President Trump faces fallout as Cohen pleads guilty
President Trump went on the defensive last Tuesday as Paul Manafort, his former campaign chief, was convicted of tax and bank fraud, and Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.
Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. Tens of millions of dollars Manafort made advising a pro-Russia political party in the Ukraine were among the focuses of the trial.
Meanwhile, Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws, multiple counts of tax evasion and single count of bank fraud. Cohen admitted in court that “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” he arranged payments to two women in order to buy their silence during Trump’s campaign. The two women said they have had affairs with President Trump in the past. The President lamented Manafort’s conviction at a rally Tuesday evening.
“Doesn’t involve me, but I still feel, you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened,” he told the crowd. “Had nothing to do with Russian collusion. We continue the witch hunt.” Over 30 people have faced criminal charges as a result of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
US cancels aid to Palestinian leadership
The State Department announced last Friday that it would be cutting more than $200 million in aid to Palestinian leadership.
Asked where the money would now go, a State Department official said, “We will work with Congress to redirect these funds to other policy priorities.”
The announcement comes as tension builds between United States and Palestinian leaders. Palestinian leadership has boycotted peace efforts by the White House since the President moved the embassy to Jerusalem and acknowledged it as Israel’s capital. Jerusalem, which houses sites important to Muslims, Christians and Jews, is at the forefront of peace negotiations. The State Department claims its reallocation of funds is due in large part to the Islamist militant group Hamas’s control of Gaza.
However, Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said the Trump administration was using “cheap blackmail as a political tool.”
Likewise, Ambassador Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO General Delegation to the United States, said, “Weaponizing humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work.”
Federal Reserve to continue steady interest rate hikes
Last Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell expressed confidence in the economy and stated there would be more steady increases in interest rates. The annual speech, given at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, affirms a continuing trend since late 2015.
“The economy is strong. Inflation is near our 2 percent objective, and most people who want a job are finding one,” Powell said. “My colleagues and I are carefully monitoring incoming data, and we are setting policy … to support continued growth, a strong labor market and inflation near two percent.” He also acknowledged “risk factors abroad and at home that, in time, could demand a different policy response.”
Federal officials told reporters they were committed to maintaining independence from political pressure. President Trump has expressed issues with interest rate hikes in the past.
“I’m not thrilled,” he told reporters last July. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again … I am not happy about it. But at the same time, I’m letting them do what they feel is best.”