State Department website removes article touting history of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate – Washington Post

By ,

The State Department on Monday removed from its website an article about the history and lavish furnishings of President Trump’s privately owned Florida resort club Mar-a-Lago, following questions about whether the federal government improperly promoted Trump’s moneymaking enterprises.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pointed to the travelogue-style blog piece Monday, asking in a Twitter message why the State Department would spend “taxpayer $$ promoting the president’s private country club.”

The State Department issued a statement Monday apologizing for “any misperception.”

“The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders,” the statement said.

It was not clear whether the item had been vetted for legal or ethical concerns.

The short item had been posted on a promotional website called “Share America” on April 4, ahead of Trump’s meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. A version of the item was recently reposted on the website maintained by the U.S. Embassy in London, where it caught the attention of watchdog groups.

The item adopted Trump’s term “winter White House” for the ­members-only club. It did not expressly encourage foreigners to visit Mar-a-Lago, although other articles on the same website actively promote U.S. tourism. The item did note that the estate “is located at the heart of Florida’s Palm Beach community.”

“By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,” the item read. “The ornate Jazz Age house was designed with Old-World Spanish, Venetian and Portuguese influences” and filled with original owner Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of antiques, the article noted.

The item included photographs of the house and sumptuous interiors, and copies of Trump tweets mentioning Mar-a-Lago.

The article gave a brief summary of the 1927 mansion’s history, including Post’s desire that it be used by U.S. presidents as a retreat and the subsequent decision by the U.S. government that the property was too expensive to maintain. Trump bought it in 1985.

“After refurbishing the house and adding an events space, Trump opened the estate to dues-paying members of the public in 1995 as the Mar-a-Lago Club,” the State Department item read. “Post’s dream of a winter White House came true with Trump’s election in 2016. Trump regularly works out of the house he maintains at Mar-a-Lago and uses the club to host foreign dignitaries.”

One watchdog group, American Oversight, called for an investigation by the State Department inspector general and said it would request public records documenting how the blog post was created.

The State Department describes the “Share America” site as its “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.”

The site is produced by the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which produces material distributed by U.S. embassies.

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Trump should stop playing his game of budget brinkmanship – Washington Post

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PRESIDENT TRUMP campaigned on a promise to build a wall between Mexico and the United States. Now, with Congress having to renew federal spending authority by week’s end, he believes he’s entitled to a down payment on that wall. What’s wrong with that logic?

A number of things, but this above all: No responsible leader would use the possible shutdown of the federal government as a political cudgel. The last time a budget impasse produced a partial shutdown, a 16-day version in 2013, some 850,000 federal employees were put through a wrenching furlough and access to national parks and the Smithsonian was curtailed, with serious consequences for tourism across the country. All told, the economy lost $24 billion, according to an analysis by Standard & Poor’s. Mr. Trump’s first priority must be to avoid repeating or doubling down on that debacle.

In a discursive interview with Julie Pace of the Associated Press, Mr. Trump suggested that the responsibility of his job indeed may be sinking in. “It’s massive,” he said of his new position. “And every agency is, like, bigger than any company. So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility. You know, the human life that’s involved in some of the decisions.”

For a man who campaigned on the notion that he possessed special capabilities that could reduce the challenges facing American government to a series of “wins,” which would occur “quickly,” as he put it, this epiphany represents progress — but only up to a point. Even as he spoke to Ms. Pace, Mr. Trump was making it more difficult for Congress to reach a deal on extending federal spending authority past its April 28 expiration date.

Specifically, he had injected a demand for an appropriation for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, implying that, if he did not get the money, the government might have to shut. A leader truly concerned for “the human life that’s involved in some of these decisions” would not risk a repeat of the 2013 mess, especially at a time when top negotiators for his own Republican Party in Congress seemed on their way to an agreement with Democrats that would avoid it.

If he wants to make a case for his wall on its merits, and separate from budget brinkmanship, he is entitled to do so — though as we have said before, he has a weak case. It may be, as Mr. Trump told Ms. Pace, that “my base really wants it,” but the project is otherwise unpopular, including with many Republican legislators from the border region, and for good reason. A physical barrier along the entire southern border would be a colossal waste of money and a terrible symbol of American attitudes. That would be true even if, as he repeatedly promised during the campaign, Mexico would foot the bill. And it won’t.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: Trump’s latest threat is a big problem for Republicans, not Democrats

The Post’s View: Congress must make a deal to avoid a shutdown. So, about that wall…

Greg Sargent: Democrats to Trump: You don’t have the leverage. We do.

Robert J. Samuelson: Build the wall

Marc A. Thiessen: Yes, Trump can make Mexico pay for the border wall. Here’s how.

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State Department website touts glittering history of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate – Washington Post

By ,

A State Department website that promotes travel to the United States included an article this month about the history and lavish furnishings of President Trump’s privately-owned Florida resort club Mar-a-Lago, opening questions about whether the federal government is improperly promoting Trump’s moneymaking enterprises.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pointed to the travelogue-style blog piece Monday, asking in a Twitter message why the State Department would spend “taxpayer $$ promoting the president’s private country club.”

The State Department had no immediate comment on whether the item was appropriate or had been vetted for legal or ethical concerns. State Department spokesman Mark Toner was asked about the item during a press briefing Monday, but he said he had not heard about it. The department has promised a response.

The short item was posted on a promotional website called “Share America” on April 4, ahead of Trump’s meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. A version of the item was recently reposted on the website maintained by the U.S. Embassy in London, where it caught the attention of watchdog groups.

The item adopts Trump’s term “winter White House” for the members-only club. It does not expressly encourage foreigners to visit Mar-a-Lago, although other articles on the same website actively promote U.S. tourism. The item does note that the estate “is located at the heart of Florida’s Palm Beach community.”

“By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,” the item reads. “The ornate Jazz Age house was designed with Old-World Spanish, Venetian and Portuguese influences” and filled with original owner Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of antiques, the article notes.

The item includes photographs of the house and sumptuous interiors, and copies of Trump tweets mentioning Mar-a-Lago.

The article gives a brief summary of the 1927 mansion’s history, including Post’s desire that it be used by U.S. presidents as a retreat and the subsequent decision by the U.S. government that the property was too expensive to maintain. Trump bought it in 1985.

“After refurbishing the house and adding an events space, Trump opened the estate to dues-paying members of the public in 1995 as the Mar-a-Lago Club,” the State Department item reads.

“Post’s dream of a winter White House came true with Trump’s election in 2016. Trump regularly works out of the house he maintains at Mar-a-Lago and uses the club to host foreign dignitaries.”

The State Department describes the “Share America” site as its “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.”

The site is produced by the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which produces material distributed by U.S. embassies.

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State Department website touts glittering history of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate – Washington Post

By ,

A State Department website that promotes travel to the United States included an article this month about the history and lavish furnishings of President Trump’s privately owned Florida resort club Mar-a-Lago, opening questions about whether the federal government is improperly promoting Trump’s moneymaking enterprises.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pointed to the travelogue-style blog piece Monday, asking in a Twitter message why the State Department would spend “taxpayer $$ promoting the president’s private country club.”

The State Department had no immediate comment on whether the item was appropriate or had been vetted for legal or ethical concerns. State Department spokesman Mark Toner was asked about the item during a news briefing Monday, but he said he had not heard about it. The department has promised a response.

The short item was posted on a promotional website called “Share America” on April 4, ahead of Trump’s meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. A version of the item was recently reposted on the website maintained by the U.S. Embassy in London, where it caught the attention of watchdog groups.

The item adopts Trump’s term “winter White House” for the ­members-only club. It does not expressly encourage foreigners to visit Mar-a-Lago, although other articles on the same website actively promote U.S. tourism. The item does note that the estate “is located at the heart of Florida’s Palm Beach community.”

“By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,” the item reads. “The ornate Jazz Age house was designed with Old-World Spanish, Venetian and Portuguese influences” and filled with original owner Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of antiques, the article notes.

The item includes photographs of the house and sumptuous interiors, and copies of Trump tweets mentioning Mar-a-Lago.

The article gives a brief summary of the 1927 mansion’s history, including Post’s desire that it be used by U.S. presidents as a retreat and the subsequent decision by the U.S. government that the property was too expensive to maintain. Trump bought it in 1985.

“After refurbishing the house and adding an events space, Trump opened the estate to dues-paying members of the public in 1995 as the Mar-a-Lago Club,” the State Department item reads. “Post’s dream of a winter White House came true with Trump’s election in 2016. Trump regularly works out of the house he maintains at Mar-a-Lago and uses the club to host foreign dignitaries.”

The State Department describes the “Share America” site as its “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.”

The site is produced by the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which produces material distributed by U.S. embassies.

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Macron's strong finish in the French election shows populist wave may be ebbing – Washington Post

By and ,

BERLIN — In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise.

It might actually pay to embrace the European Union.

The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who jets to Berlin to give speeches in English. The blue-and-yellow banner of the E.U. flutters off his campaign headquarters. He is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Marine Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.

After years in which the E.U. was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and President Trump’s euroskepticism. The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. The former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany.

And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. He pledges to push for reforms that would force stronger nations to protect weaker ones.

Sunday’s balloting showed French attitudes toward Europe split down the middle, with euroskeptic politicians winning nearly half the vote. In addition to Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate, drew millions of votes. Opinion polls examining E.U. attitudes revealed conflicted feelings, with a majority of French respondents describing themselves as pro-E.U. but saying the institution needed deep reforms. 

Given such division, European leaders nervously watched the first-round voting to see which way France might tilt. On Monday, many political figures were unusually public about their support for Macron.

[Choice for French voters: Hope in Europe or fear of globalization]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that Macron’s first-place finish showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

The centrist German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff heaped on more praise. Macron is “a French John F. Kennedy,” he told Germany’s ZDF television on Monday.

In a rare display of cross-continental comity, Macron also was congratulated by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a combative leftist who has sparred with the German government ever since he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout in 2015.

Pro-E.U. politicians were not the only ones to focus on Macron’s attitudes toward Europe.

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, tweeted dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with EU flag behind him. Says it all.”

Leaders in Europe normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the final round of the French vote.

If Macron is elected — and opinion polls suggest he has a comfortable lead over Le Pen despite his first-round squeaker — continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back to its historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s decision to exit the E.U.

Analysts believe that if Macron can put more of a Gallic stamp on the E.U. machinery in Brussels, he may have a chance to shift France’s complicated attitude toward the bloc back toward more positive ground, particularly if he can also jump-start his country’s stalled economy.

“The French liked Europe when it was a greater France, but they feel today that it’s no longer the case. It’s a greater Germany,” said Eddy Fougier, an expert on anti-globalization movements at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

[French election: How the pollsters got the last laugh]

For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.

Dutch euroskeptic leader Geert Wilders crashed out of front-runner status ahead of March elections in the Netherlands. Germany’s euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party spiked after Trump’s election but has more recently split and sputtered. Now the ascendant political force in Germany is Schulz, a center-left leader who spent more than two decades as a member of the European Parliament and has staked his career on a robust defense of Brussels.

And though Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star party is doing well before elections that must be called before spring 2018, few observers see them as the existential threat to Europe that a Le Pen presidency would be.

The support for the centrist politicians reflects “a reasonable approach to a reality that everybody must recognize, and that is the European Union,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Franco-German former European lawmaker who supports Macron. 

“Today more and more people are concerned about how we can protect Europe and the European project,” Cohn-Bendit said. “This has a link with Trump’s election, with Brexit.”

At a time when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed support for Europe and globalization. On a January trip to Berlin’s Humboldt University, he switched to flawless English to exhort students to build a stronger Europe. The move drew praise in Germany — and darts from his far-right rivals, who said he was disrespecting the French language.

As the European powers-that-be closed ranks around Macron on Monday, they took two major risks. One is that by backing the French centrist, they will fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise. 

“It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

The other potential pitfall is that European leaders could find it more difficult to work with Le Pen if she wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” Janning said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.” 

Analysts suggested that, even if Macron wins, Europe’s centrists will need to keep their expectations in check for what he can achieve. 

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

Birnbaum reported from Paris. Virgile Demoustier in Paris, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Read more

The geographical divides behind Le Pen’s and Macron’s success

Marine Le Pen goes from fringe right-winger to major contender

After years of hiding their relationship, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron enter the political stage together

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

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Macron's strong finish in the French election shows populist wave may be ebbing – Washington Post

By and ,

BERLIN — In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise.

It might actually pay to embrace the European Union.

The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who jets to Berlin to give speeches in English. The blue-and-yellow banner of the E.U. flutters off his campaign headquarters. He is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Marine Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.

After years in which the E.U. was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and President Trump’s euroskepticism. The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. The former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany.

And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. He pledges to push for reforms that would force stronger nations to protect weaker ones.

Sunday’s balloting showed French attitudes toward Europe split down the middle, with euroskeptic politicians winning nearly half the vote. In addition to Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate, drew millions of votes. Opinion polls examining E.U. attitudes revealed conflicted feelings, with a majority of French respondents describing themselves as pro-E.U. but saying the institution needed deep reforms. 

Given such division, European leaders nervously watched the first-round voting to see which way France might tilt. On Monday, many political figures were unusually public about their support for Macron.

[Choice for French voters: Hope in Europe or fear of globalization]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that Macron’s first-place finish showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

The centrist German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff heaped on more praise. Macron is “a French John F. Kennedy,” he told Germany’s ZDF television on Monday.

In a rare display of cross-continental comity, Macron also was congratulated by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a combative leftist who has sparred with the German government ever since he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout in 2015.

Pro-E.U. politicians were not the only ones to focus on Macron’s attitudes toward Europe.

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, tweeted dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with EU flag behind him. Says it all.”

Leaders in Europe normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the final round of the French vote.

If Macron is elected — and opinion polls suggest he has a comfortable lead over Le Pen despite his first-round squeaker — continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back to its historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s decision to exit the E.U.

Analysts believe that if Macron can put more of a Gallic stamp on the E.U. machinery in Brussels, he may have a chance to shift France’s complicated attitude toward the bloc back toward more positive ground, particularly if he can also jump-start his country’s stalled economy.

“The French liked Europe when it was a greater France, but they feel today that it’s no longer the case. It’s a greater Germany,” said Eddy Fougier, an expert on anti-globalization movements at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

[French election: How the pollsters got the last laugh]

For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.

Dutch euroskeptic leader Geert Wilders crashed out of front-runner status ahead of March elections in the Netherlands. Germany’s euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party spiked after Trump’s election but has more recently split and sputtered. Now the ascendant political force in Germany is Schulz, a center-left leader who spent more than two decades as a member of the European Parliament and has staked his career on a robust defense of Brussels.

And though Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star party is doing well before elections that must be called before spring 2018, few observers see them as the existential threat to Europe that a Le Pen presidency would be.

The support for the centrist politicians reflects “a reasonable approach to a reality that everybody must recognize, and that is the European Union,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Franco-German former European lawmaker who supports Macron. 

“Today more and more people are concerned about how we can protect Europe and the European project,” Cohn-Bendit said. “This has a link with Trump’s election, with Brexit.”

At a time when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed support for Europe and globalization. On a January trip to Berlin’s Humboldt University, he switched to flawless English to exhort students to build a stronger Europe. The move drew praise in Germany — and darts from his far-right rivals, who said he was disrespecting the French language.

As the European powers-that-be closed ranks around Macron on Monday, they took two major risks. One is that by backing the French centrist, they will fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise. 

“It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

The other potential pitfall is that European leaders could find it more difficult to work with Le Pen if she wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” Janning said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.” 

Analysts suggested that, even if Macron wins, Europe’s centrists will need to keep their expectations in check for what he can achieve. 

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

Birnbaum reported from Paris. Virgile Demoustier in Paris, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Read more

The geographical divides behind Le Pen’s and Macron’s success

Marine Le Pen goes from fringe right-winger to major contender

After years of hiding their relationship, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron enter the political stage together

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Macron's strong finish in the French elections shows populist surge may fade – Washington Post

By and ,

BERLIN — In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise.

It might actually pay to embrace the European Union.

The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who jets to Berlin to give speeches in English. The blue-and-yellow banner of the E.U. flutters off his campaign headquarters. He is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Marine Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.

After years in which the European Union was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and President Trump’s euroskepticism. The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green-Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. The former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany.

And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. He pledges to push for reforms that would force stronger nations to protect weaker ones, saying he can win over Germany, which he has already visited twice during the presidential campaign.

Sunday’s balloting showed French attitudes toward Europe split down the middle, with euroskeptic politicians winning nearly half the vote. In addition to Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate, drew millions of votes. Opinion polls examining E.U. attitudes revealed conflicted feelings, with a majority of French respondents describing themselves as pro-E.U. but saying the institution needed deep reforms. 

Given such division, European leaders nervously watched the first-round voting to see which way France might tilt. On Monday, many political figures were unusually public about their support for Macron.

[Choice for French voters: Hope in Europe or fear of globalization]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that Macron’s first-place finish showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

The centrist German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff heaped on more praise. Macron is “a French John F. Kennedy,” he told Germany’s ZDF television on Monday.

In a rare display of cross-continental comity, Macron also was congratulated by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a combative leftist who has sparred with the German government ever since he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout in 2015.

Pro-E.U. politicians were not the only ones to focus on Macron’s attitudes toward Europe.

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, wrote dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with E.U. flag behind him. Says it all.”

Leaders in Europe normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the final round of the French election.

If Macron is elected – and opinion polls suggest he has a comfortable lead over Le Pen despite his first-round squeaker – continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back to its historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s decision to exit the E.U.

Analysts believe that if Macron can put more of a Gallic stamp on the E.U. machinery in Brussels, he may have a chance to shift France’s complicated attitude toward the European Union back toward more positive ground, particularly if he can also jumpstart his country’s stalled economy.

“The French liked Europe when it was a greater France, but they feel today that it’s no longer the case. It’s a greater Germany,” said Eddy Fougier, an expert on anti-globalization movements at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

[French election: How the pollsters got the last laugh]

For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.

Dutch euroskeptic leader Geert Wilders crashed out of frontrunner status ahead of March elections in the Netherlands. Germany’s euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party spiked after Trump’s election but has more recently split and sputtered. Now the ascendant political force in Germany is Schulz, a center-left leader who spent more than two decades as a member of European Parliament and has staked his career on a robust defense of Brussels.

And though Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star party is doing well before elections that must be called before spring 2018, few observers see them as the existential threat to Europe that a Le Pen presidency would be.

The support for the centrist politicians reflects “a reasonable approach to a reality that everybody must recognize, and that is the European Union,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Franco-German former European lawmaker who supports Macron. 

“Today more and more people are concerned about how we can protect Europe and the European project,” Cohn-Bendit said. “This has a link with Trump’s election, with Brexit.”

At a time when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed support for Europe and globalization. On a January trip to Berlin’s Humboldt University, he switched to flawless English to exhort students to build a stronger Europe. The move drew praise in Germany – and darts from his far-right rivals, who said he was disrespecting the French language.

As the European powers-that-be closed ranks around Macron on Monday, they took two major risks. One is that by backing the French centrist, they will fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise. 

“It may be counterproductive,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote.” 

The other potential pitfall is that European leaders could find it more difficult to work with Le Pen if she defies the polls and wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” Janning said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.” 

Analysts suggested that, even if Macron wins, Europe’s centrists will need to keep their expectations in check for what he can achieve. 

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

[email protected]

Birnbaum reported from Paris. Virgile Demoustier in Paris, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Read more

The geographical divides behind Le Pen’s and Macron’s success

Marine Le Pen goes from fringe right-winger to major contender

After years of hiding their relationship, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron enter the political stage together

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Macron's strong finish in the French elections shows populist surge may fade – Washington Post

By and ,

BERLIN — In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise.

It might actually pay to embrace the European Union.

The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who jets to Berlin to give speeches in English. The blue-and-yellow banner of the E.U. flutters off his campaign headquarters. He is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Marine Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.

After years in which the European Union was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and President Trump’s euroskepticism. The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green-Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. The former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany.

And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. He pledges to push for reforms that would force stronger nations to protect weaker ones, saying he can win over Germany, which he has already visited twice during the presidential campaign.

Sunday’s balloting showed French attitudes toward Europe split down the middle, with euroskeptic politicians winning nearly half the vote. In addition to Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate, drew millions of votes. Opinion polls examining E.U. attitudes revealed conflicted feelings, with a majority of French respondents describing themselves as pro-E.U. but saying the institution needed deep reforms. 

Given such division, European leaders nervously watched the first-round voting to see which way France might tilt. On Monday, many political figures were unusually public about their support for Macron.

[Choice for French voters: Hope in Europe or fear of globalization]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that Macron’s first-place finish showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

The centrist German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff heaped on more praise. Macron is “a French John F. Kennedy,” he told Germany’s ZDF television on Monday.

In a rare display of cross-continental comity, Macron also was congratulated by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a combative leftist who has sparred with the German government ever since he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout in 2015.

Pro-E.U. politicians were not the only ones to focus on Macron’s attitudes toward Europe.

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, wrote dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with E.U. flag behind him. Says it all.”

Leaders in Europe normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the final round of the French election.

If Macron is elected – and opinion polls suggest he has a comfortable lead over Le Pen despite his first-round squeaker – continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back to its historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s decision to exit the E.U.

Analysts believe that if Macron can put more of a Gallic stamp on the E.U. machinery in Brussels, he may have a chance to shift France’s complicated attitude toward the European Union back toward more positive ground, particularly if he can also jumpstart his country’s stalled economy.

“The French liked Europe when it was a greater France, but they feel today that it’s no longer the case. It’s a greater Germany,” said Eddy Fougier, an expert on anti-globalization movements at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

[French election: How the pollsters got the last laugh]

For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.

Dutch euroskeptic leader Geert Wilders crashed out of frontrunner status ahead of March elections in the Netherlands. Germany’s euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party spiked after Trump’s election but has more recently split and sputtered. Now the ascendant political force in Germany is Schulz, a center-left leader who spent more than two decades as a member of European Parliament and has staked his career on a robust defense of Brussels.

And though Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star party is doing well before elections that must be called before spring 2018, few observers see them as the existential threat to Europe that a Le Pen presidency would be.

The support for the centrist politicians reflects “a reasonable approach to a reality that everybody must recognize, and that is the European Union,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Franco-German former European lawmaker who supports Macron. 

“Today more and more people are concerned about how we can protect Europe and the European project,” Cohn-Bendit said. “This has a link with Trump’s election, with Brexit.”

At a time when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed support for Europe and globalization. On a January trip to Berlin’s Humboldt University, he switched to flawless English to exhort students to build a stronger Europe. The move drew praise in Germany – and darts from his far-right rivals, who said he was disrespecting the French language.

As the European powers-that-be closed ranks around Macron on Monday, they took two major risks. One is that by backing the French centrist, they will fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise. 

“It may be counterproductive,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote.” 

The other potential pitfall is that European leaders could find it more difficult to work with Le Pen if she defies the polls and wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” Janning said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.” 

Analysts suggested that, even if Macron wins, Europe’s centrists will need to keep their expectations in check for what he can achieve. 

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

[email protected]

Birnbaum reported from Paris. Virgile Demoustier in Paris, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Read more

The geographical divides behind Le Pen’s and Macron’s success

Marine Le Pen goes from fringe right-winger to major contender

After years of hiding their relationship, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron enter the political stage together

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

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Trump seeks 15 percent corporate tax rate, even if it swells the national debt – Washington Post

By Damian Paletta and ,

President Trump has instructed advisers to drastically cut the corporate tax rate even though doing so will expand the deficit and grow the national debt, sticking to one of his campaign pledges but shattering another.

Trump instructed advisers last week that he wants the corporate tax rate to be lowered from 35 percent to 15 percent, a senior White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. This is the same rate that Trump pursued during his 2016 campaign, but officials had not signaled since the election whether he would stick to the pledge.

By doing so — but not committing to measures that would offset the revenue loss — Trump is making clear he is putting a priority on cutting taxes over the national debt. It also potentially creates a tension point with House Republicans, who have spent years advancing a vision for tax reform of their own.

The White House decision comes at a crucial time. White House officials plan to unveil the broad principles of their tax plan on Wednesday, though details of what would be in the release remained fluid on Monday, another White House official said.

When Trump proposed the 15 percent rate during the campaign, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center projected that this would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over 10 yeras. But White House officials have insisted that the tax cuts will create such a jump in economic growth that it will create new revenue, a controversial assumption that has divided experts.

“The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Trump’s request of a 15 percent cut in the corporate tax rate on Monday afternoon.

Businesses are projected to pay $340 billion in corporate taxes in 2018, roughly 10 percent of all revenue collected by the government.

If the amount of taxes paid by businesses falls, it could put more pressure on other taxpayers to make up the difference. But Trump has said he wants to put in place a “massive” cut for the middle class, which means all tax revenue could fall. This would expand the budget deficit unless there’s a giant contraction in federal spending, which so far has not been proposed.

At 35 percent, the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the country, but most companies pay a much lower effective rate because the tax code is riddled with numerous deductions. Still, lawmakers from both parties have said the corporate tax rate must be reduced to make the U.S. more competitive. House Republicans have said they want the rate lowered to 20 percent. Trump wants it even lower.

Trump also said that he would reduce the deficit, but top advisers have signaled that his tax plan will grow the deficit because tax rates will be cut so substantially for individuals and businesses.

House Republicans have pursued lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, with the belief that anything lower than that is very difficult to do.

White House officials have said there are several basic principles to their tax plan. They want to simplify the tax code, cut the corporate tax rate, pass a giant middle class tax cut, and create some way of punishing companies who move overseas and ship goods back into the country. They also want to incentivize U.S. companies to move money back into the United States.

Trump’s push for unveiling his tax plan began last week during several meetings in the Oval Office where he expressed his frustration with the slow pace of legislation on several fronts, including taxes, according to two officials who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Trump urged his top economic advisers, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to ready a roll-out for this week and to keep the details of the plan controlled as much as possible by Trump advisers and Cabinet members rather than by GOP lawmakers, the officials said.

Trump’s motivation, the officials added, was to showcase some progress on tax reform ahead of the 100-day mark of his presidency and to quiet critics, especially in the business and financial community, about whether there would be movement on taxes this year.

Talking to aides, Trump underscored the need for the tax plan to include sweeping cuts for both corporations and individuals and did not focus or expressed any extensive concern about revenue issues or the deficit. As one of the officials described Trump’s outlook, “he wants high growth and high employment.”

Several House Republicans close to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that they were privately taken aback over the weekend about the White House’s efforts and said Trump risked alienating the speaker and his allies on Capitol Hill if they got behind a proposal that had weak or fragile support in the chamber. They noted that Ryan has already outlined the House’s tax plan over the past year and secured buy-in from members on the general outline of rates and the inclusion of a border-adjustment tax.

The plan Ryan supports is much different from the one Trump is pursuing. It has the 20% corporate tax rate, for example, as well as a border adjustment tax that would raises costs for importers but incentivize U.S. exporters.

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France Delivers Euro's Latest Existential Question – New York Times

LONDON — It has survived enough Greek tragedy to fill out an Aeschylus trilogy and sufficient brushes with Italian banks to make an opera. It has endured a global financial shock, years of regional economic stagnation and no end of cross-border political accusations.

Now, the euro, a perpetually maligned currency, has endured yet another test — this time from the presidential election in France.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the right-wing National Front party, and one of two remaining candidates facing off on May 7, has long disdained the euro as a malevolent threat to prosperity. She has pledged to convert French debt into a new national currency, an event that could begin the euro’s downfall. She has vowed to renegotiate France’s relationship with the European Union, threatening to upend the project of European integration that has prevailed on the continent as an antidote to the brutalities of World War II.

As her prospects appeared to advance in recent weeks, that sowed unease in international markets, with investors demanding greater returns on French government debt, a sign that the odds of default — however minute — are multiplying. In recent weeks, investors had been aggressively purchasing options that offer protection against a precipitous plunge in the value of the euro.

The results of the first round provided relief to investors, after the strong showing of her centrist opponent, Emmanuel Macron. As the markets tempered their expectations for a victory by Ms. Le Pen, the euro was up 1.5 percent against the dollar.

Few give credence to the prospect that Ms. Le Pen could actually deliver on her radical promises. She remains a long shot in the polls. Even if she wins, beating Mr. Macron in the runoff, her party will almost certainly fall well short of claiming a majority in the French Parliament when legislative elections are held in June. She would be relegated to figurehead status, with governing handled by a prime minister selected by the party in command.

But the concerns that have rippled through markets attest to fundamental defects that have long compromised the euro. It is a structurally flawed currency, one adopted by 19 nations operating without a unified political organization. It suffers from a chronic shortage of faith in its ability to persevere along with an unrelenting surplus of threats to its existence.

Many argue that the euro was doomed from inception. It was conceived more as an idealistic reach for European cooperation than as a reasoned plan to manage a currency. The assumption was that shared money would spur the evolution of greater European political integration.

Instead, the euro has devolved into a major source of political acrimony across the continent.

In countries with their own money, bad economic times typically prompt governments to spend more to generate jobs and spur growth. Their currencies fall in value, making their goods cheaper on world markets and aiding exports.

But countries in the eurozone cannot fully avail themselves of these benefits. The currency comes with rules limiting the size of allowable budget deficits. Faced with hard times, governments using the euro have been forced to intensify the hurt on ordinary people by cutting pensions and other public outlays.

The Nobel laureate economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has indicted the euro as a leading source of economic inequality that has divided European nations into two stark classes — creditor and debtor.

As Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain have slid into debt crises in recent years, they have accused Germany of self-serving inflexibility in demanding strict adherence to debt limits while refusing to transfer wealth to those in trouble. Germany and other northern countries have accused their southern brethren of failing to carry out reforms — such as making it easier to fire workers — that would make them more competitive.

The crises have time and again exposed the structural flaws of the eurozone and its tendency to generate more recrimination than action.

“You have a basic situation in the eurozone now where it’s like a half-built house,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “As long as that persists, a large number of investors are going to have existential doubts about the euro.”

Now, the latest wave of anxiety is being set off by France, one of the euro’s charter members and a bedrock component of the European Union.

This is playing out against a backdrop of destabilizing events that once seemed impossible — the election of Donald Trump in the United States and the vote to abandon the European Union in Britain.

Though Ms. Le Pen has moderated her positions in recent weeks as her election has gained plausibility, her hostility for the European Union and the euro are well known.

“I want to destroy the E.U.,” she told the German newsmagazine Spiegel in a 2014 interview. “The E.U. is deeply harmful, it is an anti-democratic monster. I want to prevent it from becoming fatter, from continuing to breathe, from grabbing everything with its paws.”

In the same interview, she confirmed her desire to yank France free of the euro. “If we don’t all leave the euro behind, it will explode,” she said.

Ms. Le Pen has since muted talk of renouncing the euro in favor of adding a parallel currency, the franc. But the threatened act of redenominating French debt would almost certainly lead to a downgrade of France’s credit rating, bringing severe market consequences, said Mujtaba Rahman, the London-based managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy.

He traced a potentially calamitous string of events that would play out after a victory by Ms. Le Pen. Even before parliamentary elections, she could appoint a temporary government while serving notice that France intended to renegotiate the terms of its membership with the European Union. She could seek to fire the country’s central bank governor and prepare to put in her own person to oversee the introduction of the franc.

“Her room for maneuver is greater than people believe,” Mr. Rahman said. “She will have interpreted her election as a massive mandate. It flows from ‘Brexit,’ it flows from Trump, and she’ll try to get as much of her agenda done while she is unrestrained.”

Even if she is stymied by political backlash, she could cause a volatile reaction in financial markets.

Around the globe, central banks, sovereign wealth funds and asset managers hold some 700 billion euro (about $750 billion) in French government debt. A Le Pen presidency could spook them into unloading some of it, increasing borrowing costs for the French government and the business world.

French banks could see consumers pull euros out of their accounts to be squirreled away elsewhere. If that became a full-blown bank run, the consequences could become global, given that France’s four largest banks are deeply intertwined in the international financial system.

Most analysts dismiss such talk as apocalyptic. The French parliament and constitution would severely constrain a President Le Pen. Investors would grasp this.

“The markets are not that stupid, and they will understand that there is a legislative election,” said Nicolas Véron, a senior fellow at Bruegel, an independent research institution in Brussels. “There would be market volatility, but not a meltdown.”

Those in control of money are implicitly saying that the odds of a meltdown remain low. Still, those odds are increasing, with fears of danger in France rippling out across the continent.

In the run-up to the first round, the costs of insuring against government default have grown in Italy as well as in France. With the market tenor shifting, bond yields dropped, reflecting improving sentiment about those countries.

But if Ms. Le Pen wins the presidency, the risks are likely to proliferate, increasing the costs of borrowing for businesses and households in Italy, Spain and Portugal, impeding job creation and economic activity, while perhaps forcing governments to cut services.

That could generate public anger, further stoking the fires of populism as Italy goes to the polls later this year or early next. That could enhance electoral prospects in Italy for the Five Star Movement, which favors dumping the euro.

A victory by Ms. Le Pen might change little directly, with her extreme inclinations contained by French political realities, while indirectly adding momentum to Europe’s crisis of confidence: It would inject greater dysfunction into European institutions, rendering them even less capable of alleviating economic troubles. And more strife has in recent times translated into more support for the populist movements seeking to dismantle these institutions.

“It would devastating for the eurozone and the E.U. if she won,” Mr. Kirkegaard said. “It would certainly paralyze the eurozone in terms of almost anything for at least five years.”

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