Vulnerable Trump Gives Democrats an Opening

Kathleen Hunter
Vulnerable Trump Gives Democrats an Opening

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U.S. Democratic presidential aspirants take the debate stage in Ohio tonight armed with a battery of fresh ammunition against Donald Trump.

Trump’s would-be challengers will be targeting a president who’s the subject of a deepening House impeachment inquiry and whose whiplash foreign policy in Syria is drawing withering criticism, even from some in his own party.

Look for Democrats to capitalize on bipartisan anger at Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria — a move that paved the way for a Turkish military offensive — especially since penalties subsequently imposed on Turkey were milder than lawmakers demanded.

The developments are a dramatic shift from the last Democratic debate in September. It remains to be seen whether the candidates focus just on Trump or also on Joe Biden, who’s on the verge of potentially losing his front-runner status.

Stressing the need for unity, the former vice president has warned Democratic rivals against joining in criticism over his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine and China, the target of unrelenting attacks from Trump.As foreign interventions increasingly influence the 2020 race, the temptation could prove too strong for some.

Global Headlines

Chess pieces | Trump’s actions created the space for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s operation against the Kurds in Syria. As Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov explain, it also opened up a role for Russia’s Vladimir Putin as kingmaker, mediating a deal for the Kurds to gain protection from their former foe, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

Volkswagen delayed a decision on a $1.4 billion car plant in Turkey, citing the political upheaval over Syria. Turkish markets rose today after Trump imposed milder than expected sanctions focusing on calls for a cease-fire in Syria.

Party pooper | No sooner had Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte celebrated outmaneuvering his one-time deputy, populist leader Matteo Salvini, than his reputation was overshadowed by his ever-closer relationship with Trump. As John Follain reports, Italy was a key link in the U.S. president’s efforts to discredit his enemies in Washington, and Conte is suspected of bending the rules to curry favor with a powerful ally.

Power brokers | Indonesia’s elites are edging closer to securing constitutional changes to strip President Joko Widodo of key powers and end direct elections, the biggest test for democracy in the country since the downfall of the dictator Suharto in 1998. The push is gathering pace just months after a record turnout saw the president win another five-year term with an increased majority. Analysts warn the elites’ move could entrench the “sovereignty of the oligarchs.”

Out of gas | Bolivia’s fiery leader, Evo Morales, has tripled the minimum wage and boosted social programs during his tenure, thanks to healthy sales of natural gas to Brazil and Argentina. Now, cheap seaborne imports of gas are threatening that buffer. Bolivia’s gas exports plunged 25% in the first half of this year, and with no new discoveries, Morales is facing his toughest re-election campaign yet this month.

Waning Moon | Street protests that helped propel Moon Jae-in to the South Korean presidency are now stinging the leader, who has faced mass rallies for appointing a scandal-tinged confidant as his justice minister. Moon issued a public apology when the minister resigned after a few weeks on the job, hobbling his presidency and economic reform agenda as he heads into the latter half of his single, five-year term.

What to Watch

Chief European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says a deal can still be done with the U.K. this week, even if reaching an agreement is becoming “more and more difficult.” Mozambicans vote today in elections that have the highest stakes in the southeast African nation’s history, after a campaign marked by violence, insurgent attacks and the fallout from a debt scandal. The winner will oversee more than $50 billion of investments in gas projects. The South Korean men’s national soccer team plays its first match in North Korea in nearly three decades with Kim Jong Un’s regime doing all it can to prevent the world from watching the game live.

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And finally ... Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro ordered a 275 percent increase in the monthly minimum wage yesterday — the third hike this year — as hyperinflation drains the value of workers’ salaries. Problem is, the new 150,000 bolivars wage is barely enough to buy four kilos of meat. Annual inflation is currently running around 50,100%, while Bloomberg’s Cafe Con Leche inflation index has hit 19,900% annually.


--With assistance from Karl Maier, Jon Herskovitz and Rosalind Mathieson.

To contact the author of this story: Kathleen Hunter in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at, Alan Crawford

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