Greetings, and welcome to Tuesday. Let’s get to it:
1. Trump congratulates Turkish President Erdogan on a contested referendum victory.
This is problematic for two reasons: 1) Election monitors have spotted numerous irregularities in a very close ballot count. 2) More important, Erdogan was explicitly consolidating his regime’s power at the expense of Turkey’s parliamentary democracy. Here’s how The Washington Post explains it:
The juxtaposition of the differing responses [between the White House and the State Department, which urged Turkey to respect the rights of its citizens] underscored the awkward situation faced by many U.S. and European officials in responding to the disputed results of the referendum, which changed Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to one led by an executive president with strong central powers. It passed by a slim margin, 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent.
[Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] observers said the campaign did not meet international standards for democracies, noting that virtually all Turkish media failed to cover the opposition, creating an “uneven playing field.”
Erdogan lashed out in response at what he called a “Crusader mentality in the West.”
“Both the U.S. and E.U. are in a bind,” said Michael Werz, a Turkey analyst with the Center for American Progress. “They can either [disagree with] the OSCE findings, or they can say the truth: It was not a free and fair election.”
Coincidentally, the Trump Organization has business dealings in Turkey.
Speaking of Ivanka (and kleptocracy) …
2. The day she and husband/fellow White House adviser Jared Kushner had a steak dinner with China’s President Xi at Mar-a-Lago, China gave her business a big assist.
From the Associated Press:
On April 6, Ivanka Trump’s company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago. […]
In a recent interview with CBS News, Trump argued that her business would be doing even better if she hadn’t moved to Washington and placed restrictions on her team to ensure that “any growth is done with extreme caution.”
China, however, remains a nagging concern. “Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and Jared appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy. I would never have allowed it,” said Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under Barack Obama. “For their own sake, and the country’s, Ivanka and Jared should consider stepping away from China matters.”
3. New elections in the UK (and France).
Early this morning (our time), Prime Minister Theresa May made the surprise announcement that the UK would be holding a snap general election on June 8, as she seeks a stronger mandate for Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May stunned Britain on Tuesday by announcing that she would call an early election, placing a bet that voters would give her Conservative Party a strong mandate as her government negotiates the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” Mrs. May said in an unscheduled appearance outside 10 Downing Street, referring to divisions in Parliament. Mrs. May added that she had “only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion.”
The election would occur on June 8.
Mrs. May had repeatedly ruled out a snap election, so her decision on Tuesday represents an abrupt U-turn.
Right now, her Conservative Party holds a slim majority in Parliament. But with the opposition in shambles, May is apparently hoping to boost her advantage before the Labour Party can get its act together.
But her announcement is also a huge gamble.
A new election will reopen some of the country’s gravest divisions. It will give Brexit opponents another chance to soften the terms of the withdrawal from the European Union by voting for Liberal Democrat and Labour lawmakers who favor the bloc. It will give the Scottish National Party, which grabbed dozens of seats from Labour in the 2015 national election a new chance to reissue its call for Scottish independence.
If Western democracies have learned anything over the past year, it is that elections are unpredictable. And if Mrs. May wins anything less than a commanding majority on June 8, she will be weakened.
New and no less consequential elections are also looming in France, where four candidates—including one far-right nationalist—are seeking to make the runoff. From Slate:
In other words, less than a week before the first round of the election, and less than three weeks before a runoff between the two leading candidates that will determine the next inhabitant of the Élysée Palace, the country’s political future is completely up in the air. France might soon be ruled by a self-described communist, by an untested centrist whose political movement was founded less than a year ago, by a traditional conservative under investigation for blatantly corrupt practices, or by the far-right leader of a party with deep fascist roots.
Or let John Oliver explain it.
4. There’s also a big special election in Georgia today.
Georgians in the Atlanta suburbs are casting ballots today in a special election to decide who will represent the state’s 6th Congressional District. Democrats are coming off of strong performances in special House elections in California and Kansas and are hoping to flip Georgia 6, which President Trump carried by only 1 percentage point in 2016. The race is an early test of whether Democrats can ride a wave of anti-Trump sentiment to win traditionally red seats. But figuring out what the test results mean for the national political environment will be … tricky.
There are five Democrats and eleven Republicans running in the jungle primary. The top-two vote-getters move on to a runoff, unless one of them hits an outright majority. It’s fairly widely assumed that the young, well-funded Democrat Jon Ossoff will secure a plurality today; the question is whether he gets to 50-percent-plus-one.
In the last nine polls taken, Ossoff is averaging 42 percent of the vote. And even if undecided voters are allocated proportionally among the candidates based on the percentage of the vote each has now, Ossoff only gets to 46 percent — short of a majority.
In a runoff, Ossoff would likely be an even-money shot in a district that is usually about 9.5 percentage points more Republican-leaning than the nation. He’s certainly running strong enough to have gotten the president’s attention.
5. One month later, the circumstances of the downtown Raleigh fire aren’t completely clear.
From The News & Observer:
Sunday marked one month since a fire engulfed an apartment building that was under construction downtown, displacing hundreds of residents and causing millions of dollars in damage.
The five-story Metropolitan did not yet have a sprinkler system when it burned down at the corner of West Jones and Harrington streets on March 16. The fire started around 10 p.m. and quickly became one of the biggest infernos Raleigh has seen since the 1920s.
It’s unclear how long the investigation will last. The Raleigh Fire Department is leading the effort, with help from the State Bureau of Investigation and the ATF.
Amateur photos appear to show the fire starting on the second floor.
“We are waiting on the results of the investigation which includes analyzing any evidence we have obtained,” said John Boyette, a spokesman for Raleigh. He said the city had no further comment.
6. The legislature’s smaller-class-size mandate could cost NC cities almost $400 million a year.
Also from the N&O:
As the INDY previously reported, part of the Wake County Public Schools’ request for an additional $56 million this year is tied to the class-size mandate.
New state-mandated smaller class sizes in elementary schools will cost North Carolina school districts as much as $388 million more per year in operating costs as well as significant capital costs, according to a new report.
Districts will need to find between 3,000 and 5,400 teachers to comply with smaller kindergarten through third-grade class sizes, which the liberal N.C. Justice Center’s Education & Law Project says is the equivalent of an unfunded mandate of between $188 million to $388 million.
Districts will also need to have more physical classrooms, which the “Class-Size Chaos” report says will often lead to elementary schools housing students in trailers and “other less-than-ideal temporary classrooms.”
That’s it for now. See ya tomorrow.
“The choice we’re left with is, do we ignore the needs of schools in the community and let them fall?” Commissioner Erv Portman asked. “Or do we shift and place on the back of local taxpayers the cost that has traditionally been covered by the state?”
Last year, state lawmakers mandated the smaller class sizes for public schools starting this fall, but the legislation did not come with money to provide and operate the additional classrooms that the change would require. Critics have objected to the class-size requirements because they limit the schools’ ability to pay for music, art, and other specialty education.