Tag Archives: politics

White House adviser Navarro warns Wall Street ‘globalists’ over China

(CNN)White House trade adviser Peter Navarro took a shot at Wall Street Friday, warning “globalist elites” against meddling with the Trump administration’s policy on China.

“If and when there is a deal, it will be on President Donald J. Trump’s terms — not Wall Street terms,” he said.
“If Wall Street is involved and continues to insinuate itself into these negotiations, there will be a stench around any deal that’s consummated because it will have the imprimatur of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street,” Navarro added.
    Navarro, a former economics professor, accused billionaires and hedge fund managers of engaging in “shuttle diplomacy” between the United States and China, which he says weakens the President and his negotiating position. It wasn’t immediately clear what he was referring to.
    His remarks come ahead of Trump’s expected meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit later this month in Argentina. The administration has sent mixed messages about whether the two are nearing a truce that would lift more than $250 billion in retaliatory tariffs on an array of goods ranging from chemical products and motors, to luggage and hats.
    The comments reflect the ongoing divisions inside the Trump administration between free traders — including those with Wall Street backgrounds like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow — and the so-called nationalists who hew to the “America First” stance laid out during the campaign and early months of Trump’s presidency by former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
    Trump earlier this week promised a positive meeting with Xi.
    “We’ll have a good meeting and we’re going to see what we can do,” the President said at his Wednesday news conference following the midterm elections.
    Trump has made it a priority to take an aggressive stance against China for what he says are unfair trade practices, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers. He’s threatened to escalate the trade war further by taxing the remaining Chinese goods sold to the United States.
    Many American manufacturers, farmers and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say they appreciate the administration’s efforts to change China’s trade policies. But some argue the tariffs are not the best way to address the issues. They pose a dilemma to US importers who must decide whether to absorb the higher cost of the goods or pass it on to consumers, and some exporters are hurting from China’s retaliatory tariffs.
    Former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn left the administration in the wake of a fierce disagreement over tariffs on steel and aluminum. Earlier this week, Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, told the BBC that the tariffs could hurt the US economy.
    “I look at tariffs as a bit of a consumption tax [and] we do not want to tax our consumers when they’re going to spend their disposable income on what we produce, which is services,” he said.
      In his remarks Friday, Navarro also blamed Wall Street for the decline in manufacturing and the opioid crisis.
      “If they want to do good, then spend their billions in Dayton, Ohio, in the factory towns of America where we need a rebirth of our manufacturing base and end to the opioid crisis — which they helped create by off-shoring our production,” he said.

      Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/09/politics/navarro-wall-street-trade/index.html

      Saudi Investment Freeze Doesn’t Amount to Much in Canada

      The decision by Saudi Arabia to halt new investments and unload assets in Canada is likely to have limited impact.

      Saudi assets in Canada are confined mainly to stakes in upscale hotel operators, some small stock holdings in companies like Canadian National Railway Co., and grain facilities.

      Most investments have been made by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal through his Kingdom Holding Co., a Riyadh-based conglomerate with investments in hotels, real estate and equities. The company’s international hotel unit joined Bill Gates’s Cascade Investment and Canadian Isadore Sharp in a 2007 buyout of management company Four Seasons Hotels Inc., taking a 47.5 percent stake.

      “The matter does not affect the day-to-day operations of Four Seasons,” spokeswoman Sarah Tuite said in an email. “It is business as usual as we continue to welcome guests to our hotels and resorts worldwide.”

      Alwaleed’s influence in the kingdom has diminished after his arrest last year in an anti-corruption sweep by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seen to be sending a message to critics of his leadership with this latest reaction against Canada.

      Wheat Board

      G3 Global Grain Group, a joint venture between state-owned Saudi Agriculture & Livestock Investment Co. and U.S. agri-food company Bunge Ltd., bought a 50.1 percent stake in the Canadian Wheat Board for C$250 million ($192 million) in 2015. SALIC boosted its stake to 75 percent a year later. The partnership also holds an interest in a grain export terminal being built near Vancouver. On Tuesday, officials of the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based G3 said the company continues to buy and sell grain as usual. Officials didn’t immediately return requests for comment on Wednesday.

      Last year, Toronto-based technology startup QD Solar Inc. received funding from a group that included Saudi’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and Netherlands-based venture capital firm DSM Venturing.

      Saudi lender National Commercial Bank has an asset manager that held investments in 41 Canadian companies including Suncor Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. in its AlAhli North America Index Fund, according to May 2017 filings. CN Rail, at $473,500, was the largest Canadian investment of the fund’s $148.2 million portfolio.

      Trading With the Kingdom

      Oil made up 99 percent of Canadian imports from Saudi Arabia in 2017

      Source: Statistics Canada

      Two-way trade between the two countries is tiny — around 0.4 percent of Canada’s total trade in 2017. Canada exported C$1.37 billion worth of goods to Saudi Arabia last year, mostly tanks and other armored fighting vehicles and their parts, according to Statistics Canada. The country imported C$2.63 billion in goods from Saudi Arabia over that period, mostly crude imported to the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick.

      Export Development Canada, the country’s trade financing agency said it has exposure of about C$2 billion to Saudi Arabia, and about 250 customers operating in the kingdom.

      “Canada stands up firmly and respectfully for human rights,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Wednesday in Montreal, sidestepping questions on the impact of the Saudi moves. He also declined to say whether Canada would apologize for its statements about the women’s activists.

      The tanks and armored vehicles are manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, based in London, Ontario, a unit of U.S. defense giant General Dynamics Corp., under a C$15 billion contract with Saudi Arabia signed by the Canadian government in 2014.

      Currency Reverses

      Saudi’s move had a brief impact on the Canadian dollar, with the loonie depreciating as much as 0.5 percent to C$1.3120 per U.S. dollar after the Financial Times reported the Saudi Arabia central bank and state pension funds instructed overseas asset managers to dispose of Canadian assets starting Tuesday.

      Canada’s currency later reversed those losses to trade 0.3 percent higher at 4:29 p.m. in Toronto. The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed 0.2 percent higher at 16,315.08. Yields on 10-year government bonds fell 1 basis point to 2.36 percent.

      Saudi holdings of Canadian dollar reserves are between C$10 billion and C$25 billion, with the upper end of that estimate representing 10 percent of daily Canadian dollar trading volume, according to estimates from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

      Gold, Engineering

      Canadian direct investors in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, include Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s second-biggest producer, and SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., Canada’s biggest engineering and construction company.

      SNC, which has been operating in the kingdom for five decades, said late Wednesday it’s not yet been able to “fully assess” the impact of the tensions with Saudi Arabia on its business. SNC had revenue of about C$993 million in the country last year, representing about 11 percent of total sales.

      “If a widespread commercial embargo on Canadian commercial interests in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were to be implemented on a prolonged basis, there will be an impact on our future financial performance,” SNC said in a statement.

      As for Barrick, the Toronto-based miner said it doesn’t expect its copper mine in Saudi Arabia to be affected by the escalating tensions with Canada.

      (Updates with SNC-Lavalin comment in penultimate paragraph.)

        Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-08/saudi-arabia-investment-freeze-doesn-t-amount-to-much-in-canada

        US threatens raising tariffs to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods

        (CNN)The Trump administration is considering increasing the rate of proposed tariffs to 25% on an additional $200 billion worth of goods from China.

        Talks between the world’s two largest economies are at an impasse in the trade spat, with both sides continuing to threaten new tariffs.
        The United States has already slapped 25% tariffs on Chinese goods worth $34 billion to punish Beijing for what it says are its unfair trade practices, such as forcing American companies to hand over valuable technology. China immediately responded withequal measures.
          In the latest step, President Donald Trump has directed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider increasing the proposed tariff level on fruit and vegetables, handbags, refrigerators, and more. The trade office has extended its previous deadline of Aug. 30 to allow the public more time to comment on the new plan. Those comments are now due on Sept. 5.
          “The increase in the possible rate of the additional duty is intended to provide the administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies and behavior and adopt policies that will lead to fairer markets and prosperity for all of our citizens,” Lighthizer said in a statement.
          The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents major IT users like Google, Facebook and Microsoft (MSFT), immediately called the move by the administration “irresponsible, counterproductive,” and said it would “only do more harm to Americans across the country.”
          “American consumers and businesses are now feeling the pinch of increased costs,” said Jose Castaneda, a spokesman for the council, in a statement. “Instead of escalating this trade war, the president should have serious negotiations with the Chinese to create lasting change.”
          China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, when asked about the possible rate increase earlier on Wednesday, said China was standing its ground in the trade dispute.
          “China’s position is firm and clear cut,” Shuang told media at a regular press briefing in Beijing. “It remains unchanged. The blackmailing and pressure by the US will never work on China if the US take measures to further escalate the situation we will surely take countermeasures to firmly uphold our legitimate rights and interests.”
          Conversations between the two sides have stalled in recent weeks but a senior administration official told reporters on a call about the tariff rate hike that the United States “remains open to further discussions” with China.
          At the G-20 last month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he “chit chatted” with the Chinese delegation on the sidelines of the finance chief summit.
          Phil Levy, senior fellow on the global economy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said the rate hike is in keeping with the president’s strategy of continuously increasing pressure on China.
          There’s a sense among some in the administration that if you “keep hitting China hard enough, they’re going to buckle,” Levy said. “There has been no evidence of this.”
          The more Trump pushes China, the more Beijing will feel like it can’t back down at the risk of appearing weak domestically, he added.
          The Trump administration is also expected to slap tariffs on an additional $16 billion of goods soon, but officials on Wednesday didn’t provide any further details on timing.
          The Chinese yuan has fallen sharply against the dollar since the tariffs were first proposed.
          That has made Chinese goods less expensive and could take some of the bite out of any tariffs the United States imposes.
          Senior administration officials said there was no specific catalyst for raising the tariff other than a desire to stop what they believe are China’s unfair trade practices.
          “From a broad standpoint, it’s important that countries refrain from devaluing their currencies for trade purposes,” said an official.
          –CNN’s Julia Horowitz contributed to this report.

          Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/01/politics/us-china-trade-tariff-war/index.html

          Satellite images show North Korea upgrading nuclear facility

          Washington (CNN)New satellite images show North Korea has made rapid improvements to the infrastructure at its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center — a facility used to produce weapons-grade fissile material, according to an analysis published by 38 North, a prominent North Korea monitoring group.

          When contacted by CNN about 38 North’s analysis, the Unification Ministry said they “cannot confirm the report” and are “watching it closely.”
          The report states that “continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize,” but the photos suggest that Pyongyang continues to proceed with business as usual when it comes to maintaining its nuclear sites following the summit.
            “No change is actually a pretty significant story … this is still an active site producing plutonium for North Korea,” according to Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
            The images stand in stark contrast to Trump’s recent declaration that the North Korean regime no longer poses a nuclear threat, even though the meeting produced no verifiable proof that North Korea will discontinue its nuclear program.
            Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that North Korea remains a nuclear threat, but defended Trump’s previous comment.
            “I’m confident what he intended there was we did reduce the threat,” said Pompeo. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. We took the tension level down.”
            “I think his point was a fair one,” he added. “For the moment, we have reduced risk.”
            But Trump has repeatedly mischaracterized the nature of his deal with Kim, insisting last week that the North Korean dictator had agreed to begin “total denuclearization” right away.
            In reality, the document he signed with Kim at their June 12 summit in Singapore only reiterated North Korea’s previous commitment to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” and the new images released Wednesday align with Defense Secretary James Mattis’ assessment that Pyongyang remains in a holding pattern as negotiators discuss the next steps in talks.
            “The summit pledge is important, but it was not a written agreement that laid out what the North Koreans have to do — that doesn’t exist right now, so I’m not surprised they are continuing to operate their facilities,” said Joel Wit, a Senior Fellow at the Stimson Center and Director of 38 North.
            Adam Mount, a senior fellow and director at the Federation of American Scientists, agreed that the images indicate that North Korea will continue to support the foundation of its nuclear program until the two sides are able to agree on specific terms.
            “Because Kim Jong Un has so far avoided making a commitment to halt research and development activities, the changes are not a success or failure of the diplomatic process, but simply a signal that North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure remains fully in use,” Mount told CNN.
            “That Yongbyon continues to receive scarce funds speaks to its continued value to the regime. There is little indication that North Korea has halted research, development, or production of nuclear systems even as talks continue,” he added.
            North Korea also maintains other nuclear facilities where they produce the bulk of their nuclear weapons materials and missiles. While these sites cannot be detected by monitoring groups, they are assumed to remain operational, according to Wit.
            Trump has often pointed to the absence of North Korean missile and nuclear tests in recent months as a sign of progress toward denuclearization, but continued maintenance of facilities like Yongbyon show that talks with the US have not yet prompted Kim to take significant steps toward truly dismantling the foundation of his program.
            “Both secret and Yongbyon facilities can continue operating and expand the fissile material stockpile,” Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies nuclear proliferation, told CNN.
            “We have no way to stop this or verify any pledges to freeze,” he said, noting that Kim has intentionally only agreed to freeze full blown testing, not production.
            North Korea can also continue to improve its warhead and ballistic designs without conducting tests, Narang added.
            “North Korea has had a decade-long nuclear testing sequence where they have presumably learned a lot about designs,” he told CNN. “They probably do not need full blown tests to go into serial production of warheads. And they can improve components and perfect designs with subcritical and hydrodynamic tests which we wouldn’t be able to monitor or detect.”
            Ultimately, 38 North’s analysis of these images provides a realistic look at the current state of North Korea’s nuclear program amid talks with the US and the challenges facing negotiators tasked with achieving denuclearization — a process for which Pompeo has refused to offer a timeline.
            “We should remain skeptical that North Korea’s nuclear calculus has changed dramatically. Every indication since the beginning of the year is that Pyongyang is seeking to exploit diplomacy to its advantage, including by continuing to improve its arsenal,” Mount told CNN. “Halting a clearly-defined list of weapons activities should be the first step in negotiations.”
            “What is needed now is sustained and direct negotiations between the two sides on a framework for phased steps on denuclearization, as well as concrete steps toward a peace regime on the Korean peninsula,” according to Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.
            “So far, such a framework has not been established. In other words, there is no ‘deal,'” he said.

            Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/27/politics/north-korea-infrastructure-improvements-nuclear-facility/index.html

            Trump’s ALL CAPS Iran tweet is now a glorious meme


            Oh no, this stuff again.
            Image: Getty Images

            It’s 2018 so of course Twitter would take something as terrifying as the United States president writing an all-caps threat to another world leader, leaving us (yet again) standing on the precipice of international conflict, and make it into a meme.

            What a time to be alive.

            People have latched on to Donald Trump’s unhinged tweet-threat to the president of Iran and decided that in the face of horror the best thing to do is laugh. So they’ve appropriated Trump’s message and inserted their own musings, sometimes in the form of song lyrics, sometimes with other fun references. 

            In case you somehow missed it, here’s Trump’s original tweet.

            Very presidential and VERY stable. Never mind that Twitter and Facebook have been blocked in Iran since 2009. 

            If you’re now in desperate need of a laugh, here are some of best examples of Twitter making the most of another awful situation. 

            Finally, what’s a meme without a Rickroll? 

            And now let us lay back and welcome the ongoing disaster as it unfolds around us and meme, meme against the dying of the light. 

            Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/07/23/trump-iran-tweet-meme-lyrics/

            Trump Spouse-Visa Shift May Hurt Workers, Push 100,000 From Jobs

            U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to ban spouses of high-skill visa holders from working will likely push 100,000 people out of jobs and negatively affect the visa holders and their employers, according to a new research study.

            The Trump Administration has been tightening the rules for H-1B visas, which allow foreign workers to take jobs in the U.S. for several years, and plans to revoke the ability of spouses to work as part of the effort. In that context, Christopher J. L. Cunningham of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Pooja B. Vijayakumar from the Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick set out to study the implications of such a policy change.

            They found that such a shift would likely isolate spouses socially, raise domestic tensions and strain the family’s financial resources. It would also probably hurt the visa holder’s satisfaction and increase the risks that they continue in a foreign posting. The cost of failed expatriate assignments ranges from $250,000 to $1 million, in addition to indirect costs, they wrote.

            “Policy changes like the one being considered for America are often made in the absence of complete information that might help policy makers better understand the true breadth of likely consequences,” the study said.

            The U.S. began allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in 2015, under the preceding Obama Administration. For their research, the authors studied the experiences of H-1B families in 2014. They contacted 1,800 Indian expatriate to participate in the research and the final sample consisted of 416.

            Behind the Push to Reform U.S. Work Visa Programs: QuickTake Q&A

            The work visa programs, which date back to 1952, were originally designed to allow U.S. companies to hire workers from abroad temporarily when they couldn’t find qualified Americans. But the programs evolved with many allegations that companies, particularly India’s outsourcing giants, had been abusing the visas to get less expensive labor. Trump came into office vowing to overhaul the programs and protect American workers.

            In that context, Trump’s Department of Homeland Security began the process of reversing the eligibility of H-1B spouses to work. Technology industry groups — which represent Google and Amazon.com Inc. among others — have pushed back against the plan, arguing it will hurt spouses, typically women, as well as the visa holders.

            H-1B visa holders explained myriad problems when spouses couldn’t work. “Very unfair to her, so going back to India,” one told the researchers. “My wife is frustrated that she is unable to further her career,” said another.

            The researchers said that a reinstated ban likely “will be more critical and difficult for expatriate families than what was experienced in 2014, as many of these individuals who were temporarily benefited by the previous presidential administration’s immigration policies may have, in this time, bought a home or started their own businesses.”

            Cunningham specializes in industrial, organizational and occupational health psychology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Vijayakumar is a researcher currently studying expatriation and cross-cultural management.

              Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-01/trump-spouse-visa-shift-may-hurt-workers-push-100-000-from-jobs

              Trump calls for elimination of tariffs, end to US being world’s ‘piggy bank’

              (CNN)President Donald Trump on Saturday said he wanted to see the elimination of trade barriers between the United States and its closest allies amid tensions over the Trump administration’s move to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico.

              “Ultimately that’s what you want,” he said. “You want a tariff free. You want no barriers. And you want no subsidies. Because you have some cases where countries are subsidizing industries and that’s not fair.”
              Later Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would with “absolute certainty” impose retaliatory measures on July 1 to answer Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. He said the argument that Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum are a matter of national security are “kind of insulting.” Trudeau said Canadians are nice but added, “We will not be pushed around.”
                “I will always protect Canadian workers and Canadian interests,” Trudeau said.
                The remarks prompted Trump to accuse Trudeau of making “false statements” and to say the United States would not endorse the G7 communique.
                “Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!,” the President tweeted on Saturday.
                In a second tweet, Trump wrote, “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!”
                Trump had warned hours earlier that the United States would not allow the continued imposition of trade barriers by other nations.
                “Great meetings and relationships with the six Country Leaders especially since they know I cannot allow them to apply large Tariffs and strong barriers to … U.S.A. Trade,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets. “They fully understand where I am coming from. After many decades, fair and reciprocal Trade will happen!”
                “The United States will not allow other countries to impose massive Tariffs and Trade Barriers on its farmers, workers and companies,” Trump continued. “While sending their product into our country tax free. We have put up with Trade Abuse for many decades — and that is long enough.”

                Allied responses

                Trump’s call for the elimination of trade barriers come amid fears of an all-out trade war after the US moved ahead with a 25% import tax on steel and a 10% on aluminum on most countries. The United States’ closest trading partners — the EU, Canada and Mexico — have vowed to impose retaliatory tariffs on scores of US products beginning in the coming weeks.
                Echoing Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday that the European Union also will impose countermeasures to the US tariffs.
                “The EU — of course, we operate as a member of the EU, as we currently are — the European Union will impose countermeasures to the United States,” May said. She added that the United Kingdom is a champion of free trade and would work to put in place free trade agreements with the United States and other countries once it leaves the European Union.
                “We want to continue a good trading relationship with the EU, but we also want to take advantage once we are outside it of being able to negotiate our own agreements with other countries around the world because I think that is to the benefit of the people living in the United Kingdom” May said.
                May characterized her relationship with Trump as “very good.”
                “We have a very good relationship with President Trump,” May said. “We work with President Trump. The United Kingdom has a very good relationship with the United States.”
                G7 leaders had intended to use the summit to confront Trump on the tariffs, which they have described as protectionist and a threat to the global economy.
                Trump said he discussed the idea of eliminating tariffs with his G7 counterparts.
                “I did suggest it … I guess they are going to go back to the drawing board and check it out,” Trump said. “The relationships are very good,” he added, mentioning his discussions with French and Canadian leaders specifically.
                On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to indicate room for negotiation ahead of a delayed meeting with Trump, telling reporters “Sometimes we disagree.”
                Globally, tariffs are close to their lowest levels ever — averaging around 2.9% — according to the latest data from the World Bank. Tariffs have been falling for decades due to free trade agreements.
                Before departing the summit, Trump doubled-down on his assertions that the US has been subjected to unfair trade duties for many years. “It’s going to change. Tariffs will come way down. We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing and that ends.”
                He added, “if they retaliate, they’re making a mistake. We have a tremendous trade imbalance. When we try to bring our piece up a little bit so it’s not so bad.”

                Pushback in Congress

                Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said Trump’s comments on eliminating tariffs among G7 nations would be “tremendous news” if the President is serious about the issue, adding, “I would happily carry his bag to every single meeting of those negotiations.”
                But Sasse said Trump’s complaints that other countries have taken advantage of the United States are unfounded, adding that he recommended “less whining on the global stage.”
                “The simple fact is that more trade has been overwhelmingly beneficial to U.S. families and to net U.S. job creation for 75 straight years, and pretending America has been taken advantage of — that is, pretending that we’re losers — isn’t true.
                “The constant victim-talk doesn’t help anyone,” he continued. “It doesn’t help trade negotiations. And it doesn’t help U.S. citizens understand the disruption in our economy that is actually coming from more technology and more automation, not from free trade agreements — which have overwhelmingly benefited American families.”
                Earlier this week, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vowed to press ahead with legislation that would require lawmakers to approve of trade actions by the President that are done on the grounds of national security, despite opposition from Trump.
                The President’s characterization of the United States’ relationships with allies as “a 10” when asked at the news conference about any tensions between his administration and other G7 nations also drew criticism from a senior European diplomat.
                “He must mean there are 10 things on which we totally disagree,” the diplomat said. “Or like the title of the movie ’10 Things I Hate About You.'”
                Trump has long criticized the United States’ goods deficit. Economists point out that the current US economy is much more driven by services like hospitals, universities, tech companies and banks. Manufacturing, an industry Trump focuses on, makes up about 10% of US economic output.
                Recent World Trade Organization data shows that America’s average tariff for imported goods is 2.4%. Canada’s average tariff for imported goods is 3.1%, and the EU’s average tariff for imported goods is 3%.

                Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/09/politics/trump-g7-tariffs-trade/index.html

                Judge sends Paul Manafort to jail, pending trial

                Washington (CNN)Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will await his trial for foreign lobbying charges from jail.

                The order marked an end to almost eight months of attempts by Manafort to lighten his house arrest restrictions after he was charged and pleaded not guilty to foreign lobbying violations.
                “The harm in this case is harm to the administration of justice and harm to the integrity of the court’s system,” Berman Jackson told Manafort in court.
                  The judge emphasized to Manafort how she could not make enough rulings to keep him from speaking improperly with witnesses, after he had used multiple text messaging apps and called a potential witness on an Italian cellphone.
                  “This is not middle school. I can’t take his cellphone,” she said of Manafort. “I thought about this long and hard, Mr. Manafort. I have no appetite for this.”
                  Manafort also entered a not guilty plea to two additional charges levied against him last week, of witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice. In total, he faces seven criminal charges in DC federal court.
                  Three US marshals led Manafort out of the packed courtroom into the prisoner holding area immediately after the judge’s ruling. He was not placed in handcuffs. Before he disappeared through the door, he turned toward his wife and supporters and gave a stilted wave.
                  Minutes later, a marshal returned to give Manafort’s wife, Kathleen, still standing in the courtroom’s front row, his wallet, belt and the burgundy tie he wore Friday.
                  Court marshals held Manafort in the bowels of the courthouse for several hours following the hearing as they considered how to keep him protected from other inmates behind bars. He arrived about 8 p.m. at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, 90 miles south of Washington.
                  In a tweet, President Donald Trump said the decision to revoke Manafort’s bail was “tough,” although he referred to it as a “sentence.”
                  “Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob. What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair!”
                  In her wind-up to her order, Berman Jackson also gave a brief nod to the bitter environment around the case:
                  “This hearing is not about politics, is not about conduct of the office of the special counsel.”

                  ‘Danger to the community’

                  When Manafort was first arraigned and pleaded not guilty in October, a magistrate judge set a $10 million bail price and placed him under house arrest, confiscating his passports. Manafort then attempted to find assets of his own and through real estate and family members’ accounts. In December, the judge signed off on his plan — provided he could supply the correct documentation. It didn’t come through, according to the court filings.
                  Prosecutors have argued all along that the jet-setting political consultant was a significant flight risk. As the process to negotiate his bail dragged on, prosecutors discovered possible mortgage fraud related to some of the properties he hoped to use as bail. That’s when they finalized additional federal criminal charges against him in Virginia.
                  In the past month, Manafort finally came up with a plan to post some of his own and others’ properties for his bail. The prosecutors appeared to agree with the plan, according to court filings.
                  Then, last week, Mueller’s team alleged they found evidence Manafort had tried to coach potential witnesses.
                  On Friday, they told the judge Manafort was a “danger to the community” and that he had committed a crime while out on release: obstruction of justice.
                  Prosecutor Greg Andres described the following scene to the court from February 24, a day after Manafort’s co-defendant, his longtime deputy Rick Gates, flipped:
                  A man was driving with his wife through rural Italy when his phone rang. Manafort identified himself to the man, Alan Friedman, a public relations consultant he once worked with.
                  “I need to give you a heads up about Hapsburg,” Manafort told him three times. “Have you seen any article about Hapsburg?”
                  Manafort was referring to a project he and Friedman had worked on years ago to bring influential Europeans to the US to push pro-Ukrainian politics while the group posed as independent experts. The project, dubbed the Hapsburg group, was among Manafort’s efforts to skirt foreign lobbying laws, prosecutors allege.
                  Friedman turned down the radio as Manafort spoke, Andres said, then hung up the phone a minute and a half into the call. Manafort tried several more times to reach him in the following days.
                  Andres said prosecutors now know Manafort used multiple ways to communicate with former colleagues like Friedman and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Moscow-based associate who’s also charged in the alleged witness tampering: In addition to phone calls and half a dozen encrypted messaging apps, Manafort uses a system with email called “foldering,” where multiple people have access to an account and write messages to one another as drafts,but the emails are never sent.
                  “This was a sustained campaign over a five-week period to use multiple numbers, applications and people,” Andres said in court about the witness tampering allegations.
                  Manafort’s lawyer Richard Westling argued that Manafort had no way to know Friedman would be a witness in the case. Westling asked the judge to simply issue a more specific order for Manafort to follow while out on bail.
                  “This will not happen again,” Westling said.
                  But the witness tampering allegations, which also resulted in new criminal charges, were enough Friday for Manafort to lose his house arrest privileges.

                    Trump on Manafort: I feel a little badly about it

                  ‘Shellshocked’

                  He faces another 18 criminal charges for financial fraud and false reporting allegations in Virginia federal court. That case is set to go to trial earlier than the DC case, with a late July start date.
                  His DC trial is set to begin in September, meaning he could spend the next three or more months imprisoned.
                  Manafort has maintained his innocence and vowed to fight the charges since he was indicted alongside Gates in late October. Gates has since changed his plea to guilty and agreed to help prosecutors, because of the significant cost of his legal fees and attention bearing down on him and his family. Another associate of Manafort’s, Kilimnik, was charged with witness tampering and has not yet appeared in court.
                  Prosecutors haven’t tied Manafort, Gates and Kilimnik’s alleged wrongdoings to the actions of the Trump campaign, which is at the core of Mueller’s investigation. However, prosecutors have said in several previous court filings that they are looking into Manafort’s contacts with Russians and Ukrainians — including Kilimnik — and possible coordination he may have orchestrated with them while he oversaw the campaign.
                  Manafort had spent his days since October stuck in his apartment under court order. He could leave only for legal meetings, medical needs and religious observances. The judge had allowed him to travel a few times for special exceptions, such as to his father-in-law’s funeral on Long Island and his grandson’s baptism in Virginia.
                  He wore ankle bracelets that tracked his movements through GPS technology, one on each leg.
                  Leading up to Friday’s hearing, Manafort was optimistic he would avoid jail, according to a source familiar with the situation, but he and his legal team expected Mueller’s team to be as aggressive as possible.
                  His friends were “shellshocked” in the wake of the judge’s decision Friday, the source said.
                  Manafort’s new confines create another hurdle in his trial preparations and will make it more difficult for him to confer with his counsel and prepare his defense.

                    Manafort traveled under fake name

                  CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify whose baptism Manafort was permitted to attend. It was his grandson’s.

                  Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/15/politics/judge-sends-paul-manafort-to-jail-pending-trial/index.html

                  GOP congressman asks if rocks are causing sea levels to rise

                  Washington (CNN)A member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology evinced skepticism about climate change during an exchange with a witness about rising sea levels.

                  A study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March documented accelerating sea-level rise driven by climate change.
                  E&E News reported on the comments of Brooks and others at the hearing, including California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher who said he was “disturbed” that he heard people warning against questioning the link between human activity and climate change.
                    On Wednesday, at a hearing titled “using technology to address climate change,” Brooks began by raising a broad question about rising ocean levels to the witness panel.
                    Philip Duffy, president of Woods Hole Research Center, said in response to the question that “the last 100-year increase in sea-level rise, as I mentioned earlier, has clearly been attributed to human activities, greenhouse gas emissions.”
                    Brooks interjected and rephrased his question again, asking if there “are other factors.”
                    “What about erosion?” Brooks offered during the exchange. He added: “Every time you have that soil or rock, whatever it is, that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise because now you’ve got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up.”
                    Duffy responded that he did not believe that explained sea-level rise.
                    “I’m pretty sure that on human time scales those are minuscule effects,” Duffy said.
                    Brooks then moved to ice levels and asserted that Antarctic ice is growing, to which Duffy responded that satellite records have documented “shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage.”
                    Brooks wrapped up his questioning by saying he had heard differently from NASA, and said there were “plenty of studies” showing an ice sheet increase in Antarctica.
                    “I’ve got a NASA base in my district,” Brooks said. “And apparently, they’re telling you one thing and me a different thing.”
                    A day after the hearing, the committee tweeted a link to an op-ed from The Wall Street Journal denying climate change caused sea-level rise.
                    According to NASA, Antarctica’s ice sheets have lost mass since 2002.
                    The agency’s site also said, “Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms.”
                    Duffy, who worked on climate change policy in the Obama administration, told CNN on Thursday that while he had “never heard that particular line” on sea level rise before, he essentially had expected the tone of the hearing to feature climate change skepticism.
                    “None of that is new,” Duffy said. “They’ve been doing that forever.”
                    Duffy said he would have hoped a “productive” science committee would seek to formulate aggressive policy on climate change as well as expand the nation’s scientific capabilities.
                    And as for the question of sea level rise, Duffy said, “It’s really caused by climate change.”

                    Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/17/politics/mo-brooks-nasa-climate-change/index.html

                    More Than 30 Trump Aides Lose Top-Secret Clearance, Sources Say

                    More than 30 aides to President Donald Trump have been stripped of access to top secret intelligence, two people familiar with the move said.

                    The officials have been notified that they will be downgraded to lower-level “secret” interim security clearances, said the two people. None of the officials has been asked to leave the administration and their portfolios on top secret matters will be distributed to other staff members, they said.

                    Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is among those officials whose security clearance has been downgraded as a result of the new policy on interim clearances set by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, said another person familiar with the material. The change means that Kushner lost access to some files, including those containing intelligence on foreign leaders and diplomats that can be used to gain an advantage in negotiations, according to a second person, who is familiar with the clearance process.

                    All of the officials whose clearances were downgraded held the top secret designation on an interim basis. Kelly set a new policy that took effect last week that permits interim clearances only at the secret level and not permitting temporary clearances at higher levels.

                    The revelations come as the White House weathers intense criticism over its handling of sensitive intelligence after former Staff Secretary Rob Porter was permitted to keep his clearance status for months even though the FBI said it had provided the White House a report including allegations of domestic violence from his two ex-wives. 

                    Grassley Wants Answers

                    Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley this week called for answers from the White House and the FBI about reports that dozens of top officials still lacked a full security clearance and that some them, including Kushner, had access to the highly classified President’s Daily Brief prepared by intelligence agencies.

                    The crackdown on clearances also come amid the drama of a special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling and potential ties to Trump election advisers. Trump communications director Hope Hicks, who had been romantically linked to Porter and who testified Tuesday to a House panel in the Russia probe, on Wednesday announced her plans to resign in a statement released by the White House.

                    In an earlier memo released Feb. 16, Kelly said that the administration must “do better” in its handling of security clearances. Kelly said he would discontinue all “Top Secret or SCI-level interim clearances” for people who have ongoing investigations stretching back to June 1, 2017, using an acronym for “Sensitive Compartmented Information.” While the new policy was set to take effect on Feb. 23, White House officials have declined to say who would be affected.

                    In a statement last week, Kelly didn’t address whether Kushner’s security clearance would be revoked but said he had “full confidence” in his ability to continue his foreign policy work. Trump said at a news conference last week that “I will let General Kelly make that decision. I have no doubt he’ll make the right decision.”

                    A spokesman for Kushner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that no concerns have been raised to Kushner about his security clearance and that the White House’s new security clearance policy doesn’t affect Kushner’s ability to do his job. His assignments by Trump include leading efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, overhauling prison sentencing and technology innovations.

                      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-28/more-than-30-white-house-aides-said-to-lose-top-secret-clearance