Feb 15, 2019

Middle Eastern autocrats buoyed by Trump's backing

Egypt's parliament today essentially cleared the way for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to rule through 2034. Constitutional changes that "would demolish ... safeguards [Sisi] introduced in 2014" are now on track for approval "within three months," per the NY Times.

MBS (L) and Sisi in Cairo. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Flashback: Sisi told CNBC before last year's sham election that he supported the system of "two four-year terms" and would "not interfere" with the constitution.
  • Between the lines: "Washington’s unquestioning embrace of Mr. el-Sisi, whom President Trump has called a 'great guy,' emboldened the Egyptian leader to act with little fear of American pushback," the Times notes.

Meanwhile: Members of Congress have taken a series of steps since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to pile pressure on the Saudis, and in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump has rebuffed them at every turn.

  • The latest: The Trump administration missed a recent deadline to assign responsibility for Khashoggi's death and potentially trigger sanctions. It ignored a deadline to certify the Saudis are limiting civilian casualties in Yemen. The House just passed a bill to cut off military assistance to the Saudis in that war — and the White House has threatened a veto if it passes the Senate.
  • Between the lines: The administration has been steadfast in backing the Saudis. But the votes in Congress show the winds outside the White House are blowing in a different direction.

Go deeper: Despite Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia unlikely to lose U.S. investments

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Pelosi warns U.S. allies against working with China's Huawei

Nancy Pelosi on Feb. 16. Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday cautioned U.S. allies against allowing Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to develop their 5G networks, arguing at the Munich Security Conference that doing so is akin to “choosing autocracy over democracy," CNBC reports.

Why it matters: Pelosi's hawkish stance marks a rare area of agreement with the Trump administration, which believes Huawei is a national security threat because the Chinese government may be capable of accessing its equipment for espionage.

Go deeperArrow1 hour ago - World

Judge sets "scheduling" conference call ahead of Roger Stone sentencing

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has requested a Feb. 18 "scheduling" conference call in the Roger Stone case, two days before the former Trump associate is set to be sentenced.

Why it matters: Stone's defense team on Friday filed a sealed motion for a new trial — the second time they've done so — amid allegations of juror bias and a growing controversy over Attorney General Bill Barr's intervention in the case.

Biden says Bloomberg's money can't "erase" his record

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that Michael Bloomberg's vast fortune cannot "erase" his record, and that scrutiny of Bloomberg's positions on things like race and policing will ramp up now that he's in the national spotlight.

Why it matters: Biden's polling free fall in the wake of poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire has coincided with a surge for Bloomberg, who appeals to a similar moderate bloc of the Democratic Party. The billionaire's limitless spending capacity poses an especially stark threat to Biden, who has struggled with fundraising.