Donald Trump: ‘Our country was built on Tariffs’

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning took to Twitter, as he often does, to lambaste some of his favourite targets: the U.S. Justice Department, the “rigged Russian witch hunt” (a.k.a. the Robert Mueller investigation), and of course, undocumented immigrants.

He also brought up one of his past greatest hits, tariffs, writing that the United States was “built on Tariffs, and Tariffs are now leading us to great new Trade Deals” (capitalization his, not ours).

Of course, tariffs have been a mainstay in Canadian headlines for the past several months, with Trump levying duties on U.S. imports of Canadian steel and aluminum. The U.S. president has recently threatened more tariffs on Canada’s auto industry.

He’s also slapped massive duties on goods from China, Mexico and, most recently, Turkey. Those nations, along with Canada, have come back with retaliatory tariffs of their own.

Many users on Twitter are pointing out the holes in Trump’s latest tweet. Like the fact that no new trade deals have actually been signed:

Or that many of the people Trump claims his tariffs will help aren’t really happy with them at all:

The Wall Street Journal points out that Trump’s action against Turkey actually goes against longstanding U.S. policy of minimizing foreign crises:

[Yahoo]

Aides regularly tell Trump not to call foreign leaders at odd hours due to time zones

White House aides must regularly tell President Trump not to call foreign leaders at odd hours due to time zone differences, according to a new Politico report about Trump’s multiple “diplomatic faux-pas.”

Sources close to Trump told Politico the president often proposes phone calls with world leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at times when they would likely be asleep.

“When he wants to call someone, he wants to call someone,” one source told Politico. “He’s more impulsive that way. He doesn’t think about what time it is or who it is.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Politico that “foreign leaders appreciate that the president is willing to take their calls day and night.”

“The president has made clear that when leaders reach out for calls, [aides should] set them up right away,” Sanders said. “He has had foreign leaders calls very late at night and never wants another leader to wait before their call is returned.”

Former National Security Council staffers and White House sources told Politico that the president’s foreign affairs knowledge is lacking. At one meeting, Trump allegedly mispronounced Nepal as “nipple” and Bhutan as “button,” two sources  told Politico.

A White House official denied that element of the report, saying others who attended the meeting did not remember the president saying that.

One former National Security Council official told Politico that the president avoids saying certain words and names for fear he will mispronounce them when speaking to other world leaders.

[The Hill]

Trump Claims Power to Bypass Limits Set by Congress in Defense Bill

When President Trump signed a $716 billion military spending bill on Monday, he claimed the authority to override dozens of provisions that he deemed improper constraints on his executive powers.

In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.

Among them was a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”

The statement was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s emerging broad vision of executive power. His personal lawyers, for example, have claimed that his constitutional authority to supervise the Justice Department means that he can lawfully impede the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election no matter his motive, despite obstruction-of-justice statutes.

Signing statements, which are generally ghostwritten for presidents by Justice Department and White House lawyers, are official documents in which a president lays out his interpretation of new laws and instructs the executive branch to view them the same way.

Once obscure, the practice became controversial under President George W. Bush, who challenged more provisions of new laws than all previous presidents combined — most famously a 2005 ban on torture championed by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. (Democrats are pressing for access to any White House papers of Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, related to that statement.)

Mr. McCain is now fighting brain cancer, and Congress named the new military law in his honor. But Mr. Trump pointedly did not mention his name when signing the bill, the latest slight in the long-running acrimony between the two men. Mr. Trump’s signing statement also quoted only part of the bill’s title, evading any acknowledgment of the senator.

Last month, Mr. McCain issued a statement calling Mr. Trump’s Helsinki summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

The American Bar Association in 2006 took the position that presidents should not use signing statements, but should instead veto legislation if it has constitutional defects so that Congress has an opportunity to override that veto if lawmakers disagree. But presidents of both parties, including Barack Obama, have continued to use them, with current and former executive branch lawyers arguing that the focus should be on the credibility of the legal theories that presidents invoke when they make their objections.

Mr. Trump’s new statement relied upon a mix of theories, some of which had greater support in Supreme Court precedent than others. For example, in 2015, the court upheld presidents’ constitutional authority to disregard a statute requiring American passports to say that Jerusalem is part of Israel, which could support Mr. Trump’s claim that he could recognize Crimea as part of Russia if he wanted.

But many of Mr. Trump’s challenges invoked his purported powers as commander in chief, a type of objection that the Bush administration frequently made but that the Obama administration generally shied away from.

For example, Mr. Trump also declared that he could bypass a provision in the bill that extended restrictions on certain bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Russia.

He also challenged a provision requiring the Pentagon to create a senior civilian position charged with coming up with uniform standards for counting — and reducing — civilian bystander deaths as a result of American military operations, and a provision that would halt certain in-flight refueling of Saudi and Emirati aircraft over Yemen unless those countries took more steps to bring an end to the civil war there and to reduce civilian suffering and collateral damage from their airstrikes.

And the president said he could disregard a restriction against reducing the number of active-duty troops stationed in South Korea below 22,000, unless Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis were to certify that doing so would be in the national-security interest of the United States and would not undermine the security of regional allies like South Korea and Japan.

In May, Mr. Trump had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down troop levels in South Korea ahead of his Singapore summit meeting with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. But later in June, Mr. Mattis said that current troop levels of about 28,500 would remain in place.

[The New York Times]

Trump doubles tariffs on Turkey

President Trump said Friday that the U.S. will double tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Turkey, as relations between the NATO allies worsen.

Trump tweeted Friday that he authorized raising tariffs on Turkish steel to 50 percent and on aluminum to 20 percent as the country’s currency falls rapidly against the U.S. dollar.

“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!,” Trump tweeted.

“As he stated, the president has authorized the preparation of documents to raise tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Turkey,” said White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters in a statement.

“Section 232 tariffs are imposed on imports from particular countries whose exports threaten to impair national security as defined in Section 232, independent of negotiations on trade or any other matter.”

The lira dropped 11 percent against the U.S. dollar Friday as Turkish President Recep Erdogan warned of a global economic war against his country. Trump’s tweet brought the lira down another 3 percentage points, according to CNBC.

Turkish financial markets have panicked over concerns about the country’s fiscal health, the souring of U.S.-Turkey relations, and Erdogan’s economic policy, according to the Associated Press.

Erdogan said the currency drop was the result of a “campaign” to injure Turkey and called on citizens to convert their U.S. dollars, euros and gold into lira, according to the AP.

“If they have their dollar, we have the people, we have Allah,” Erdogan said.

The U.S.-Turkey alliance has become increasingly strained since 2017, reaching new lows this month over the imprisonment of an American pastor.

The Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on the Turkish interior and justice ministers after the government refused to let detained Christian pastor Andrew Brunson return to the U.S.

Brunson had spent 23 years as a pastor in Turkey before he was detained more than a year ago. The Turkish government alleged that he was involved in a failed coup against Erdogan in 2016, and Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric Erdogan blames for the failed revolt.

The Turkish government transferred Brunson from prison to house arrest in July, but refused his and the U.S. government’s requests to return to America.

Tensions also flared in May 2017 after Erdogan’s personal security forces attacked demonstratorsprotesting his visit to the U.S. at the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C.

Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent on imported steel and aluminum respectively in March. The White House issued those tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, which empowers the president to impose duties on imports to protect U.S. national security.

Key U.S. allies such as Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, which includes Turkey, were exempted from the tariffs until May. Those nations have responded with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports.

[The Hill]

Trump Reacts to Iran Snubbing His Offer to Meet: ‘It Doesn’t Matter – It is Up to Them’

On his way to a rally in Ohio on Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted about Iran.

“Iran, and it’s economy, is going very bad, and fast!” Trump wrote. “I will meet, or not meet, it doesn’t matter – it is up to them!”

Trump’s tweet appeared to be in response to the news from earlier this week that Iran had rejected an offer to meet with Trump.

In addition, according to the Fox News report — which just so happened to air a segment on the topic shortly before Trump tweeted — Iranian officials snubbed an offer from Trump who “this week said he would sit down with the country’s leader without any preconditions.”

The report also featured National Review columnist John Fundinsisting Trump’s offer to meet with Iranian’s leader amounted to “shadowboxing” and was not actually going to happen anyhow.

“So Donald Trump is trying for a third [meeting] with the deplorables of the nations of the world,” Fund said. “He knows the Iranians are not going to meet because they have no incentive to meet…This is shadowboxing.”

The chyron underneath Fund also reinforced Iran’s snub, reading: “Iran rejects President Trump’s offer to meet without any pre-conditions.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Insists Tariffs Will Make Our Country ‘Much Richer’: ‘Only Fools Would Disagree’

On Saturday, President Donald Trump praised his tariff plan and insisted, “steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury.”

“Tariffs are working far better than anyone ever anticipated,” Trump tweeted out. “China market has dropped 27% in last 4 months, and they are talking to us. Our market is stronger than ever, and will go up dramatically when these horrible Trade Deals are successfully renegotiated. America First.”

Then in the first follow-up tweet, he added: “Tariffs have had a tremendous positive impact on our Steel Industry. Plants are opening all over the U.S., Steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury. Other countries use Tariffs against, but when we use them, foolish people scream!”

He was not done yet.

A few minutes later, he tweeted again, writing, ” Tariffs will make our country much richer than it is today. Only fools would disagree. We are using them to negotiate fair trade deals and, if countries are still unwilling to negotiate, they will pay us vast sums of money in the form of Tariffs. We win either way.”

Trump then concluded: “China, which is for the first time doing poorly against us, is spending a fortune on ads and P.R. trying to convince and scare our politicians to fight me on Tariffs- because they are really hurting their economy. Likewise other countries. We are Winning, but must be strong!”

[Mediaite]

The EU reportedly used colorful flash cards to explain trade policy to Trump

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly used colorful cue cards to explain issues of global-trade policy to President Donald Trump during their meeting earlier this week.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday evening, Juncker and his team used the cards to simplify complex issues for the president as a means of getting their points across as effectively as possible.

The Journal’s report says Juncker “flipped through” more than a dozen cards, which had minimal information on them, and all focused on a single issue. These included the automotive trade, and regulatory standards for medicines, the report added, saying that there were a maximum of three figures per card.

“We knew this wasn’t an academic seminar,” a senior EU official who was at the meeting told the Wall Street Journal. “It had to be very simple.”

Trump and Juncker on Wednesday agreed to the beginnings of a deal that would end the previously growing trade tensions between the US and the EU.

During the meeting, the EU agreed to import more American soybeans and liquefied natural gas. Both sides agreed to work to decrease industrial tariffs and adjust regulations to allow US medical devices to be traded more easily in European markets.

“This was a very big day for free and fair trade,” Trump said at a press conference after the pair’s meeting.

The EU’s use of flash cards is not without precedent. Trump is well-known for his distaste for lengthy documents, and is said to prefer single-page memos when deciding on policy.

In May 2017, a report from Reuters said that Trump likes “single-page memos and visual aids like maps, charts, graphs and photos.” A source quoted by Reuters said aides also strategically put Trump’s name into “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned.”

[Business Insider]

Trump Touts U.S. Being ‘Back on Track’ With the EU After Meeting With Juncker: We ‘Love Each Other’

President Donald Trump said during a White House event today the U.S. will be working with the EU to address the current trade dispute, and tonight he touted how things are “back on track.”

Trump met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today and he’s tweeting that it was a big success:

Trump also shared a picture of himself and Juncker:

[Mediaite]

Reality

Trump claimed the EU promised to purchase more soybeans and that made it all worth it, but the EU doesn’t buy goods such as produce, individual European countries do.

EU officials confirmed the Trump/Juncker agreement is nothing more than a political pledge by the EU not to do anything that affects the market conditions responsible for European countries buying more beans.

We alienated friends, trashed our reliability in front of the world, made us all pay more with his taxes on us, cost American jobs, all so soybean farmers could sell a few more barrels they were already going to sell to the EU anyway.

Got it.

Trump says ‘vicious’ China targeting U.S. farmers on trade, urges critics to ‘be cool’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday blamed China for targeting U.S. farmers in an effort to undermine trade negotiations with Beijing, and he urged critics of his escalating trade war to “be cool.”

“China is targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect, as a way of getting me to continue allowing them to take advantage of the U.S.” Trump posted in one of a series of tweets on Wednesday. “They are being vicious in what will be their failed attempt. We were being nice – until now!”

The tweets come as Trump’s trade policy is increasingly under fire from Republicans on Capitol Hill, especially those representing farm states where China’s retaliatory tariffs are affecting crop prices. The Trump administration rolled out a $12 billion subsidy plan on Tuesday to help farmers, but the measures were widely criticized by Republicans.

“When you have people snipping at your heels during a negotiation, it will only take longer to make a deal, and the deal will never be as good as it could have been with unity,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “Negotiations are going really well, be cool. The end result will be worth it!”

Trump is set to meet Wednesday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after months of criticism directed at European tariffs. The two leaders are expected to discuss Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on European cars.

There is also a domestic political component to Trump’s trade and tariff policies.

Trump political advisers are clearly worried about how tariffs are affecting farmers, key sources of votes throughout the Midwest. They could be decisive as Republicans face tough election battles in November to keep control of the House and Senate.

The president himself expressed a rare note of anxiety in a speech to veterans Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., a key agricultural state.

“The farmers will be the biggest beneficiary” of his trade policies, Trump said. “Watch. We’re opening up markets. You watch what’s going to happen … Just be a little patient.”

Trump travels Thursday to two more agriculture states, Iowa and Illinois.

[USA Today]

Trump-Created European Trade Crisis Averted by Fake Deal

Last night, the Trump administration announced with maximum fanfare that the trade war with the European Union was over. “This was a big day for free and fair trade!,” tweeted an excited President Trump. For all the hype and surprisingly credulous press the announcement attracted, it amounts to little more than a face-saving truce. If you’re looking for any details as to how this will work, too bad, they don’t exist.

The trade “deal” follows the script of the ballyhooed North Korean nuclear “deal” from last month. The cycle begins with bellicose Trumpian threats designed to increase American leverage. This leads to negotiations, which produce an impossibly ambitious and thoroughly vague “solution” that allows Trump to boast that he has averted a crisis of his own making.

In North Korea’s case, the “agreement” involves a nonverifiable promise to denuclearize the Korean peninsula at some future date. The trade “deal” is a promise to eliminate tariffs between the United States and the European Union. In theory, it would be possible to eliminate all tariffs between the E.U. and the U.S., but the process would take many years to complete — the European Union has 28 member states, all of which have internal political dynamics and constituent business interests to navigate.

In the meantime, the practical meaning of Trump’s deal is that both sides will halt the cycle of retaliatory tariffs. Despite Trump’s belief that his methods had produced valuable leverage for his own position, the spat had imposed acute pain on his own constituents — especially farmers, who have suffered dire costs from retaliatory tariffs. The president had taken to pleading with his supporters to stop complaining and let him sue for peace:

He was begging his allies to stop complaining about the tariffs. Like a dog!

Trump’s campaign adviser Stephen Moore told the Washington Post yesterday, “The one thing I do know about Trump is that he’s not going to back down.” Characteristically, the one thing Moore knows turned out to be completely false.

But it is easy to see how Trump plans to turn this shambolic retreat into another famous victory. Begin with the assumption that the European Union has been screwing the Great Companies of the United States with one-sided and very, very unfair tariffs for decades. (This is not true.) Then proceed to the assumption that Trump has produced a deal to eliminate all these tariffs. (Completely unrealistic.) By stacking the two fantasies atop each other, you arrive at a reality in which Trump has made a Great Deal to make Americans win again.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/trump-created-european-trade-crisis-averted-by-fake-deal.html

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