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Beset once again by questions of whether he inappropriately sought electoral help from a foreign government, Donald Trump is reviving his 2016 playbook: try to turn the tables on his Democratic opponent.
But the tactic is making life harder for Ukraine’s novice president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
At issue is Trump’s July 25 telephone call to Zelenskiy, the content of which has emerged as a potentially defining storyline of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. In the call, Trump is alleged to have asked Zelenskiy to investigate a largely discredited accusation that Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden tried to interfere in a Ukrainian corruption investigating involving a company connected to his son, Hunter.
As Aliaksandr Kudrytski and Andrew Langley write, Zelenskiy must tread carefully.
At home, Zelenskiy had been off to a flying start since his shock election victory in April. His market-friendly policies helped turn the hryvnia into this year’s best-performing currency, he’s riding high in polls and a prisoner swap with Moscow has top diplomats predicting improved chances for peace between the longtime foes.
But his job just got trickier. Congress is already probing the matter after a complaint from a federal whistleblower. Trump yesterday suggested he discussed Biden during the call and said he’d consider releasing a partial transcript.
For Zelenskiy, who’s set to meet Trump this week in New York, the question is whether his own agenda will be torpedoed by the latest storm surrounding the U.S. president.
Diplomatic whirlwind | The U.S.-Iran showdown and the U.K.’s search for a deal to leave the European Union move to Manhattan this week as about 200 world leaders and thousands of diplomats converge on New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly. While talk of a historic meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has faded, France still thinks it can convince the U.S. and Iran to dial back their mutual hostility.
Home raid | South Korean prosecutors reportedly raided the residence of Justice Minister Cho Kuk as part of a growing corruption investigation that could further sap public support for President Moon Jae-in. Cho, a close confidant of Moon’s, is being scrutinized over issues including his children’s college applications and an investment in a private equity fund. He’s denied wrongdoing.
Signaling support | In a speech that risks being viewed as siding with India in its dispute with Pakistan, Trump yesterday pledged expanded military cooperation with New Delhi and called for more border security. Drawing huge cheers from a raucous crowd at a rock concert-like event in Houston, the president appeared on stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s seeking to expand control of the disputed territory of Kashmir. In the audience: more than 50,000 Indian Americans — an influential voter base.
Israeli Arab Spring | The political bloc representing Israel’s large Arab minority took the rare step of recommending a candidate for prime minister in a bid to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, who was badly weakened in last week’s inconclusive revote. In supporting former military chief Benny Gantz to form the next government, the Joint List of Arab parties said it wanted to show it would no longer be taken for granted and rejected Netanyahu’s “policies of fear and hate.”
No green light | Only two of the world’s 10 biggest banks joined the coalition of 130 global financial firms in agreeing to align their business with international efforts to address climate change and other environmental issues. Citigroup and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China joined the pledge, which asks firms to self-assess their sustainability practices and to develop plans to increase those efforts by 2023.
What to Watch
China’s cancellation of a planned visit to farms in the American heartland was done at the request of the U.S., Bloomberg’s Washington bureau reports, an indication the change wasn’t caused by a negative turn in the lower-level discussions held in Washington last week. Trump is set to meet Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as the countries seek to sign a trade deal. Bernie Sanders kicks off an Iowa tour today aimed at showing he’s the Democratic candidate best able to woo back working-class voters. Thomas Cook, the household name for package holidays, has collapsed and the U.K. government will have to spend millions to fly stranded tourists back. Saving the company was out of the question with its outdated travel model. Hong Kong protesters gathered at shopping malls, set blazes and clashed with police in the 16th weekend of protests, as the city braces for large-scale demonstrations planned for Oct. 1’s 70th anniversary of Communist rule in China.
And finally … Small demonstrations erupted this weekend in Egypt after a series of online videos made by a fledgling actor and ex-government contractor alleged corruption all the way at the top. The concern now is that an escalation of protests against President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the military at a time of worsening living standards could upend a revival that has made Egypt an emerging markets darling and send investors fleeing.
–With assistance from Michael Gunn, Amy Teibel, Karen Leigh, Ruth Pollard and Flavia Krause-Jackson.
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