Trump No Longer Thinks Climate Change is a Hoax, Still Not Sure It’s Manmade

During an interview with CBS’s Lesley Stahl on Sunday that aired on 60 Minutes, President Donald Trump backed off his claim that climate change is a hoax but made it clear he was not ready to say it was indeed manmade.

“I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” Trump said. “I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”

At one point Stahl noted it would be remarkable if all the recent weather emergencies may change his mind.

“You know, I– I was thinking what if he said, ‘No, I’ve seen the hurricane situations, I’ve changed my mind. There really is climate change.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, what an impact,’” Stahl said.

Trump replied: I’m not denying climate change. But it could very well go back. You know, we’re talkin’ about over millions of years. They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael.”

Stahl, who suggested Trump really was denying it, then asked him to pin down when he says, “they say.”

“People say,” Trump replied, before casting doubt on scientists’ agendas.

“You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley,” the president said.

[Mediaite]

Trump Attacks the Fed as Stocks Fall and the Midterms Loom

President Trump responded to falling stock prices on Thursday by continuing to throw rocks at the Federal Reserve, which he has described as “crazy,” “loco,” “going wild” and “out of control” for slowly raising interest rates against the backdrop of a booming economy.

No other modern president has publicly attacked the Fed with such venom or frequency. Indeed, some scholars said the only close historical parallel was with President Andrew Jackson, who campaigned successfully in the 1830s to close the Fed’s predecessor, the Second Bank of the United States.

Mr. Trump’s pointed remarks reflect the high political stakes less than a month before midterm elections that have been cast by his political opponents as a referendum on his presidency. Mr. Trump has been riding the economy hard, bragging about job creation, tax cuts and reduced federal regulation, and claiming credit for the rise of the stock market. Now that the market has lost 5 percent of its value in the last week, Mr. Trump is insisting someone else is to blame.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index closed at 2,728.37 on Thursday, down 2.06 percent.

In fact, despite the stock market’s plunge, the American economy continues to grow, which is what is prompting the Fed to raise interest rates and drawing the president’s ire. The Fed’s chairman, Jerome H. Powell, has said that the economy is in a “particularly bright moment” and that he sees no clouds on the horizon.

The stock market sell-off instead appears to reflect the movement of money into bonds, a normal consequence of higher interest rates since those securities pay more as rates rise; concern about the health of the global economy; and hesitations about the value of tech stocks.

But after hitching his political fortunes to the rise of the stock market, Mr. Trump is now looking to decouple himself from its fall. Republicans are instead emphasizing continued economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate since 1969.

So far, the president’s comments have made little impression on market expectations about Fed policy. Unlike Jackson’s concerted campaign, Mr. Trump’s attacks appear curiously unmoored from the policies of his own administration or the longstanding goals of the Republican Party. Mr. Trump’s own aides have insisted that the president’s remarks are personal musings, not an attempt to dictate policy.

The Fed has also brushed off the attacks; it still expected to raise rates in December for the fourth time this year.

Mr. Powell, selected for the job by Mr. Trump, said at a September news conference that Mr. Trump’s views would not influence the Fed’s decisions. “We don’t consider political factors or things like that,” Mr. Powell said. “That’s who we are, that’s what we do, and that’s just the way it’s always going to be for us.”

Mr. Powell emphasized that the decision to raise rates to a range between 2 and 2.25 percent was not intended to get in the way of continued growth. “My colleagues and I are doing all we can to keep the economy strong, healthy and moving forward,” he said.

A spokeswoman declined to comment on Thursday.

Some experts warned that a continued assault on the Fed could have long-lasting consequences.

Peter Conti-Brown, a professor of legal studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a political history of the Fed, pointed to the example of the F.B.I., another institution Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked by raising questions about the integrity of its decision making. Mr. Conti-Brown said technocratic institutions are insulated from political pressure by public confidence. If confidence erodes, it becomes harder for technocrats to resist the politicians.

The F.B.I. has seen a loss of leadership, an erosion of morale and an increase in congressional scrutiny.

“How long before the Fed is looking at its political context and saying, ‘We can’t stick our heads out as far as we need to,’” Mr. Conti-Brown asked rhetorically. “How long will people stay if the job itself becomes terrible, and there are protesters everywhere you go?”

Mr. Trump criticized the Fed when it raised interest rates in July, and again when it raised interest rates in September. But his attacks have sharply intensified in recent days, in tandem with the drop in the stock market.

“I think the Fed has gone crazy,” he told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. Later in the day, speaking with Fox News, he continued to increase the heat. “The Fed is going wild,” he said. “I don’t know what their problem is. They are raising interest rates and it’s ridiculous.”

“It’s not right,” he said Thursday. “It’s not necessary, and I think I know more about it than they do.”

Mr. Trump added that he was “disappointed” with Mr. Powell but did not plan to fire him — an authority the president may not even have. While the president in theory has the power to remove a Fed chairman “for cause,” courts have held that the permissible causes do not include policy disagreements.

For the moment, Mr. Trump’s criticism of the Fed does not seem to be catching on with Republican candidates. Many Republicans have argued for years that the Fed was waiting too long to raise interest rates, and then that it was moving too slowly. The party is trying to hold on to majorities in the Senate and the House by running on a strong economy and using the heated liberal opposition to Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation as an example of the threat Democrats pose if they control Congress. That dynamic could change, however, if the stock market continues to fall.

Modern presidents have always kept an uneasy eye on the Fed, because its decisions about monetary policy have a significant influence on the pace of economic growth.

Until the early 1950s, the Fed essentially operated as an arm of the Treasury Department. Even after the Fed gained operational independence, presidents often opined publicly about what the Fed should do and, if the Fed ignored their advice, they sometimes sought to bend its officials to their will.

President Lyndon B. Johnson protested a decision to raise interest rates in the late 1960s by summoning the Fed chairman at the time, William McChesney Martin, to his East Texas ranch and pinning the smaller man against a wall. President Richard M. Nixon instructed aides to blackmail Mr. Martin’s successor, Arthur Burns. President George Bush declared in a State of the Union address that the Fed should keep rates low.

But the volume of public commentary greatly diminished in recent decades as politicians concluded that pressuring the Fed was counterproductive. The administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all made a policy of silence on monetary policy.

Krishna Guha, the head of the central bank strategy team at Evercore ISI, said he did not expect Mr. Trump’s remarks to influence the Fed, and he saw no evidence that markets were paying attention. But he added that if Mr. Trump did succeed, he would most likely regret doing so.

If Mr. Trump’s attacks convince markets that the Fed may move more slowly, or show greater tolerance of inflation, bond yields would rise, which would put further downward pressure on equity prices.

Still, Mr. Guha — formerly a senior official at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — said that the president’s criticisms were not good for the central bank or the future conduct of economic policy.

“You never want to be in a position where some part of society doesn’t just question whether you made the right call or not, but whether you made that call in the public interest,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s aides have sought to play down his broadsides. Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, said Mr. Trump was just offering his two cents. “I don’t think he’s ‘calling out the Fed,’ quote unquote,” Mr. Kudlow told reporters outside the White House on Thursday morning. “I really mean this. I think he’s giving you his opinion. He is a, obviously, successful businessman, he’s a very well-informed investor. He has his views. But he’s not saying to them, ‘Change your plan.’”

Mr. Kudlow added, “He knows the Fed is independent, and he respects that.”

Mr. Trump’s criticisms appear strangely at odds with the way he has handled the most powerful means at his disposal to influence monetary policy. Since taking office less than two years ago, he has had the unusual opportunity to fill six of the seven seats on the Fed’s board of governors.

He filled the top three positions on the Fed’s board, including the chairman’s job, with members of the Republican policymaking establishment, which has long been committed to keeping inflation firmly under control. Three other nominees, still awaiting confirmation, are a more diverse group, but there is no indication any share Mr. Trump’s stated opposition to raising interest rates.

“In most areas of administrative policy that have been highly politicized, his appointments have privileged politics over competence,” Mr. Conti-Brown said. “The Fed has been an exception.”

A looming question, he said, is whether Mr. Trump might begin to match his actions to his words.

[The New York Times]

Trump issues nonsensical tweet mocking ‘paid protesters’ as unpaid

President Donald Trump again lashed out at demonstrators who opposed his Supreme Court nominee by smearing them as paid protesters whose checks had not yet cleared.

The president last week baselessly accused protesters against Brett Kavanaugh as bought and paid for, but he issued a tweet Tuesday morning mocking them as unpaid by their alleged benefactors.

“The paid D.C. protesters are now ready to REALLY protest because they haven’t gotten their checks – in other words, they weren’t paid!” Trump tweeted. “Screamers in Congress, and outside, were far too obvious – less professional than anticipated by those paying (or not paying) the bills!”

[Raw Story]

Trump continues to Twitter attack anti-Kavanaugh women as ‘paid protesters handed expensive signs’

President Donald Trump lashed out at women opposing his nomination of conservative jurist Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday, preceeding a vote by the United States Senate.

“Women for Kavanaugh, and many others who support this very good man, are gathering all over Capital Hill in preparation for a 3-5 P.M. VOTE,” the commander-in-chief tweeted.

“It is a beautiful thing to see – and they are not paid professional protesters who are handed expensive signs,” he argued. “Big day for America!”

The Saturday tweet continued an argument Trump made on Friday against the women protesting his nominee.

“The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad,” he alleged.

“Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others,” he continued, adding the hashtag #Troublemakers.

[Raw Story]

Trump promotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on Twitter

The anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that George Soros, a wealthy Hungarian-American businessman who has donated millions of dollars to progressive causes, is paying people to protest President Donald Trump is a staple of the conservative ecosystem.

Last week, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham tweeted “SOROS STRIKES AGAIN” after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was confronted in a Senate elevator by survivors of sexual assault.

Now the President of the United States is getting in on the anti-Semitic action, claiming that protests against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, were “Paid for by Soros and others” in a Friday tweet.

This was the first time Trump has mentioned Soros on Twitter, per the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale. However, The Atlantic’s David Frum noted Soros was one of the “three identifiable “faces of international finance”” featured in a 2016 Trump campaign ad that was widely criticized for its anti-Semitic overtones.

The Washington Examiner’s Dave Brown noticed that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) floated the conspiracy theory about Soros paying Kavanaugh protesters during an appearance on Fox Business less than 90 minutes before Trump’s tweet.

Ana Maria Archila, one of the sexual assault survivors who was filmed confronting Flake last week, responded to Trump’s tweet in a statement, saying, “No one can pay for someone’s lived experiences.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “The Hungarian Jewish billionaire, Holocaust survivor and philanthropist figures prominently in anti-Semitic tweets, with claims that he directly uses his largess to fund false flag events. One noteworthy allegation claims that Soros was responsible for the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va. Other tweets refer to his Jewish heritage in pejorative terms and claims that he’s trying to undermine Western civilization.”

ThinkProgress’ Casey Michel recently explained the anti-Semitism behind conservatives’ Soros conspiracy theories:

Of course, as with most conspiracies, there’s a far darker reality lurking behind the notion that Soros is responsible for all the ills facing down nationalist movements. While most of those pushing Soros-based conspiracies don’t come out and say that Soros is evil because he’s Jewish, it doesn’t take much sleuthing to discern the anti-Semitism behind the conspiracies. Between the imagery of Soros pulling strings to the fact that Soros has effectively replaced “the Rothschilds” as the go-to for any conspiracy about an international cabal thwarting the people’s will, it’s not hard to catch the bigotry lacing the rising conspiracies about Soros.

Conservatives have a history of attempting to smear survivors of traumatic events as paid “crisis actors.” Sexual assault survivors’ attempts to confront Kavanaugh’s supporters have not been received well by Republicans.

The Washington Post reported in January 2017 that people were paid to attend Trump’s campaign launch announcement.

[ThinkProgress]

Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency

President Trump in an exclusive interview with Hill.TV said Tuesday he ordered the release of classified documents in the Russia collusion case to show the public the FBI probe started as a “hoax,” and that exposing it could become one of the “crowning achievements” of his presidency.

“What we’ve done is a great service to the country, really,” Trump said in a 45-minute, wide-ranging interview in the Oval Office.

“I hope to be able to call this, along with tax cuts and regulation and all the things I’ve done… in its own way this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt,” he said.

Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017, confirming an account his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave Hill.TV earlier in the day that Trump was dismayed in 2016 by the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email case and began discussing firing him well before he became president.

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

Trump has offered different reasons in the past for his firing of the FBI chief, blaming Comey’s handling of the Clinton case but also linking it to Comey’s actions in the Russian investigation.

The president also called into question the FBI’s handling of the Russian investigation, again criticizing it for surveilling his campaign.

He criticizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court’s approval of the warrant that authorized surveillance of Carter Page, a low-level Trump campaign aide, toward the end of the 2016 election, suggesting the FBI misled the court.

“They know this is one of the great scandals in the history of our country because basically what they did is, they used Carter Page, who nobody even knew, who I feel very badly for, I think he’s been treated very badly. They used Carter Page as a foil in order to surveil a candidate for the presidency of the United States.”

As for the judges on the secret intelligence court: “It looks to me just based on your reporting, that they have been misled,” the president said, citing a series of columns in The Hill newspaper identifying shortcomings in the FBI investigation. “I mean I don’t think we have to go much further than to say that they’ve been misled.”

“One of the things I’m disappointed in is that the judges in FISA didn’t, don’t seem to have done anything about it. I’m very disappointed in that Now, I may be wrong because, maybe as we sit here and talk, maybe they’re well into it. We just don’t know that because I purposely have not chosen to get involved,” Trump said.

The president spared no words in criticizing Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, lawyer Lisa Page and other FBI officials who started the probe. He recited specific text messages Page and Strzok traded while having an affair and investigating his campaign, arguing the texts showed they condoned leaks and conducted a bogus probe.

Those texts are to be released as a result of Trump’s announcement on Monday.

“It’s a hoax, beyond a witch hunt,” he said.

Trump cited one text released recently in which Strzok and Page appear to discuss getting McCabe to approve an expansion of the Russia case right after Comey is fired.

“Comey was a bad guy. He gets fired. They only have Andy left because they know they’re doing wrong,” the president said in describing how he felt wronged by the FBI.

He denounced the FBI for leaking to create what he said was a false narrative against him, saying it appeared to be an “insurance policy” to destroy his presidency if he won.

“Number one how illegal is it? And number two, how low is it,” he said.

“What we have now is an insurance policy,” the president said. “But it has been totally discredited, even Democrats agree that it has been discredited. They are not going to admit to it, but it has been totally discredited. I think, frankly, more so by text than by documents.”

Trump said he had not read the documents he ordered declassified but said he expected to show they would prove the FBI case started as a political “hoax.”

“I have had many people ask me to release them. Not that I didn’t like the idea but I wanted to wait, I wanted to see where it was all going,” he said.

In the end, he said, his goal was to let the public decide by seeing the documents that have been kept secret for more than two years. “All I want to do is be transparent,” he said.

Asked what he thought the outcome of his long-running fight with the FBI, the president said: “I hope to be able put this up as one of my crowning achievements that I was able to … expose something that is truly a cancer in our country.”

[The Hill]

Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into Air

The Trump administration, taking its third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change, is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere.

Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases, routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome.

The Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps as soon as this week, plans to make public a proposal to weaken an Obama-era requirementthat companies monitor and repair methane leaks, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, the Interior Department is also expected in coming days to release its final version of a draft rule, proposed in February, that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and “flaring,” or burning, of methane from drilling operations.

The new rules follow two regulatory rollbacks this year that, taken together, represent the foundation of the United States’ effort to rein in global warming. In July, the E.P.A. proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. And in August, the agency proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants with a weaker one that would allow far more global-warming emissions to flow unchecked from the nation’s smokestacks.

“They’re taking them down, one by one,” said Janet McCabe, the E.P.A.’s top climate and clean-air regulator in the Obama administration.

Officials from the E.P.A., the Interior Department and the White House did not respond to emails and telephone calls seeking comment.

Industry groups praised the expected changes. “It’s a neat pair” of proposals on methane, said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an association of independent oil and gas companies that is based in Denver. The Obama-era E.P.A. methane rule, she said, “was the definition of red tape. It was a record-keeping nightmare that was technically impossible to execute in the field.”

Ms. Sgamma praised the Trump administration for turning the oil companies’ requests into policy, noting that the Obama administration frequently turned proposals from environmental groups into policy. “It all depends on who you trust,” she said. “That administration trusted environmentalists. This one trusts industry.”

The regulation of methane, while not as widely discussed as emissions from cars and coal plants, was nonetheless a major component of Mr. Obama’s efforts to combat climate change. Methane makes up only about nine percent of greenhouse gases, but it is around 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. About one-third of methane pollution is estimated to come from oil and gas operations.

The forthcoming proposals from the E.P.A. and Interior Department would allow far more methane to leak from oil and gas drilling operations, environmentalists say. “These leaks can pop up any time, anywhere, up and down the oil and gas supply chain,” said Matt Watson, a specialist in methane pollution with the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group. “The longer you go in between inspections, the longer leaks will go undetected and unrepaired.”

The proposals exemplify President Trump’s policy quest to roll back regulations on businesses, particularly oil, gas and coal companies. While significant aspects of the president’s broader agenda — including immigration and trade policy, and the proposed border wall with Mexico — remain mired in confusion, and as the administration struggles under the investigation into the presidential campaign’s ties with Russia, the E.P.A. and Interior Department have steadily pressed forward with rollbacks of environmental regulations.

“In other areas of policymaking, like immigration and health care, they appear to have brought into the administration ideologues who don’t know a lot about policymaking,” said Cecilia Muñoz, who directed the White House Domestic Policy Council in the Obama administration. “But in climate change and energy, they appear to have brought in people who know exactly what they’re doing, and know exactly where the levers are.”

The pace of the proposals has not been slowed by the resignation in July of Scott Pruitt, who left the top job at the E.P.A. under a cloud of ethics scandals. Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who worked in the E.P.A. under the first President George Bush, is now the agency’s acting chief.

The E.P.A.’s new methane proposal, according to the draft seen by The Times, would loosen a 2016 rule that required oil and gas drillers to perform leak inspections as frequently as every six months on their drilling equipment, and to repair leaks within 30 days. The proposed amendment would lengthen that to once a year in most cases, and to as infrequently as once every two years for low-producing wells. It would also double the amount of time a company could wait before repairing a methane leak from 30 to 60 days.

It would also double the amount of time required between inspections of the equipment that traps and compresses the natural gas, from once every three months to once every six months. On the Alaskan North Slope, where oil and gas companies contend that harsh weather makes it difficult to conduct inspections, such equipment would only have to be monitored annually.

In addition, the E.P.A. proposal would let energy companies operating in states that have their own state-level methane standards follow those standards instead of the federal ones. That would include states such as Texas, where the pollution standards have been more lax than federal standards.

If implemented, the proposal would recoup nearly all the costs to the oil and gas industry that would have been imposed by the Obama-era regulation. The E.P.A. estimated that rule would have cost companies about $530 million by 2025. The E.P.A. estimates that the proposed changes would save the oil and gas industry $484 million by the same year.

[The New York Times]

Trump threatens to reveal classified info to punish political enemies: They’re ‘going crazy — wow!’

President Donald Trump threatened to declassify government documents to expose alleged “corruption” by his political enemies.

The president lashed out at the “Deep State” and the “Fake News Media” after the New York Times published an extraordinary op-ed by an anonymous senior administration official revealing what amounts to a coup within the White House.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted. “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

[Raw Story]

Trump Rages Against ‘Gutless’ White House Official Who Wrote Stunning NYT Op-Ed

President Donald Trump tore into the anonymous source who penned the shocking New York Times op-ed from a senior White House official who admitted to trying to “stop” the president.

Speaking at a White House event on Wednesday, Trump raged against the unnamed person.

“Nobody has ever done in less than a two-year period what we have done,” he said. “So when you tell me about some anonymous source within the administration, probably who’s failing, and probably here for all the wrong reasons…”

Trump pivoted from there to blast the Times. But later, he doubled back to what he termed the “gutless editorial.”

“So if the failing “The New York Times” has an anonymous editorial — can you believe it?” Trump said. “Anonymous. Meaning gutless. A gutless editorial.”

In the Times op-ed, the unnamed official wrote that they and others within the Trump administration are working to “stop” the president.

“The dilemma — which [Trump] does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the official wrote. “I would know. I am one of them.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Cites ‘Failing New York Times’ Article to Exonerate Himself From Russian Political Meddling

President Trump issued a…um, bizarre and contradictory statement on Monday where he slammed The New York Times while using it as proof that he wasn’t involved in Russian efforts to interfere with American political institutions.

Its possible Trump was referring to this recent Times article describing FBI’s efforts to convince Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with ties to Paul Manafort, to become an informant on the Russian government’s misdeeds. FBI officials approached Deripaska and other prominent Russian officials over the years in hopes of tracking organized crime, countering Russia’s foreign political meddling, and, eventually, gaining insight on any possible collusion between Trump and the Kremlin.

The line Trump invoked in his tweet doesn’t appear in the Times‘ article, though it does contain this somewhat-resemblant portion that makes reference to Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele.

The contacts between Mr. Steele and Mr. Ohr started before Mr. Trump became a presidential candidate and continued through much of the campaign.

The piece says Ohr and Steele were both involved in efforts to convince Russian oligarchs to cooperate with the FBI. The campaign was reportedly unsuccessful, and Trump and his defenders have been escalating their attacks on Ohr recently in order to discredit Robert Mueller‘s investigations.

Going back to Trump’s tweet, however, reactors online felt that he sorta garbled his point by bashing the Times while – at the same time – using them as the basis for his claim against the “rigged witch hunt.” Others pointed out how American intelligence workers obviously tried to counter Russia’s objectionable behavior long before Trump became politically-relevant.

[Mediaite]

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