The United States held a parade of elections last Tuesday. Voters in both parties went to the polls in Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Washington and Ohio to choose who will represent their party in the November elections. The two most important contests were in Ohio and Kansas.
In Ohio, there is a contested congressional seat because the Republican representative resigned to enter the private sector. That district has been controlled by Republicans since 1983. The previous representative won it by a 35 percent margin, and Donald Trump beat his rival by 11 percent in the 2016 presidential election. Accordingly, as I write this (on Aug. 13, 2018), the difference in favor of the Republican candidate is so small that a manual recount of the votes may be necessary. In Ohio, when the margin is less than a half percent, this is mandatory.
The election in Kansas was about choosing candidates for governor. Representing the Republican Party is the current governor, who has held this position since he replaced another Republican in January. He is running against a candidate who has the support of the president, against the wishes of the very same party that believes that candidate is extremely unpopular and could jeopardize the Republican hold on the office when he faces a Democrat in the November elections.
The primaries occurring through the end of the summer are particularly important because they will provide an idea of how the November elections will turn out. The entire House of Representatives is up for re-election.
Along with the elections taking place in the country this week, there are other events of national importance. In Alexandria, Virginia, Donald Trump’s former presidential campaign manager is on trial. Paul Manafort, who worked as head of the Trump campaign for several months, faces 12 criminal charges, among them conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, lying to authorities, etc. If found guilty, he faces a very long jail sentence.* The prosecutor for the case presented Manafort’s aide as the principal witness, someone who entered a plea agreement with prosecutors in exchange for a reduction in his own sentence.**
What is curious is that the prosecutors have gone to great lengths trying not to interject Trump’s name into this specific case, in spite of the fact that Manafort was in charge of his campaign. It seems that, since Manafort faces another trial in Washington, D.C. very soon, prosecutors are waiting for that opportunity to make the connection. Trump has also tried to disassociate himself from his former campaign manager. When asked about him a while ago, Trump distanced himself so far from Manafort that he almost made him into an office boy.
It is important to note that, as campaign manager, Manafort attended a private meeting at the office of Trump’s son during which a Russian lawyer promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Trump’s son publicly stated that this meeting had been for the sole purpose of discussing future plans for adoption of Russian children by Americans, something which had already been proved to be untrue.
Manafort’s name is going to be heard for a while in this country, because the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into links between the Trump campaign and the Russians continue and there is still no end in sight.
Furthermore, last Monday, the U.S. began enforcing sanctions against Iran, sanctions which will multiply in November. No rational person in this country would agree with these absurd actions taken by the Trump administration. The president abandoned the nuclear agreement that took so much work to reach. Barack Obama did the impossible, along with China, Russia and the European Union, so that the treaty would have a happy ending; nevertheless, with a stroke of his pen, with no valid reason and without consideration for the other signatories, Trump abandoned it. The problem is not simply having abandoned the pact, but that he has imposed a series of sanctions that will punish countries which maintain trade relationships with Iran. He has made it very clear that a country which conducts trade relations with the Persian country cannot conduct trade with the U.S.
That is how things go in this country. That, and without even discussing the trade war that is growing with China and other countries. The matter is, as we say in Cuban, grim. Until next time.
*Editor’s note: Paul Manafort faces 18 federal criminal counts of fraud and conspiracy.
**Editor’s note: Rick Gates pleaded guilty to two felony charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, hoping to win a lighter sentence.