After a week of explosive revelations in Washington and a failed summit in Hanoi, DW spoke with Eurasia Group head Ian Bremmer for his take on the week's events.
DW: Michael Cohen's public testimony before the US House Oversight and Reform Committee this week almost overshadowed the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi. What was, in your eyes, was the most important about Cohen's statement to Congress?
Ian Bremmer: It was just the overwhelming willingness to trash the president, who he had worked for for over 10 years. This is the guy that's been perhaps one of the closest to Trump, and you couldn't have had a broader level of indictment against him: from the way he ran his business, to how he conducted his personal relationships, to his character, you name it.
Now let's be clear: It's made big news because it's salacious, and because these are bombshells, but it's a very partisan environment. And the Republicans that questioned Cohen all through the day, they were not asking him to elaborate on Trump. They were discrediting him and saying it wasn't relevant, while the Democrats were girding for impeachment.
It's important, insofar as it angers the Democrats and it moves the Democrats in Congress toward beginning impeachment hearings, which the Democratic Party leadership had been reluctant to do until they saw the results of the Mueller investigation. It pushes them in that direction, but I don't think we learned a lot that was new about either Trump or the administration.
One way to attack Trump would have been to state that there was collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin. But Cohen said he didn't have "direct evidence" of any collusion. What does that mean in the context of the upcoming Mueller report and a possible impeachment process?
I do believe that an impeachment process is looking more likely at this point. There are such a broad range of investigations that make clear that the president has been lying in covering up activities that are clearly illegal, some for himself, some for others. But impeachment is not a legal matter, it's a political matter. So it can be pursued by the House, where the Democrats are winning, but it won't be pursued in the Senate.
Unless Mueller were to find that there was hard evidence that Trump actually organized, or was personally involved with the Russians in trying to illegally gain his own election to the presidency, then I have a really hard time believing that Republicans are going to support the ouster of their own compatriot as president.
The Mueller report will be a bombshell. It's going to be definitive, but it won't be political. At this point, you know when you talk about Cohen, you're talking about someone with very little bipartisan credibility. Mueller does have bipartisan credibility; it's a fully legal process, and he has extraordinary resources to actually allow him to dig in. I think people on both sides, both FOX and CNN and the Democrats and Republicans, will take Mueller seriously.
The day after Cohen's testimony, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump met in Vietnam — only to end the talks early, with no signed agreements, no progress. The summit has been seen as a failure on the part of Trump. What do you think?
It was a failure. It was more of a failure because of the way Trump handled it. If you look at North Korea today compared to two years ago, they now have diplomatic relations with the Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese and the South Koreans. They weren't talking to any of them at a high level before Trump actually started pushing on North Korea.
That's actually a move toward peace. It's creating more stability, and there's enormous economic engagement between South and North Korea right now. Cultural engagement — a lot of people, families who were separated are meeting up, the North Koreans aren't testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, they've given up US hostages, they gave up some of the remains of soldiers. All of that is positive.
But rather than Trump allowing his secretary of state and his special envoy and others to really work with the North Koreans, and refusing to meet with Kim Jong Un until something was hammered out, Trump said he was going to meet him and do it himself. That was stupid. He didn't take the advice of his own people, who know a lot more about foreign policy than he does.
As a consequence, he got into that meeting and he didn't get what he wanted. They weren't prepped properly, and he had to walk away from the meeting and he has no one to blame but himself. He never should have been in that position. [Former President Barack] Obama was never getting into a room with the supreme leader of Iran to potentially get embarrassed by the Iranians. Here's a place where Trump's marketing actually did him damage, and the substance was actually better than people are talking about.
Ian Bremmer is the president and founder of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm.