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Charges against a telecom executive create a case of arrested diplomacy

President Donald Trump, seen in the Oval Office

President Donald Trump, seen in the Oval Office on Nov. 16. Credit: POOL / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock/Ron Sachs

Bad day for Huawei 

On Saturday, the same day President Donald Trump met with China President Xi Jinping in Argentina, authorities in Canada took into custody Meng Wanzhou, the global chief financial officer for Huawei, a giant Chinese telecom firm. She was arrested at the behest of U.S. Justice Department officials in Brooklyn, who since 2016 have been exploring an alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The Tehran regime sells oil to China, which exports gasoline to Iran.

Trade tensions of course affect markets, which dived for much of Thursday before rebounding — though experts also cited falling oil prices and worries about a recession.

Roiled relations

China demanded the release of Meng, who is the daughter of the company's founder, who has close government ties. Clearly this sows suspense as to how talks with the U.S. on technology poaching and tariffs will proceed, if at all. The clash falls at the nexus of trade and politics.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said he "knew in advance" of the arrest, but it was unclear if Trump did as well. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said: "Now we know that Huawei, like ZTE, has violated U.S. sanctions law. It’s my hope that the Trump Administration will hold Huawei fully accountable for breaking sanctions law, as it failed to do in the case of ZTE."

Earlier, ZTE reached a settlement with the U.S. and paid a $1 billion fine. 

Donald's days of drift

There is ample evidence that the White House is in a "holding pattern" when it comes to appointing top personnel and, as a result, in setting any of its 2019 legislative goals, Politico reports.

A post-midterm reshuffling of Cabinet and staff positions has left key jobs in limbo, with interim picks heading the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), says Trump shouldn't plan on poaching any members of his caucus,

“I think Trump likes to make nominations into kind of a reality-TV show moment; he likes to keep people sitting on the edge of their seats. ‘Are you in or are you out?’ ‘Are you hired or fired?’ ” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told the news site, adding, “but it creates a sense of chaos in the administration.”

Illegal Trump hires 

At the president’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, a woman who admitted she immigrated into the U.S. without documentation has worked as a maid since 2013, The New York Times reports. She said she never imagined she “would see such important people close up.”

And there are others. “We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” said Victorina Morales, risking punishment. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

A scandal for sure. The results, uncertain.

Russian addressing

The U.S. sought to send an increasingly aggressive Russia a symbolic message by taking part with allies in what is called an "extraordinary flight" over Ukraine.

“The timing of this flight is intended to reaffirm U.S. commitment to Ukraine and other partner nations,” a Pentagon statement said. “The United States is resolute in our support for the security of European nations.”

The 2002 Open Skies Treaty allows unarmed reconnaissance flights over 33 nations, including Russia. Tensions there increased after Russia seized three Ukrainian ships last month off the Crimean peninsula after opening fire.

Rudy's 'nightmare'

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told The Atlantic it has been difficult in recent months to work on drafting response plans to Robert Mueller's highly anticipated report on Russia's role in the 2016 campaign  while getting the special counsel's written questions answered.

“Answering those questions was a nightmare,” Giuliani is quoted as saying. “It took  [Trump] about three weeks to do what would normally take two days.” 

This account contrasts sharply with Trump's assertion in November that he “was asked a series of questions” and “answered them very easily” by himself. He said it "didn't take very long to do them."

What else is happening: 

  • Another fatal crash  occurred off Japan when two U.S. military planes collided. Trump praised rescue efforts.
  • Two big court filings from Mueller are due, Newsday's Tom Brune reports.
  • VP Mike Pence's potential exclusion from the 2020 re-election ticket keeps generating buzz.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren's recent DNA drama raises concerns among her supporters.
  • Intelligence officials are due to brief House members next week on Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Jamal Khashoggi's death.
  • Thousands of people lined the train tracks in Texas to see the funeral procession of President George H.W. Bush.
  • William Barr, who served as attorney general in the early 1990s, is reported to be Trump's top candidate for the job.

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