Trump’s finances are still a target-rich environment

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Today's Agenda

Mueller's Failings

If you ever need a reason to be sad — maybe you're in community theater and need to cry on command — spare a thought for those people who spent good money on Robert Mueller swag or even tattooed themselves with his image. They hoped the former FBI director would bring down President Donald Trump. Spoiler alert: He didn't.

You could write several books about why he failed, and people already are. One of the first is by former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who had a front-row seat to the drama as part of Mueller's team. He suggests the special counsel's biggest mistake was dropping investigations into the president's finances. As Tim O'Brien — himself the author of a book on Trump's finances — notes, the money trail could lead to a prosecutorial promised land, from Russian business interests to suspicions of money laundering via Deutsche Bank and more. Abandoning this search may have ensured Mueller's failure.

The trail hasn't gone cold; the Manhattan district attorney is still following it. There's just not much DA swag going around these days, which is probably a good thing. Read the whole thing.

Why Court Passions Are So High

We wrote yesterday about how Supreme Court fights keep getting more heated. But that heat has been mostly one-sided for much of the past several years, with Republicans taking it more seriously than Democrats. This enthusiasm gap may seem baffling, given how important the Supreme Court is in this country. But Ramesh Ponnuru explains it's driven by the passion of abortion opponents and the disappointment of conservatives watching courts deny them for decades. Liberals may very soon get an opportunity to understand what that feels like.

Trump seems to hope the first big disappointment for liberals will be a Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority giving him a second term in a close election. Noah Feldman says he shouldn't count his justices before they hatch. Chief Justice John Roberts is obviously leery of having the high court seen as too partisan, and Brett Kavanaugh — possibly the new swing justice, believe it or not — may feel the same way.

Assessing the TikTok Debacle

We're still waiting for the final chapter of the TikTok debacle, but it's not too early to assess what has been gained from it, writes Bloomberg's editorial board: Nothing. The pending deal — which would give Oracle and Walmart a piece of the video-sharing app's U.S. business but leave China in control of its algorithm — doesn't seem to address the security concerns Trump claimed were behind his complaints about the company. The episode hasn't helped American companies in any way and probably weakened U.S. credibility.

Of course, China is considering retaliating by blacklisting U.S. tech companies. That would be a similar own-goal, writes Tim Culpan, exposing the country's weaknesses and dependence on U.S. imports.

Telltale Charts

The pandemic has been very good to Peloton as we all avoid germ-soaked gyms. But Sarah Halzack warns keeping up its momentum will be tricky, given how pricey its gear is and how much competition is circling.

New data show the 2010s were better for Americans' incomes than the 1990s, writes Noah Smith. This suggests the economy may need shockproofing more than a fundamental overhaul.

Further Reading

We'll have to wear masks even after we get a coronavirus vaccine. — Cathy O'Neil

Now is no time to end the U.K.'s furlough plan, just as Covid-19 cases are spiking. — Therese Raphael

Biden shouldn't repeat Obama's mistake by making another partisan Iran nuclear deal. — Bobby Ghosh

The EU's foreign policy will continue to be a sad joke as long as every nation has a veto. — Andreas Kluth

Now we know: Small-cap stocks don't naturally outperform the market. — John Authers

"The stock market hates uncertainty" is one of the 10 most useless phrases in finance. — Barry Ritholtz

ICYMI

JPMorgan will pay a record $1 bilion spoofing penalty.

Wells Fargo's CEO apologized for saying black talent is "limited."

Trump's nominee to run Homeland Security called white supremacy America's top terrorist threat.

Kentucky won't charge cops in the Breonna Taylor case with murder.

California will phase out all gasoline-powered cars by 2035.

Kickers

Chitin could build tools and habitats on Mars.

Researchers build the first human bionic eye.

What is a minimally good life?

How to say no.

Note: Please send chitin and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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