudeau, who was facing a scandal after old photos of him in blackface and brownface emerged during the campaign. A campaign staffer told the National Post at the time that Obama’s tweet “recharged the base” after the embarrassment of the blackface photos, providing reassurance that Trudeau was “not a racist.”
Because the context isn’t the same in 2021, and because we’re now further away from Obama’s presidency, the endorsement this time around may have less impact, said Béland.
It could also have a negative effect, according to Mendes. “On one level, it could backfire where people would say, we should not have a foreign person intervening in our election,” he said.
It could also have the side effect of boosting the People’s Party of Canada, the conservative party started by former MP Maxime Bernier. Obama is the “antithesis of what they believe in. They seem to be very much following the Trump type of politics,” Mendes said.
Melissa Haussman, a professor of political science at Carleton University, pointed out the endorsement can only reach individuals who haven’t yet voted. Elections Canada said Wednesday an estimated 5.8 million Canadians have already cast their ballot in advanced polling. That’s nearly a third of the total number of Canadians who voted in 2019.
She said that Obama’s support is the “next best thing” to getting an endorsement from current U.S. president Joe Biden. “It’s sort of Biden by proxy,” given that Biden served as Obama’s vice-president, Haussman noted.
While she agreed the endorsement “absolutely” helps the Liberals with buzz and momentum, Haussman said it’s hard to say how many votes it will actually deliver.
Mendes pointed out the Obama tweet is part of a pattern for the former president, who has publicly mused about other countries where the progressive vote was divided, allowing right-wing parties to gain a footing.
“Because he has this global perspective, I think he’s probably seeing that is happening here in Canada, where if the progressive vote between the Liberals and the NDP is divided it will allow not only the Conservatives to come through, but potentially even increase the voting for Maxime Bernier’s party. So I think that’s one of the reasons why I think he’s intervened.”
The Obama endorsement comes the same week Trudeau held an event with former prime minister Jean Chretien, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole received an endorsement from former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
China on Thursday denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.
Under the arrangement, dubbed AUKUS, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
France, which loses its own submarine deal with Australia, called the plans brutal and unpredictable.
The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.
U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint announcement and senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of time, said the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the three countries were “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”.
“China always believes that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation… It should not target any third party or undermine its interests,” he told a regular briefing in Beijing.
Johnson said the pact was not meant to be adversarial and said it would reduce the costs of Britain’s next generation of nuclear submarines.
“Now that we have created AUKUS we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defence systems including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and undersea capabilities,” Johnson told parliament.
The partnership ends Australia’s 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines, a spokesperson for Morrison told Reuters.
France accused Biden of stabbing them in the back and acting like his predecessor Donald Trump.
“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” Le Drian told France-info radio. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”
The three leaders stressed Australia would not be fielding nuclear weapons but using nuclear propulsion systems for the vessels to guard against threats.
“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” Biden said.
“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” he said.
Morrison said Australia would meet all its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
One U.S. official said the partnership was the result of months of engagements by military and political leaders during which Britain – which recently sent an aircraft carrier to Asia – had indicated it wanted to do more in the region.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the focus on the Indo-Pacific but said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters.
Singapore said it had long had relations with Australia, Britain and the United States and hoped their grouping would contribute to peace and stability.
Japan said the three countries’ strengthening of security and defence cooperation was important for peace and security.
A U.S. official briefing before the announcement said Biden had not mentioned the plans “in any specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a call last Thursday but did “underscore our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific”.
U.S. officials said nuclear propulsion would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the new partnership, on which the EU was not consulted, showed the need for a more assertive European foreign policy.
“We must survive on our own, as others do,” Borrell said as he presented a new EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. “I understand the extent to which the French government must be disappointed.”
Biden said the three governments would launch an 18-month consultation period “to determine every element of this programme, from the workforce to training requirements, to production timelines” and to ensure full compliance with non-proliferation commitments.
Among the U.S. firms that could benefit are General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
General Dynamics Electric Boat business does much of the design work for U.S. submarines, but critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc
U.S. officials did not give a time frame for when Australia would deploy a nuclear-powered submarine, or how many would be built.
A U.S. official said Washington had shared nuclear propulsion technology only once before – with Britain in 1958.
“This is frankly an exception to our policy in many respects… We view this as a one-off.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Nandita Bose, David Brunnstrom, Mike Stone, Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Colin Packham in Canberra; Additional reporting by John Irish and Matthieu Protard in Paris and Gabriel Crossley and Judy Hua in Beijing; Editing by Alistair Bell, Richard Pullin, Jon Boyle and Nick Macfie)
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