He was the head — and most prominent face — of his Trump business empire. He was the head — and most prominent face — of his hit reality TV shows: “The Apprentice” and “The Celebrity Apprentice.” In both of those roles, what he said went — without debate.
The whole aura of Trump is based on the idea that he does what he wants, when he wants. If he wants you fired, you get fired.
All of which brings me to the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and the possibility of collusion between the Russians and members of the Trump campaign. And Trump’s clear frustration — and nervousness(?) — about it.
Asked about the investigation on Friday, Trump said from the Oval Office: “I’m not agitated. It’s a hoax. The whole thing is a hoax. There was no collusion.”
But here’s what Trump tweeted on Thursday:
“The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our Nation and don’t care how many lives the ruin. These are Angry People, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller, who worked for Obama for 8 years. They won’t even look at all of the bad acts and crimes on the other side. A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!”
It’s not clear how Trump obtained information about the “inner workings” of the Mueller investigation given that special counsel’s office has been tight-lipped about its approach — only occasionally revealing something when a plea agreement is reached or when someone like Paul Manafort faces trial based on what Mueller’s team uncovered. Given Trump’s track record with the truth — and his fixation on the idea that Mueller is conducting a witch hunt (even though he’s not) — the possibility certainly exists that Trump made up his alleged insider information about the Mueller probe.
The broader context here speaks to Trump’s ever-mounting frustration with his inability to control the Mueller probe. We know — thanks to CNN reporting — that Trump spent several hours this week huddled with his attorneys going over written answers to questions that the Mueller team had submitted to the White House regarding the 2016 campaign.
That Trump’s tweet on Mueller came after that intense period of question-answering provides our clearest evidence yet that Trump’s anger and impatience is bubbling over. But it’s far from the only sign.
The biggest indicator of Trump desperately trying to seize control of the uncontrollable came last Wednesday when Trump finally fired his long-maligned Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump had never forgiven Sessions for recusing himself from the FBI investigation into Russian interference; in Trump’s mind, that decision by Sessions led to the formation of the special counsel and all of the problems Mueller’s investigation has caused within Trump’s administration. The firing of Sessions, however, was not the big news — that was Trump’s decision to bypass Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing the Mueller investigation, and instead name Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general.
Suddenly, a public critic of the Mueller probe almost since its inception was in charge of its operations. (That Whitaker, who has not been confirmed by the Senate, is now in charge of people like Rosenstein, who does have Senate confirmation, is a also a potential legal hurdle.) And not only that, but Whitaker was selected over Rosenstein, who had been publicly supportive of Mueller and the probe generally.
Trump himself has also grown more and more boastful about what he could do to Mueller and the probe — if he so chose. “I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it because politically I don’t like stopping it,” Trump said last week in the wake of the 2018 midterm elections (more on that in a minute). “It’s a disgrace. It should never have been started, because there is no crime.”READ MORE
Volkswagen has committed to spending tens of billions of dollars as part of a dramatic shift to electric and autonomous vehicles.
The Germany carmaker said Friday that it would invest €44 billion ($50 billion) by 2023 to develop electric cars, self-driving vehicles and other new technology.
Speaking at a press conference following a meeting of the company’s supervisory board, CEO Herbert Diess described the company’s strategy as an “electric offensive.”
Diess acknowledged that increased spending on new technology could initially harm earnings growth. The investment is roughly €10 billion ($11.4 billion) above what the company set aside for new tech in last year’s budget plan.
“Volkswagen must become more efficient, more productive and more profitable in order to finance the high expenditure in the future and in order to stay competitive,” Diess said during the press conference.
Volkswagen’s stock, which declined roughly 12% so far this year, dropped another 1.3% on Friday.
Volkswagen and Ford
Diess said that talks with US automaker Ford (F) about working together were “progressing positively.”
So far the only alliance firmly in place between Ford and Volkswagen involves an agreement to work together on commercial vehicles. But Diess sees potential in more cooperation.
“We can solve the transformation of our business more easily with partnerships,” he said Friday.
Automakers are spending billions of dollars as they try to develop the electric and self-driving vehicles they believe are the future.
They’re also facing more competition from tech companies, including Uber and Google parent Alphabet (GOOG). Upstarts like Tesla (TSLA) have proved formidable too.
Volkswagen said that the first model built under its new strategy, the ID, will begin rolling off the assembly lines in 2022. Diess said the car will have a range of up to 550 km (340 miles) and cost the equivalent of its current diesel Golf.
The car group, which owns the Porsche and Audi brands, said it would attempt to increase the productivity of its plants 30% by 2025. It plans to build vehicles from different brands on the same production lines as part of the effort.
It will also relocate production of the Passat from Germany to the Czech Republic.
Diess said that Volkswagen (VLKAF) was considering whether to build its own battery cells, a key component in electric vehicles.
The carmaker also announced leadership changes in China, the world’s largest car market.
Diess now has direct responsibility for the China business, a move that Volkswagen said reflects “the growing importance of the Chinese market and the high pace of technological development in China.”READ MORE
Due to the wildfires raging in Northern California, San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento were the world’s three “most polluted cities” on Friday morning, according to Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit that aggregates data from air-quality monitoring sites.
PurpleAir, which has a network of sensors around the world, also showed that California had worse air than traditional smog hotspots in India and China.
Meteorologist Brandon Miller confirmed that “no region on Earth had as many air quality stations in the highest ranges” of particulate matter, or PM, the toxic mixture of particles and droplets that worsens after wildfires.
Those values, he said, “stretched for hundreds of miles over Northern and Central California, from the mountains to the valleys and the coast.”
Schools, colleges and public transit have closed as smoke from the Camp Fire descends on the region.
“It appears to be the worst air quality ever experienced in San Francisco,” said Dan Jaffe, a professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Washington. He called the situation “an air quality emergency,” and experts said the smoke could undo decades of progress on pollution.
“We have made tremendous efforts and investment to clean up our air with considerable benefits for public health,” said Dr. Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University. “But now it’s like we’re getting stabbed in the back with those wildfires.”
Some call cancellations ‘too little, too late’
San Francisco’s transit agency has taken its cable cars off the streets, several schools have canceled classes, and the National Park service suspended tours to Alcatraz Island.
Public schools in San Francisco and Alameda County were closed Friday, along with UC Davis and UC Merced. UC Berkeley also canceled Friday’s classes, but some students criticized the university’s decision to stay open Thursday as smoke descended on the campus.
The school’s student association wrote a letter to their chancellor denouncing the “administration’s insufficient response to these public health risks” and urging administrators to allocate emergency funds for masks and mobile air filtration units.
“Campus buildings are not equipped to filter out the pollutants making the air indoors just as harmful as it is outside,” the group wrote. Some students, even those without pre-existing conditions, said they felt sick.
“I had a bloody throat, bloody nose, a cough, dry and watering eyes, and my throat is still very sore and dry,” freshman Sabrina Thorn said. “I almost passed out trying to go to class yesterday. My professor told me to go home.”READ MORE