Editorial roundup


May 11, The Japan News on the relationship between the United States and China:

The confrontation between the United States and China has disrupted international cooperation indispensable for dealing with the new coronavirus. Unless the world’s two major powers join hands, it cannot be expected that infections will be contained and the world economy will be revived.

What is important now is for each country to share information on the virus and establish an international cooperative framework for the development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs. Controversy between the United States and China over the source of the infection has hindered such moves.

Of course, China bears the greatest responsibility.

The first place in the world where the virus spread was the Chinese city of Wuhan. At the end of last year, a local doctor who had promptly warned of an emergency was punished by the local government. It cannot be denied that China’s tendency to conceal information has led to the outbreak in Wuhan and its spread worldwide.

When, where, and how did the virus originate and spread? Deeper discussions based on scientific data would be effective in preventing a recurrence. The World Health Organization plans to send experts to China to investigate.

China should accept the investigation as soon as possible. It is necessary for Beijing to provide all materials useful for the research, while not limiting what is subject to the investigation.

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continue to argue with China, claiming that a laboratory in Wuhan is the source of the disease. China denies the claim, saying there is no scientific evidence, thus continuing tit-for-tat accusations.

The United States is the most infected country in the world and has a long way to go before the situation settles. It is important to determine the source of the virus, but Trump should focus on domestic measures first. He can’t complain if people accuse him of using the tactic of criticizing China, while hinting at taking measures of retaliation such as imposing tariffs, as a way of drumming up support.

The global supply chain has already been hit. The world is not in a situation for the United States and China to continue their trade friction. Officials in charge of the two countries’ trade talks held a phone conversation on Friday. It is said to be the first official talks in about four months. They should deal with the matter more swiftly.

Trump calls himself a “wartime president,” while Chinese President Xi Jinping also calls the situation a “people’s war.” They may have likened the current state to a war, regarding it as a crisis that requires broad cooperation from the public.

Trump compared the pandemic with the Imperial Japanese forces’ attack on Pearl Harbor and the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, saying the new virus is “really the worst attack we’ve ever had.”

Infectious diseases are not conflicts between countries. No military power is used. Expressions such as “attack” and “war” can cause people to lean toward condemnation of other countries, forgetting that the enemy is a virus. Leaders should avoid such easy analogies.

Online: https://the-japan-news.com/

May 10, The Wall Street Journal on former President Barack Obama’s comments on the “false statements” case of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn:

Barack Obama is a lawyer, so it was stunning to read that he ventured into the Michael Flynn case in a way that misstated the supposed crime and ignored the history of his own Administration in targeting Mr. Flynn. Since the former President chose to offer his legal views when he didn’t need to, we wonder what he’s really worried about.

“There is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free,” Mr. Obama said in the Friday call to about 3,000 members of the Obama Alumni Association. The comments were leaked to Yahoo News and confirmed by Mr. Obama’s spokeswoman to the Washington Post and other outlets. Mr. Obama added: “That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic—not just institutional norms—but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”

Even discounting for Mr. Obama’s partisan audience, this gets the case willfully wrong. Mr. Flynn was never charged with perjury, which is lying under oath in a legal proceeding. Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI in a meeting at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 that he was led to believe was a friendly chat among colleagues.

As for “scot-free,” that better applies to former President Bill Clinton who lied under oath in a civil case and was impeached for perjury but was acquitted by the Senate. We understand why Mr. Obama wouldn’t bring that up.

We doubt Mr. Obama has even read Thursday’s Justice Department motion to drop the Flynn prosecution. If he does ever read it, he’ll find disconcerting facts that certainly do raise doubts about whether “our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk,” though not for the reasons he claims.

Start with prosecutorial violation of the Brady rule, which Mr. Obama knows is a legal obligation that the prosecution must turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. Yet prosecutors led by special counsel Robert Mueller didn’t disclose that the interviewing FBI agents at the time didn’t think that Mr. Flynn had lied about a phone call with the Russian ambassador.

Worst of all, as a legal matter, is that they never told Mr. Flynn that there was no investigative evidentiary basis to justify the interview. The FBI had already concluded there was no evidence that Mr. Flynn had colluded with Russia in the 2016 election and had moved to close the case. James Comey’s FBI cronies used the news of Mr. Flynn’s phone call with the Russian ambassador as an excuse to interview the then national security adviser and perhaps trap him into a lie.

All of this was moved along politically by leaks to the media about Mr. Flynn’s phone call with the Russian. The U.S. eavesdrops on foreign officials as a routine, but names of innocent Americans on those calls are supposed to be shielded from review to protect their privacy. Yet senior Obama officials have had to acknowledge that they “unmasked” Mr. Flynn’s name and others in their last months in power. Then, what a surprise, news of Mr. Flynn’s call and its contents pop up in the Washington Post. Did someone say “institutional norms”?

All of this raises questions about the role the Obama Justice Department and White House played in targeting Mr. Flynn. We already know the FBI had opened up a counterintelligence probe into Mr. Flynn and other Trump campaign officials, yet it had come up with no evidence of collusion.

Donald Trump’s victory increased the chances that this unprecedented spying on a political opponent would be uncovered, which would have been politically embarrassing at the very least. Targeting Mr. Flynn—and flogging the discredited Steele dossier—kept the Russia collusion pot boiling and evolved into the two-year Mueller investigation that turned up no evidence of collusion.

This among other things is what U.S. Attorney John Durham is investigating at the request of Attorney General William Barr. Maybe that’s why Mr. Obama is so eager to distort the truth of the Flynn prosecution.

Online: https://www.wsj.com/