Hello and welcome to the Top 5 by Sam Jenkins. The Top 5 consists of the top five things happening right now in politics. Be sure to click that like button, leave a comment, or let me know if I’m #FakeNews. Thank you for reading!
1 Big Thing: The Iran Deal
Credit: [Vox](www.vox.com/world/2018/5/8/17329052/iran-nuclear-deal-trump-winners-losers )
On Tuesday, President Trump removed the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is also known as the Iran Deal. This deal, which was negotiated by the Obama Administration, attempted to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by relieving them of economic sanctions.
- On one hand, President Trump claimed this deal failed because “the [Iranian] regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time.” On the other hand, former President Obama refuted this perspective because the “[Iran Deal] has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program.”
- Now, the United States will unilaterally re-apply sanctions on Iran. However, the other signatories of the deal (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China) will not join the U.S. in imposing sanctions, which might limit the strength of the U.S. sanctions.
- The future of the Middle East is uncertain. Critics say the U.S. exit from the deal leaves the potential for an arms race and war in the region. Alternatively, Trump says he is open to negotiating a new deal with Iran to address the perceived failures of the JCPOA: “Iran’s ballistic missile program, its terrorist activities worldwide, and its menacing activity across the Middle East.”
Questionable Business Dealings
On Tuesday, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, released a report that outlines various payments from several companies to Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, through his LLC. However, Cohen’s lawyer claims this memo is not only inaccurate, but also obtained improperly.
- First, the report describes how a Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, wired $500,000 dollars to Cohen through a company called Columbus Nova and Cohen’s LLC. This development in the Cohen scandal is interesting because Vekselberg was questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating ties between Trump and Russia.
- Second, the report outlines other payments to Cohen from companies including pharmaceutical giant Novartis, Korea Aerospace Industries and telecommunications conglomerate AT&T. These payments might not be illegal but they are questionable as they could represent a variety of corrupt elements: unreported lobbying efforts, “selling access” and “pay to play.”
North Korean Developments
Credit: [Arizona Daily Star/Tucson.com](http://tucson.com/news/national/the-date-is-set-trump-to-meet-with-north-korea/article_622698d6-ccab-5de6-ad1a-d1ec990b1ecf.html)
This week there were several important developments regarding North Korea:
- On Thursday, President Trump announced his summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place in Singapore on June 12th. The neutrality of the location from the summit meeting was an important factor to how the talks would be perceived around the world.
- Also, three imprisoned Americans were released from North Korea and then arrived in Washington D.C. early Thursday morning.
- Finally, Trump’s exit from the Iran Deal will serve as a critical context for the nuclear talks with North Korea. Critics of the exit like former CIA Director John Brennan say it “will give North Korea more reason to keep [their] nukes.” Advocates of the exit like National Security Advisor John Bolton say, “The message to North Korea is the president wants a real deal” – meaning complete denuclearization.
Haspel for CIA Director
Credit: [Nasim Abbas/Flickr](https://www.flickr.com/photos/153511794@N03/41578107922/)
President Trump nominated Gina Haspel for CIA Director. However, the Senate’s vote to confirm Haspel will be close as Republicans John McCain and Rand Paul said they would vote “no,” while Democrat Joe Manchin said he will vote “yes.”
- A group of 53 former top intelligence officials, including three former directors of national intelligence and six former CIA directors, sent a supportive letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee where they stated, “Ms. Haspel’s qualifications to be CIA Director match or exceed those of most candidates put forward in the Agency’s 70-year history.”
- However, some Senators are hesitant to confirm Haspel because of her administration over torture tactics. For example, she oversaw a black site CIA location in Thailand where multiple al-Qaeda prisoners were tortured. Later, she helped destroy tapes of these events.
The 2018 Midterms are upon us
The 2018 Midterm Elections officially began as several states hosted their primary elections on Tuesday night. There were few surprises as many establishment candidates won their primaries like Mike Pence’s brother in Indiana’s 6th congressional district and Richard Cordray, the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in Ohio’s governor’s race.
One unique story of Tuesday’s election night was Don Blankenship, who ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia. Throughout the campaign, he spewed racism while attacking Mitch McConnell, the Republican Majority Leader in Senate. For example, in one ad, he referred to McConnell as “Cocaine Mitch” while (falsely) tying his family cocaine enterprises while choosing the words “China people.” On Tuesday, Blankenship lost in the primary so McConnell got his revenge. McConnnell then rubbed it in as he tweeted a spin-off cover photo of the Netflix series’ Narcos where he was surrounded by a white, powdery substance with the caption, “Thanks for playing, Don.”