Populists and kleptocrats are a perfect match

Liberal democrats in Europe and the US are not doing enough to curb money laundering

Martin Sandbu

© James Ferguson/Financial Times

Liberal democrats have been circling the wagons, and nowhere more so than in the EU.

The bloc sees itself as the bulwark for the rule of law, democracy and international rules against autocratic populism.

Fighting for the rule of law and liberal values is a noble cause. But it comes with a risk of inadvertently ennobling its opponents. Liberalism’s defenders often treat illiberal leaders as formidable champions of a rival ideological outlook when their motives are often much grubbier.

Consider Stephen Bannon’s recent troubles. US President Donald Trump’s first svengali was the author of the inauguration speech promising to stop “American carnage”, and a self-appointed deconstructor of the administrative state. Mr Bannon was once treated with the awe befitting a populist Faust single-handedly making battle with the Enlightenment.

But last month he was hauled off a luxury yacht and charged with defrauding a fundraising campaign. And not just any campaign: the money Mr Bannon allegedly diverted was supposed to fund Mr Trump’s Mexican border wall.

Mr Bannon has pleaded not guilty. But autocracy and kleptocracy — the capture of political power for the purposes of theft and embezzlement — often go together. They advance by similar methods: secrecy through misinformation and confusion, dismantled accountability, manipulated lawmaking and governing, and capture of law enforcement. 

It is a mistake to treat the two as separate dangers, let alone one as less harmful than the other. Autocracy is often merely the means; kleptocracy is the ultimate end.

In Russia, Ukraine and several post-Soviet central Asian countries, oligarchic networks have privatised the state for their own benefit. In the US, there is a long list of former Trump associates who have been charged with crimes linked to people mostly from those very same countries. 

In my mind, this leaves little doubt about the kleptocratic impulse behind Mr Trump’s attacks on independent institutions.

In Europe too, the kleptocratic alarm bells should be ringing. The use of public funds for private benefit is rife across the region. Lucrative state contracts are handed out to leaders’ personal associates from Hungary to the UK. Journalists Daphne Caruana-Galizia and Jan Kuciak were allegedly murdered for their efforts to expose self-dealing by Maltese and Slovak politicians.

Then there is the opposite problem: the use of dirty money to manipulate democratic politics. The UK parliament has highlighted how Russian oligarchs buy influence across the British establishment. Russian money has similarly come to the rescue of France’s far-right and allegedly Italy’s League.

Newly leaked disclosures of banks’ suspicious activity reports to US regulators have reinforced concerns that European banks have not done enough to prevent the laundering of the spoils of kleptocracy elsewhere; also, that Europe’s democratic leaders have not done enough to stop it.

Potential complicity with money laundering is not limited to a few countries. While money centres such as London and Cyprus have been accused of housing laundromats, banks hailing from Germany and Denmark have been accused of using them extensively. That is bad enough.

But political fecklessness causes the worst damage. Failure to crack down not only condones wrongdoing but also signals politically that this is no great priority. That invites kleptocrats elsewhere to avail themselves of Europe’s financial system for their own benefit.

If Europe unhesitatingly takes their money, no actual or would-be dictators will be impressed by political statements of condemnation. And if it easy to launder money into Europe, it can also be used to corrupt leaders there.

In short, Europe’s liberals can only hope to keep autocracy at bay if they are committed to fighting kleptocracy at home and abroad.

This requires political will. The US crackdown on dirty money leaves much to be desired, but it is well ahead of Europe. In general we learn of European banks’ most egregious wrongdoing from US authorities. More investigative resources, tougher criminal punishment and a greater determination to crack down are needed.

The EU also needs to give more power to pan-national regulators. In the single market, the weakest national regulator can undermine the efforts of others. That was true when it came to making banks safe before the 2008 financial crisis; it is equally true when it comes to making them honest.

The EU must condition access to its banks with collaboration on its anti-money laundering efforts. London also leaves the single market on January 1. But as part of any Brexit deal, the EU should not be shy about demanding that the UK clean up the City’s act on tax evaders and money launderers.

More generally, the EU should guard access to euro-denominated finance as jealously as the US does with the dollar.

Finally, it is time to do away with bank account secrecy, not just formally but effectively: all EU money must be traceable to natural persons, with uniform legal identifiers to make this logistically straightforward.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said last week that “European values are not for sale”. Time, then, to stop selling them out.

Returning to Multilateralism

For 75 years, the United Nations has provided an imperfect but unrivaled global forum for advancing peace, prosperity, and human rights, standing as a bulwark against another world war. But the COVID-19 pandemic presents the world's premier multilateral body with its biggest challenge yet.

Ban Ki-moon

NEW YORK – COVID-19 has shone a light on the acute vulnerabilities of a deeply interconnected world. No country, regardless of its size, wealth, or technological sophistication, can tackle this crisis alone.

US President Donald Trump has seeded the investment environment with uncertainty, trashed America's trade relationships, blown up the fiscal deficit, and left American workers worse off than they were when he took office. He is the polar opposite of Joe Biden, a politician who understands precisely what the US economy needs. 

Owing to the pandemic, the United Nations General Assembly this month is being held under exceptional circumstances, with heads of state participating “virtually” rather than traveling to New York City. The unique nature of this year’s gathering should serve as a reminder that the only way to overcome the threat of COVID-19 is through international cooperation, transparency, and adherence to shared rules and regulations.

It is a poignant irony that the pandemic has struck on the UN’s 75th anniversary. Born from the wreckage of World War II – a wholly human-made calamity – the world’s premier international forum embodied post-war leaders’ determination that future generations must be spared from the kind of suffering they had witnessed.

In the Middle East and other conflict-riven regions, the UN and its principles of multilateral cooperation remain indispensable for finding long-term, sustainable solutions that will guarantee peace, stability, and prosperity. The principles of international law are the bedrock of our global order, providing a crucial framework for defending rights and exercising power in the face of global challenges.

We can see this clearly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has lasted for almost as long as the UN itself. The best solution will be two states – Israel and Palestine – for the two peoples, based on the internationally recognized pre-1967 borders and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 2334, among others.

The recent establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and two Gulf countries, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, is a significant political development that I hope can help overcome decades of estrangement and mistrust. But I still believe that the only way to achieve true “normalization” between Israel and the Arab world is for all parties to work toward a durable two-state solution that delivers peace, justice, dignity, and security to Palestinians and Israelis alike. People’s inalienable rights should never be bartered away by others.

In 1945, many hoped that the world had finally learned the lessons of two disastrous world wars. In the words of the UN Charter, the body was created to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” and to pursue peaceful and inclusive paths to global prosperity and democracy. The web of UN-centered international covenants and institutions that have been established since then is far from perfect. Yet, for more than seven decades, it has decisively supported the pursuit of peace, security, human rights, and economic and social improvements around the world.

To highlight this legacy, The Elders – a group of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, of which I have the honor to serve as Deputy Chair – recently released a report on the defense of multilateralism. In it, we issued five calls to action for today’s leaders:

Recommit to the values of the UN Charter;

Empower the UN to fulfill its mandate for collective action on peace and security;

Strengthen health systems to tackle COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics;

Demonstrate greater ambition on climate change to meet the Paris agreement targets;

Mobilize support for all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

All countries must recognize that the only way to achieve these objectives is through effective multilateralism, which is ultimately in everyone’s interest. More often than not, the UN’s failure to meet its stated goals has been the result of member states – particularly but not exclusively the five permanent members of the Security Council (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China) – not meeting their responsibilities. When countries place narrow national interests above common priorities, everyone loses out.

To be sure, this past July, I welcomed the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption of Resolution 2532, which called for a global ceasefire to avert further humanitarian catastrophes in the context of the pandemic. I also strongly supported this initiative when UN Secretary-General António Guterres first proposed it in March. Yet I was disappointed to see so many valuable months wasted in arguments over the details of the text.

Squabbles over semantics in the face of bloody conflicts and an unprecedented pandemic sent a terrible message to the global public. Beyond the direct health effects, the economic fallout from the crisis will be long-lasting and severe, creating ripple effects that will be felt in many fragile and conflict-affected parts of the world for some time to come. This was no time to play diplomatic hardball.

Since then, the World Food Programme has warned that we may be headed for the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII, with as many as 600,000 children likely to die from famine and malnutrition in hard-hit countries like Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, and South Sudan.

The COVID-19 crisis is a somber reminder of our common human bonds and vulnerabilities. If we fail to respond to the pandemic and other shared threats with a renewed sense of solidarity and collective action, we will have dishonored the victims of the virus and betrayed the hopes that the UN’s founding generation had for us.

Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders, was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 2007-2016, prior to which he was South Korea’s foreign minister. A career diplomat, he previously served as Director of the UN’s International Organizations and Treaties Bureau, Vice Chairman of the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission, and South Korean National Security Adviser.

miércoles, octubre 07, 2020


Encountering Korea 

Thoughts in and around geopolitics. 

By: George Friedman



Arriving at the international airport at Incheon, now a global transport hub, I received instructions for South Korea’s coronavirus screening procedures. 

Incheon will always remind me of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The same must be true for the Koreans to some extent, as when I left the plane there were signs to guide arriving U.S. servicemen in the appropriate direction. It was a significant change from 1950, when South Korea was disorganized and doomed.

I have wondered about the success South Korea has had in combatting the coronavirus as compared to the United States. I first marched what seemed like a mile to the arrivals area of customs. 

There I was asked to sit in front of a uniformed customs agent, unique in that he, as well as the other customs officials I met, was nowhere near fluent in English. 

English has become the global tongue, particularly among those who deal with travelers. The Koreans were doing this on their own terms.

I sat before him and showed him my certificate of exemption from the 14-day quarantine along with my passport and the rest. He proceeded to ask me the name and the telephone number of someone in Korea, albeit less clearly than my telling here indicates. 

Unlike other immigration people around the world, he was not in any hurry. Since I had no name or phone number, having never gotten involved in actually planning the trip, I called my wife, who suggested I look in the folder of travel documents she had sent with me. 

I finally went through the paperwork that accompanied me and found a name, with a phone number. 

The customs agent called the number and miraculously the person on the other end confirmed that, while not vouching for my integrity, I was known to her.

This was followed by lesser intrusions until he was satisfied enough to send me to another person at another table, who reviewed everything he had done, including taking five minutes to read my exemption from the 14-day quarantine. 

We also sat facing each other, me trying to be gracious, he making no effort. He finally allowed me to take my precious papers and leave. 

He did not indicate where I should go beyond a casual waving of his hand in multiple directions. I then wandered around aimlessly until an English-speaking woman asked me what I was doing. 

She led me to a third table, and then abruptly sent me to the standard booth that immigration officials have. 

The immigration officer knew no English, and my own Korean had started to develop only an hour or so before. He read every paper. I could not see which pages he was reading, but it was clear I fascinated him.

He then passed me along to find my luggage from a plane that had landed nearly two hours before. I went through the appropriate panic, and then saw it neatly sitting at the Korean Air booth. It was a weirdly plaid-patterned bag, selected by my wife for being garish and therefore impossible even for me not to recognize. 

Having taken the bag, I left customs and was given a yellow tag to put around my neck, and then herded into a fairly large area surrounded by yellow tape. I was alone with someone I took to be Chinese, and who said nothing but clearly disliked me. 

I gestured toward a Starbucks, asking to be allowed to get some coffee. 

Request denied. I walked around the enclosure for about an hour (maybe a bit less), intensely cranky. 

Finally, I was told that the bus was outside, and went to it. I was the only passenger, plus one person supervising me, and the driver.

We drove an hour or so into Seoul, to the place where a nice girl stuck a stick up my nose and wiggled it around. I was now being tested for COVID-19, although I think the test should have taken place before I left Dallas. If I failed the test, I would have to spend 14 days in quarantine. 

I had to wait overnight to find out if I was infected, and in the meantime was sent to a hotel room I would have refused to enter when I was 22 and with a girl, which happened so infrequently that you can imagine. Figuring out the lights was tough; mystery solved when I found there were none, or none relevant to my needs. 

I was also given a small plastic bag with a candy bar, orange juice and several items I could not identify. The bed was on a pedestal, but the pedestal could not readily be seen. My shins smashed it, and I cried out to a silent world. 

But in the morning, to prove Dante wrong, I found that I did not have to give up all hope. I was released, and irony of all, my hosts had sent a sleek black car to retrieve me. 

On my phone was an app that knew where I was and required me to report in daily.

Now, you may think that this has no possible geopolitical value, but it is geopolitical to its bones. I saw Koreans being treated as I had been. The process for entering Korea is designed for zero-defect operation. Once in the country, the oversight remains rigorous and is socially enforced. 

The times I forgot to cover my mouth and nose with my mask, there was silent staring that even I found unnerving. This is the secret of how Korea has managed the virus better than most other countries. 

There is no split between the public and the government, and no sense that the government is violating their rights. Like a war, they see themselves as all in it together.

Korea has been an embattled country, invaded and occupied by the Chinese and the Japanese, ruled by each with a singular brutality. The memory of subjugation, particularly by the Japanese, is burnt into the national soul. 

They survived by a resistance built around their national identity, and pursued with a rigor that only a nation that has been crushed and resurrected can generate. 

COVID-19 is an invader, and they will resist at all costs, starting with imposing a discipline on themselves that would make Americans rebel. (Indeed, Americans have rebelled in the face of significantly smaller impositions to contain the virus.) 

Such discipline is not always there; there have been riots in Korea. 

But when the chips are down, and for Korea they are frequently close to being down, there is a desperate coherence. 

Even then there has been resistance from some Christian churches, but not as much as in America.

Korean Peninsula and Surrounding Area
(click to enlarge)

The United States has never been occupied by a foreign power, and its most significant war was waged on itself, with the South insisting on charting its own path. 

Americans have a deep-rooted sense that the country has room for maneuver. Korea knows that it doesn’t with North Korea, Japan and China surrounding it. 

There is a sense of danger and embattlement in Korea that creates a willingness to endure the intrusion of the state, even if it makes life difficult. They respond to danger perhaps disproportionately at times, but vigorously.

The United States was created for a people distrusting the power of the state, and frankly distrusting one another. It is also a nation that has not suffered the existential loss that Korea has. Thus, for Americans, everything is not at stake. 

There is always room to resist. And so the intrusion of the American state is limited and resisted. The Korean state was designed to survive, and the American state was shaped to resist. 

The Koreans see COVID-19 as existential, and Americans refuse to agree on what they see, let alone what ought to be done.


Republican Senators Line Up to Back Trump on Court Fight

Senator Lindsey Graham, the Judiciary Committee chairman, says Republicans have the votes to confirm the president’s choice before the Nov. 3 election, though it will still be a challenge.

By Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos

A memorial for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday outside the Supreme Court. Senate Republicans have said they will move forward with a nomination.Credit...Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump appeared to secure enough support on Monday to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg without waiting for voters to decide whether to grant him a second term in what would be the fastest contested confirmation in modern history.

As Mr. Trump promised to announce his choice for the seat by Friday or “probably Saturday,” after memorial services for Justice Ginsburg, several key Senate Republicans threw their support behind a campaign-season dash to replace the liberal jurist by the election on Nov. 3 with a conservative who would shift the court’s ideological center to the right for years to come.

“We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a close Trump ally, said Monday night on Fox News. “We’re going to move forward in the committee; we’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election.”

Such a timetable would leave only 38 days for the Senate to act and, as a practical matter, even less time because it is highly unlikely that Republicans would want to vote in the last few days before an election in which several of them face serious threats. 

Some senior Republican senators were still expressing caution about such an accelerated timetable even with the votes seemingly in hand, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has not publicly committed to a pre-election vote.

But the president was buoyed after Senators Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Cory Gardner of Colorado, two of three remaining Republicans who might have opposed filling the seat, announced that they would support moving ahead with a nomination even though they refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination in an election year in 2016. 

That left only Senator Mitt Romney of Utah considered undecided, but even without him, it appeared to guarantee at least 50 Republican votes to move ahead, with Vice President Mike Pence available to break a tie.

With polls showing Mr. Trump trailing former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, the president insisted on pressing ahead without waiting for an election he could lose. “I’d much rather have a vote before the election because there’s a lot of work to be done, and I’d much rather have it,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “We have plenty of time to do it. I mean, there’s really a lot of time.”

Mr. Trump privately met at the White House on Monday with Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, his front-runner and a favorite of anti-abortion conservatives, who have told him that she is a female Antonin Scalia.

The president spent much of the day with her and later told associates that he liked her, according to people close to the process, who considered her increasingly likely to be the pick.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, reiterated that he intended to fill the seat before 2021.Credit...Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

Justice Ginsburg, who died on Friday at 87, will be honored at a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, then will lie in repose outside the building for the rest of the day and on Thursday, the court announced, an unusual arrangement intended to accommodate the tens of thousands of admirers expected to pay their respects in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

The justice will also lie in state in the United States Capitol, the first woman in American history to be so honored, and her coffin will be placed on the same catafalque that bore the body of President Abraham Lincoln, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday. The only other member of the Supreme Court ever to lie in state at the Capitol was William Howard Taft, who had served as president before becoming chief justice.

The politics of Justice Ginsburg’s replacement roiled Washington as senators returned to town for the first time since her death. Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said over the weekend that they opposed filling the seat until voters decide the presidency.

But Mr. McConnell reiterated that he intended to fill the seat before year’s end, without explicitly committing to a vote before the election. “The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination,” he said on the Senate floor. “History and precedent make that perfectly clear.”

“This Senate will vote on this nomination this year,” he added in a speech that was intended to justify proceeding after Republicans refused to even consider Mr. Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland for almost nine months in 2016 partly on the grounds that voters should have a say in who filled the lifetime appointment.

Mr. McConnell and other Republicans rationalized taking the opposite position this year because their party controls both the White House and the Senate. Mr. Graham, for one, had vowed repeatedly not to support confirming any selection by Mr. Trump in an election year in keeping with the 2016 decision, only to flip-flop this weekend.

In a letter to Democrats on Monday, Mr. Graham made no attempt to argue that he was being consistent or following a nonpartisan principle, but instead said he reversed himself in retaliation for the Democrats’ treatment of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh when he was confirmed in 2018 and because Republicans have the power to proceed. “I am certain if the shoe were on the other foot, you would do the same,” Mr. Graham wrote.

Protesters outside Senator Lindsey Graham’s home in Washington early Monday morning.Credit...Alex Edelman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Grassley, his predecessor as chairman and a key figure in helping Mr. McConnell block consideration of Judge Garland, likewise reversed himself on Monday. As recently as this summer, Mr. Grassley told reporters that out of fairness and consistency, he would not consider a Trump nominee before the election if he were still chairman.

But in a statement on Monday, he noted that the chairmanship was now Mr. Graham’s, and he would support his decision.

“Once the hearings are underway, it’s my responsibility to evaluate the nominee on the merits, just as I always have,” Mr. Grassley said. “The Constitution gives the Senate that authority, and the American people’s voices in the most recent election couldn’t be clearer.”

Mr. Gardner, who is badly trailing his Democratic rival in a blue state where Mr. Trump is deeply unpopular, likewise threw his support to the president. “I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law,” he said. “Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm.”

Mr. Romney, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, was seen as the last Republican who might balk. He is concerned about preserving the court’s public reputation, but he is also a conservative reluctant to let an opportunity to shape the court pass by, aides said. He said he planned to announce his views after a senators’ lunch on Tuesday.

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said he planned to announce his intentions on Tuesday.Credit...Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, excoriated Republicans for what he called a brazen power play. “To try and decide this at this late moment is despicable and wrong and against democracy,” Mr. Schumer told reporters.

Privately, Mr. McConnell polled advisers and deputies about a complex set of political considerations with control of the Senate and presidency at stake. Some Republicans argued for announcing a nominee right away and beginning hearings but waiting to vote in a lame-duck session after the election.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Mr. McConnell’s leadership team, said confirming a new justice by Nov. 3 would set “the new recent world record.” 

He added, “We’d have to do more than we’ve done in a long time to get one done that quickly, but it’s possible.”

Since 1975, the average Supreme Court confirmation has taken about 70 days, and only two were quicker than currently contemplated — Justices John Paul Stevens in 1975 and Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981, both of whom were approved unanimously. Since Justice Ginsburg was confirmed with little resistance in 1993, no confirmation has taken less than 62 days.

The last time a Supreme Court nominee facing meaningful opposition was confirmed in 38 days or less from the day of their initial nomination was in 1949. While the Senate has approved other nominees to the court in election years, none has been confirmed so close to a presidential election in American history.

The calendar is not Mr. Trump’s friend at this point. The Senate is out of session for Yom Kippur next Monday and Tuesday, leaving fewer than 25 business days before Election Day to vet any nominee, conduct multiple days of hearings and hold committee and floor votes. If they moved at breakneck speed with no surprises, Republicans could, in theory, hold a vote by late the week of Oct. 19 or early the next.

Democrats have a few tools to slow down the process — most notably the ability to postpone approval by the committee for a week — but they quite likely have no means to stop Republicans altogether because filibusters were eliminated in Supreme Court confirmations. If a vote were to be delayed until after the election, Democrats could quickly gain an extra vote, assuming Mark Kelly wins a special election in Arizona and is sworn into that seat in November.

To White House officials, the short time frame argued for Judge Barrett because she was a finalist two years ago and therefore already largely vetted. As she met with the president on Monday and came away poised to be chosen, there was still attention on Judge Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit because she is a Cuban-American from Florida, a critical state for the president’s re-election chances.

Mr. Trump told reporters that he had narrowed the list to five women, but the other three identified by the people informed about the process were seen as long shots: Kate Todd, a deputy White House counsel, and Judges Allison Jones Rushing of the Fourth Circuit and Joan L. Larsen of the Sixth Circuit.

President Trump on Monday in Ohio. He privately met at the White House with Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

The brewing confirmation fight quickly became a campaign issue. Committing an initial $2.2 million in spending, Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative advocacy group, fired the first shots in what is expected to be a costly advertising war to try to sway public sentiment and influence key Republican senators. 

The group said it would run ads in Colorado and Utah, as well as in Iowa, Maine and North Carolina, where Republican incumbents are in competitive races.

Republicans hope the issue will rally conservative voters who might otherwise not turn out, but a poll released on Monday suggested that Democrats might be more energized by the fight. Sixty percent of Democrats called the Supreme Court “very important” in deciding their vote in November, up 12 percentage points, while 54 percent of Republicans agreed, according to the survey by Politico and Morning Consult.

While aides wanted him to announce his pick as early as Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he opted to wait out of deference to Justice Ginsburg. 

But even as he talked about showing respect for her, he asserted with absolutely zero evidence that her dying wish that she not be replaced until the next president is chosen, as conveyed by her granddaughter to NPR, was actually scripted by Democrats like Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Schumer or Representative Adam B. Schiff of California.

“I don’t know that she said that, or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi?” he told “Fox & Friends.” “I would be more inclined to the second, OK, you know? That came out of the wind. It sounds so beautiful, but that sounds like a Schumer deal, or maybe a Pelosi or Shifty Schiff.”

Reporting was contributed by Maggie Haberman and Michael Gold from New York, and Michael Crowley and Emily Cochrane from Washington.

Peter Baker is the chief White House correspondent and has covered the last four presidents for The Times and The Washington Post. He also is the author of six books, most recently "The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III." @peterbakernyt • Facebook

Nicholas Fandos is a national reporter based in the Washington bureau. He has covered Congress since 2017 and is part of a team of reporters who have chronicled investigations by the Justice Department and Congress into President Trump and his administration. @npfandos