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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Tuesday 14th of January 2020

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Macro Thoughts

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"But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola"

“But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the
parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice -guessed and refused
to believe -that everything, always, collectively, had been moving
toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no
surprise, no second chance, no return.’’

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"Noi fummo i Gattopardi, i Leoni; quelli che ci sostituiranno saranno gli sciacalletti, le iene; e tutti quanti gattopardi, sciacalli e pecore, continueremo a crederci il sale della terra."

("We were the Leopards, the Lions; those who'll take our place will be
little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us, Leopards, jackals,
and sheep, we'll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the
earth.")” ― Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard

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"At the Moment of Vision, the Eyes See Nothing."

‘’At the moment of vision, the eyes see nothing’’. The moment of
Vision’’ is in essence a non-linear thing, its a moment of deep

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He walked three times around Humayun's bed, praying: "O God! If a life may be exchanged for a life, I who am Babur, I give my life and my being for a Humayun."

There are many mythical tales about Babur but my favourite is the
story of Humayun. eldest son and heir-apparent, was stricken by a
fever. Despite the best efforts of the royal physicians, his condition
steadily worsened.Driven to despair, Babur consulted a man of religion
who told him that the remedy “was to give in alms the most valuable
thing one had and to seek cure from God.”
Babur is said to have replied thus: “I am the most valuable thing that
Humayun possesses; than me he has no better thing; I shall make myself
a sacrifice for him. May God the Creator accept it.”
Humayun possessed a priceless diamond, they said, which could be sold
and the proceeds given to the poor... Babur would not hear of it.
“What value has worldly wealth?” Babur is quoted to have said.
“And how can it be a redemption for Humayun? I myself shall be his sacrifice.”
He walked three times around Humayun’s bed, praying: “O God! If a life
may be exchanged for a life, I who am Babur, I give my life and my
being for a Humayun.”
A few minutes later, he cried: “We have borne it away, we have borne
it away.”And sure enough, from that moment Babur began to sicken,
while Humayun grew slowly well. Babur died near Agra on December 21,

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William Dalrymple @DalrympleWill on the treasures of Algeria @FinancialTimes

Climbing the rolling hills around Constantine in Algeria last July, we
paused at the top of a ridge. It was a warm summer evening and we
looked down, through the golden haze, at the newly harvested fields
stretching out below. The panorama around us could have been southern
Tuscany: olive groves and vineyards, ripe fields of barley rising to
low hills patched with orchards. In the distance were higher mountains
and here and there, you could see the nests of long-legged storks,
perilously perched atop telegraph poles, street lights and minarets.
This was not far from where St Augustine of Hippo once played as a
boy, in the days when north Africa provided a third of the grain and
nearly half the olive oil of the Roman empire. Later, as an earnest
student, Augustine found the olive oil so inexpensive that he could
afford to light his lamps and work all night, a luxury he would later
miss when he moved to Italy. In those days great forests of pine
blocked Augustine’s view of the coast. Today one can catch frequent
glimpses of Mediterranean blue through the hills. It was while we were
standing there, catching our breath, that we stumbled across a most
unexpected monument. At the top of the slope facing the old Roman
hilltown of Tiddis, we found ourselves standing in front of a large
honey-coloured classical rotunda, constructed from massive blocks of
cut stone, each perhaps half a tonne in weight.

The tomb, we learnt, was erected to commemorate a local boy who rose
to high office in Roman service, a Berber cavalry commander brought up
in these hills who eventually became one of Hadrian’s most successful
protégés. We know what we do about Quintus Lollius Urbicus due to two
inscriptions. One of these I had just seen, further down the hill in
his hometown of Tiddis — sculpted on the plinth of a now-lost statue
in the Tiddis Forum. The fine, deeply cut Roman capitals are still
easily legible. They tell how the Algerian general rose to prominence
as Emperor Hadrian’s candidate to command the Tenth Legion at Vienna.
Soon afterwards, he received military decorations for his service as a
legate during Hadrian’s Jewish War of 132–135. His consulship was
granted in 136AD, after which he governed Germania. Then, soon after
Hadrian’s death, he was sent westward, to the furthest and most
uncivilised extremity of the empire, becoming the first African
Governor of Britain. The story of the apex of his brilliant career is
told in a second inscription found at the somewhat unlikely site of
Balmuildy, just to the north of Glasgow. According to this
inscription, the Emperor Antoninus Pius sent Lollius Urbicus to
reconquer lowland Scotland. Between 139 and 140 Urbicus massively
enlarged the fort at Corbridge, in preparation for the coming campaign
to the north of Hadrian’s Wall. By 142, commemorative coins were being
issued, celebrating his great victory. Urbicus went on to oversee the
building of the stone and turf Antonine Wall, running from the banks
of the Clyde to the Firth of Forth. Having subdued the Caledonians,
Urbicus was finally promoted to Rome with the prestigious post of
Prefect. Here, unannounced, with no sign or fanfare, we had just
stumbled across the tomb of the brightest star of a Berber landowning
family who two millennia ago had conquered my homeland.

We don’t tend to think of Algerians as victorious imperialists.
Indeed, only 60 years ago, Algeria was the bloody battlefield for one
of the 20th century’s most bitter wars of decolonisation, in which as
many as 25,000 French and between 400,000 and one million Algerians
lost their lives. By the end of the war, the majority of the
million-strong French settler population had been evacuated. It is
perhaps partly because this anti-colonial conflict still looms so
large in the European imagination that we tend to imagine the tide of
colonisation flows exclusively from west to east, north to south. But
Algerian history teaches us the reality is, at least, a little more
nuanced. It was wealthy north Africans who crushed the Caledonian
resistance and seized north Britain for the Romans. By the end of the
second century, a third of the Roman senate was north African while
the Emperor Septimius Severus grew up a little to the east in Leptis
Magna (now in modern Libya).

Over the coming weeks, as we walked around the astonishing Roman sites
dotting Algeria, we were constantly reminded how much richer and more
civilised Roman north Africa was to provincial Britannia and even more
so to barbaric Caledonia. Across the Algerian hills we saw the ruins
of rich Roman city after city, all filled with the most fashionable
accessories — running water and hypocaust heating, private rain-fed
cisterns and opulent latrines — and all the amenities that riches
could bring: elegant temples to the local Severan dynasty, now
deified, and palatial bath houses, triumphal arches and theatres that
once rang with the sound of plays by Plautus and Terence. Each had a
well-appointed Houses of Pleasure and amphorae-filled Houses of

Each of these ruined cities still had its own easily definable
character. Timgad, one of a chain of fortress cities marking the
Empire’s southern frontier, and the boundary between intensive
cultivation and its absence, was an orderly army town built on a grid
system: Camberley transported to the edge of the Sahara. Djemila felt
more like an Algerian Cirencester, a beautiful, richly appointed town
which acted as the centre for a wealthy agricultural elite, in this
case from the sale of wine, olive oil and grain, all of which was once
sold in the long arcaded Cardo Maximus leading up to the forum, still
peppered with statues to local worthies.

In both cities, it was the mosaics which most immediately brought to
life a lost and attractively decadent world. One showed naked Nereids
cavorting on water tigers while the Old Man of the Sea looked on,
waving his tentacles, and his rival Neptune charged along underwater
in his chariot drawn by seahorses. Others revealed a world of bird and
lion hunting and horse racing in summer, broken by winter afternoons
of pig-sticking and bouts of gladiatorial combat: the perennial
pastimes of the provincial Roman nobility. In some mosaics we see
these landowners in tight tunics and bright stockings receiving the
obeisance of their peasantry; in the background we catch glimpses of
the two-storey villas they once lived in, surrounded by parkland and
groves of cypresses. An inscription at Timgad summed up the life these
people once aspired to: “The hunt, the baths, play and laughter:
that’s the life for me.”

Nor did the legacy of richly sybaritic living end with the fracturing
of Roman rule. If anything, the Arab conquest from the seventh century
onwards increased the wealth and sophistication of this area.
Europeans know well the incredible legacy of Islamic Andalucía, and
the latticed apartments of the Alhambra, one of the most sublime and
otherworldly pieces of architecture in Europe, but they sometimes
forget the Berber dynasties that built these wonders had no less
spectacular palace complexes back home in their own ancestral hills,
where the Almoravids and Almohads ruled empires that encompassed both
Spain and the Maghreb.

Before I began researching for my Algerian travels, I don’t think I
had ever heard of Tlemcen. Yet what is left of the palaces and mosques
there bears witness to a courtly culture every bit as extraordinary as
that of al-Andalus. Here, as there, long mirror pools give on to
loggias filled with orange trees, each perspective ending with tall
archways framed by stucco stalactites of fabulous richness. Rings of
mud-brick city walls gave way to tall square minarets towering over
white-washed courtyards. Up on a hill lies the Sufi shrine of Sidi
Boumediene and a college where the great Arab philosopher, historian
and political theorist Ibn Khaldun once taught.

No less surprising is the old city of Algiers. Again, it is a place
that defies preconceptions. Before I went, my mind was filled with the
narrow alleyways of the Casbah, scene of much of the anti-colonial
street fighting in Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film “The Battle of
Algiers”. What I had not fully realised was the extent to which
Algiers was home to a dynasty of rich and powerful corsairs who were
once the terror of western Europe — the boot firmly on the other foot.
In the early 17th century, at the height of the Barbary pirates, the
population of the port of Algiers consisted of around 250,000 free
Muslims who were waited on by 100,000 white Christian slaves, mostly
from southern France and the Italian coast. In all, nearly one million
Europeans were enslaved in north Africa at this time. Most of these
were captured from the northern Mediterranean, but around 20,000 were

Between 1609 and 1616 it was reported that 466 British ships were
attacked by Barbary galleys, and their crews led away in chains. By
May 1626 there were more than 5,000 British captives in the city of
Algiers and a further 1,500 in Sali. Frantic arrangements were made in
London to redeem them “lest they follow the example of others and turn
Turk” — in other words convert to Islam. In Tavistock, deep in Devon,
the burghers of the town had to dig into their pockets no fewer than
34 times between 1660 and 1680 to ransom the towns’ captives enslaved
in Algeria.

It was reports that very large numbers of British captives were
converting to Islam that really rattled the Stuart authorities. Those
who did “turn Turk” seemed to include a fairly wide cross section of
English society, from arms dealers to mercenaries, sea captains and
soldiers of fortune as well as a trumpeter and a lone Englishwoman who
became one of the wives of the Dey of Algiers. Worse still, while some
of these conversions were forced, many were clearly not, and
travellers regularly brought back tales of their compatriots who had
“crossed over” and were now prospering in Ottoman service.

When Charles II sent one Captain Hamilton to ransom a group who had
been enslaved on the Barbary Coast, they all refused to return. The
men had converted to Islam, risen in the ranks, and were now
“partaking of the prosperous Successe of the Turks”, living in a style
to which they could not possibly have aspired back home, in a society
they found to be every bit as sophisticated as their own and a great
deal more tolerant. Captain Hamilton was forced to return
empty-handed: “They are tempted to forsake their God for the love of
Turkish women,” he wrote in his official report. “Such ladies are,” he
added, “generally very beautiful.”

Visiting the gorgeously painted palace apartments of the Dey of
Algiers on our last day, it was easy to understand why so few wished
to return home to the harsh winters of their homelands. Elegant
courtyards filled with warm arcades of whitewashed horseshoe arches
gave on to gardens where water dripped from marble fountains and
creepers wound their way up barley-sugar columns from terracotta pots.
In the apartments of the Corsair Admiral Barbarossa, the level of
luxury is raised several more notches: imported Iznik tiles from the
Ottoman homelands clad the walls with yellow tulips, blue narcissus
and red-dotted cintamani patterns. Above, sunbursts explode across the
wooden roof in red and orange solar ripples.

For much of the past few years, a visit to Algeria has been a tricky
prospect: in the aftermath of the civil war the few travellers who
ventured here were sometimes taken hostage by Islamist guerrillas. But
now, while the politics remains uncertain, the fighting is long over,
and the country is safe for travellers. It is sometimes tricky to get
a visa, but once you are there the roads are good, the hotels are
comfortable (if rarely particularly luxurious) and the tagines and
kebabs are fabulous. Even the wine, modelled on French originals, is
excellent, if a little expensive.

More­over, Algeria is possibly the last safe place in the
Mediterranean where you see miles of empty beaches and olive-dotted
landscapes almost entirely unwrecked by development. You can still
wander almost alone through the country’s most important
archaeological sites, exquisite mosques and Ottoman palaces. This will
no doubt change: the first tour groups are on their way. Go quick.

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"Those who split the country will be doomed to leave a stink for 10,000 years," said Wang, Reuters
Law & Politics

“Those who split the country will be doomed to leave a stink for
10,000 years,” said Wang, one of whose previous roles was head of
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, using an expression that means to go
down in history as a byword for infamy.
China passed an anti-secession law in 2005 which authorizes the use of
force against Taiwan if China judges it to have seceded. Taiwan says
it is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its
official name.
Responding to Wang’s remarks, Taiwan’s government said the island had
never been part of the People’s Republic of China and called on
Beijing to respect the outcome of the election.
Wang “must face up to reality and stop believing his own lies”,
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said.

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"The logic of protest must be founded not on quarrels or arguments, but on the creative power of dialectics." Amartya Sen @IndianExpress
Law & Politics

“Before we protest, I believe it is critical that we understand
exactly what it is that we’re protesting against. The logic of protest
must be founded not on quarrels or arguments, but on the creative
power of dialectics.”
On the subject of protest, Sen later said, “There may also be a sudden
and spontaneous protest, as the French Revolution apparently was, but
even that was preceded by years of writing and discourse.”

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06-JAN-2020 :: "The battlefield is mankind's lost paradise - the paradise in which morality and human conduct are at their highest," he says.
Law & Politics

“One type of paradise that men imagine is about streams, beautiful
maidens, and lush landscape. But there is another kind of paradise—the
battlefield.”The front, he said, was “the lost paradise of the human

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13-JAN-2020 :: 2020 Opens with a Bang.
Law & Politics

Its been an extraordinary opening to the new decade worthy of the best
cinematic sequences ever, something like the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’
helicopter scene in Francis Ford Coppola's  1978’s classic Apocalypse
Now. Nassim Nicholas Taleb referenced another Francis Ford Coppola
classic ''The Godfather''There was perhaps no Soleimani threat (at
least nothing new).  And there was no need for it. Trump borrowed an
old Persian trick: put the head of a horse in the enemy's bed.
@nntaleb tweeted. There is this formidable scene in the Godfather when
a Hollywood executive wakes up with the bloody severed head of a horse
in his bed, his cherished race horse.He had refused to hire a Sicilian
American actor for reasons that appeared iniquitous, as while he knew
the latter was the best for the role, he was resentful of the “olive
oil voice” that charmed one of his past mistresses and fearful of its
powers to seduce future ones.
its been very cinematic and stream of consciousness in 2020. The
Shooting down of #PS752 out of the night Sky a couple of nights before
the luminous ''Wolf Moon'' coincided with this verbatim release about
"This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by
monkeys," said one Boeing company pilot
Meanwhile, Trump tweets that he is going to bomb Iran's cultural sites
one moment and the next tweets in Farsi ''To the brave, long-suffering
people of Iran: I've stood with you since the beginning of my
Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you''
Federico Pieraccini writes in an article captioned ''The Deeper Story
Behind The Assassination Of Soleimani''
Iraqi prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, has revealed details of his
interactions with Trump. He tried to explain several times on live
television how Washington had been browbeating him and other Iraqi
members of parliament to toe the American line, even threatening to
engage in false-flag sniper shootings of both protesters and security
personnel in order to inflame the situation, recalling similar modi
operandi seen in Cairo in 2009, Libya in 2011, and Maidan in 2014.This
is why I visited China and signed an important agreement with them to
undertake the construction instead. Upon my return, Trump called me to
ask me to reject this agreement. When I refused, he threatened to
unleash huge demonstrations against me that would end my premiership.
Huge demonstrations against me duly materialized and Trump called
again to threaten that if I did not comply with his demands, then he
would have Marine snipers on tall buildings target protesters and
security personnel alike in order to pressure me.
The Wall Street Journal reported
The Trump administration warned Iraq that it risks losing access to a
critical government bank account if Baghdad kicks out American forces
following the U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general,
according to Iraqi officials. The State Department warned that the
U.S. could shut down Iraq’s access to the country’s central bank
account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a move that
could jolt Iraq’s already shaky economy, the officials said.
Iraq, like other countries, maintains government accounts at the New
York Fed as an important part of managing the country’s finances,
including revenue from oil sales. Loss of access to the accounts could
restrict Iraq’s use of that revenue, creating a cash crunch in Iraq’s
financial system and constricting a critical lubricant for the
economy. The warning regarding the Iraqi central bank account was
conveyed to Iraq’s prime minister in a call on Wednesday, according to
an official in his office, that also touched on the overall military,
political and financial partnership between the two countries.“The
U.S. Fed basically has a stranglehold on the entire [Iraqi] economy,”
said Shwan Taha, chairman of Iraqi investment bank Rabee Securities.
The World is literally on fire
2019 was Europe’s warmest year, marginally higher than temperatures in
2014, 2015 and 2018 Global average temperatures in 2019 were 0.6
degrees Celsius warmer than the 1981 to 2010 average. A Billion
animals are dead in Australia.
Joshua Keating tweeted Sussex plunged into anarchy as ruling family's
departure leaves power vacuum.
its all very Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where
decades happen.”
in India 250m Workers went on strike and India cut its growth forecast
to the slowest pace in 11 years.
The World Bank in its latest economic release spoke of The Fourth
Wave: Recent Debt Buildup in Emerging and Developing Economies: There
have been four waves of debt accumulation in the last 50 years. The
latest wave, which started in 2010, has seen the largest, fastest, and
most broad-based increase in debt among the four. Total EMDE debt
reached almost 170 percent of GDP in 2018 ($55 trillion), an increase
of 54 percentage points of GDP since 2010.
The World Bank tried to keep it bright eyed and busy tailed about
Africa Sub-Saharan Africa: Regional growth is expected to pick up to
2.9% in 2020 but in the same sentence admitted ''The feeble economic
recovery in Sub-Saharan Africa has lost momentum, with growth in 2019
estimated to have edged down to 2.4 percent, from 2.6 percent in
2018''  Africa Confidential headlined their Leader ''African spring,
economic winter'' The tension between the aspirations of Africa's
overwhelmingly young 1.2 billion people and the continent's sluggish
economic progress is palpable throughout the continent's 30 million
square kilometres. In several countries, especially in the bigger
economies such as Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa where hopes are
highest, the political temperature is close to boiling point. It will
take quantities of political will not seen so far to respond to such
pressures with a credible plan. I put it a different way in my article
of 09-DEC-2019 :: Time to Big Up the Dosage of Quaaludes
The Markets spiked Gold to $1,600.00 an ounce before closing out the
week at $1,561.00 and given the uncertainty I have outlined, Gold
looks well underpinned and might even have a Banner Year. Brent Crude
spiked above $72 a barrel in the middle of the night but then
retreated to close out last week at just above $65.00. There is enough
Oil around but there won't be if the strait of Hormuz gets shuttered.
US Stocks continue to float higher on a tidal wave of nearly free
money [just under 1/2 a trillion dollars since September] Nigeria's
stocks are the World's best performers this year. The Nigeria is
+9.51% in 2020 but in noted Mr. Dangote is using this bounce to
hightail it to New York.
Lets finish up in Kenya where we are currently under a Plague of
Locusts and Al Shabaab attack. Margot Kiser wrote in the Daily Beast
The Manda Bay attack is the first al-Shabab has carried out on a
U.S.military installation inside Kenya Among the aircraft destroyed at
the Manda Bay base were manned surveillance planes that collect data
across the border in Somalia, as well as over Kenya’s dense Boni
forest, Also reportedly destroyed were aircraft operated by U.S.
Special Operations Command and modified Havilland Canada Dash-8 spy
aircraft, which carries the U.S. civil registration code N8200L. This
is a mind bending Jedi Level intrusion and asymmetric coup de grace.
The U.S. Africa Command has sent its crack  East Africa Response Force
to secure the airfield and augment security. This is in fact a big

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Iran: A Personal View Newsha Tavakolian paints a broad picture of her home country @MagnumPhotos
Law & Politics

Newsha Tavakolian Pier-Cary village on the way to Shoushtar City. The
residents used to have a nomadic life but after time they decided to
live in a house and stay. The rain was the first one there after
almost 20 years

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William Barr, Trump's Sword and Shield @NewYorker A
Law & Politics

Last October, Attorney General William Barr appeared at Notre Dame Law
School to make a case for ideological warfare. Before an assembly of
students and faculty, Barr claimed that the “organized destruction” of
religion was under way in the United States. “Secularists, and their
allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshalled all the force of mass
communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and
academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional
values,” he said. Barr, a conservative Catholic, blamed the spread of
“secularism and moral relativism” for a rise in “virtually every
measure of social pathology”—from the “wreckage of the family” to
“record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young
people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and
alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly
drug epidemic.”
The speech was less a staid legal lecture than a catalogue of
grievances accumulated since the Reagan era, when Barr first enlisted
in the culture wars. It included a series of contentious claims. He
argued, for example, that the Founders of the United States saw
religion as essential to democracy. “In the Framers’ view, free
government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people—a
people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order,” he
said. Barr ended his address by urging his listeners to resist the
“constant seductions of our contemporary society” and launch a “moral
Donald Trump does not share Barr’s long-standing concern about the
role of religion in civic life. (Though he often says that the Bible
is his favorite book, when he was asked which Testament he preferred,
he answered, “The whole Bible is incredible.”) What the two men have
in common is a sense of being surrounded by a hostile insurgency. A
few days after Barr’s speech, Trump told an audience at the
conservative Values Voter Summit, “Extreme left-wing radicals, both
inside and outside government, are determined to shred our
Constitution and eradicate the beliefs we all cherish. They are trying
to hound you from the workplace, expel you from the public square, and
weaken the American family, and indoctrinate our children.” As the
effort to remove the President has gathered strength, Barr’s and
Trump’s political interests have converged. Both men combine the
pro-business instincts of traditional Republicans with a focus on
culture clash and grievance. Both believe that any constraint on
Presidential power weakens the United States.
Eleven months after being sworn in, Barr is the most feared,
criticized, and effective member of Trump’s Cabinet. Like no Attorney
General since the Watergate era, he has acted as the President’s
political sword and shield. When the special cousel Robert Mueller
released the findings of his inquiry into connections between Trump’s
2016 campaign and Russia, Barr presented a sanitized four-page summary
before the report was made public, which the President used to declare
himself cleared. At the behest of the President, Barr launched an
investigation of the F.B.I.’s Trump-Russia probe and the intelligence
community’s assessment that Russia intervened on Trump’s behalf in the
election. Rather than seek a nonpartisan commission, Barr appointed a
federal prosecutor, reinforcing the President’s claims of a “coup.”
When an exhaustive review by the Justice Department’s inspector
general found no evidence of political bias in the F.B.I.
investigation, Barr issued a statement misrepresenting its findings
and arguing that the evidence in the Russia probe was “consistently
exculpatory”—leaving out the fact that five people connected to
Trump’s campaign have been indicted for lying to investigators.
Barr maintains that Article II of the Constitution gives a President
control of all executive-branch agencies, without restriction; in
practice, this means that Trump would be within his rights to oversee
an investigation into his own misconduct. (Barr declined multiple
interview requests.) Throughout the House’s impeachment inquiry, Trump
dismissed subpoenas for documents and testimony from Administration
officials—a step taken by no other President. Barr and Pat Cipollone,
a White House lawyer who once worked as Barr’s speechwriter, have also
rejected subpoenas, flouting a congressional power plainly delineated
in the Constitution. Donald Ayer, who served as Deputy Attorney
General under George H. W. Bush, said, “They take the position that
they don’t even have to show up. That’s totally outrageous. It’s
denying the legitimacy of another branch of government in the name of
executive supremacy.” Ayer described Barr’s ideas about Presidential
power as “chilling” and “deeply disturbing.” If Trump survives a trial
in the Senate, a President’s ability to resist congressional oversight
will vastly expand. Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law
at Harvard, warned that Barr’s and Trump’s efforts could permanently
alter the balance of power among the branches of American government.
“If those views take hold, we will have lost what was won in the
Revolution—we will have a Chief Executive who is more powerful than
the king,” Tribe said. “That will be a disaster for the survival of
the Republic.”
At the age of sixty-nine, Barr is grayer, heavier, wealthier, and more
combative than he was when he served as George H. W. Bush’s Attorney
General, twenty-eight years ago. But his ideology has not changed
much, according to friends and former colleagues. “I don’t know why
anyone is surprised by his views,” Jack Goldsmith, a law professor who
headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the
George W. Bush Administration, told me. “He has always had a broad
view of executive power.”
A longtime member of the capital’s legal establishment, Barr is
described by both allies and adversaries as a formidable thinker who
relishes debating issues of Roman history, Christian theology, and
modern morality. During his first tenure as Attorney General, he
earned the nickname Rage and Cave: when he felt that his principles
had been violated, he tended to bluster, then gradually accept the
situation. Colleagues describe him as both supportive and
self-regarding, happy to delegate but impatient with incompetence. A
self-styled polymath, Barr has strong opinions on issues ranging from
legal arcana to the proper mustard to apply to a sandwich. He designed
his own home, a sprawling house in McLean, Virginia, and is not above
boasting about it. During a trip to Scotland with a friend, he quizzed
the owner of a local inn about whether the paint on the wall was “Card
Room Green or Green Smoke, by Farrow & Ball.” The innkeeper had no
idea what he was talking about.
Like other prominent conservatives, Barr formed his politics in
reaction to a liberal consensus around him. He grew up on Riverside
Drive, in Manhattan, among the bookish élite of the Upper West Side.
As his neighbors hoped that Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society would
flourish, the Barr family supported Barry Goldwater for President.
Barr’s mother, Mary, taught at Columbia, and worked as an editor at
Redbook. His father, Donald, was the headmaster at Dalton, a
progressive private school on the Upper East Side. During the Second
World War, Donald had served in the Office of Strategic Services, the
precursor to the C.I.A. As headmaster, he believed that discipline
instilled morality, helping to fend off the “social pathology” that
his son warned about decades later. While birth control and feminism
were reshaping conventions around sex and work, Donald insisted on the
old ways. Chip Fisher, who attended Dalton at the time, remembered him
as brilliant but out of place: “It was like having Jonathan Edwards at
the pulpit.” Dalton parents saw Barr as autocratic, insular, and
obsessed with adherence to rules. In the early seventies, after a
protracted and ugly public fight with the school’s board, he was
forced out of his job.
Mary Barr, an observant Catholic, sent William and his three brothers
to Corpus Christi elementary school. Even there, Barr was an outlier.
In the first grade, he delivered a speech in favor of Dwight
Eisenhower’s Presidential campaign. Later, he declared his support for
Richard Nixon, and a nun promised to pray for him. In high school, at
Horace Mann, Barr—known then as Billy—presented fellow-students with a
line-by-line exegesis of the Constitution. One classmate told me that
Barr delighted in intellectual combat: “That smug, low-key demeanor—he
really loved to push people’s buttons.” Garrick Beck, another
classmate, disliked Barr’s politics but admired his integrity. Even
then, he said, Barr was convinced that only a strong President could
protect America from threats. “How else does a nice guy like Barr
defend this boorish tycoon?” Beck said, of Trump. “I think he is doing
it because he is a true believer.”
When Barr was an undergraduate, at Columbia, his classmates marched
against the war in Vietnam. Barr wanted instead to buttress American
power. He had told a guidance counsellor that he hoped one day to lead
the C.I.A., and, during breaks from school, he spent two summers as an
intern there. In 1973, he finished a master’s degree in Government and
Chinese Studies and returned to the C.I.A. as an intelligence analyst.
At the time, a Senate investigation—known as the Church Committee—was
uncovering decades of abuses at the C.I.A., and laws were being passed
to curtail them. Barr later recalled the effort as a kind of assault,
delivering “body blows” to the agency.
Barr spent two years as an analyst, but he was also considering a
career in law. He started taking night classes at George Washington
University Law School, and, in 1975, he transferred to the agency’s
Office of Legislative Counsel. The following year, George H. W. Bush
became the C.I.A. director, and Barr helped prepare him for testimony
on Capitol Hill. One hearing involved a bill that would require the
C.I.A. to send a written notification to Americans whose mail the
agency had secretly opened. Among the bill’s sponsors was Bella Abzug,
a liberal Democrat who represented Barr’s old neighborhood in New
York. As a defense attorney, Abzug had won a stay of execution for
Willie McGee, a black man convicted of raping a white woman in
Mississippi; she had also represented several Americans accused by
Senator Joseph McCarthy of being Communists. The C.I.A. spied on her
for twenty years, at times opening her mail.
As Abzug and her colleagues grilled Bush about the C.I.A.’s
activities, Barr saw a chance to impress the new director. “I went up
and sat in the seat that’s behind the witness,” he recalled in a 2001
oral history of the Bush Administration. “Someone asked him a
question, and he leaned back and said, ‘How the hell do I answer this
one?’ I whispered the answer in his ear, and he gave it, and I
thought, ‘Who is this guy? He listens to legal advice when it’s
given.’ ”
When Barr began his career in government, the idea that the Presidency
was too weak might have been considered eccentric, even radical.
Mostly, people were concerned that it had grown too strong. As the
Watergate scandal unfolded, the former Kennedy aide Arthur
Schlesinger, Jr., published an influential book called “The Imperial
Presidency,” in which he enumerated the habits of potential autocrats:
“The all-purpose invocation of ‘national security,’ the insistence on
executive secrecy, the withholding of information from Congress, the
refusal to spend funds appropriated by Congress, the attempted
intimidation of the press, the use of the White House as a base for
espionage and sabotage directed against the political opposition.”
Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, and embodied an image that was
anything but imperial. He carried his own luggage, enrolled his
daughter in public school, and shunned “Hail to the Chief” as an
excessive display of pomp. More important, he enacted reforms that
curtailed executive-branch power. He signed strict ethics legislation
that empowered independent counsels and inspectors general to
investigate waste, fraud, and abuse. Critics, including the
conservative legal scholar Antonin Scalia, complained that the changes
crippled the Presidency, but the new regulations had broad support
from Congress and from the public.
With Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, things began to change. The
Republican Party, after three decades as a minority in Congress, took
control of the Senate—part of a conservative resurgence that Reagan
hailed as “morning in America.” In 1982, the White House hired Barr as
a deputy assistant director for legal policy. He fell in with a
like-minded group of young lawyers, who began devising a legal
armature for the executive branch as it tried to restore its power.
In 1986, Reagan appointed Scalia to the Supreme Court. That same year,
aides sent Attorney General Edwin Meese a report, recommending steps
to widen the power of the Presidency. Reagan, they said, should veto
more legislation, and decline to enforce laws that “unconstitutionally
encroach upon the executive branch.” The report outlined a legal
argument that the President had unrestricted control of all
executive-branch functions, and also questioned the constitutionality
of special counsels and inspectors general. In a speech, Meese argued
that even Supreme Court rulings should not be viewed as “the supreme
law of the land.” (Two years later, Meese resigned, amid accusations
of helping to steer federal contracts to a friend.)
In 1987, an independent counsel was appointed to investigate whether a
Justice Department official named Ted Olson had lied to Congress
during testimony regarding the Environmental Protection Agency. Meese
and other conservatives challenged the move as unconstitutional. In
their view, independent prosecutors were nothing more than
unaccountable, costly political weapons, which Democrats used to smear
Republican Administrations. (In fact, according to Stephen Gillers, a
professor of legal ethics at New York University’s law school, both
parties have sought to use such counsels for political advantage. But,
he added, they remain necessary to limit abuses: “What the special
counsel does is provide a check.”)
The resulting case, Morrison v. Olson, went to the Supreme Court,
which ruled that independent counsels did not interfere “unduly” or
“impermissibly” with the powers of the executive branch. The sole
dissent came from Scalia, who cautioned that a politically biased
prosecutor could carry out “debilitating criminal investigations” for
minor crimes. “Nothing is so politically effective,” he wrote, “as the
ability to charge that one’s opponent and his associates are not
merely wrongheaded, naive, ineffective, but, in all probability,
‘crooks.’ ” (Ultimately, prosecutors declined to charge Olson.)
For Reagan and his aides, the Supreme Court ruling was not an abstract
concern. The year before, news had broken of what became known as the
Iran-Contra scandal. In an extraordinary series of crimes, the C.I.A.
director William Casey and several White House aides sold
sophisticated weaponry to Iran and funnelled the profits to
anti-Communist rebels in Central America, in defiance of a law that
specifically barred support for the group. All the while, Casey and
the aides brazenly lied to Congress about their actions. When the
scheme was uncovered, Reagan’s poll numbers sank, but he denied
knowledge of the operation and avoided impeachment.
In televised hearings, the National Security Council aide Oliver North
argued that Presidents and their aides should be able to do whatever
they deem necessary to protect the country from threats. Dick Cheney,
then a congressman from Wyoming, argued that North and his allies had
done nothing improper, because foreign policy and national security
should be controlled solely by the executive branch. But Democrats and
a majority of Republicans said that Congress must be able to act as a
check on a wayward President. At the hearings, Daniel Inouye, a
Democratic senator from Hawaii, who headed the inquiry, warned that a
“cabal” of officials who believed they had a “monopoly on truth” could
lead to “autocracy.” Barr was unmoved. He later told an interviewer,
“I think people in the Iran-Contra matter have been treated very
When George H. W. Bush ran for President in 1988, Barr, who was then
thirty-eight, seized an opportunity to continue the mission of the
Reagan years. He joined the campaign as an adviser, and, after Bush
won, he was appointed to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal
Counsel, which advises the President and all federal agencies.
Barr immediately produced a memo, arguing that Congress was a menace
to the Presidency. He urged Administration officials to be alert to
legislative encroachment, and cited ten recent examples, from
“Micromanagement of the Executive Branch” to “Attempts to Restrict the
President’s Foreign Affairs Powers.” He wrote, “Only by consistently
and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive
branch prerogatives be preserved.” Barr began chairing meetings in
which the general counsels of executive-branch departments drafted a
strategy to work against Congress. He recalled in 2001 that the
President supported the mission: “Bush felt that the powers of the
Presidency had been severely eroded since Watergate and [by] the
tactics of the Hill Democrats.” But Bush favored an incremental
approach, saying, “I don’t want you stretching—I think the way to
advance executive power is to wait and see, move gradually.”
In a series of decisions involving government actions overseas, Barr
helped expand Presidential power. In 1989, Bush was in a standoff with
Manuel Noriega, the strongman leader of Panama, and considered having
him arrested, on charges that included drug trafficking and money
laundering. The Justice Department had traditionally considered that
the President lacked the power to order arrests on foreign soil. But,
in June, Barr issued a legal opinion arguing that Bush had “inherent
constitutional authority” to order the F.B.I. to take foreign
antagonists into custody.
The following year, after the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein moved his
forces into Kuwait, Bush asked at a White House meeting if he needed
congressional approval to mount a counterinvasion. Barr, who by then
had been promoted to Deputy Attorney General, said that the mandate to
defend national security gave the President the power to go to war
whenever he wanted—even to launch a preëmptive attack on Iraqi forces,
if he believed that they were preparing to deploy chemical weapons
against American troops.
But Barr feared that lawmakers would try to block such an action, and
so he urged Bush to cover himself by obtaining Congress’s support.
Even the other conservatives in the room were startled; Justice
Department officials were expected to maintain scrupulous
impartiality. According to Barr, Cheney, at that time the Secretary of
Defense, reprimanded him: “You’re giving him political advice, not
legal advice.” Barr recalled that he said, “I’m giving him both
political and legal advice. They’re really sort of together when you
get to this level.” In August, 1990, Bush invaded Kuwait, with
congressional approval. The following year, he named Barr Attorney
Since Barr’s days at Horace Mann, he has felt that the transformations
of American society that began in the sixties have worsened its social
problems. For decades, he registered unflinching disdain for
criminal-justice reform, support for religion, and sympathy for big
business. In a 1995 symposium on violent crime, he argued that the
root cause was not poverty but immorality. “Violent crime is caused
not by physical factors, such as not enough food stamps in the stamp
program, but ultimately by moral factors,” he said. “Spending more
money on these material social programs is not going to have an impact
on crime, and, if anything, it will exacerbate the problem.” Barr also
dismissed the idea of wrongful convictions. “The notion that there are
sympathetic people out there who become hapless victims of the
criminal-justice system and are locked away in federal prison beyond
the time they deserve is simply a myth,” he wrote. “The people who
have been given mandatory minimums generally deserve them—richly.”
As Attorney General, Barr increased sentences for drug-related crimes
and cracked down on illegal immigration. In 1992, rioting erupted in
Los Angeles following the acquittal of four police officers who had
been videotaped beating the motorist Rodney King. Barr deployed two
thousand federal agents on military planes to stop the unrest. He
later argued that civil-rights charges should have been brought—not
just against the offending officers but also against the rioters on
the streets of L.A. “We could have cleaned that place up,” he lamented
in 2001. “Unfortunately, we just brought the federal case against the
cops and never pursued the gangsters.”
During his tenure, Barr turned down multiple requests to name
prosecutors to examine potential executive-branch abuses. “The public
integrity section told me that I had received more requests for
independent counsel in eighteen months than all my predecessors
combined,” Barr recalled. “It was a joke.” In one case, Barr opposed
the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the
Administration’s dealings with Iraq before the invasion of Kuwait.
Even some conservatives objected; William Safire, the Times columnist,
called him “cover-up general Barr.”
After Bush lost the 1992 Presidential election, to Bill Clinton, he
blamed the defeat on Lawrence Walsh, the lead prosecutor in the
Iran-Contra affair. Four days before the election, Walsh had filed a
new criminal charge against former Defense Secretary Caspar
Weinberger, and revealed an entry from Weinberger’s diary that cast
doubt on Bush’s long-running claim that he opposed trading arms for
hostages. Bush was furious, Barr later recalled: “He felt that that
indictment had cost him the election.” On Christmas Eve, 1992, Bush
pardoned four former officials whom Walsh had prosecuted, and two more
who were awaiting trial—a decision that Barr supported. In a statement
accompanying the pardons, Bush complained of “the criminalization of
policy differences,” and wrote that criticisms of the President should
be expressed in “the voting booth, not the courtroom.”
To Democrats, the pardons were outrageous; officials had defied
Congress to carry out a dangerous and illegal scheme, which provided
arms to an avowed enemy of the U.S. Barr dismissed those concerns and
suggested that Walsh’s investigation had unfairly hobbled the Bush
Presidency. “It was very difficult because of the constant pendency of
the Iran-Contra case and Lawrence Walsh, who I thought was a—I don’t
know what to say in polite company,” he recalled in 2001. “He was
certainly a headhunter and had completely lost perspective.”
Three blocks from the White House, on K Street, is a storefront with
signs in its windows advertising “solidarity” and “mercy and justice.”
The building houses the Catholic Information Center, a bookstore and a
chapel where federal workers and tourists can attend morning and
evening services. On a recent weekday afternoon, a sign announced an
upcoming debate between conservative writers, called “Nationalism:
Vice or Virtue?” A skateboard with an image of the Virgin Mary hung
not far away, in the hope of attracting a younger crowd.
Led by a member of the archconservative group Opus Dei, the center is
a hub for Washington’s influential conservatives. Its rise began in
1998, with the arrival of a charismatic new director, the Reverend C.
John McCloskey, a forty-four-year-old banker turned priest.
Hard-charging and unabashedly political, McCloskey liked to say, “A
liberal Catholic is oxymoronic.” During the nineties, he helped
convert a series of prominent conservatives to Catholicism, including
the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is a vocal Trump backer.
In 2003, McCloskey quietly left his post, and Opus Dei later paid a
settlement of nearly a million dollars to a woman who said that he had
sexually harassed her. But the center’s board of directors remains a
nexus of politically connected Catholics. Pat Cipollone and Barr have
both served on the board, as has Leonard Leo, the executive
vice-president of the Federalist Society. Asked about Barr’s role, the
center’s chief operating officer, Mitch Boersma, confirmed that he had
served as a board member from 2014 to 2017 but said, “We don’t have
anything to add.”
After Bill Clinton took office, in 1993, Barr stepped away from
government work and continued promoting his version of an ideal
society through various religious organizations. He served on the
boards of groups whose charitable work is widely praised, such as the
Knights of Columbus and the New York Archdiocese’s Inner-City
Scholarship Fund. For years, Barr has paid the tuition of eighteen
students a year at a parochial school in New York.
But Barr’s instinct for ideological combat did not wane. In 1995, he
wrote an article for a journal called The Catholic Lawyer. Two years
earlier, the F.B.I. had mounted a disastrous raid on a compound
inhabited by a cult in Waco, Texas. In his article, Barr complained
that journalists had made “subtle efforts” to liken the cult to the
Church. “We live in an increasingly militant, secular age,” he wrote.
“As part of this philosophy, we see a growing hostility toward
religion, particularly Catholicism.” He argued that religious
Americans were increasingly victimized: “It is no accident that the
homosexual movement, at one or two percent of the population, gets
treated with such solicitude, while the Catholic population, which is
over a quarter of the country, is given the back of the hand.”
His position on executive power wavered over time, depending on which
party controlled the White House. When Clinton was under investigation
in the Whitewater affair, a Senate committee subpoenaed documents, and
Clinton’s team claimed that they were protected by lawyer-client
privilege. Barr called the rationale “preposterous,” and later
complained that Clinton had diminished his office: “I’ve been upset
that a lot of the prerogatives of the presidency have been sacrificed
for the personal interests of this particular president.” When George
W. Bush entered the White House, Barr resumed his arguments that the
President should have “maximum power” in national security. In op-eds
and in congressional hearings, he spoke in favor of military
tribunals, the Patriot Act, and sweeping surveillance. In the Obama
years, as Republicans in Congress launched a campaign to thwart the
President’s initiatives, Barr largely went silent again.
In the private sector, Barr built a reputation as a pugnacious
opponent of federal regulation. As the general counsel of G.T.E., one
of the country’s largest telephone companies, he persuaded regulators
to approve mergers that benefitted his employer while arguing against
those which benefitted rivals. Around the office, he talked at times
about such moral doctrines as natural law, but never expected secular
colleagues to share his beliefs. Barr didn’t socialize much with
co-workers; he commuted each week to New York from Washington, where
he and his wife, Christine, raised three daughters amid a Catholic
community centered on a tight circle of churches, schools, and social
clubs. The girls went to a Catholic school in Bethesda, where
Christine worked as a librarian. (Barr’s daughters later attended
Catholic colleges, and all became lawyers.)
After years of government work, Barr began to grow rich. He helped
lead G.T.E. when it merged with Bell Atlantic to form Verizon, the
country’s largest telephone company. From 2001 to 2007, he was paid an
average of $1.7 million a year in salary and bonuses, in addition to
stock options, the use of a company jet, and a spending allowance.
When Barr took an early retirement, in 2008, he received twenty-eight
million dollars in deferred income and separation payments—a large
enough sum that a watchdog group cited the payouts as an example of
poor corporate governance. Barr had amassed a fortune that Forbes
recently estimated at forty million dollars, and he made millions more
serving on corporate boards, including those of Time Warner and
Dominion Energy. He also joined Kirkland & Ellis, a Washington firm
known for its leading conservative lawyers. And he and Christine built
their house in McLean, a few miles from C.I.A. headquarters.
In July, 2012, Barr learned that his youngest daughter, Meg, had a
recurrence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Meg, who was then twenty-seven
years old, faced a roughly twenty-per-cent chance of survival. He
stopped working and focussed on his daughter’s care. The family had
Meg treated at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, and Barr
and his wife moved to be near her. After Meg underwent chemotherapy
and a stem-cell transplant, Barr rented a house in the town of
Scituate, outside Boston, so that Meg could be isolated from other
patients and avoid infection. They read books, walked on the beach
together, and talked about what Meg would do if she survived. “Those
three months were the best and worst of times,” Meg told Fox News in
2019. “The hardest part of my illness was accepting the randomness of
it, the fact that you can’t control the outcome. Both my father and I
tend to be control freaks.”
Meg survived. But, Barr told Fox, “Meg’s illness changed our family.
It changed me.” Friends of Barr’s said that he approached both his
professional life and his personal life with a renewed zeal. Chuck
Cooper, a litigator who worked with Barr in the Reagan Administration,
told me, “I think he has an intense appreciation for life and our
tenuous hold on it. And that to squander any of it is unforgivable.”
Barr was late to join the Trump revolution. In the nineties and the
early two-thousands, he donated more than half a million dollars to
Republican candidates, mostly such mainstream figures as George W.
Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. (Barr even supported Jeff Flake,
the Arizona senator whose occasional criticisms of Trump ended up
turning constituents against him.) In 2016, Barr gave twenty-seven
hundred dollars to Trump’s campaign—and about twenty times that amount
to support Jeb Bush.
After Trump won, though, Barr demonstrated a convert’s enthusiasm,
writing op-eds for the Washington Post in which he endorsed Trump’s
controversial positions. When Sally Yates, the acting Attorney
General, refused to carry out a ban on travellers from predominantly
Muslim countries, Barr accused her of “obstruction,” and assailed news
coverage of the situation. “The left, aided by an onslaught of
tendentious media reporting, has engaged in a campaign of histrionics
unjustified by the measured steps taken,” he wrote. In another
article, Barr criticized Robert Mueller for hiring prosecutors who had
donated to Democratic politicians—but did not disclose his own
donations to Republicans.
In February, 2017, Trump appointed his first Attorney General, Jeff
Sessions, and quickly grew disenchanted. When Sessions recused himself
from the Mueller investigation, Trump asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”—a
reference to his former personal lawyer, who was a close aide to
Senator McCarthy during the Red Scare of the fifties. According to Bob
Woodward’s reporting, Trump lambasted Sessions as a “dumb southerner”
and “mentally retarded.” (Trump has denied this.) That fall, Sessions
ignored Trump’s demand to appoint an independent counsel to
investigate a debunked theory about Hillary Clinton’s role in the sale
of uranium to Russia. The Times contacted ten former Attorneys General
for comment, and Barr was the only one to reply. “There is nothing
inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation,” he
said. Barr added that he saw more basis for an investigation in the
uranium deal than in any supposed collusion between Trump and Russia.
“To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is
abdicating its responsibility,” he wrote.
Barr has said that he wasn’t interested in the position of Attorney
General. But in June, 2018, he sent an unsolicited, nineteen-page
legal memo to Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, who was
overseeing the Mueller investigation. He spent much of the letter
elaborating an argument that a President’s Article II powers rendered
him essentially incapable of obstructing justice. He acknowledged that
such blatant acts as destroying evidence and encouraging perjury were
impermissible. But, he wrote, “Mueller’s core premise—that the
President acts ‘corruptly’ if he attempts to influence a proceeding in
which his own conduct is being scrutinized—is untenable.” Benjamin
Wittes and Mikhaila Fogel, of the blog Lawfare, described the memo as
“bizarre.” Barr, without firsthand knowledge of the facts in the case,
had devised a legal theory of obstruction, attributed it to Mueller,
and then declared it “fatally misconceived.”
Barr had strong advocates. Cipollone, his former speechwriter and
fellow board member at the Catholic Information Center, lobbied on his
behalf. Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host, added her support. After
the midterm elections, Trump forced out Sessions and nominated Barr,
calling him “my first choice since Day One.”
On January 15, 2019, Barr arrived on the Hill for confirmation
hearings, accompanied by his wife and daughters. Many Democrats in
Congress, particularly those who hadn’t studied Barr’s record, hoped
that he would be an institutionalist who would curb Trump’s legal
excesses. They also faced a stark political reality: they did not have
the votes to block his nomination. Ignoring the advice of some aides,
Democrats did not dwell on Barr’s statements regarding criminal
justice, or on whether his religious beliefs might affect his views.
Most of the hearings focussed on how Barr would handle the release of
the Mueller report. In his opening statement, he repeated a reassuring
pledge that he had made at his confirmation hearings as Bush’s
nominee: “The Attorney General must insure that the administration of
justice—the enforcement of the law—is above and away from politics.”
He testified that he believed that Mueller, a longtime associate whom
he described as a “good friend,” should be allowed to complete his
investigation. But he also signalled skepticism about the idea that
Trump had colluded with Russia, and repeatedly expressed support for
the President’s policies. Four weeks later, he was confirmed, in a
largely party-line vote, as Trump’s second Attorney General.
On February 14, 2019, Barr took over a Justice Department plagued by
dissension and low morale. Trump’s public attacks on Sessions and
Mueller had unnerved staffers. And though career employees supported
Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation,
some staffers said that he was distant and seemed over his head in
meetings. “When he got confused or distracted, which seemed pretty
often, he would tell some story about a bank robbery in Mobile,” a
former department official said. “He was a nice enough man, but I
don’t think he had any idea what we did for a living.”
Current and former Justice Department officials told me that the main
problem was not Sessions but Trump, whose Administration required them
to defend contorted legal positions. Under Sessions, the department
defended the travel ban, a prohibition on transgender people joining
the military, a policy of separating immigrant children from their
parents, and a dismissal of claims that the President had violated the
emoluments clause. Several career officials declined to put their
names on legal memos. “Morale has been low since Trump came in,”
Matthew Collette, a former senior official who worked for thirty years
at the Justice Department, told me. “The incredibly controversial and
difficult cases started and kept coming.”
When past Presidents resisted sending materials to Congress by
claiming “executive privilege,” Justice Department lawyers tried to
help resolve the disputes. Under Trump, that practice has stopped,
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse told me. As Brett Kavanaugh was going
through confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Congress
requested documents describing his work in the George W. Bush
Administration. The White House refused access to more than a hundred
thousand pages of them. Blank sheets of paper arrived on Capitol Hill
stamped “Constitutional privilege,” a category that members of
Congress said they had never heard of before.
Rather than avoiding the partisanship of the Trump era, Barr’s actions
have placed his department at its center. One divisive fight has been
over immigration. In March, 2018, the Administration announced that it
intended to add a citizenship question to the forthcoming national
census—a measure that liberals said was designed to disadvantage
Hispanics. The effort fuelled bitter division in the department.
Collette said that lawyers were comfortable with implementing a new
Administration’s policy priorities, but not with “twisting legal views
to fit the personal views or needs of the President.”
Barr has steadfastly supported Trump’s crackdown on immigrants. He
directed judges to deny some migrants the opportunity to post bail,
and restricted migrants’ ability to claim asylum based on connections
to family members who face threats of violence. The Justice Department
is trying to reverse a recent court decision that helps protect people
from fast-track deportations. It has also sued “sanctuary cities,” in
California and other states, which offered to protect migrants fleeing
the crackdown.
After months of fierce legal battles, the Supreme Court ruled against
the Administration in its bid to add a citizenship question to the
census. In a 5–4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that
the “sole stated reason” for the change “seems to have been
Trump responded to the defeat by issuing an executive order, giving
the President the ability to collect the citizenship data by other
means. Legal experts widely dismissed the order as a pointless fig
leaf, but, in a Rose Garden ceremony, Barr declared it a triumph.
Standing a few feet from Trump, he said, “Congratulations again, Mr.
President, on taking this effective action.”
Barr showed no sign of tempering Trump’s instincts. Chris Murphy, a
Democratic senator from Connecticut, told me, “I think he was
nominated for his ability to protect Trump. His belief in executive
power was his primary qualification.” In high-profile cases, Barr has
repeatedly aided Trump politically. When Barr issued his summary of
the Mueller report, he quoted part of a sentence saying that no
conclusive proof of collusion had been found, but left out the rest,
which suggested that Russia and the Trump campaign had worked at arm’s
length toward similar goals. He mentioned that the report identified
potential incidents of obstruction of justice, but did not enumerate
or describe them. (There were ten, including Trump’s firing of the
F.B.I. director James Comey, who had declined to promise him loyalty.)
Three days later, Mueller wrote Barr a letter, complaining that the
summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of
his report and had created “public confusion about critical aspects of
the results of our investigation.” Mueller had prepared an
introduction and executive summaries, and he urged Barr to release
them. Barr declined, and took another three weeks to redact the full
report, allowing Trump’s claim of “total exoneration” to dominate the
When Barr finally released the report, in April, he held a press
conference before journalists had access to it, which prevented them
from asking detailed questions about its contents. Barr repeated four
times that no collusion had been found and argued that “the President
was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation
was undermining his Presidency, propelled by his political opponents,
and fuelled by illegal leaks.” Four days later, congressional
Democrats subpoenaed Don McGahn, the White House counsel, who had
witnessed some of Trump’s potential acts of obstruction; the Justice
Department issued a legal opinion that he was not required to testify.
Trump has often advanced a revisionist view of the 2016 election,
claiming that Ukraine interfered and playing down Russia’s role. In
his telling, the F.B.I.’s inquiry was a secret effort, endorsed by
Barack Obama, to spy on his campaign. A government official, who asked
not to be named, told me that, while Barr does not believe that the
“deep state” is plotting to force Trump from power, he is convinced
that there was something nefarious in the F.B.I.’s conduct of its
investigation. Last April, Barr spoke about the matter before a Senate
subcommittee. “Spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” he said.
“I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately
By then, the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz,
had spent thirteen months on an investigation of the F.B.I.’s handling
of the Trump-Russia probe. But Trump directed Barr to begin his own
investigation, and also to look into the intelligence assessment that
Russia aided his candidacy. Trump gave Barr a far-reaching power: to
unilaterally declassify top-secret documents in order to review the
work of the country’s intelligence agencies.
To conduct the probe, Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. Attorney in
Connecticut, who, during the Obama Administration, investigated the
C.I.A.’s use of torture against suspected terrorists. Barr and Durham
made trips to the U.K., Italy, and Australia, where they asked
officials for evidence of misconduct by the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. Ron
Wyden, a Democratic senator from Oregon, who has served on the
Intelligence Committee since 2001, told me that Barr was ignoring
Justice Department norms: “He is flying around the world trying to get
evidence that would confirm these bizarre conspiracy theories and
exonerate Russia.” Intelligence officials worried that the trips would
make longtime allies hesitant to share information with the U.S., for
fear of being drawn into a partisan fight.
David Laufman, a former senior counter-intelligence official at the
Justice Department who helped investigate Russian interference, said
that the probe has also sent a clear message to U.S. officials:
challenge Trump at your peril. “We’re into Crazy Town,” Laufman told
me. The investigation, he said, was “evocative of regimes in history
that conduct purges for perceived disloyalty.”
Barr’s convictions about the place of faith in government are widely
shared in the Administration. The day of his Notre Dame speech,
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an address called “Being a
Christian Leader,” in Tennessee. “I know some people in the media will
break out the pitchforks when they hear that I ask God for direction
in my work,” Pompeo said. “I’m proud to say that President Trump has
let our State Department do that. Indeed, he has demanded that we do.”
Pompeo is an evangelical Christian; many of his peers in Trump’s inner
circle are conservative Catholics, who have achieved a degree of
influence rivalling that of evangelicals in the George W. Bush
Administration. Along with Barr and Cipollone, there are the acting
chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; the White House counsellor Kellyanne
Conway; the National Economic Council director, Larry Kudlow; and the
former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Leonard Leo, of the C.I.C. and
the Federalist Society, has guided Trump in his selection of judges.
An Administration official acknowledged that religious leaders “are
acutely aware of Trump’s shortcomings” but also recognize his value to
their cause. “Name a political leader who has done more for
conservatives,” the official said. Trump has reshaped the country’s
legal system, appointing two Supreme Court Justices and a hundred and
sixty-two other judges, most of whom can be counted on to rule with
conservative principles in mind. Barr’s Justice Department has
supported efforts to restrict access to abortion, and has aided
attempts to secure

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William Barr, Trump's Sword and Shield @NewYorker B
Law & Politics

Horowitz’s work showed that the government’s secretive surveillance
process requires significant reform. But the report found that the
opening of the probe was legally justified, and that the officials’
failures did not induce leaders to commit improper acts. “We did not
find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or
improper motivation influenced the decisions,” Horowitz wrote. (A
separate investigation into Peter Strzok, a senior
counter-intelligence agent who had sent scornful text messages about
Trump, came to a similar conclusion.) James Baker, the former general
counsel of the F.B.I., told me that the Bureau began the investigation
before receiving a copy of the Steele dossier and before the Page
e-mail was altered. At the time, Democratic Party communications
stolen by Russia were circulating online, and Trump had publicly
called for Russia to steal and release Hillary Clinton’s e-mails;
several of his campaign officials had been in contact with Russian
officials and with suspected intelligence operatives. “We have an
obligation to protect the United States from Russia,” Baker said.
“Presented with the same facts, I would open the investigation again.”
Barr released a response to the report, disputing Horowitz’s
conclusions. Despite the core finding that the investigation was
initiated properly, Barr argued that the report “makes clear that the
F.B.I. launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential
campaign on the thinnest of suspicions.” Durham, the federal
prosecutor appointed to carry out a separate investigation, suggested
that he and Barr had gathered evidence that contradicted Horowitz. “We
advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the
report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was
opened,” he said. This statement violated a Justice Department
practice of not commenting on investigations until they are finished.
Trump went further, suggesting that Horowitz was part of a cabal
formed in the previous Administration. “Remember that I.G. Horowitz
was appointed by Obama,” he tweeted. “There was tremendous bias and
guilt exposed, so obvious, but Horowitz couldn’t get himself to say
it. Big credibility loss. Obama knew everything!”
Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. director, immediately admitted the
Bureau’s errors and announced forty reforms designed to prevent
improper surveillance. But, in a television interview, he pushed back
about other false claims. When asked about Trump’s calls for an
investigation into Ukraine’s meddling in the election, Wray replied,
“We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered.” Wray
also urged Americans to vet their sources of information. “There’s all
kinds of people saying all kinds of things out there,” he said. “And I
think part of us being well protected against malign foreign influence
is to build together an American public that’s resilient, that has
appropriate media literacy, and that takes its information with a
grain of salt.”
After Wray defended the F.B.I., Trump attacked him as well. “I don’t
know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was
reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” he tweeted. “With
that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is
badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working
Wray is still in his job, but others have faced significant
consequences. One of these is Dan Coats, the director of National
Intelligence, a moderate Republican who publicly questioned some of
Trump’s claims. Last summer, after months of pressure, Coats resigned,
and Trump suggested replacing him with John Ratcliffe, a congressman
from Texas who has trafficked in conspiracy theories. (After evidence
suggested that Ratcliffe may have exaggerated his résumé, the White
House withdrew the nomination; the position remains vacant.) Trump
also revoked the security clearance of the former C.I.A. director John
Brennan, who has criticized him. Agents recognized the implications;
many intelligence officials, after years of low-paying government
work, rely on their security clearances to obtain private-sector jobs
when they retire. More recently, the President denounced the
whistle-blower in the Ukraine case, who has subsequently received many
death threats. When the threats spike, armed agents drive him to and
from work.
In dozens of interviews, current and former law-enforcement and
intelligence officials said that three years of Trump’s Twitter
attacks, conspiracy theories, and high-profile firings have left their
leaders wary of speaking in public, testifying before Congress, or
talking to reporters. They know that they will be asked about Trump’s
false claims. If they respond accurately, they risk being fired for
contradicting the President.
The country’s intelligence agencies continue to produce private
assessments that counter Trump’s specious assertions. They affirm that
Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election and predict that
it is likely to meddle again in 2020, according to members of the
House and the Senate Intelligence Committees. The F.B.I. and the
C.I.A. have also assessed that white nationalists and isis members
represent continued threats, issues that Trump has downplayed. But
agency directors believe that they can best protect their institutions
by keeping such concerns private. “Survival is victory,” the
government official told me. “If you are able to go out on your own
terms, or go out last, it’s a victory for the institution.”
If Barr’s inquiry results in criminal charges, it would be a radical
departure from past practice. When Durham investigated C.I.A. officers
for torture, he pressed no criminal charges. Previous investigations
into intelligence failures that cost American lives—such as missing
warning signs before the 9/11 attacks or wrongly concluding that
Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction—carried no possibility
of criminal sanction. James Clapper, who was the director of National
Intelligence in 2016, cautioned that the election assessment is a work
of analysis. “If a prosecuting attorney is investigating analysts for
their intelligence judgments, that’s not good,” Clapper said. James
Baker worried that Trump’s intimidation of investigators would have
consequences at the F.B.I. “It could reduce the willingness to give
frank assessments or to pursue controversial cases,” he said, adding,
“I’m nervous about the institution.”
In private gatherings, current and former F.B.I. agents and Justice
Department officials register exhaustion at Trump’s attacks on the
F.B.I. Recent retirees told me that they were surprised by how little
they missed working at the Bureau.
Some agents have embraced Wray’s admonition to do their work and
ignore the political brawl around them. After two and a half years on
the job, Wray, a low-key former prosecutor and corporate lawyer, has
inspired loyalty for handling a difficult situation gracefully. The
Bureau, like the country, is deeply divided; even some agents who find
Trump personally distasteful say that they support his policies. Comey
was a popular director, but agents complain that his calls for people
to vote against Trump play into conspiracy theories about the Bureau.
The clearest sentiment is disdain for the political class. Last
winter, during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the
Bureau’s thirteen thousand agents and twenty thousand support staffers
struggled to pay their bills. After employees walked into supervisors’
offices in tears, agents set up impromptu food banks to help
colleagues. Trump caused the shutdown by demanding that Congress fund
his border wall with Mexico, but many agents argued that politicians
on both sides were responsible. “They didn’t do their job,” Tom
O’Connor, a retired F.B.I. agent, told me.
The political combat of the Trump era was breeding apathy and disgust.
F.B.I. and Justice Department officials said that if Trump was
reëlected there would be an exodus of employees. Some retired agents
fear that the institution will not survive another four years.
Stephen Gillers suggested that Trump’s attacks were part of a drive
for increased power. “One way that Trump seeks to maximize control is
minimizing the disclosure of information and undermining the
credibility of information,” he said. “The Congress needs information
to do its job, and the President has frozen it out—especially in the
impeachment investigation. Another check is the media, and the
President’s use of the term ‘fake news’ can cause people to lose faith
in the media. What remains are the courts, which are slow and
Donald Ayer, the former Bush Administration Deputy Attorney General,
warned that Barr’s interpretations of executive power could be
validated. “The ultimate question is what happens when these reach the
Supreme Court, which has two Trump appointees,” he said. “There is a
real danger that he succeeds.” Some legal analysts believe that Barr
is overplaying his hand. Benjamin Wittes, of Lawfare, predicted that
the Supreme Court would reject Barr’s extreme positions, creating
precedents that ultimately reduce the power of the Presidency. “The
idea that the President gets to assert executive privilege over
material that has already been made public is laughable,” Wittes told
me. “I think they are very likely to lose a lot of this.”
Chuck Cooper, the conservative litigator, disagreed. He said that
Barr’s tenure represented the achievement of the legal project
launched during the Reagan Administration. “He is building and
extending on a foundation,” Cooper said. “It was popularized and very
robustly advanced by the Meese Justice Department.” Last October, in
the Oval Office, Trump awarded Meese the Presidential Medal of
Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Barr attended, and
Meese thanked him for carrying on his legacy: “You’ve risen to
continue the string of great Attorneys General in this country.”
As Barr insists on expanded Presidential power, Republican voters are
starting to agree. According to the Pew Center, forty-three per cent
of Republicans believe that “presidents could operate more effectively
if they did not have to worry so much about Congress and the courts.”
That number has increased from fourteen per cent when Trump took
office. A House G.O.P. report about Ukraine endorsed his singular
authority; slightly misquoting John Marshall, it argued that Trump
was, “constitutionally, the ‘nation’s sole organ of foreign affairs,’
” and thus had unlimited latitude in his dealings with Ukraine.
Ayer fears that Barr has combined a Reagan-era drive to dismantle
government with a Trump-era drive to politicize it. As the White House
succeeds in holding off congressional attempts at removing Trump from
office, Barr is winning his long war on the power of the legislative
branch. In the 2020 campaign, Trump will argue that he alone can
protect the country from the dangers posed by the left, immigrants,
and other enemies. And Barr’s vision of Presidential power will be the
Party’s mainstream position. “Barr sought out the opportunity to be
Donald Trump’s Attorney General,” Ayer said. “This, I believe, was his
opportunity—the opportunity of a lifetime—to make major progress on
advancing his vision of an all-powerful Chief Executive.” ♦

International Markets

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1140
Dollar Index 97.363
Japan Yen 110.09
Swiss Franc 0.9709
Pound 1.2992
Aussie 0.6905
India Rupee 70.8975
South Korea Won 1155.96
Brazil Real 4.1473
Egypt Pound 15.8703
South Africa Rand 14.4166

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West Africa Backs French Military Presence Amid Protests @business

The leaders of five West African countries publicly declared their
backing for France’s military deployment in the region amid a spate of
deadly attacks by Islamist extremists and escalating anti-French
Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad also said they’d boost
cooperation to fight terrorism in a joint statement following a summit
on Monday in Pau, southern France.
President Emmanuel Macron called for the meeting last month after 13
French soldiers were killed when their two helicopters collided in
Mali, just as they were swooping in to support troops battling
Islamist militants.
It was one the worst losses of life for France’s military in decades
and came as violence by al-Qaeda and Islamic State fighters grows and
spills across borders.
The surge in attacks has stoked anti-French protests, with many locals
wondering why the extremist threat has risen despite the manpower and
resources France has invested.
U.S. commitment is crucial for France and Macron said he hoped he
could convince President Donald Trump to keep an anti-terrorism
military force in west Africa, linking terrorism there to the
situation in Libya, where Islamic State is trying to regroup as rival
administrations battle for influence.
The leaders of the five West African countries also said they want
U.S. support to continue, and called for a larger international
presence in the region, an arid area on the southern fringe of the
They’ll meet again with Macron at a summit in June 2020 in Nouakchott,
Mauritania, according to the statement.
Macron pledged to add 220 soldiers to France’s force battling
extremists in the Sahel and hunting down their commanders, which
already counts about 4,500.

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The main jihadist attacks on G5 Sahel forces @AFP @YahooNews

Here are the main attacks over the past year:
- Niger -
- On January 9 this year, 89 soldiers are killed in an attack on a
military camp at Chinegodar, in the western region of Tillaberi, near
the border with Mali. During the attack 77 "terrorists" are
"neutralised" according to Niger's authorities. It is the worst
jihadist attack in Niger's history.
- On December 10, 2019, in the same region, 71 soldiers are killed in
an attack claimed by the Islamic State group, which sees hundreds of
jihadists attacked a camp near the border with Mali.
- On May 14, 28 soldiers are killed near Tillaberi in Niger's same
border region with Mali and Burkina Faso after an ambush. The Islamic
State claims responsibility.
- Mali -
- On November 18, 2019, 43 Malian soldiers are killed when their
patrol is attacked at Tabankort, in the northeastern region of Menaka,
as they were carrying out a joint operation with Niger forces.
- On November 1, in a jihadist raid on a military base at Indelim, in
the eastern Menaka region near the border with Niger, gunmen shoot
dead 49 Malian troops. The attack is claimed by Islamic State-allied
- On September 30, 40 soldiers are killed at Mondoro and Boulkessy in
central Mali at two military camps near the border with Burkina Faso.
A Sahel-based Al-Qaeda-linked group, GSIM, claims responsibility.
- On March 17, 26 are killed in a military camp at Dioura in central
Mali, in an attack also claimed by GSIM.
- Burkina Faso -
- On December 24, 2019, an attack on the military base and northern
city of Arbinda by some 200 heavily armed jihadists leaves seven
soldiers dead along with 35 civilians. It is the worst jihadist attack
in the country for five years.
- On August 19, 2019, 24 soldiers die during a "major attack" on a
military base at Koutougou in northern Burkina Faso, near the border
with Mali. It is the deadliest strike against the Burkinabe military.
- Chad -
- On March 22, 2019, 23 Chadian soldiers are killed in southwestern
Chad when they come under attack from Boko Haram jihadists on their
position at Dangdala. It is one of the most deadly attacks suffered by
the Chadian army since the beginning of the anti-Islamist fight.

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@tito_mboweni tweeted: "If you cannot effect deep structural economic reforms, then game over! Stay as you are and you are downgraded to Junk Status! The consequences are dire. Your choice..." @TheAfricaReport

His inability to be bold and decisive about what needs to be done
suggests that he is increasingly becoming a victim of his own party’s
inability to deal with the difficult circumstances of the current
negative state of affairs in the country.
There was nothing new in the speech outside of the existing policy and
strategy of the ANC. The core of his presentation were the usual
talking points about rebuilding the state, reinforcing the state-owned
enterprises, the battle against corruption and state capture, social
cohesion, and economic growth and development.
Despite an emphasis on making state companies, specifically the power
utility Eskom work, and making progress with land reform, no fresh
proposals were made. More rhetoric, a lack of strategic vision and
political survival at all costs seems to be the name of the game.
This is a far cry from what’s needed.

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14-OCT-2019 :: Charlie Robertson [Chief Economist Renaissance Capital] has pronounced that South Africa [is] Heading for [a] Junk Downgrade.

A meme flying round on social media is that There is a New sex
position called the “Ramaphosa” Get on top and do nothing
You will agree that the overall picture is not very pretty.

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"I did a study of Nigerian economy a year ago & I found that if you're a dollar-based investor, holding naira for a five-year period over last 15 or so years, there's an almost 90% chance that you will suffer a devaluation." @afalli @TheAfri

That means companies have to build extra resilience to accommodate the
exchange-rate risk and rapid changes to the regulatory environment.
Alli tells The Africa Report: “Those businesses that have figured out
how to operate in Nigeria do very well. […] It is a very large and
growing market.”
A strong supporter of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Alli
argues that the sceptics in Nigeria are exaggerating the threats of
dumped goods.
“The idea that some Chinese company is going to start something in
Benin to dump products on the Nigerian market at below the
manufacturing costs just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Instead, Nigerian manufacturers should concentrate on remaining
internationally competitive, argues Alli. “I would say that some
manufacturers enjoy the lack of competition, the fat margins they can
earn without working to be competitive.”

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09-DEC-2019 :: Everyone knows how this story ends.

This week Moody’s Investor Services downgraded Nigeria to negative and
we learnt that Foreign Investors are propping up the Naira to the tune
of NGN5.8 trillion ($16 billion) via short-term certificates. Everyone
knows how this story ends. When the music stops, everyone will dash
for the Exit and the currency will collapse

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FAO: Desert locusts poses unprecedented threat to food security and livelihood in the Horn of Africa. @moneyacademyKE

One immature swarm spanning 60 kilometers by 40 kilometers was sported
in the North East.
Aerial efforts need to be urgently and quickly upscaled in all countries --BBG

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Total cash released from the Exchequer between July & November last year: Sh855.63b H/T @MihrThakar

Development spending: Sh90.81b (10.61% of the total)
Recurrent expenses: Sh389.05b (45.47% of the total)
Debt repayments: Sh342.64b (40.04% of the total)

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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January 2020

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