It’s Tuesday, folks. So it naturally follows that the Trump White House is facing its second crisis of the week.
In a dramatic intervention overnight, the FBI raided the home and offices of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to seize documents said to be related to payments the attorney made to adult actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels claims she received a payment of $130,000 from Cohen as “hush money” to stop her from speaking publicly about an affair she had with Mr Trump in 2006.
Trump spoke out against the raid, saying: “I have this witch-hunt constantly going on. It’s an attack on our country in a true sense.” He has also branded it a “disgrace” and suggested it represented “a new level of unfairness”.
The FBI’s intervention represents another loss of face for the president domestically, given it was only yesterday that he was leading international efforts to challenge a suspected chemical attack by Russia and the Assad regime in Douma, Syria, raising the spectre of further military intervention.
In a welcome change, this was a White House that looked assured on the international stage. The president is known to have been deeply affected by the use of chemical attacks in Syria in the past, and Reuters today reports that the US is planning a UN Security Council vote on a proposal for a new inquiry into responsibility for the Douma attack.
On both developments, it’s a very much a case of wait-and-see. The Stormy Daniels allegations are hardly radical revelations against a president who, by this stage, seems to be able to withstand the very worst of smears. If Trump can bolster his international standing, I suspect many back home will be willing to turn a blind eye to alleged domestic indiscretions.
French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the UK and its allies to join a US-led military strike against the Assad regime after a suspected chemical attack in Douma, Syria. Theresa May has reportedly considered use of Tomahawk missiles, and has been warned by her ministers that the UK risks losing influence from Washington to France if she fails to act. The prime minister has previously said that President Assad and Russia would be “held to account…if they are found to be responsible”.
Bill Clinton, speaking on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement today has urged political leaders in Northern Ireland to quickly restore the power-sharing agreement. The former US president said: “The Irish peace was born out of weariness of children dying – and of lost chances”. Clinton was joined in Dublin by former UK prime minister Tony Blair, former Irish premier Bertie Ahern, and George Mitchell, who acted as US envoy to the peace process. (£)
The UK government is to provide an extra £75 million to try to boost early diagnosis and survival rates for prostate cancer. The new programme, due to be announced by Theresa May, will enlist 40,000 male patients considered most at risk, including black men, men over the age of 50 and those with a family history of the disease. Prostate cancer is notoriously hard to diagnose early and is forecast to become the most common form of the disease in men by 2030.
Almost one million people were granted EU citizenship in 2016, allowing them to live and work in the UK after Brexit. Approximately 995,000 people acquired citizenship of the bloc, a significant increase on the 2015 figure of 841,000. The number of new British citizens included within that total stood at approximately 150,000 – an increase of almost 30% on 2015.
Business & Economy
Russian stocks suffered their worst session in four years yesterday following the introduction of US sanctions against the Russian economy and fears of increased conflict in Syria. Moscow’s blue-chip MOEX index was down 8.34%, its single biggest fall since the imposition of sanctions by the west in 2014 in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Companies owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska were also hit by the measures, including Hong Kong-listed Rusal, which lost half its value. The rouble fell by as much as 4.1% against the dollar. (£)
The US has been forecast to grow its annual budget deficit to more than $1 trillion by 2020 for the first time. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the country will reach the threshold quicker than previously expected following tax cuts and higher public spending introduced under President Trump, estimated at $2.8 billion. The agency said that although the measures would boost economic growth, they would grow US debt to levels comparable with the aftermath of World War II and the financial crisis.
The removal of John Cryan as CEO of Deutsche Bank will cost the firm an estimated €7 million. The severance package will honour two annual compensation payments to Cryan, who was less than three years into his five-year term with Deutsche Bank. Cryan was expected to remain in post until July 2020, on a leadership platform of restructuring, cutting costs and overhauling a flagging IT system. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The London markets started off the week on a high, eking out a small gain as threats of a trade war between the US and China diminished following a tweet from President Trump which indicated the possibility of a deal. By close of trading, the FTSE 100 was up 11.11 points, 0.15% higher at 7,194.75 points.
Russian steelmaker Evraz (down 14.5%) was the main casualty, however, as the White House imposed harsh sanctions on 24 Russians diplomats and 12 companies for actions in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria and its repeated suggestion that Moscow was behind electoral data manipulation in the west. Glencore (down 3.42%), which owns a large stake in Russian aluminium producer Rusal, and BP (down 0.97%), for its connection to Russian energy company Rosneft, also suffered.
Among the day’s risers, Rolls-Royce (up 1.24%) led gains on news that it has agreed to sell its wholly-owned subsidiary parts makers, L’Orange, to US-based Woodward for €700 million. WPP (up 2.24%) also benefited as the company announced it had started the search for a successor to the advertising giant’s current chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, who is being investigated for financial impropriety.
On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.3% against the dollar at $1.41, and was flat against the euro at €1.15.
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Columns of Note
Clare Malone writes for FiveThirtyEight.com on a doomsday scenario that supposes Russian hacking into the upcoming US midterm elections in November 2018. Pointing out that authorities are at their most wary following ongoing accusations of data manipulation across the west, Malone sets out a hypothetical situation in which Russian hackers under Putin’s authority are able to manipulate voting in crucial swing states – including Nevada, West Virginia and Indiana – by tampering with voter registration information.
In the FT’s ‘Big Read’, Jim Pickard looks at the potential for the UK housing shortage crisis to hit hardest in the green belt of the Home Counties, where a number of Tory safe seats – including Theresa May’s Maidenhead constituency – could become vulnerable. As governments have failed to act, Pickard points out that the average age of a first-time buyer in the UK is now 36, encroaching on an otherwise safe electoral demographic for the Conservatives. (£)
Did you know?
The Rhinoceros Party of Canada, a satirical political party in Canada, received 1.01% of the popular vote in the 1980 federal election, when it campaigned to repeal the law of gravity and provide higher education by building taller schools.
House of Commons
In recess until 16 April 2018
House of Lords
In recess until 16 April 2018
In recess until 16 April 2018