Did Giuliani just make things worse for the White House?


Rudy Giuliani may have messed up in a big way, while the White House replaces yet another staffer in this week’s political roundup.

Emmet Flood replaces Ty Cobb

Legally speaking, things look decidedly uncertain for the White House. That became apparent on Wednesday when the President hired Emmet T. Flood, the lawyer who represented former President Bill Clinton during Clinton’s impeachment trial.

Now, the fact that Flood was connected to one president’s impeachment does not necessarily make a straight beeline towards the current president’s legal murkiness. However, neither does it bode well when the White House lawyers up even further than it already has.

Flood replaces Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who urged cooperation and patience when special counsel Robert S. Mueller came around with his Russia investigation. Cobb reportedly told the President that cooperation would bring it all to an end. That hasn’t happened, and so Flood — who is likely to be far more combative towards the investigation — was brought in to replace Cobb.

Giuliani makes things complicated

Meanwhile, former NYC mayor and current legal advisor Rudy Giuliani may have set off another legal crisis for the White House. He claimed that the President paid lawyer Michael Cohen $130,000 after Cohen had given the same amount to pornographic actress and director Stormy Daniels. Supposedly, Daniels was given this “hush money” in order to keep her affair with the then-presidential candidate under wraps.

Whether you think the above situation was morally acceptable or not, the exchange of funds may have violated campaign finance laws. If the President fully knew about the payment and why the transaction was taking place and, furthermore, did not disclose said payment, it could all be very illegal.

Are Giuliani’s comments a series of off-the-cuff mistakes, or are his words all part of some bigger plan? It’s unclear. If there is something resembling a larger plan, it’s one that is shared only with a select few. Important figures like White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders are apparently just as surprised by Giuliani’s words as we are.

Mueller has a big list of questions

We have just gotten the most detailed look yet into the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election tampering and possible collusion charges. Robert S. Mueller III, said special counsel, has quite a few questions to ask the president. In fact, there are at least 46 of these questions, according to a list obtained by The New York Times.

The inquiries focus on a range of relationships and events pertaining to Russia, the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and White House views on independent investigations. They also dig in on conflicting information, especially what the president may or may not have known about officials including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Flynn has since pled guilty to lying to FBI agents. Manafort is under investigation for charges including tax fraud. However, he has of yet made no plea.

Will an interview happen?

Even current officials, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are included on the list. Sessions could be a particularly interesting subject, given that he was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Mueller also apparently wants to know about former FBI director James Comey’s firing. Was it because Comey mishandled an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s infamous private email server? Or did Comey find himself on the outs because he did not swear unswerving loyalty to the White House? Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between.

These questions and more were presented to the White House legal team in anticipation of an interview between Mueller and the President. It is currently unclear whether or not this questioning will take place. The President himself has expressed myriad opinions thereof, subject seemingly to time, place, whom he spoke to last, local weather patterns, what he ate for breakfast, and other obscure conditions.

European leaders plan for the aftermath of the Iran deal

Despite consistent support for the Iran nuclear deal from European leaders, things look gloomy. It’s all but certain that the U.S. president will pull out of the agreement come May 12. That’s when the 2015 accords are essentially up for renewal.

So, what are the leaders of France, Germany, and the U.K. going to do about it? They’ve expressed great support of the deal, which limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities and makes it next to impossible for the country to develop its own nuclear weapons. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been fairly busy lobbying the White House for its continued support of the deal. Despite their work, however, few expect that their efforts will be met with success.

Rather, officials from all three European countries are currently working on a backup deal with the United States. The three other countries that are party to the current accord — Iran, Russia, and China — are not included. Will everyone agree on this one? Or, will it be an unsatisfying middle-of-the-road solution to a problem that involves nuclear weapons?

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that Iran still has nuclear weapons. Iranian officials also claim that they will not renegotiate the deal. The stage is set for what is now likely to be a dramatic end to the accord.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

To make things eminently clear at the beginning: the Earth is round. That’s easy enough to learn for yourself, thanks to some quick and easy science experiments.

But, talking about the shape of the moon or the curvature of the horizon isn’t enough for some people. They maintain that we are in the grips of a vast conspiracy. The powers that be, they say, are bent on convincing us that the Earth is spheroid. While these theories are difficult to believe, the renewed interest in flat Earth conspiracies is a fascinating social phenomenon. It’s also deeply worrisome.

Flat Earth conspiracy theorists argue that we are actually on a more-or-less level piece of rock, sometimes beneath a dome, sometimes generally floating in space. They create elaborate theories explaining the apparent orbits of planets and other bodies such as the sun and moon. Ancient calculations showing the curvature of the Earth from the likes of Pythagoras and Aristotle are consigned to the trash heap. Modern scientists are often treated with suspicion.

Physics problems

And what of the edge of this flat Earth? How do people go all the way to Antarctica without falling off? A few say that we live on a kind of neverending plane, most recently debuted as a Pac-Man-esque scenario. Others point to a massive ice wall a la the Wall in Game of Thrones.

Oftentimes, their theories are rooted in religious explanations that claim the Earth was the result of deliberate creation. Maybe, some flat Earth believers say, that’s why the whole conspiracy exists. “They want to dissuade you from the idea of a God,” said one conference attendee in Colorado. “They want us to think that we aren’t special, but we are”.

Next: North and South Korea make big steps together

Religious beliefs aside, the growing interest in the flat Earth is unsettling to many. It speaks to a lack of scientific literacy and a distrust of scientists in general. Some ideas, no matter how confusing or philosophically weird they may be, stubbornly persist. It’s worth understanding why ideas like the flat Earth stick around.