Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staffZeke Miller, Jill Colvin and Catherine Lucey, Associated Press•FILE – In a Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 file photo, Nick Ayers, right, listens as Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch waits for the arrival of the casket for former President George H.W. Bush to lie in State at the Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace John Kelly as chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is no longer expected to fill that role, according to a White House official. The official says that Trump and Ayers could not agree on Ayers’ length of service. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff John Kelly, Nick Ayers, was no longer expected to fill the role and several others were emerging as possible candidates.The new hire was to be key to a West Wing reshuffling to shift focus toward the 2020 re-election campaign and the challenge of governing with Democrats in control of the House.Even senior White House officials were caught off guard Sunday by the developments, most having believed the Ayers move was a done deal. No obvious successor was in sight and there was some fretting that Trump may not be able to fill the job by the time Kelly was set to leave around year’s end.Ayers, who is chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was seen as the favorite for the job when Trump announced Saturday that Kelly would step down. But a White House official said Sunday that Trump and Ayers could not reach agreement on Ayers’ length of service and that he would instead assist the president from outside the administration.Ayers confirmed the decision in a tweet, thanking Trump and Pence for giving him the opportunity to work in the White House. „I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause,” he said.In a tweet of his own, Trump laid out the agenda: „I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff. Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a spectacular person who will always be with our #MAGA agenda. I will be making a decision soon!”With Ayers out of the running, Trump was considering four candidates for the post, including Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, according to a person familiar with the president’s thinking. Also emerging as a candidate was Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.But Mulvaney was not interested in becoming chief of staff, according to a person close to him who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mulvaney has been saying for almost two months now that he would be more interested in becoming commerce or treasury secretary if that would be helpful to the president, the person said.Also among those thought to be in the mix were Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who said in a CBS interview that he hadn’t spoken to anyone at the White House about the job and was „entirely focused” on his position. A person familiar with Mnuchin’s thinking said he, too, was happy with his work at Treasury and had not sought the job of chief of staff.Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, were also among the names being floated by those close to the White House.Trump wants his next chief of staff to hold the job through the 2020 election, said the White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the personnel issue by name and, as did others, spoke on condition of anonymity.Ayers and Trump had discussed the job for months. The father of young triplets, he had long planned to leave the administration at the end of the year, and had only agreed to serve in an interim basis through next spring.Ayers will run a pro-Trump super PAC, according to a person familiar with his plans who was not authorized to discuss them by name.Kelly, whose last day on the job is set to be Jan. 2, had been credited with imposing order on a chaotic West Wing after his arrival in June 2017 from his post as homeland security secretary. But his iron fist also alienated some longtime Trump allies, and over time he grew increasingly isolated, with an increasingly diminished role._Follow Miller on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ZekeJMiller
Top House Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for TrumpHOPE YEN•House Democrats raise prospect of impeachment, jail for TrumpTop House Democrats on Sunday raised the prospect of impeachment or prison time for President Trump if it is proved that he directed illegal hush-money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals.WASHINGTON (AP) — Top House Democrats on Sunday raised the prospect of impeachment or almost-certain prison time for President Donald Trump if it’s proved that he directed illegal hush-money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals.”There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee. „The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, described the details in prosecutors’ filings Friday in the case of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as evidence that Trump was „at the center of a massive fraud.””They would be impeachable offenses,” Nadler said.In the filings, prosecutors in New York for the first time link Trump to a federal crime of illegal payments to buy the silence of two women during the 2016 campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office also laid out previously undisclosed contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries and suggested the Kremlin aimed early on to influence Trump and his Republican campaign by playing to both his political and personal business interests.Trump has denied wrongdoing and has compared the investigations to a „witch hunt.”Nadler, D-N.Y., said it was too early to say whether Congress would pursue impeachment proceedings based on the illegal payments alone because lawmakers would need to weigh the gravity of the offense to justify „overturning” the 2016 election. Nadler and other lawmakers said Sunday they would await additional details from Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign to determine the extent of Trump’s misconduct.Regarding the illegal payments, „whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question, but certainly they’d be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office,” Nadler said.Mueller has not said when he will complete a report of any findings, and it isn’t clear that any such report would be made available to Congress. That would be up to the attorney general. Trump on Friday said he would nominate former Attorney General William Barr to the post to succeed Jeff Sessions.Nadler indicated that Democrats, who will control the House in January, will step up their own investigations. He said Congress, the Justice Department and the special counsel need to dig deeper into the allegations, which include questions about whether Trump lied about his business arrangements with Russians and about possible obstruction of justice.”The new Congress will not try to shield the president,” he said. „We will try to get to the bottom of this, in order to serve the American people and to stop this massive conspiracy — this massive fraud on the American people.”Schiff, D-Calif., also stressed a need to wait „until we see the full picture.” He has previously indicated his panel would seek to look into the Trump family’s business ties with Russia.”I think we also need to see this as a part of a broader pattern of potential misconduct by the president, and it’s that broad pattern, I think, that will lead us to a conclusion about whether it rises to the level to warrant removal from office,” Schiff said.In the legal filings, the Justice Department stopped short of accusing Trump of directly committing a crime. But it said Trump told Cohen to make illegal payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom claimed to have had affairs with Trump more than a decade ago.In separate filings, Mueller’s team detail how Cohen spoke to a Russian who „claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level.'” Cohen said he never followed up on that meeting. Mueller’s team also said former campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to them about his contacts with a Russian associate and Trump administration officials, including in 2018.Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the latest filings „relevant” in judging Trump’s fitness for office but said lawmakers need more information to render judgment. He also warned the White House about considering a pardon for Manafort, saying such a step could trigger congressional debate about limiting a president’s pardon powers.Such a move would be „a terrible mistake,” Rubio said. „Pardons should be used judiciously. They’re used for cases with extraordinary circumstances.”Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine and a member of the Senate intelligence committee, cautioned against a rush to impeachment, which he said citizens could interpret as „political revenge and a coup against the president.””The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections,” King said. „I’m a conservative when it comes to impeachment. I think it’s a last resort and only when the evidence is clear of a really substantial legal violation. We may get there, but we’re not there now.”Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut urged Mueller to „show his cards soon” so that Congress can make a determination early next year on whether to act on impeachment.”Let’s be clear: We have reached a new level in the investigation,” Murphy said. „It’s important for Congress to get all of the underlying facts and data and evidence that the special counsel has.”Nadler spoke on CNN’s „State of the Union,” Rubio was on CNN and ABC’s „This Week,” and Schiff appeared on CBS’ „Face the Nation.” Murphy spoke on ABC, and King was on NBC’s „Meet the Press.”
France’s Foreign Minister has urged Donald Trump not to interfere in French politics after the US president posted tweets about the protests rocking the country and attacked the Paris climate agreement.
‘We do not take domestic American politics into account and we want that to be reciprocated,’ Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI television.
‘I say this to Donald Trump and the French president says it too: leave our nation be.’
Trump had on Saturday posted two tweets referring to the ‘yellow vest’ anti-government protests that have swept France since mid-November and sparked rioting in Paris.
‘Very sad day & night in Paris. Maybe it’s time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes?’ he suggested.
Trump had earlier posted: ‘The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France.
‘People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting ‘We Want Trump!’ Love France.’
The protests in France are not directly linked to the Paris climate agreement which was signed in 2015 and has since been abandoned by Trump, to the dismay of French President Emmanuel Macron and other Western leaders.
Spurred by rising fuel prices – in part due to tax hikes aimed at helping France shift to a lower-carbon economy – the ‘yellow vest’ protests have grown into a broad movement against Macron’s policies and governing style.
Earlier this week, Trump retweeted one of several posts falsely claiming that French protesters were chanting his name.
The videos that have been used to support this claim were in fact filmed at a far-right protest in London earlier this year.
Related slideshow: Donald Trump’s life in pictures (Provided by Photo Services)
Other French politicians have also responded angrily to Trump’s latest tweets, including a lawmaker from Macron’s party who dubbed the US leader ‘Donald the Senile’.
‘DON’T INSULT MY COUNTRY DOTARD,’ Joachim Son-Forget posted, employing an antiquated insult previously used against Trump by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Meanwhile, calls mounted Sunday for Macron to bring an end to the crisis gripping France as authorities in Paris and elsewhere counted the cost of another day of violent protests and looting.
Authorities said the anti-Macron riots in Paris had been less violent than a week ago, with fewer injured – but city hall said the physical damage was far worse as the protests were spread out across the capital.
Burned-out cars dotted the streets in several neighbourhoods on Sunday morning as cleaners swept up the broken glass from smashed shop windows and bus stops.
‘There was much more dispersion, so many more places were impacted,’ Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told France Inter radio.
‘There was much more damage yesterday than there was a week ago.’
The southwestern city of Bordeaux was also badly hit by rioting during a fourth successive weekend of nationwide ‘yellow vest’ protests.
What began as demonstrations against fuel tax hikes have ballooned into a mass movement over rising living costs and accusations that Macron, an ex-banker, only looks out for the rich.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the unrest was creating a ‘catastrophe’ for the French economy, with nationwide roadblocks playing havoc with the traffic and putting off tourists from visiting Paris.
Parts of the city were on lockdown Saturday, with department stores shut to avoid looting along with museums and monuments including the Eiffel Tower.
‘It’s a catastrophe for commerce, it’s a catastrophe for our economy,’ Le Maire told reporters as he visited shops in Paris hit by looting.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux vowed that Macron’s centrist administration would find solutions that took into account protesters’ different grievances.
Overwhelmingly made up of people from rural and small-town France, the movement nonetheless includes protesters of various political stripes whose goals range from lower taxes to Macron’s resignation.
‘We need to find solutions that take account of each person’s reality,’ Griveaux told Europe 1 radio.
‘It is anger that is difficult to understand from an office in Paris,’ he acknowledged.
The protests have shown little sign of easing since they began on November 17.
The interior ministry said 136,000 people had taken part nationwide in Saturday’s protests, which turned violent in several other cities including Marseille and Toulouse.
In Paris, around 10,000 ‘yellow vests’ flocked to the Champs-Elysees and other areas – 2,000 more than joined the action last week, as many headed in from the provinces for the first time.
Nationwide, more than 1,700 people were detained – over 1,000 of them in Paris as police vowed ‘zero tolerance’ for anarchists, far-right supporters and others seeking to cause trouble.
More than 500 people were still in custody in Paris by Sunday morning, officials said.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had congratulated police on the security operation, which mobilised 8,000 officers and saw armoured vehicles deployed in Paris for the first time.
Thibault de Montbrial, head of the CRSI security think tank, tweeted that authorities had managed to contain the hooligans who have repeatedly hijacked the protests to go on a looting and rioting spree.
But he added: ‘The state cannot mobilise such forces every Saturday, and neither can shopkeepers barricade themselves in faced with violence which is not diminishing.
‘This is a decisive political moment.’
The embattled president – whose name rang out across the Champs-Elysees as protesters shouted ‘Macron, resign’ – is expected to address the demonstrations in a much-anticipated speech in the coming days.
The crisis facing a leader who had been hailed internationally as a youthful defender of liberal values is being closely watched abroad.
Spain’s El Pais newspaper said it was the first time the 40-year-old was ‘hesitating, giving the impression that he does not know what to do’.
Macron has already offered protesters a string of concessions, including scrapping further rises in fuel taxes – a major climbdown for a president who had vowed not to be swayed, like his predecessors, by mass protests.
So far he has refused to back down on another policy hated by the ‘yellow vests’: his decision to scrap a ‘fortune tax’ on the wealthiest.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen – who is backed by some protesters from ‘forgotten’ provincial France, but by no means all – called for Macron to ‘recognise society’s suffering and deliver immediate, very strong responses’.
And the movement has spread beyond France’s borders, with around 400 arrested at a ‘yellow vest’ event in Brussels on Saturday and peaceful demonstrations taking place in Dutch towns.
In France, authorities have also launched an investigation into social media activity from accounts allegedly drumming up support for the protests, sources told AFP.
According to Britain’s Times newspaper, hundreds of online accounts linked to Russia were used to stoke the demonstrations.
Citing analysis by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company, the Times said the accounts spread disinformation and used pictures of injured protesters from other events to enhance a narrative of brutality by French authorities.
‘Yellow Jacket’ protests paralyze Paris and threaten Macron’s government Melissa Rossi Contributor•Protesters known as the “Yellow Jackets” display their national flag as they march on the Champs-Elysées in Paris on Dec. 8, 2018. (Photo: Michel Euler/AP)PARIS — The City of Light was a ghost town Saturday. The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, high-end restaurants and department stores were closed, many boarded up; major Metro stops were gated shut; main arteries were blocked by barricades and squadrons of helmeted police carrying riot shields. It was a “day of high risk,” the police warned, recommending that residents not leave home.“I’ve never seen Paris like this before,” said my translator, Anne Millereau, on an eerily deserted street one block from the Champs Élysées and not far from the Arc de Triomphe, where apartment buildings were darkened and not even a dog-walker could be seen on the sidewalk. “It feels like a scene from a zombie movie. Or a war zone,” she added, as a boom, apparently from police shooting tear gas, echoed from nearby.Violent clashes between security forces and protesters break out during a demonstration of Yellow Jackets in Paris, Dec. 8, 2018 on the Champs Elysées. (Photo: Chloe Sharrock/ Le Pictorium/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)See more – Photos: 4th consecutive Saturday of anti-government protests in Paris >>>And in a way, it was a war zone, except it was hard to say exactly what was being fought over. The ostensible reason for the weekend demonstrations that began a month ago — an increase in gasoline taxes as part of the government’s environmental program — had been rescinded, but the so-called “Yellow Jackets,” named for the lemon-colored car emergency vests they don for weekend demonstrations, were back. On Saturday, 10,000 of them, showed up in Paris, a 25 percent increase on the weekend before, some traveling five hours by bus from southern France or six hours from coastal Brittany. Another 120,000 across France occupied toll booths and petroleum depots in what they called “Act 4” — the fourth in a weekly series of demonstrations, perhaps better described as riots, that have resulted in an estimated $1 billion in damages to monuments, stores, restaurants and tourism. It amounts to “a crisis,” said Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.And they have captured the world’s attention, with many people trying to shape or benefit from the crisis, including President Trump, the hard-right French politician Marine Le Pen and Russia. “Everybody is trying to make it their movement,” says Mort Rosenblum, a former editor at the International Herald Tribune, who’s lived in France 33 years. He’s familiar with the French tendency to organize and rebel when their benefits, including free university education and a generous social safety net, are threatened. “My concern,” he added, “is that this movement is leaderless.Protesters brandish flares and a banner reading “One same diploma. No to discrimination. Same fees for all,” at a protest of “Yellow Jackets” ( gilets jaunes) against the rising cost of living in Nantes, eastern France, on Dec. 8, 2018. (Photo by Sébastien Salom-Gomis AFP/Getty Images)The Yellow Jacket movement “is very significant,” says businessman Charles Bonaparte, a historian, former politician and descendent of Napoleon. “A large part of French society disagrees with the politics of President Macron.” The problem, he says, is that “it’s hard to interpret what kind of disagreement they have with him.”It all began when groups on Facebook organized an event on Nov. 17, intended as a peaceful demonstration against increased petroleum taxes planned for the new year. In France, unleaded gasoline and diesel are already taxed at 64 and 59 percent respectively, among the highest rates in Europe, and retail prices are as high as $6.30 a gallon.A screengrab from the “Les Gilets Jaunes,” or Yellow Jackets, Facebook page promoting the demonstrations.President Emmanuel Macron, a political unknown in 2017 when he defeated Le Pen, the leader of the hard-right National Front, has fashioned himself as a reformer and is a cheerleader for the carbon-reducing Paris Climate Agreement. He instituted the tax increase to discourage fossil fuel use, but the French, who eschew gas-guzzling SUVs for compact, fuel-efficient cars, weren’t having it. It especially irked them that greenhouse gas emissions have been decreasing some 2 percent annually in Europe, while increasing in China and the United States.The issue is not, as President Trump erroneously asserted in a tweet Saturday, that the Yellow Jackets are against the Paris Climate Agreement. Nor were they, as Trump also tweeted yesterday, chanting “We want Trump.” What they want is Macron, or, more accurately, his resignation, if not his head; his approval rating in one recent survey was 23 percent. “Where are you, Macron?” they chanted on the Champs Elysées. “We will screw you! Resign!” The Yellow Jackets are not against doing something about climate change, but they don’t believe this tax will address the issue. “I’m all for ecology, but this money is just going to the petroleum lobby,” said Yellow Jacket protester and photographer Léon Stankovic, a student in Paris.A view of the Place de la République as protesters wearing yellow vests gather during a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, on Dec. 8, 2018. (Photo: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters)Over and over, protesters — a surprising number of them middle-aged, rather than the students who have led Paris demonstrations in the past — said the cost of living is too high, relative to wages outside the capital, where many working-class Parisians have moved in recent years, driven out by sky-high rents. Unlike Paris, the provincial towns and villages where many Yellow Jackets come from are not well served by trains and other public transport, making cars (and gasoline) mandatory. Even Macron supporters, like a wealthy Parisian entrepreneur who only gave his first name, Gilbert, believe the fuel tax was not well thought out. “It’s one thing,” Gilbert says, “to increase taxes for fuel in Paris,” but he, like the Yellow Jackets themselves, thinks that those living in other parts of France would have been unfairly penalized.The protests have become increasingly violent, costly, dangerous and unfocused; more than 1,700 were arrested around the country Saturday, many for carrying hammers or other potential weapons. In another potentially ominous sign, some carried signs calling for a “Frexit” — a withdrawal from the European Union, which, together with the slow-motion disaster of “Brexit,” could spell the end of the organization.By nearly all accounts, Macron’s presidency appears in grave danger. Nationalist provocateur Steve Bannon, who has been spending much of his time promoting right-wing parties in Europe recently, has been saying for months, even before the protests began, that the French president is “in a death spiral.” And now some are wondering if he’s right about a populist surge in all corners of Europe. “Perhaps this is the French page of this populist movement we’re seeing everywhere from the U.S. to England to Italy and Austria,” Bonaparte speculates.Francois Villette, who works in the City Hall of Roquebrune-sur-Argens, a town in the south of France where Yellow Vests have besieged toll booths, sees the movement as the French equivalent of the Arab Spring — the pro-democracy movement that ended disastrously in most of the Arab world.French police apprehend a protester wearing a yellow vest during a national day of protest by the “Yellow Jackets” movement in Paris on Dec. 8, 2018. (Photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters)Others speculate that Russia has a hand in this – as well as other populist movements, some of which Russia has openly funded, including Le Pen’s.According to the Times of London, a report from the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge shows that some 200 social media accounts, believed to be operated by Russian actors, disseminated misinformation about the Yellow Jacket protests, adding fuel to the fire with false stories of police brutality and showing an administration far adrift from its people.Whether Macron, scheduled to address the nation Monday evening, holds on or not, the big loser in the short term may be the climate change movement, which Trump has scoffed at. Yesterday’s “Act 4” demonstration ate into another anti-climate change march, attended by merely 2,000 “green vests,” compared to the 160,000 that have attended two such marches earlier this fall — with many scared off by the Yellow Jackets violence.And Rosenblum, for one, thinks “We’re facing the end game in terms of climate change.” Leaders who try to obstruct altering our lifestyle to address it, he believes, “are guilty of crimes against humanity.”But try telling that to the Yellow Jackets.A demonstrator holds a portrait of France’s President Emmanuel Macron during a protest on the Champs-Elysées on Dec. 8. (Photo: Michel Euler/AP)_Melissa Rossi, a writer based in Barcelona, is the author of the geopolitical book series “What Every American Should Know About the Rest of the World.” (Plume/Penguin)
Accusing the Budapest-born Soros of orchestrating huge flows of migrants to Europe, Orban branded as „mercenaries” 2,000 people he said worked for the philanthropist.
„It became not comfortable for some people to tell schools or kindergartens where they work because they were afraid in light of the public campaign, bashing and stigmatising that they would be attacked,” said Buldioski.
New attack every day
„There were days we felt like it was Groundhog Day,” the bespectacled Macedonian said, referring to the Hollywood comedy in which the lead character keeps reliving the same day.
„Because we were attacked baselessly… And each day brought a new attack, a new campaign. It was mainly for political reasons.”
The foundation also began questioning if confidential data it was holding on its partners, including contact or bank account details, were safe in Hungary.
„If you don’t trust the system and the democracy, or the eroding democracy in which you operate, you start thinking ‘I’m also responsible towards our partners. I don’t want to leave their data in a place where we can’t secure its integrity’,” said Buldioski.
In May, the foundation, which has a global annual budget of just over a billion dollars and which funds groups working on human rights, justice and democracy, finally decided to close operations in Hungary and relocate to Germany.
In response, the Hungarian government said it „won’t be shedding any crocodile tears” over the move.
More than 80 people are now working out of Berlin, and the headcount is set to grow to between 150 and 200, said Buldioski.
Berlin was a natural choice with its vibrant civil society, he said, noting that not only is it a major European capital but also an iconic one due to its history as a divided city between the communist East and capitalist West.
„Here in Berlin.. it allows us to say the European Union has certain standards, has certain values and they are defended only if they are upheld in the weakest link.
„We feel right now that Hungary is one of the weakest links.”
For Buldioski, too little has been done in Hungary and other former eastern bloc countries since they joined the EU to foster involvement by citizens in bolstering the young democracies.
As some of these nations take a nationalist turn, disillusioned citizens — many well-educated — are also simply leaving, warned Buldioski.
„In other scenarios they would be leaders at home and not immigrants abroad. These are issues that haven’t been addressed.”
Their experience in Hungary was also a cautionary tale for Western societies not to take democracies for granted, said Buldioski.
In Spain, he noted for instance, the previous conservative government had passed legislation branded by critics as a „gag law”. It imposes hefty fines for any unauthorised use of images of police or unauthorised protests outside parliament.
„We should definitely not neglect what’s happening with democratic societies with regards to the suspension of human rights, the emergence of populist politicians and politicians with authoritarian tendencies in western Europe.
„I think this is a pan-European problem.”
Yao-Yuan Yeh, Austin Wang, Charles K.S. Wu, Fang-Yu Chen
It is in the interests of the United States to send reassuring signals to the public in Taiwan about the U.S. determination to assist and defend Taiwan.
Would Taiwan Fight China Without U.S. Support?
Policymakers in the United States have long believed that U.S. assistance to Taiwan, such as arms sales and an implicit promise to militarily assisting Taipei if China invades Taiwan, is critical to maintaining the peace and security across the Taiwan Strait. Such belief, however, has recently been challenged. Rapid advancements in the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) military technology and capabilities along with the worsening U.S.-China and cross-Strait relations have made it costlier for the United States to defend Taiwan. Since China perceives Taiwan to be a part of its territory, many in the United States worry that a conflict across the Strait could escalate into a nuclear confrontation when the United States is involved. To prevent such a scenario from happening, some even advocate using Taiwan as a leverage to exchange for compromises with China.
U.S. concerns are merited. In many ways, Taiwan has failed to live up to its promises to enhance its security. For example, Taiwan’s defense budget under the previous president, Ma Ying-Jeou, from 2008-2016 never hit the threshold of 3% of GDP, delaying critical military procurements from the United States. In the meantime, Taiwan’s transition to an all-volunteer military force has also been deemed unsuccessful, as the public has little enthusiasm for serving in the military. These developments lead the United States to question Taiwan’s determination to defend itself. The United States wonders if the island is shirking its responsibility of self-defense and putting the burden of defense solely on the United States. It is thus of little surprise that the United States is getting more concerned about a potential conflict across the Strait.
Such perceptions are harmful for U.S.-Taiwan relations. Currently, as the rapprochement across the Strait quickly dissolved after the current President Tsai Ing-Wen came into office, China has been increasing its pressure on limiting Taiwan’s international space and continuing its threat of force to “liberate “Taiwan. At this juncture, the U.S. security guarantee to Taiwan is more important than ever. The U.S. security promise to Taiwan may help generate morale among Taiwanese citizens and in return, enhance their willingness of self-defense. Therefore, it is Taiwan’s responsibility to demonstrate to the United States that first, it is serious about self-defense, and that, second, U.S. assistance is critical for public morale in Taiwan in a potential conflict with China.
The current Taiwanese administration has made efforts to shore up the U.S.-Taiwan relations on the first front. Taipei has successfully proceeded with significant arms sales under the Trump administration and is planning on revitalizing domestic weaponry manufacturing. Several key pieces of U.S. legislation have also paved the way for advancing U.S.-Taiwan relations, and Taiwan is evaluating proposals for providing U.S. port calls in Taiwan’s harbors and even for participating in military exercises with the US.
However, whether U.S. help at a time of a crisis would boost public morale in Taiwan remains an open question. To answer this question, our team designed an internet survey and recruited 1001 Taiwanese adults who aged 20 years old and above. The sample has a certain level of national representativeness and was conducted by a polling center housed inside National Chengchi University in Taiwan from July 3-5, 2018. In our knowledge, this is the first survey that probed this question.
In the first question, subjects were randomly assigned to one of the four hypothetical scenarios:
1) Taiwan declares independence, China invades Taiwan, and the United States helps Taiwan (Group 1);
2) Taiwan declares independence, China invades Taiwan, and the United States will not help Taiwan (Group 2);
3) Taiwan maintains the status quo, China invades Taiwan, and the United States helps Taiwan (Group 3); and
4) Taiwan maintains the status quo, China invades Taiwan, and the United States will not help Taiwan (Group 4).
Afterward, subjects were asked how willing on a 10-point scale they would “join the military or take action” to defend Chinese invasion.
Several findings stood out:
First, the Taiwanese government’s declaration of independence does not affect the public’s willingness to fight; respondents’ willingness to defend China’s invasion remains the same level between Group 1 and Group 3 (4.84 and 4.82 on a 10-point scale) and between Group 2 and Group 4 (4.14 and 3.93 on a 10-point scale). This finding is surprising, considering that achieving full independence immediately has scant support among the public in Taiwan, as most believe that such a position would invite Chinese aggression. According to the latest poll conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan, 8.6% of respondent supports this stance. But here we find that the government’s calling for independence does not decrease support for defending Taiwan.
Second, U.S. military assistance significantly increases the public’s willingness to self-defense. On a 10-point scale, in a scenario where Taiwan declares independence and the United States decides not to assist Taiwan, the average score of citizens’ support for defending Taiwan is 4.09. However, in the same scenario, the information that the United States will come to Taiwan’s assistance increases the average score of willingness to defend by 0.77 (from 4.09 to 4.84), around 8 percent. In a case where China invades Taiwan in the current status quo, U.S. help also increases the average scores of willingness to defend Taiwan from 3.93 to 4.82, about 9 percent.
Third, the scenario that the United States will not assist Taiwan if it were invaded under the current status quo registered the lowest level of public support for self-defense, as 3.93 out of 10.
Our experiment generates profound implications for the triangular relationships between the United States, Taiwan and China (People’s Republic of China, PRC). Threats from the PRC continue to endanger the security of citizens in Taiwan. However, we show that, in the face of such adversity, Taiwanese citizens are more willing to confront military threats head-on, when the U.S. commitment to assist Taiwan is present. U.S. support for helping Taiwan, even simply in the forms of verbal commitment, has shown to motivate the public in Taiwan to be more supportive of defensive actions. A 2017 survey by the Taiwan National Security Survey (TNSS) showed that only 40.5 percent of respondents believed that the United States will come to assist if a war breaks out across the Strait. We can optimistically infer that if more people in Taiwan believe that the United States will come to our assistance, enthusiasm for self-defense should continue to increase. In short, it is in the interests of the United States to send reassuring signals to the public in Taiwan about the U.S. determination to assist and defend Taiwan. We advocate for such an effort because it is a good strategy at a low cost.
Yao-Yuan Yeh is an assistant professor of International Studies and the Interim Chair of the Department of International Studies, Modern Languages, and Political Science at the Center for International Studies at the University of St. Thomas – Houston.
Austin Wang is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Charles K.S. Wu is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University.
Fang-Yu Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University.
Image: Taiwan’s navy sailors take part in the commissioning ceremony of PFG-1112 Ming Chuan and PFG-1115 Feng Chia, Perry-class guided missile frigates, at Kaohsiung’s Zuoying naval base, Taiwan November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu.
The Philadelphia Eagles are known for their complex celebrations, and Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence played the role of the fun police to stop one.
After the Eagles’ first score of Sunday’s game — following a Dak Prescott interception deep in Cowboys’ territory — the offense gathered under the uprights with the skill position players sitting together and offensive lineman standing around them.
Lawrence, who was on the opposite side side of the field from where receiver Alshon Jeffrey caught the two-yard touchdown pass, did not let them finish the celebration, as he ran over and squatted in front of them with his hands up.
Was the All-Pro pass rusher asking what they were doing? Was he signaling that Prescott’s turnover handed them their first score? Was he just trolling? Did he think the Eagles broke an unwritten rule?
Regardless, his appearance stopped the celebration, as fellow defensive linemen Tyrone Crawford and Antwaun Woods pushed their way into the pile.
Eagles have a history of celebrating
Perhaps Lawrence was tipped off that his rivals might celebrate if they scored on Sunday because the team has a history of doing so.
Last season, the Eagles were awarded the Celebration of the Year by a fan vote at the NFL Honors for their Electric Slide.
More recently, newly acquired receiver Golden Tate did the worm after catching his first touchdown with the Eagles in a Week 13 matchup against the Washington Redskins.