With only 100 days left until Brexit, a PM in multiple permanent crises and an opposition that seems to be doing little actual opposing on the biggest issue around, it’s easy to think we in the UK have it pretty bad politically right now.
So in order to A) bring you up to speed with the latest developments and B) help you feel a little better about things as Christmas approaches, here’s a brief wrap of three things to happen to Donald Trump in the last 48 hours that make the Commons look almost sensible.
1) The Trump Foundation
With the ongoing Special Counsel’s Russia probe dominating the news cycle in the US it’s easy to forget that practically every single organisation Donald Trump has headed over the last ten years is currently under investigation.
The president’s personal charity, the Trump Foundation, is currently the subject of a lawsuit and on Tuesday announced it would be shut down amid the ongoing ethics investigation into its finances.
The allegations in the lawsuit are pretty damning. Trump is accused of illegally using the charity’s money to settle disputes involving his business empire as well as boosting his political fortunes during his run for the White House.
This included giving out big grants of other people money to veterans’ organisations during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nominating contest of 2016.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement: “Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation — including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and wilful self-dealing, and much more.
“This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a check book to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests.”
Nothing – the president has not commented publicly and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders directly refused to answer questions about the charity at Tuesday’s press briefing.
Previously, Trump has claimed “100%” of the foundation’s money goes to “wonderful charities”.
2) Michael Flynn
Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was supposed to be sentenced yesterday but instead endured a scathing verbal assault from US District Judge Emmet Sullivan.
The 60-year-old appeared in court on Tuesday over lying to FBI agents in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election but in a surprise move, proceedings were delayed until Flynn has finished helping prosecutors.
Sullivan sternly told Flynn his actions were abhorrent, noting that Flynn had also lied to senior White House officials, who in turn misled the public. The judge said he had read additional facts about Flynn’s behaviour that have not been made public.
At one point, Sullivan asked prosecutors if Flynn could have been charged with treason, although the judge later said he had not been suggesting such a charge was warranted.
“Arguably, you sold your country out,” Sullivan told Flynn. “I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offence.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, leading the investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia ahead of the election, had asked the judge not to sentence Flynn to prison because he had already provided “substantial” cooperation over the course of many interviews.
Lying to the FBI carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Sullivan appeared ready to sentence Flynn to prison but then gave him the option of a delay in his sentencing so he could fully cooperate with any pending investigations and bolster his case for leniency. The judge told Flynn he could not promise that he would not eventually sentence him to serve prison time.
Flynn accepted that offer. Sullivan did not set a new date for sentencing but asked Mueller’s team and Flynn’s attorney to give him a status report by 13 March.
Trump has said Flynn did not break the law and has voiced support for him, raising speculation the Republican president might pardon him, Reuters reports.
“Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn. Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
After the hearing, Sanders told reporters the FBI had “ambushed” Flynn in the way agents questioned him, but said his “activities” at the centre of the case “don’t have anything to do with the president” and disputed that Flynn had committed treason.
“We wish General Flynn well,” Sanders said.
In contrast, Trump has called his former long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to separate charges, a “rat.”
3) Trump Tower Moscow
Over the weekend Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, was asked about a proposed Trump Tower under negotiations in Moscow prior to the 2016 presidential campaign.
“It was a real estate project,” Giuliani said. “There was a letter of intent to go forward, but no one signed it.”
Unfortunately for Giuliani, on Tuesday CNN’s Chris Cuomo obtained a letter of intent complete with Trump’s signature.
Last week, Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted to lying to congressional investigators in an attempt to minimise his efforts to secure the Kremlin’s help for a Trump skyscraper in Moscow.
He has said he did so to stay in sync with Trump’s political messaging, and that he consulted with the White House while preparing to testify to Congress.
On Friday, Mueller said Cohen’s false statements to Congress had “obscured the fact” that the skyscraper project held the potential to reap “hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources” for the Trump Organisation.
Mueller said that discussions about the potential Moscow development were relevant to the investigation because they occurred “at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the US presidential election.”
Nothing direct so far but he has renewed his attacks on not only the Russia investigation but also the infamous Steele Dossier, the document compiled by a former British spy that alleged, among other things, that Trump had paid prostitutes to urinate in front of him during a trip to Moscow.