Kudlow: ‘Don’t blame Trump’ for the trade conflicts he created

Top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow contended Wednesday that President Donald Trump should not be held responsible for mounting trade conflicts with American allies, as the president gets set to face world leaders angered by tariffs imposed by the U.S.

“Don’t blame Trump. Blame the nations that have broken away” from fair trade practices, he told reporters. The global trade system “is broken and President Trump is trying to fix it. And that’s the key point,” Kudlow added.

The National Economic Council director downplayed concerns about tensions with key American allies ahead of Trump’s trip to Canada at the end of the week for a summit with leaders of the Group of 7 economies. Trump recently imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from countries including the other six members — Canada, FranceGermanyItalyJapan and the United Kingdom — prompting retaliatory measures against the U.S.

The developments have prompted concerns about a trade war that could damage the U.S. economy or cause frayed relations with allies. The tariffs have sparked backlash not only abroad but at home, where Trump is trying to stop an effort from free trade Republicans to push back against the measures. Both U.S. lawmakers and foreign officials have questioned Trump’s national security justification for imposing the tariffs.

Ahead of Trump’s G-7 meetings, Kudlow, a former CNBC senior contributor, downplayed the prospect of a “trade war” with allies — calling the tensions “disputes that need to be solved.” He said he hopes the summit, where Trump will have bilateral talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, will lead to substantive discussions on trade.

Last week, the Trump administration said it would not exempt Canada, Mexico and the European Union from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The decision came as the U.S., Canada and Mexico have faltered in efforts to strike a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump has long pledged to crack down on what he calls unfair trade practices and bad trade deals. He contends foreign countries had punished U.S. companies and stolen jobs away from American workers — one component of the appeal that carried him to the White House. Ultimately, he wants to increase U.S. exports and reduce trade deficits.

While numerous Republicans who support Trump — and Democrats who typically do not — have backed tough responses to alleged trade abuses by China, the tariffs on the key American allies brought the harshest response yet to Trump’s trade actions both domestically and abroad. Trudeau reportedly said he wanted to have “frank” talks with Trump during the G-7 meetings.

Asked whether Trump had damaged relations with Canada, Kudlow answered that he was not worried about temporary tensions.

“I have no doubt the United States and Canada will remain firm friends and allies,” Kudlow said.

The White House economic advisor also denied reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed for a tariff exemption for Canada during a meeting this week. Kudlow said both he and the Treasury secretary attended the meeting and did not say a word.

The U.S. has also sought help from allies as it tries to reach a deal to reduce trade deficits with China and stop alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property by Chinese companies. The U.S. has reached neither a broad deal with China to avoid potentially damaging tariffs, nor an agreement to revive Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, according to Kudlow.

He said he believes the rest of the world agrees with Trump about Chinese trade practices.

[CNBC]

Trump invokes War of 1812 in testy call with Trudeau over tariffs

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a testy phone call on May 25 over new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration targeting steel and aluminum imports coming from Canada, including one moment during the conversation in which Trump made an erroneous historical reference, sources familiar with the discussion told CNN.

According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a “national security” issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” referring to the War of 1812.

The problem with Trump’s comments to Trudeau is that British troops burned down the White House during the War of 1812. Historians note the British attack on Washington was in retaliation for the American attack on York, Ontario, in territory that eventually became Canada, which was then a British colony.

When asked if the comment was received as a joke, one source on the call said: “To the degree one can ever take what is said as a joke. The impact on Canada and ultimately on workers in the US won’t be a laughing matter.”

The White House declined to comment and the National Security Council did not immediately return a CNN request for comment.

Asked about the state of US-Canada relations, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow acknowledged some short-term tensions, but said he believes relations between the two countries remain “very good.”

“I have no doubt that the United States and Canada will remain firm friends and allies whatever short-term disagreements may occur,” Kudlow said.

During the Burning of Washington, on August 24, 1814, first lady Dolley Madison famously rescued a portrait of George Washington before fleeing the White House.

Trudeau has publicly denounced the “national security” justification for the new tariffs.

“The idea that we are somehow a national security threat to the United States is, quite frankly, insulting and unacceptable,” Trudeau told NBC’s Meet the Press.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland questioned the Trump administration’s move on CNN.

“And I would just say to all of Canada’s American friends — and there are so many — seriously? Do you really believe that Canada, that your NATO allies, represent a national security threat to you?” Freeland asked on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Freeland met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker Monday to relay Canada’s concerns regarding the tariffs, a Corker spokeswoman told CNN.

Corker, whose state of Tennessee is home to foreign and domestic auto plants, questioned Trump’s national security justification in a statement last week.

“There is no reason to use this provision to consider imposing tariffs on the automobile industry, and this appears to be either an attempt to affect domestic politics ahead of the election or for some other transactional purpose regarding ongoing trade discussions. This is a dangerous course and should be abandoned immediately,” Corker said in the statement.

Trump defended his decision on tariffs on Canada and other US allies in a tweet over the weekend.

“The United States must, at long last, be treated fairly on trade,” the President tweeted on Saturday.

A senior administration official declined to discuss the specifics of Trump’s phone call with Trudeau but acknowledged some of the President’s conversations with his foreign counterparts on the subject of trade have been confrontational.

“It’s understandable that change causes friction,” the official said, noting some of Trump’s recent tariff announcements have brought stubborn trading partners back to the negotiating table.

Canadian officials confirm to CNN that months ago Trump personally assured Trudeau that Canada would likely be exempt from steel and aluminum tariffs. The Trump administration at one point granted Canada and Mexico a last-minute reprieve from tariffs in March as negotiations to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, continued.

In April, Canada tried to address what Trump said were concerns about Chinese steel and aluminum being dumped into Canada and then being shipped into the United States.

Trudeau announced increased funding and border vigilance “to prevent transshipment and diversion of unfairly priced foreign steel and aluminum into the North American market,” according to a statement released in April.

It was the understanding of Canadians officials at the time that this would satisfy the Trump administration and allow for Canada to receive a permanent exemption from tariffs.

Just days before Trudeau is set to host a G7 Summit in Quebec, Canadian officials tell CNN they are just trying to “keep Trump happy.”

Asked about Trump’s remark that the Canadians burned down the White House, aides to the President and to Canada’s Trudeau declined to comment.

[CNN]

Reality

Canada wasn’t a country until 1840.

‘Our recollection keeps changing’: Rudy Giuliani admits Trump may not testify because he can’t tell the truth

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani revealed on Sunday that President Donald Trump may not agree to testify or be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller because his “recollection” of the truth “keeps changing.”

“This is the reason you don’t let the president testify,” Giuliani told ABC host George Stephanopoulos. “Our recollection keeps changing, or we’re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption.”

[Raw Story]

Media

Trump gets caught up in his own lie after just 8 minutes

On Tuesday afternoon, North Korean dignitaries met with Donald Trump to deliver a mysterious letter from the North Korean regime.

A while later, Donald Trump held a press conference, where in the course of under ten minutes changed his story about the letter.

Reuters reported that Trump had said the letter “was a very nice letter, a very interesting letter.” Around 8 minutes later—according to the Reuters time stamp—Trump confessed that he hadn’t opened it yet.

On Twitter, the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent Daniel Dale joked “The Trump era in two Reuters alerts.”

[Raw Story]

Media

Trump breaks the law and jolts markets by teasing secret jobs numbers

President Donald Trump moved markets and busted norms on Friday morning with a tweet about the May employment report more than an hour before the numbers came out.

The post appeared to skirt strict rules on government employees not commenting on the highly sensitive economic data until an hour after its public release at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Trump, who received the numbers Thursday night on Air Force One, did not include any of the jobs data in his tweet. But it appeared positive enough to suggest to Wall Street that a good number was coming Friday morning.

“Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning,” the president tweeted at 7:21 a.m.

And the numbers were in fact quite good, showing a better than expected gain of 223,000 jobs and a dip in unemployment to 3.8 percent, the lowest level since April of 2000, sending Dow futures higher.

But markets were already moving before the release and popped immediately after Trump’s tweet, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note moving higher along with stock market futures. The rise in the 10-year yield suggested traders assumed Trump’s tweet meant the jobs number would be strong and push the Fed to raise interest rates more quickly.

Former Obama administration officials pounced on Trump’s tweet even before the public got to see the numbers, saying it violated rules banning federal employees with access to the jobs data from saying anything at all about it until 9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

The one-hour lag is meant to allow the jobs data—compiled by non-partisan career employees at the Bureau of Labor Statistics—to stand on its own without any immediate spin from elected officials.

“We took the one-hour delay 100 percent seriously,” Jason Furman, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama, said in an interview. “There were times when there was a good number and they wanted to send the president out to talk about it, but Air Force One was scheduled to leave at 9:15 a.m. and we would tell them to delay the flight until after 9:30 a.m.”

Furman suggested Trump should no longer get the numbers in advance.

[Politico]

Trump on Memorial Day: Those who died for US ‘would be very happy’ with how country is doing

President Trump marked Memorial Day in a tweet on Monday claiming that the nation’s fallen heroes “would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today.”

“Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more.” Trump tweeted. “Nice!”

Memorial Day is held annually to honor service members who died for the U.S.

Trump had tweeted a video in honor of the holiday earlier Monday.

The president is scheduled to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery later Monday morning.

He has often used Twitter to brag about the state of the economy under his administration. The black and Hispanic unemployment rates both reached record lows last month, according to statistics from the Department of Labor.

[The Hill]

Reality

Black unemployment rate:

Hispanic unemployment rate:

Rudy Giuliani Admits White House Is Trying To Discredit Russia Investigation

President Donald Trump’s lawyer flatly admitted that the White House is waging a fierce information campaign against special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The aim: to delegitimize the probe in the eyes of voters and lawmakers in Congress.

Rudy Giuliani, asked about the near-daily attacks on the probe, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, “They are giving us the material. I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have the material. … It is for public opinion.”

“Because eventually, the decision here is going to be: impeach, [or] not impeach,” he continued. “Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So our jury … is the American people. And the American people … Republicans largely, independents pretty substantially, and even Democrats now question the legitimacy of it.”

Trump in recent days has ratcheted up his attacks against the Russia investigation, the Justice Department and the FBI. He has claimed that the FBI had “infiltrated” and “spied” on his 2016 presidential campaign when the agency reportedly used an informant to make contact with Trump campaign advisers who allegedly had suspicious contacts linked to Russia. He also demanded the Justice Department investigate the accusations and turn over any relevant documents to Congress.

Meanwhile, Democrats who attended a classified briefing about the informant with top DOJ officials last week said they saw “no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign.” Top Republicans who also attended the briefing have remained silent, however.

Asked Sunday by CNN’s Dana Bash whether he believed the Russia probe is legitimate, Giuliani said, “Not anymore.”

“I did when I came in, but now I see Spygate,” Giuliani said, using Trump’s preferred term for describing revelations that an FBI informant made contact with two of his campaign advisers as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling.

“I know 50 years of investigatory experience tells me they don’t have a darn thing because they would’ve used it already and they wouldn’t be off on collusion, they wouldn’t be off on Manafort, they wouldn’t be off on Cohen,” Giuliani added.

[Huffington Post]

Media

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “hasn’t seen” intel showing Russia pushed for Trump win

Following a classified election security briefing for all House members, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that she “hasn’t seen” a conclusion by the intelligence community that Russia’s intent in meddling in the 2016 election was to help Donald Trump win the presidency and to hurt Hillary Clinton. Nielsen was pressed about the January Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, endorsed by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

“I do not believe that I’ve seen that conclusion, that the specific intent was to help President Trump win. I’m not aware of that. But I do generally have no reason to doubt any intelligence assessment,” Nielsen told reporters following the briefing. Nielsen joined FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill.

Nielsen added, “What we have seen the Russians do is attempt to manipulate public confidence on both sides. So we’ve seen them encourage people go to a protest on one side; we’ve seen them simultaneously encourage people to go to that same protest on the other side. So I think what they’re trying to do, in my opinion, and I defer to the intel community, is just disrupt our belief and our own understanding of what’s happening. It’s an integrity issue of who is saying what and why and how that may or may not affect an American’s behavior in what they’re voting for.”

Her comments contrast with the intelligence community’s report that Putin and the Russian government “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

“We have high confidence in these judgments. We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment,” the report’s conclusion found.

[CBS News]

Donald Trump warns NATO members will be ‘dealt with’ if they refuse to pay more for military alliance

Donald Trump singled out Germany in renewing his criticism of Nato members he accuses of not contributing enough, saying laggards would be “dealt with”.

Speaking alongside Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, at the White House, Mr Trump reiterated a longstanding charge that America bears a disproportionate share of supporting the military alliance’s activities.

Germany “has not contributed what it should be contributing and it’s a very big beneficiary”, said the president, who has long had a frosty relationship with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The president’s world view is rooted in a belief that the US has consistently been taken advantage of by international pacts and organisations – a scepticism that fuels his unilaterally focused “America First” stance.

During the presidential campaign, he suggested America might only defend Nato allies if they had “fulfilled their obligations to us”.

Despite Mr Trump’s wariness, Mr Stoltenberg praised the president for impelling other nations to augment defense spending, saying “it is impacting allies because now all allies are increasing defense spending”.

During the presidential campaign, he suggested America might only defend Nato allies if they had “fulfilled their obligations to us”.

Despite Mr Trump’s wariness, Mr Stoltenberg praised the president for impelling other nations to augment defence spending, saying “it is impacting allies because now all allies are increasing defence spending”.

[The Independent]

Media

Trump on deported immigrants: “They’re not people. They’re animals.”

President Donald Trump referred to some people deported from the United States as “animals” during a roundtable discussion with California sheriffs on Wednesday. It’s the latest in a series of statements stretching Trump’s entire national political career that carelessly conflate immigration, criminality, and violence.

From the official White House transcript:

SHERIFF (Margaret) MIMS (Fresno County, CA): Now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a disgrace. Okay? It’s a disgrace.

SHERIFF MIMS: It’s a disgrace.

THE PRESIDENT: And we’re suing on that, and we’re working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It’s so ridiculous. The concept that we’re even talking about is ridiculous. We’ll take care of it, Margaret. We’ll win.

SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

It’s not clear who the president was referring to — whether he was simply picking up on Sheriff Mims’s reference to MS-13 gang members or referring to deportees more broadly. But the president didn’t exactly bend over backward to specify that not all immigrants deported by this administration are “animals.”

Trump has used the term “animals” to refer to members of MS-13 before. In a July 2017 speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, he said: “Few communities have suffered worse at the hand of these MS-13 thugs than the people of Long Island. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They are animals.” In February, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said, “These are animals. They cut people. They cut them. They cut them up in little pieces, and they want them to suffer. And we take them into our country.”

No matter how Trump is portraying his policy, his administration is not focusing on deporting people who have committed particularly heinous crimes; gang members; or people with criminal records. From Trump’s inauguration to the end of 2017, ICE arrested 45,436 immigrants without criminal records.

To be sure, ICE arrests of immigrants with criminal records ticked up slightly from the last year of the Obama administration (in which immigration enforcement was subdued compared to previous years) to the Trump administration. But arrests of immigrants without criminal records have also spiked. During President Obama’s last year, about 16 percent of ICE arrests were of noncriminal immigrants; each month since July 2017, between 32 and 40 percent of arrestees have been noncriminals.

The Trump administration is still deporting fewer noncriminal immigrants than the Obama administration did circa 2011, and the proportion of deportees who are noncriminals is usually smaller than the proportion of arrestees who are. But the Trump administration is aiming not just to ramp back up to the deportation peak of Obama’s first term but surpass it, and that’s going to require arresting and deporting a lot of immigrants without criminal records.

If Donald Trump understands his own administration’s policy, he’s never acknowledged it in public. He sticks to the same rhetorical move every time: refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.

This is who Donald Trump has been for his entire political career. The worst-case scenarios about his dehumanizing rhetoric — that they would foment large-scale mob violence or vigilantism against Latinos in the United States — have not been realized. But neither have any hopes that Trump, as president, might ever weigh his words with any care at all, especially when encouraging Americans to see human beings as less than human.

[Vox]

Update

The White House said that President Trump was “clearly” referring to members of the MS-13 gang when he called some immigrants “animals” and argued the controversial label is more than appropriate.

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