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Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

May 10

The Washington Post on Congress, Biden and the border

For more than three years, the Biden and Trump administrations have relied on an obscure public health law to manage illegal crossings at the southern border. That measure, whose legal justification was as flimsy as its health utility, did little or nothing to impede the pandemic — its stated purpose — but plenty to accelerate the expulsion of well over 2 million migrants, most of them Mexican and Central American. It is to be lifted just before midnight Thursday, a move expected to accelerate a fresh surge of unauthorized border-crossing, at least in the short term.

The Biden administration’s overall immigration policy has been waffling and contradictory, but the overdue lifting of the public health measure issued under Title 42 has forced a reckoning. In preparation for the expected fresh tide of migrants seeking entry to the country — some forecasts suggest thousands more will attempt to cross the border each day, on top of the 6,000-to-8,000 daily tally of recent months — officials have forged some clearer-eyed policies, although at least one is likely to face legal scrutiny.

The dismaying truth about the U.S. immigration system is that it is hardly a system at all. That failure has been caused by political dysfunction in Congress, which for years has been unable to fashion major reforms.

Republicans have bashed President Biden for immigration policy that seemed at cross purposes with itself. They have a point. The administration’s stance has featured tough talk designed to dissuade migrant crossings, which was at odds with the real situation at the border, under which well over 1 million migrants, many of them in families, have been admitted to the country. Often those migrants pursue asylum claims that can take years to adjudicate in overwhelmed immigration courts. The result has been to encourage an ongoing crush of illegal border-crossing.

Yet the Republicans’ own approach is hardly a panacea. In addition to stunts by some GOP governors, who have flown and bused migrants to Democratic states, many in the party pressed to retain the Title 42 policy, which rested on unsteady legal grounds even when covid-19 was raging and at this point would be unlikely to stand up much longer in the courts.

Mr. Biden is right to end the use of Title 42, under which the federal government has conducted an expulsion program masquerading as a public health initiative. He also deserves credit for keeping migrant families together, a departure from President Donald Trump’s pitiless policy of separating them. Most of all, Mr. Biden should be applauded for taking steps to vastly expand the admission of refugees, including hundreds of thousands from Ukraine and Afghanistan, along with establishing wider legal pathways for others to enter the country.

Those steps include the administration’s move, in conjunction with the United Nations, to open processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala, with more planned elsewhere. The centers are sensibly intended to encourage migrants from South and Central America to apply for entry to the United States without making the dangerous trip through Mexico to the U.S. border, during which many are victims of predatory human traffickers.

In a similar vein, the administration has established a humanitarian sponsorship program to admit up to 30,000 migrants monthly on a two-year entry permit from four countries: Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua, where varying combinations of economic meltdown, lawless chaos and political repression have driven an exodus of desperate people seeking better and safer lives in the United States. In conjunction with those legal admissions, the administration struck a deal with Mexico to continue accepting deported migrants from those four countries who arrive in the United States without having applied for the humanitarian sponsorship program. That policy has been effective until now in discouraging those migrants from seeking to cross the border illegally.

The most controversial part of Mr. Biden’s plan is his announcement that migrants from elsewhere will be swiftly expelled if they cross the border without first applying for asylum in Mexico. That stance sits uneasily with long-standing tradition, laws and treaty obligations, written before so many migrants overwhelmed the U.S. asylum system, which extend to them the right to apply for asylum once they are on U.S. soil. Federal courts previously blocked a somewhat similar Trump policy. Though it might discourage border crossings and the often dangerous travel that precedes them, the Biden administration’s new stance, which comes into effect Thursday, is certain to face a court fight that will test whether the exceptions it includes allow it to pass legal muster.

As for Mr. Biden’s deployment of 1,500 troops to the border, ostensibly to provide backup to border authorities, this amounts to a showy move that several previous presidents already tried.

The U.S. asylum system, designed for another era, has been in dire need of an overhaul in the 21st century. Until Congress manages to act, administrations will be forced to rely on improvisations and stopgaps, inevitably challenged in court. Mr. Biden, dealt a bad hand, has at last crafted an array of enforcement and admission policies that attempt to respond to the push driving millions of migrants toward the U.S. border. Yet the goal of an orderly border remains elusive.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/05/10/title-42-biden-border-migrants/

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May 10

The Wall Street Journal on a House report that shows how Hunter Biden and relatives profited off Joe Biden's vice presidency

House Republicans on Wednesday released their latest report on the Biden family’s business ties, and one conclusion is that it’s good to be related to Joseph Robinette Biden. Hunter Biden and his relatives traded profitably off the Biden name with transactions that suggest the main family business is influence peddling.

House Oversight Chair James Comer’s staff report shows in detail that Hunter had extensive dealings with unsavory foreign actors. This yielded millions of dollars for Biden family members via a web of shell companies that would be hard to untangle without subpoena power. Why so much complexity?

The 36-page report shows Biden family members and business associates created nearly 20 separate entities shortly before and during Joe Biden’s Vice Presidency. The entities with obscure names—Hudson West III, Hudson West V, Owascu, JBB SR INC—transferred cash from foreign entities. Bank records show that more than $10 million was delivered to Biden family members, associates and companies from these foreign entities, and in curious ways.

In some cases “Biden associates would receive significant deposits from foreign sources,” then “transfer smaller, incremental payments to Biden bank accounts,” the report says. These “complicated and seemingly unnecessary” transactions appeared to be an “effort to conceal the source and total amount received from the foreign companies.”

Some payments came from such shady characters as Chinese national Ye Jianming, his associates, and his company CEFC. Mr. Ye had a background in Chinese military intelligence and used CEFC to promote President Xi Jinping’s agenda globally. One of Mr. Ye’s deputies, Patrick Ho, was convicted in the U.S. in 2018 on international bribery and money laundering.

Mr. Ye’s emissary to the U.S., Gongwen Dong, in 2017 established a corporate entity with Hunter—each with 50% ownership. Over 14 months the entity dispersed more than $4 million to Hunter-related companies and another $75,000 to companies related to the President’s brother, James Biden. Mr. Dong used a separate set of complex corporate entities and transfers to send Hunter another $100,000 payment.

In 2017 another Ye-related company—State Energy HK—paid some $3 million to Hunter’s business associates. At least $1 million was then funneled in 16 separate payments over three months to five different bank accounts, all related to the Biden name. They included companies associated with Hunter and James Biden, an unknown bank account identified simply as “Biden” and a payment to Hallie Biden—the widow of Hunter’s deceased brother Beau and later Hunter’s girlfriend.

The report lays out a similarly complex web of payments to Hunter and associates from an entity that appears to be connected to a Romanian businessman who has been convicted of bribery. In total, Mr. Comer says the committee has identified at least nine Biden family members that received foreign income, including Hunter, James, James’s wife Sara, Hallie, Hunter’s ex-wife (Kathleen Buhle), Hunter’s current wife (Melissa Cohen), and three children or grandchildren of Joe or James.

The Bidens have a right to make a living, but one important question is what Hunter did to earn these payments. Hunter’s spokespersons aren’t saying, and his attorney scorned the Comer report as “repackaged misstatements of perfectly proper meetings and business by private citizens.” But a fair conclusion is that these foreigners were buying influence with a powerful family.

Emails and text messages made public in 2020 by former Hunter business partner Tony Bobulinski—related to a separate attempted deal with CEFC—quote Hunter demanding more because CEFC is “coming to be MY partner to be partners with the Bidens,” and noting that “I’m the only one putting an entire family legacy on the line.” In another email reported by the New York Post, Hunter boasted that Mr. Ye would pay him millions for “introductions alone.”

The press is mostly dismissing the report because it reveals no evidence that President Biden received any money. But the committee has already exposed that Joe Biden dissembled in 2020 when he claimed that “my son has not made money in terms of this thing about—what are you talking about—China. I have not had it. The only guy that made money from China is this guy,” referring to Donald Trump. Mr. Comer isn’t done, and we shall see where the money trail leads.

The report shows the Biden family profiting from Joe Biden’s political power. Payments from Chinese nationals are also a familiar way that the Communist Party has tried to compromise America’s political class. There may not be a smoking gun, but there’s plenty of suspicious smoke worth investigating.n

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-republicans-report-hunter-biden-james-comer-joe-biden-family-china-c0c506c7

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May 12

The Los Angeles Times on the House and the debt ceiling

President Biden is right to engage with congressional leaders, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to discuss the looming financial crisis if Congress doesn’t expeditiously raise the debt ceiling. Talks at the White House on Tuesday predictably didn’t produce an agreement, but White House officials and congressional staffers have been in discussions. A meeting of Biden and congressional leaders scheduled for Friday has been postponed, perhaps a sign that those lower-level talks are making progress.

One possible scenario is that the two sides will reach an understanding that would involve lifting the ceiling so that the nation can pay its debts and a separate undertaking to try to control future federal spending. Each party could then portray the result to its own benefit, with Republicans asserting a linkage between the two actions and the White House insisting that there was no connection. (On Tuesday Biden said: “I told congressional leaders that I’m prepared to begin a separate discussion about my budget and spending priorities, but not under the threat of default.”)

“Parallel” agreements might be an acceptable outcome, given the horrific alternative of default, which could propel the U.S. economy into recession. But Americans should recoil at the need for such a contrived solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

“Everybody in this meeting reiterated the positions they were at,” McCarthy said after Tuesday’s meeting. That statement implies a dangerously false equivalence between the two parties’ positions.

The rightness of Biden’s position — that Congress should raise the debt ceiling without major conditions — is self-evident. Paying the nation’s bills isn’t just a political and moral imperative; it’s vital to the strength of the economy. The United States can’t afford to be perceived as what Biden called “a deadbeat nation.” How much Congress should spend in the future is a different question.

Nor, despite what McCarthy says, have House Republicans “done our job” by passing legislation that would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion in exchange for drastic restrictions in federal spending. Among other unconscionable consequences, that legislation if enacted — fortunately, an unlikely possibility — would deny resources to schools in California that serve more than 4 million low-income children.

It would also cut renewable energy tax breaks passed last year, while increasing fossil fuel production. That’s a no-go under any circumstances.

Republicans control the House, however narrowly, and they have the right to participate in decisions about future spending. But they must pursue their fiscal agenda through the regular budget and appropriations process without commingling it with the raising of the debt ceiling. The jousting with the Biden administration on this issue exemplifies the political swamp that Republicans like to decry.

Ideally the debt ceiling would be abolished altogether. That would end the recurring melodrama in which payment of the nation’s bills becomes a political football and commentators dust off far-fetched plans to get around the debt ceiling such as invoking the 14th Amendment or minting a $1-trillion coin. Congress must raise the debt ceiling — and then turn its attention to spending priorities for the future.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2023-05-12/editorial-no-more-drama-congress-must-pass-debt-ceiling-or-risk-harming-u-s-economy

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May 10

The Guardian on consequences for Trump

A 79-year-old advice columnist – along with a handful of other brave women who testified in her case – has done what legal and political institutions have not yet managed: held the former president Donald Trump accountable in law for his actions, and for his lies.

In finding that he sexually abused E Jean Carroll in the 1990s, and subsequently defamed her, albeit not finding him liable for rape, the jury in her civil suit laid down an important marker.

Though it awarded $5m (£4m) to Ms. Carroll, money cannot erase the initial attack, the intrusive memories she has endured or her continued avoidance of romantic or sexual relationships. Mr. Trump compounded the damage when he attacked her as a “wack job” pursuing a “hoax” after she described what had happened.

It required courage to take on a man who was one of the most powerful people in the world, who may be so again, and who attracts and encourages irrational and aggressive support. She has received death threats, and the judge advised jurors to remain anonymous “for a long time”. Asked if she regretted bringing the case, Ms. Carroll replied: “About five times a day.”

It is too easy to write off this hard-earned victory by focusing solely on the fact that its impact on voters is likely to be limited. No one imagines it will sink Mr. Trump’s political fortunes. His ability to float past or even capitalize upon his worst acts, transmuting them into fundraising and campaigning capital, is both remarkable and depressing. His support has proved resilient through impeachment, indictment and general disgrace. But this verdict stands on its own merits, in curtailing the impunity he has enjoyed for too long.

It would be wrong to imagine that any case could fix a broken political system, or, indeed, root out entrenched misogyny. It is a sign of just how bad things are that it is entirely likely that the Republicans will go into the 2024 presidential election with a candidate found by a court to be a sexual abuser – and that, if they do, he may well win.

Mr. Trump was elected in 2016 even after the emergence of the Access Hollywood tape in which he boasted that “When you’re a star, they let you do it … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” At that point, Republicans attacked him over his words. On Tuesday, most were silent about his deeds. Though the tally of women accusing him of assault has risen to at least 26, his share of the female vote actually rose in 2020, with an outright majority of white women backing him. Nonetheless, he did not want this trial, still less this outcome, and has said he will appeal, claiming the case to be part of “the greatest witch-hunt of all time”.

This was a victory for Ms. Carroll and, as she has said, for other women. It reflects the legacy of the #MeToo movement, sometimes written off as a blip due to the backlash against it. The journalist herself credited the flood of allegations about powerful, predatory men with persuading her to speak out. It also led to the New York law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on such allegations, making her case possible.

Change does not always come in immediate, dramatic and decisive fashion. It may be slow, halting, partial and unsatisfactory, yet nonetheless real and significant. Mr. Trump now faces mounting jeopardy on multiple legal fronts. Whatever the outcome of other cases, this one still counts.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/may/10/the-guardian-view-on-consequences-for-trump-this-beginning-took-bravery

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May 16

China Daily says G7 summit should cultivate stability, rather than division

Things have not been going well at home for United States President Joe Biden since he announced his bid for re-election.

His approval rating has seen spectacular nosedives in recent polls, and he is at loggerheads with Republican lawmakers over raising the U.S. debt limit.

Unless a compromise solution can be worked out in time, an impending debt default by the U.S. government may trigger an economic downturn and undermine U.S. credibility as a reliable world leader. It will be a fatal blow to the sitting U.S. president’s proud declaration that “America is back” after taking office.

That President Biden has finally decided to proceed with his planned eight-day trip to Asia anyway is not only a show of confidence in the prospect of his Democratic colleagues reaching an agreement with Republicans on the debt issue, but of his eagerness to build and cement what his administration envisages as a critical united front against key U.S. rivals, especially China.

The U.S. president is expected to participate in the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, then visit Papua New Guinea and Australia. And China will be front and center at each of his stops. In Japan, at an enlarged gathering of G7 leaders, which will also feature leaders from the Republic of Korea, Australia, India, Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Comoros and the Cook Islands, the central topic is expected to be the forming of a united approach to China as a looming security threat. In Papua New Guinea, along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he plans to meet Pacific Island leaders to both reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the region and push back against what Washington views as China’s increasing influence. At the QUAD meeting in Australia, China and the South China Sea are expected to dominate discussions.

Washington may find in Tokyo a dedicated ally in its ongoing campaign to maneuver a de facto strategic siege of China on the world stage, with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida trying everything possible to bring as many potential partners on board as possible.

But since many of the United States' European allies have shown an unwillingness to subscribe to the degree of harshness toward China that Washington and Tokyo covet, the White House has recently borrowed from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen the term of “de-risking” and stated the U.S. isn’t after “de-coupling” from China.

Although E.U. foreign ministers broadly backed a recalibration of the bloc’s China policy on Friday, that doesn’t mean they want to be a U.S. vassal or a battlefield for China-U.S. strategic competition. As French President Emmanuel Macron said after his China visit, Europe wants its own strategic autonomy.

The Japanese leader expanded his guest list by inviting leaders of several key developing nations in a sign of the G7’s outreach to the “Global South”. But he should not miss the message from the latest meeting of European and some Asia-Pacific foreign ministers, in which few countries from the region showed a readiness to wholeheartedly join an anti-China club.

ONLINE: https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202305/16/WS6463734da310b6054fad34cc.html