Trump Benefited From ‘Extraordinary’ Influx Of ‘Dark Money’ In Final Days Of 2016 Campaign

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the First Niagara Center, Monday, April 18, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Hillary Clinton’s electoral collapse in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign has often been attributed to former FBI Director James Comey’s 11th-hour decision to reopen an investigation into the Democratic nominee, or anti-Clinton ads on social media originating from Russian sources. But a new paper argues that a crucial and overlooked factor in Clinton’s lackluster finish was a huge influx of so-called dark money in support of President Donald Trump in the campaign’s final days.

“Dark money” is a term used to describe political spending by anonymous donors through nonprofits, which don’t have to disclose the names of the people giving them contributions. Thanks to a series of Supreme Court decisions around the end of the last decade, these organizations are now often used to fund political ads at key moments of campaigns. According to a working paper by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen published by the Institute for New Economic Thinking this week, dark money was mobilized on behalf of Trump in the final weeks of the campaign at an unprecedented scale.

“What happened in the final weeks of the campaign was extraordinary,” the authors wrote.

“Firstly, a giant wave of dark money poured into Trump’s own campaign — one that towered over anything in 2016 or even Mitt Romney’s munificently financed 2012 effort … The gushing torrent, along with all the other funds from identifiable donors that flowed in in the campaign’s final stages should refocus debates about that period.”

At the beginning of November, nearly $13 million worth of dark money was spent supporting Trump, compared to roughly $6 million worth of such funding for Romney at the same time in 2012, according to the authors’ review of FEC and IRS data. That increase does not correspond with a rising amount of dark money between the two election cycles: total dark money spending actually fell to $181 million in 2016 from a high of $308 million in 2012.

The paper doesn’t identify how much dark money benefited Clinton during the course of the 2016 election, but her total fundraising nearly doubled Trump’s, $1.2 billion to $647 million. Trump also generated a record amount of small dollar donations for a Republican candidate.

[International Business Times]

Trump Administration Waives Punishment For Convicted Banks, Including Deutsche — Which Trump Owes Millions

The Trump administration has waived part of the punishment for five megabanks whose affiliates were convicted and fined for manipulating global interest rates. One of the Trump administration waivers was granted to Deutsche Bank — which is owed at least $130 million by President Donald Trump and his business empire, and has also been fined for its role in a Russian money laundering scheme.

The waivers were issued in a little-noticed announcement published in the Federal Register during the Christmas holiday week. They come less than two years after then-candidate Trump promised “I’m not going to let Wall Street get away with murder.”

Under laws designed to protect retirement savings, financial firms whose affiliates have been convicted of violating securities statutes are effectively barred from the lucrative business of managing those savings. However, that punishment can be avoided if the firms manage to secure a special exemption from the U.S. Department of Labor, allowing them to keep their status as “qualified professional asset managers.”

In late 2016, the Obama administration extended temporary one-year waivers to five banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan, Barclays, UBS and Deutsche Bank. Late last month, the Trump administration issued new, longer waivers for those same banks, granting Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Barclays five-year exemptions. UBS and Deutsche Bank received three-year exemptions.

In the year leading up to the new waiver for Deustche Bank, Trump’s financial relationship with the firm has prompted allegations of a conflict of interest. The bank has not only sought the Labor Department waiver from the administration, it has also faced Justice Department scrutiny and five separate government-appointed independent monitors. Meanwhile, the New York Times recently reported that federal prosecutors subpoenaed Deutsche for “bank records about entities associated with the family company of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.”

All of these interactions with the Trump administration and the federal government are transpiring as Deutsche serves as a key creditor for the president’s businesses.

Trump owes the German bank at least $130 million in loans, according to the president’s most recent financial disclosure form. Sources have told the Financial Times the total amount of money Trump owes Deutsche is likely around $300 million. The president’s relationship with the bank dates back to the late 1990s, when it was the one major Wall Street bank willing to extend him credit after a series of bankruptcies. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported Trump and his companies have received at least $2.5 billion in loans from Deutsche Bank and co-lenders since 1998.

The relationship has had problems. After the financial crash, Trump defaulted on a $640 million loan from the bank. Deutsche brought Trump to court, and the famously litigious real estate mogul countersued for $3 billion in damages, claiming the financial crisis was a “force majeure” event that Deutsche Bank helped create. But the rift was short-lived: the parties settled, the loan was repaid, and Deutsche was soon lending to Trump again.

In December, Bloomberg and others reported the bank had turned over financial records to special prosecutor Robert Mueller after his office subpoenaed the records as part of his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Trump’s lawyers have called that reporting inaccurate.

“We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the President are false,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”

Less than three weeks later, the New York Times reported federal prosecutors had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records related to White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Kushner and his vast business holdings. There is no evidence those subpoenas were related to Mueller’s investigation.

The subpoenas come less than a year after Deutsche Bank was fined $425 million by New York State for laundering $10 billion out of Russia.

All five of the banks granted waivers from the Obama and Trump administration were fined for their involvement in the LIBOR scandal that led to $9 billion worth of fines from regulators around the world. Deutsche Bank has paid $3.5 billion for its role in the scandal, more than any other bank. The scandal involved illegally manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR, which is used to set the cost of borrowing for a variety of financial transactions.

In 2015, Deutsche Bank pled guilty in the U.S. to wire fraud for its role in the scandal. Less than two years later, in the final hours of the Obama administration, Deutsche Bank agreed to a $7.2 billion settlement with the Justice Department for misleading investors in mortgage-backed securities between 2006 and 2007.

[International Business Times]

Trump changes Consumer Protection Bureau to Deregulation Bureau

Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, a month into his job moonlighting as head the CFPB, has rewritten the consumer watchdog’s mission statement. In a nutshell, the regulatory agency is now a deregulatory agency. Here’s the before and after:

Then: “The CFPB is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.”

Now: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations, by making rules more effective, by consistently enforcing federal consumer financial law, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.”

[Politico]

Trump moves to weaken black lung protections

President Donald Trump is considering weakening a regulation intended to protect the health of one of the demographics he has often claimed to care most about — America’s coal miners.

A notice labeled “Regulatory Reform of Existing Standards and Regulations; Retrospective Study of Respirable Coal Mine Dust Rule” was published on Thursday by the White House for the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The stated purpose of the reevaluation would be to determine how a 2014 rule passed under President Barack Obama regulating coal miners’ exposure to coal dust “could be improved or made more effective or less burdensome.”

When the rule was first implemented, it utilized new technologies and increased sampling in mines so that workers would have real-time information about dust levels. This would in turn allow both the miners and operators to minimize the chances that workers would be overexposed to coal dust, which has caused an epidemic of black lung disease among coal miners.

In spite of a 1969 law that increased coal mine safety requirements, more than 76,000 coal miners throughout America died of black lung disease between 1968 and 2014. Many of those deaths occurred among coal miners whose entire mining careers took place after the 1969 law had taken effect.

In response to the announcement that the coal dust rule would be reevaluated, the National Mining Association released a statement saying, “While we’ve not had any discussions with the agency regarding the retrospective study, we think it might shed valuable information on operation of the rule since its promulgation and ways it might be improved to provide further protection for miners while eliminating unnecessary implementation requirements for operators.”

Meanwhile a spokesman for mining company Murray Energy — whose owner, Bob Murray, was a major Trump backer in the 2016 election — released a statement saying that it is “pleased that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is reexamining the Obama administration’s Respirable Dust Rule, which fails to protect coal miners in any way.”

Although coal mining has been on the decline in Appalachia over the past few years, that isn’t as a result of Trump’s policies. Part of that is something Trump can’t control. And part of it is something Trump doesn’t want to control. The chief struggle facing coal miners is that natural gas, solar and wind power can outcompete coal due to their low cost and abundance. Making matters worse for coal miners themselves, the coal mining jobs are often the best-paying ones in their area, and job retraining programs have a spotty track record of actually helping individuals who use them.

This latest policy undermines Trump’s longstanding claim to be an ally of coal miners, which he bragged about when he pulled out of the Paris climate accord. “I happen to love the coal miners,” Trump proclaimed at the time.

Trump may have let his true feelings about coal miners be known during a Playboy interview in 1990, however.

“The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son,” Trump told Playboy. “If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don’t have the imagination — or whatever — to leave their mine. They don’t have ‘it.'”

[Salon]

Trump teeing off with Tiger Woods, but vows the round of golf will go ‘quickly’

President Trump made a rare acknowledgement Friday of his plans to play golf, noting in a tweet that he was teeing off with Tiger Woods but stressing he will play “quickly” before returning to the burdens of the office.

Trump, who is spending Thanksgiving weekend at Mar-a-Lago, said he will play with the golf legend as well as Dustin Johnson, currently ranked the world’s No. 1 golfer.

The threesome is scheduled to tee off at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., about 20 miles north of the presidential retreat at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump was careful in his tweet to underscore he planned a quick round. He also said he was going to be talking to the president of Turkey and also focusing on the economy.

He also used his pre-golf morning to blast NFL players who “disrespect” the country, the flag and national anthem with their pre-game protests “without penalty.”
Since taking office, Trump has rarely acknowledged playing golf. In recent years, particularly during the 2016 campaign, he slammed President Obama repeatedly for playing the game, chiding his “work ethic” and even criticizing the president for going to Hawaii during the holiday and taking Secret Service personnel away from their families.

For his part, Trump pledged to largely forego golf while in office, saying he was “not going to have time to play golf.”

After a year in the Oval Office, however, published reports indicate he has played at least 34 times since the inauguration and has visited his golf courses more than 70 times.

In addition, the traveling press is rarely allowed to observe his rounds and aides traditionally decline to say when the golf is played.

This week, after the presidential entourage arrived in Florida, the White House had to correct itself after a spokesperson initially said she was expecting a “low-key day” while the president spent time at the Florida resort. Minutes later, the correction was that the president “will NOT have a low-key day.”

Abut 90 minutes later, however, the press poll noted the motorcade arriving at a Trump golf club near West Palm Beach and left some five hours later, the New York Post reported.

Aides were mum on how he spent the time period, which is roughly the length of a round of golf, unless you play quickly.

[USA Today]

Reality

Donald Trump has visited a Trump property, which he still owns and receives profits from, 34 out of his 45 weeks in office so far.

Small company from Trump Interior chief’s hometown wins massive contract to restore Puerto Rico’s power

A small Montana company located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown has signed a $300 million contract to help get the power back on in Puerto Rico, The Washington Post reported.

Whitefish Energy had only two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, according to the Post. The company signed the contract – the largest yet issued to help restore Puerto Rico – with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to fix the island’s electrical infrastructure.

The company now has 280 workers on the island, the Post reported, a majority of whom are subcontractors.

A former senior official at the Energy Department and state regulatory agencies said it was “odd” that Whitefish Energy would be chosen.

The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish,” Susan F. Tierney said.

“I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.”

Whitefish Energy happened to be the first firm “available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions for PREPA,” Ricardo Ramos, the executive director of PREPA, the island’s power authority, told reporters.

“The doubts that have been raised about Whitefish, from my point of view, are completely unfounded,” he added.

Whitefish Energy spokesman Chris Chiames told the newspaper that the company is taking “personal risks and business risks working in perilous physical and financial conditions.”

“So the carping by others is unfounded, and we stand by our work and our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.

Zinke’s office said in an email to the Post that Zinke and Whitefish Energy’s chief executive know each other.

“Everybody knows everybody” in the town, Zinke’s office said, adding that Zinke wasn’t involved in the contract.

[The Hill]

Trump Promised Not to Work With Foreign Entities, His Company Just Did

A major construction company owned by the Chinese government was hired to work on the latest Trump golf club development in Dubai despite a pledge from Donald Trump that his family business would not engage in any transactions with foreign government entities while he serves as president.

Trump’s partner, DAMAC Properties, awarded a $32-million contract to the Middle East subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corporation to build a six-lane road as part of the residential piece of the Trump World Golf Club Dubai project called Akoya Oxygen, according to news releases released by both companies. It is scheduled to open next year.

The companies’ statements do not detail the exact timing of the contract except to note it was sometime in the first two months of 2017, just as Trump was inaugurated and questions were raised about a slew of potential conflicts of interest between his presidency and his vast real estate empire.

The Chinese company, known as CSCEC, is majority government-owned — according to Bloomberg and Moody’s, among others — an arrangement that generally encourages growth and drives out competition. It was listed as the 7th largest company in China and 37th worldwide with nearly $130 billion in revenues in 2014, according to Fortune’s Global 500 list.

The company, which has had a presence in the United States since the mid-1980s, was one of several accused by the World Bank of corruption for its role in the bidding process for a roads project in the Philippines and banned in 2009 from World Bank-financed contracts for several years.

Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at Issue One, which works to reduce the role of money in politics, said doing business with a foreign entity poses several potential problems for a president, including accusations that a foreign government is enriching him, gaining access to or building goodwill with him and becoming a factor in foreign policy.

The Trump Organization agreed to not engage in any new foreign deals or new transactions with a foreign entity — country, agency or official — other than “normal and customary arrangements” made before his election.

But Trump ignored calls to fully separate from his business interests when he became president. Instead, he placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his “exclusive benefit,” which he can receive at any time. He retains the authority to revoke the trust.

McGehee said Trump clearly knew foreign arrangements could be problematic because he outlined a list of restrictions, although vague ones, for his company to follow while he served as president. But more importantly, she said, the writers of the U.S. Constitution knew they could be too.

The Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution says officials may not accept gifts, titles of nobility or emoluments from foreign governments with respect to their office, and that no benefit should be derived by holding office.

“This is not just a concern of good government organizations,” she said. “It was a fundamental concern of the founding fathers.”

Trump pledged to donate profits from spending by foreign governments at his hotels to the U.S. Treasury, though he has been accused of violating the constitutional restriction and faces multiple lawsuits over the issue.

In some deals reviewed by McClatchy, the Trump Organization licenses its name and receives royalties from a project but does not have any input on who the developer hires. But in other cases, officials from the Trump Organization, including the Trump children, have taken a great interest in the development, walking the sites to check on progress.

An official with the Trump Organization, which is run by the president’s adult sons, confirmed the company licensed its name and brand to DAMAC Properties and has entered into an agreement to manage the Dubai golf course.

The Chinese company was appointed by DAMAC to undertake some infrastructure work and to build one of their hospitality developments” said the Trump Organization official who asked for anonymity. The official said the residential project and the golf course are “totally unrelated” despite marketing materials, including brochures, websites and news releases, showing them intricately tied together. DAMAC and CSCEC did not respond to messages about the development.

CSCEC appears in the Panama Papers, a massive data breach from law firm Mossack Fonseca whose publication last year lifted the veil on the secretive world of offshore companies, which can be used for legitimate business purposes but can also be used to evade taxes and launder money.

The documents show CSCEC had offshore companies listed in the Bahamas and in Panama, where it has projects. Mossack Fonseca subjected it to greater scrutiny, giving it Politically Exposed Person status, in part because of its state-owned status.

The company’s contract is for work on the Trump World Golf Club Dubai project, which boasts of “living on a grand scale” with a golf course designed by famed American golfer Tiger Woods, thousands of sleek, modern villas, restaurants, shops, schools, nurseries and a lake. The development touts it will house Dubai’s first tropical rainforest complete with waterfalls and tropical birds under a sky dome.

“This unparalleled development provides luxury living on a grand scale, with over 2,000 hotel apartments of varying size, all offering exceptional views of the development, the lake and the lush fairways of the Trump World Golf Club Dubai,” according to a brochure. “The properties are fully furnished and our staff is available to you 24 hours a day, to ensure that you enjoy premium service on a par with the world’s finest hotels.”

In February, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., attended a ceremony to open the first golf club in Dubai after their father spent years trying to break into the Middle East market.

Trump International Golf Club Dubai, part of a larger project built by a development giant DAMAC Properties on the outskirts of Dubai, includes more than 100 Trump-branded villas selling from $1 million to $4 million.

Hussain Sajwani, DAMAC’s wealthy chairman, who has family members listed in the Panama papers, offered the Trump Organization $2 billion in deals following Trump’s election, according to both sides. Trump said he rejected the offers to avoid conflicts of interest.

“Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great, great developer from the Middle East,” Trump said at a news conference in January. “And I turned it down. I didn’t have to turn it down because as you know I have a no conflict situation because I’m president…But I don’t want to take advantage of something.”

Trump Ends DACA Program

President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm — and fulfill one of the president’s core campaign promises.

The administration’s deliberations on the issue have been fluid and fast moving, and the president has faced strong warnings from members of his own party not to scrap the program.

Trump has wrestled for months with whether to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. But conversations with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that Congress — rather than the executive branch — is responsible for writing immigration law, helped persuade the president to terminate the program and kick the issue to Congress, the two sources said.

In a nod to reservations held by many lawmakers, the White House plans to delay the enforcement of the president’s decision for six months, giving Congress a window to act, according to one White House official. But a senior White House aide said that chief of staff John Kelly, who has been running the West Wing policy process on the issue, “thinks Congress should’ve gotten its act together a lot longer ago.”

White House aides caution that — as with everything in the Trump White House — nothing is set in stone until an official announcement has been made.

Trump is expected to formally make that announcement on Tuesday, and the White House informed House Speaker Paul Ryan of the president’s decision on Sunday morning, according to a source close to the administration. Ryan had said during a radio interview on Friday that he didn’t think the president should terminate DACA, and that Congress should act on the issue.

A spokesman for Ryan did not immediately respond to a request for comment. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, “A decision is not finalized. We will make an announcement on Tuesday.”

The president’s expected decision is likely to shore up his base, which rallied behind his broader campaign message about the importance of enforcing the country’s immigration laws and securing the border. At the same time, the president’s decision is likely to be one of the most contentious of his early administration, opposed by leaders of both parties and by the political establishment more broadly.

The White House and Congress have tried to pass the issue off on each other – with each arguing that the other is responsible for determining the fate of the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who are benefiting from DACA. Though most Republicans believe that rolling back DACA is a solid legal decision, they are conscious of the difficult emotional terrain. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch joined Ryan in cautioning Trump against rolling back the program.

The president is likely to couch his decision in legalese. Many on the right, even those who support protections for children brought into the country illegally through no fault of their own, argue that DACA is unconstitutional because former President Barack Obama carried it out unilaterally instead of working through Congress.

Some Republican lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have said that Congress needs to pass a law to protect the so-called Dreamers.

“My hope is that as part of this process we can work on a way to deal with this issue and solve it through legislation, which is the right way to do it and the constitutional way to do it,” Rubio told CNN in June.

Trump’s expected decision to scrap DACA within six months represents another challenge for Ryan and fellow congressional Republicans, who are facing an end-of-September deadline to avert a government shutdown and government debt default, while also tackling a Hurricane Harvey relief package and a major tax reform push.

It’s not clear that Congress will be able to come to an agreement on the future of DACA.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who previously said he was very disappointed by Trump’s lack of action on DACA, expressed fresh frustration on Sunday night with the idea of a delayed implementation.

“Ending DACA now gives chance 2 restore Rule of Law. Delaying so R Leadership can push Amnesty is Republican suicide,” King tweeted.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who has called on Trump to stand up for the Dreamers, tweeted out her displeasure with Trump’s expected announcement.

“After teasing #Dreamers for months with talk of his ‘great heart,’ @POTUS slams door on them. Some ‘heart’…” she wrote.

[Politico]

Reality

As a candidate, he pledged that on the first day of his presidency he would terminate Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Instead, on the 229th day of his presidency, he trotted out Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce that the Trump administration will gradually wind down the program over the next six months. DACA will end more than a year after Trump took office — or possibly not at all. The delay is intended to give Congress time to pass a replacement measure that could provide similar protections to those known as “dreamers.”

 

Trump Says Transgender People Can’t Serve In Military

President Trump has announced that the government will not allow transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday morning, he wrote:

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”

Transgender people already serve in the military. It’s not immediately clear how Trump intends to implement the ban, but the Pentagon announced Wednesday that it will defer enlistments by transgender applicants.

“Secretary [James] Mattis today approved a recommendation by the services to defer accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018,” Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement. “The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces.”

In June 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender service members.

As NPR’s Merrit Kennedy reported then, Carter said the key reason for the change was “that the Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now — the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

The move was an acknowledgement of the transgender people already in the military. Carter said RAND researchers estimated that “about 25,000 people out of approximately 825,000 reserve service members are transgender, with the upper end of their range of estimates of around 7,000 in the active component and 4,000 in the reserves.”

Trump’s announcement will likely be seen as running counter to a tweet he posted in 2016, in which Trump thanked the LGBT community. “I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” he pledged.

The Human Rights Campaign immediately tweeted its disapproval of Trump’s announcement. “Threatening 15K currently serving troops who put their lives at risk is unpatriotic and dangerous,” the LGBTQ rights organization said.

[NPR]

“As a presidential candidate, President Trump said that he “will do everything” to protect LGBT communities from violence, during his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.”

During Made in America Week, White House Defends Imported Trump Products

As the White House kicks off its Made in America Week, shining a spotlight on products manufactured domestically, President Donald Trump’s spokesman was forced Monday to defend the fact that goods bearing the Trump name are frequently produced abroad.

Made in America Week — continuing a trend of themed weeks, such as Infrastructure Week and Energy Week — saw the White House hosting a product showcase featuring a variety of items manufactured in the U.S., the president delivering a speech encouraging domestic manufacturing and a ceremony commissioning the latest American-built Navy aircraft carrier.

But asked at Monday’s press briefing about whether the Trump Organization or Ivanka Trump brands would commit “to stop manufacturing wares abroad,” press secretary Sean Spicer shifted the focus to Trump’s attempts to cultivate other companies’ domestic production efforts.

“I think what’s really important is the president’s agenda — regulatory relief and tax relief — are focused on trying to make sure that all companies can hire here, can expand here, can manufacture here,” said Spicer.

On the matter of Trump-branded items, he added, “I can tell you that in some cases, there are certain supply chains or scalability that may not be available in this country.”

Questions about Trump products’ creation and assembly abroad have dogged the businessman-turned-president since first announcing his America-first ambitions at the launch of his candidacy for president over two years ago.

During a memorable campaign stop in August 2016, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton held up a Trump-branded tie made China as she assailed the Republican nominee for suits stitched in Mexico, furniture created in Turkey and picture frames made in India.

But asked at Monday’s press briefing about whether the Trump Organization or Ivanka Trump brands would commit “to stop manufacturing wares abroad,” press secretary Sean Spicer shifted the focus to Trump’s attempts to cultivate other companies’ domestic production efforts.

“I think what’s really important is the president’s agenda — regulatory relief and tax relief — are focused on trying to make sure that all companies can hire here, can expand here, can manufacture here,” said Spicer.

On the matter of Trump-branded items, he added, “I can tell you that in some cases, there are certain supply chains or scalability that may not be available in this country.”

Questions about Trump products’ creation and assembly abroad have dogged the businessman-turned-president since first announcing his America-first ambitions at the launch of his candidacy for president over two years ago.

During a memorable campaign stop in August 2016, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton held up a Trump-branded tie made China as she assailed the Republican nominee for suits stitched in Mexico, furniture created in Turkey and picture frames made in India.

Trump shrugged off the criticism during the campaign, telling ABC News that Clinton didn’t need to raise the issue because he readily took ownership of the foreign items, chalking up the decisions as a financial one, given the costs of U.S. manufacturing. He pointed to the nature of the economy and blamed then-President Barack Obama’s policies for forcing his hand.

“Unfortunately, my ties are made in China, and I will say this, the hats — Make America great again — I searched long and hard to find somebody that made the hats in this country,” Trump told ABC News in June 2016.

“I pay a lot more money. It is a very hard thing, and it’s because they devalue their currency,” he added, referring to alleged Chinese efforts to make it less expensive to buy goods from the country.

Trump partially chalked up the production imbalance to “unfair trade practices” as he spoke at the product showcase Monday afternoon. Touting job creation in the manufacturing sector since he took office, he promised that the country would “once again rediscover our heritage as a manufacturing nation.”

“We’re here to celebrate American manufacturing and showcase all the products of the 50 states made in the U.S.A,” he said. “Remember in the old days, they used to have ‘Made in the U.S.A.’? ‘Made in America’ but ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ — we’re going to start doing that again. We’re going to put that brand on our product because it means it’s the best.”

Comments about the Trump Organization’s business efforts by the president and his advisers have waned since his election, particularly as critics decry what they view as potential conflicts of interest. Spicer expressed discomfort in fielding the query on the topic Monday.

“Again, it’s not appropriate me for to stand up here and comment about a business, and I believe that’s a little out of bounds,” he said, as the line of questioning wound down at the press briefing. “But again, I would go back to the president’s broader goal, which is to create investment here, to bring back the manufacturing base.”

[ABC News]

1 2 3 4