Trump tweets to declare he was cleared by filings that named him as unindicted co-conspirator

After being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in legal filings by federal prosecutors, President Donald Trump claimed total vindication.

“Totally clears the President,” Trump tweeted Friday.

[Raw Story]

White House seeks to end subsidies for electric cars and renewable energy

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Monday the Trump administration wants to end subsidies for electric cars and other items, including renewable energy sources.

Asked about plans after General Motors Co (GM.N) announced U.S. plant closings and layoffs last week, Kudlow pointed to the $2,500-to-$7,500 tax credit for consumers who buy plug-in electric vehicles, including those made by GM, under federal law.

“As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies,” Kudlow said. “And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it’s for renewables and so forth.”

Asked about a timeline, he said: “It’s just all going to end in the near future. I don’t know whether it will end in 2020 or 2021.”

The tax credits are capped by Congress at 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer, after which the subsidy phases out. GM has said it expects to hit the threshold by the end of 2018, which means under the current law, its tax credit scheme would end in 2020. Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) said in July it had hit the threshold. Other automakers may not hit the cap for several years.

Experts say the White House cannot change the cap unilaterally. U.S. President Donald Trump last week threatened to eliminate subsidies for GM in retaliation for the company’s decision.

Kudlow made clear any changes in subsidies would not just affect GM. “I think legally you just can’t,” he said.

Democrats will take control of the U.S. House in January and are unlikely to agree to end subsidies for electric cars and many have been pushing for additional incentives.

Tesla and GM have lobbied Congress for months to lift the cap on electric vehicles or make other changes, but face an uphill battle make changes before the current Congress expires.

In October, Senator Dean Heller proposed lifting the current cap on electric vehicles eligible for tax credits but phase out the credit for the entire industry in 2022. Two other senators in September proposed lifting the per manufacturer credit and extending the benefit for 10 years.

Also in October, Senator John Barrasso a Republican who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, proposed legislation to end the EV tax credit entirely.

[Raw Story]

Trump says country ‘would save billions’ if Democrats agreed to fund border wall

President Trump on Monday claimed that the country would “save billions of dollars” if Democrats voted to provide billions of dollars in funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The president went on to repeat a threat to close the southern border and said that immigrants will not be allowed in the “country illegally.”

“Either way, people will NOT be allowed into our Country illegally! We will close the entire Southern Border if necessary. Also, STOP THE DRUGS!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump has previously threatened to shut down the southern border in response to an approaching caravan of Central American migrants.

He has additionally directed thousands of troops deployed to the border, and attempted to curb certain immigrants from being able to claim asylum as the group of migrants trekked toward the U.S. border.

The president revived his calls for a border wall on Monday as Congress grapples over wall funding while trying to pass spending bills and avert a partial government shutdown.

The Senate passed its version of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill with bipartisan support over the summer. The measure would allocate $1.6 billion for border security, including fencing.

The White House has since demanded $5 billion for border security, including wall funding, putting Democrats and the president at an impasse.

Trump has threatened to veto a bill that does not include adequate funding, while Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said Democrats oppose spending more than $1.6 billion.

Cracking down on illegal immigration and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has been a hallmark of the Trump administration after focusing heavily on the issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Congress has until Dec. 7 to pass seven appropriations bills to keep the entire government funded. The president previously signed five funding bills in September, and agencies covered by those bills would not be affected by a shutdown this month.

Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route back from the Group of 20 Summit on Saturday that he would consider approving a two-week extension of government funding to provide more time in the wake of the death of former President George H.W. Bush.

[The Hill]

Trump says he will withdraw from NAFTA, pressuring Congress to approve new trade deal

President Donald Trump said he intends to formally notify Canada and Mexico of his intention to withdraw from the nearly 25-year-old NAFTA agreement in six months. The move would put pressure on Congress to approve his new trade deal with the two U.S. neighbors.

“I’ll be terminating it within a relatively short period of time. We get rid of NAFTA. It’s been a disaster for the United States,” Trump said on board Air Force One after departing Buenos Aires, where he signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement with the leaders of those two countries.

“And so Congress will have a choice of the USMCA or pre-NAFTA, which worked very well,” Trump added.

Trump’s comments confirmed what many have long suspected — that he would use the act of withdrawing from NAFTA as a cudgel to force Congress into passing the new deal.

But it also could be seen as an admission that the new agreement is not popular enough to be approved on its own merits, so Trump has to use the threat of disrupting the entire North American economy to round up the votes in Congress to get the deal past the finish line.

While a number of business groups do support the new deal because it contains new provisions on digital trade and strengthens intellectual property rights protections, others are simply relieved that it would keep much of the original agreement in place.

House Democrats, who are likely to hold the key to whether the new agreement is approved, have complained that labor and environmental provisions are not strong enough and have signaled they would like those concerns addressed as part of the implementing legislation.

Trump’s untested move would send the administration and Congress into a legal wilderness. The NAFTA deal includes a provision that allows a withdrawal after providing a six-month notice, but opinions differ on whether the president can act on his own.

Lawmakers passed legislation to implement the original deal in 1993. It’s uncertain whether a withdrawal initiated by the president would repeal the law that put the deal into force.

The president needs to take a look at the Constitution — it gives Congress authority over trade,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in September. “The president cannot pull America out of NAFTA without Congress’s permission.”

A 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service seems to be back up that position.

“It could be argued that because international trade is an area of shared constitutional authority, Congress must have a role in any decision by the United States to terminate or withdraw from an FTA,” CRS said.

Others argue Congress ceded authority to the executive branch decades ago that would allow Trump to terminate trade deals. They say Section 125 of the Trade Act of 1974 provides the underlying legal basis for a president to terminate or withdraw from an agreement and revoke any tariff reductions.

[Politico]

Trump tweets that tariffs are making the US “richer than ever before.” They’re not.

Either President Donald Trump isn’t sure how tariffs work or he’s being deliberately misleading about them.

The president fired off an early-morning tweet on Thursday declaring that billions of dollars are “pouring into the coffers of the United States” because of the tariffs his administration has put on some $250 billion in Chinese imports.

“If companies don’t want to pay Tariffs, build in the U.S.A.,” Trump wrote. “Otherwise, lets just make our Country richer than ever before!”

But that’s not really how tariffs work: The US may be generating some revenue from tariffs, but billions of dollars aren’t pouring in. Moreover, a lot of the money that is made off of tariffs comes from US consumers — not Chinese companies.

“If you think about who’s actually paying the tax, it’s like a sales tax. It’s like saying, ‘I put a sales tax on producers, isn’t this great we’re getting all this money?’ And then consumers say, ‘Wait, that’s from my wallet,’” said Michael Klein, a professor of international economic affairs at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and founder of the nonpartisan economics publication Econofact. “It’s just another example of taking where there’s a tiny germ of truth and blowing it up to the point where it’s absurd, for his own political purposes.”

On Thursday, Trump will travel to Buenos Aires for the G20 summit, where, among other agenda items, he’s expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a working dinner to discuss the countries’ relations, including trade. The sit-down is seen as high-stakes, given that the US has placed nearly $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and China has levied retaliatory tariffs of its own. The escalating trade war poses a threat to both nations’ economies.

Tariffs don’t really work this way

The Trump administration has shown itself to be pretty into the idea of tariffs. It’s put tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from multiple countries as well as on several billion dollars of Chinese goods. The way tariffs work is that the goods marked for tariffs face a border tax when they’re imported into the US.

As Vox’s Matt Yglesias recently explained, the US government with its initial rounds of China tariffs was careful to make sure the products it targeted had foreign-made alternatives:

When that happens, US purchasers switch to non-Chinese alternatives, and then consumers from outside the US tend to switch around and start buying the Chinese products. The overall impact is slightly less efficient global supply chains, some real pain to Chinese firms that need to find new customers, and a limited impact on American prices.

In other words, thus far, things have been relatively tame. A recent study from EconPol Europe found that Trump’s first round of tariffs have increased the prices US buyers pay for Chinese-made goods by 4.5 percent and decreased the prices received by Chinese sellers of US-bound goods by 20.5 percent.

That means that thus far, the tariffs have been mostly, but not entirely, paid for by China, but it’s not going great for anyone. And if Trump’s meeting with Xi doesn’t go well and the trade war escalates, the economic effects of tensions could worsen.

And it’s not going to be making the US significantly richer, because the more tariffs, the less incentive to import the goods affected, and therefore the less money being collected.

“If the point of tariffs is to reduce what you’re buying, that means you’re not going to make that much money,” Klein said.

And much of the money that does come in will be from Americans themselves. Tariffs are often passed on to consumers, therefore driving up prices and, ultimately, inflation.

Trump, who is personally very wealthy, has been rather cavalier about the potential for prices going up. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week in which he appeared to float the idea of putting tariffs on iPhones and laptops, he said, “I mean, I can make it 10 percent, and people could stand that very easily.”

“Made in the USA” isn’t as easy as Trump makes it out to be

President Trump often makes the case that many of the United States’ trade and economic problems could be solved if companies would just do all of their manufacturing here. He’s attacked General MotorsApple, and Harley-Davidson, among others, for having operations outside the US.

But “build in America” (which, by the way, many of Trump’s companies didn’t) isn’t as easy as it sounds. Supply chains are global, so even when Trump thinks he’s hitting back at China over, say, the iPhone, he’s missing the fact that the product is sourced from a lot of places, and its supply chain spans many countries.

In an Econofact analysis last year, Klein and Harvard political economist Marc Melitz estimated that each iPhone 7 imported to the US was recorded as a $225 import from China, but of that amount, only $5 represents work performed in China, largely assembly. The remaining $220 corresponds to other parts of Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

“It always sounds good when a president sounds tough on trade and issues protectionist policies,” Wayne Lam, a principal analyst at the information and analytics firm IHS Markit, told me when discussing the iPhone earlier this year. “We just don’t have the sheer workforce size nor skill set to be good at consumer electronics manufacturing.”

[Vox]

Trump says May’s Brexit plan could hurt UK-US trade deal

Donald Trump has suggested Theresa May’s Brexit agreement could threaten a US-UK trade deal.

The US president did not specify which aspect of the deal concerned him but told reporters the withdrawal agreement “sounds like a great deal for the EU”.

No 10 insisted the deal is “very clear” the UK would have an independent trade policy so that it can sign trade deals with countries around the world”.

Mrs May fought off heavy criticism of her Brexit deal from MPs on Monday.

Insisting the agreement “delivered for the British people” by regaining control of laws, money and borders, she said it would be put to an MPs vote on 11 December.

Hours later, Mr Trump told reporters outside the White House: “We have to take a look seriously whether or not the UK is allowed to trade.

“Because right now if you look at the deal, they may not be able to trade with us. And that wouldn’t be a good thing. I don’t think they meant that.”

It would appear Mr Trump was suggesting the agreement could leave Britain unable to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the United States.

However, responding to Mr Trump’s comments, a Downing Street spokesman said the Brexit withdrawal agreement struck on Sunday would allow the UK to sign bilateral deals with countries including the US.

“We have already been laying the groundwork for an ambitious agreement with the US through our joint working groups, which have met five times so far,” the spokesman added.

The BBC’s North America Editor Jon Sopel said Mr Trump’s comments were provocative, given trade would “carry on in much the same way as before” for the time being.

“Donald Trump knew exactly what he was doing with these remarks,” he said.

“There is a very open line of communication between senior members of his administration and prominent Eurosceptics.”

During Mr Trump’s UK visit in July – days after the British prime minister unveiled the proposals that formed the basis of the Brexit agreement – the US president had suggested an “ambitious” US-UK trade deal would “absolutely be possible”.

Billions of pounds in trade already flows between the UK and US – Britain’s largest single export market.

EU trade rules currently prevent the UK forging what some might view as a more advantageous bilateral trade deal with Washington.

Under the deal agreed in Brussels, the UK would continue to trade with the US under EU rules until at least the end of the “transition period” in December 2020.

During this transition – designed to allow businesses and others to prepare for the moment new post-Brexit rules kick in – the UK will be able to negotiate and strike deals with the US.

However, they will be unable to come into force until 1 January 2021 and could be delayed further if the backstop is triggered.

Tory Brexiteers fear the “backstop” written into the withdrawal agreement – which aims to prevent the return of customs posts on the Irish border in the event no UK-EU post-Brexit trade deal being agreed – could result in Britain being tied to EU rules for the long term.

In the Commons on Monday, Mrs May acknowledged the backstop was an “insurance policy no-one wants to use” but insisted the UK would have the right to determine whether it came into force.

She faced sustained criticism of the deal from MPs on all sides of the Commons.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May had brought home a “botched deal” that would “leave the UK worse off”.

The SNP’s Iain Blackford said the agreement was “full of ifs and buts” which would result in Scottish fishermen being “sold out” while the Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas both called for another referendum.

And the DUP’s Nigel Dodds said the backstop “was bad for the United Kingdom and bad for the economy” and absolute certainty was needed over its legal application.

Tory backbencher Mark Francois was among a host of MPs to urge PM to think again, claiming the agreement was “as dead as a dodo” and “would not get through” Parliament.

Trump Wanted To Illegally Steal Iraqi Oil To Pay for Wars

President Trump twice raised to the Iraqi prime minister the idea of repaying America for its wars with Iraqi oil, a highly controversial ask that runs afoul of international norms and logic, sources with direct knowledge tell me.

  • Trump appears to have finally given up on this idea, but until now it hasn’t been revealed that as president he’s raised the concept twice with Iraq’s prime minister and brought it up separately in the Situation Room with his national security team.

In March last year, at the end of a White House meeting with Iraq’s then-Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Trump brought up the subject of taking oil from Iraq to reimburse the United States for the costs of the war there.

  • “It was a very run-of-the-mill, low-key, meeting in general,” a source who was in the room told Axios. “And then right at the end, Trump says something to the effect of, he gets a little smirk on his face and he says, ‘So what are we going to do about the oil?'”

Between the lines: On the campaign trail, Trump complained that the U.S. had spent trillions in Iraq and lost thousands of lives but got “nothing” in return. He lamented that usually in war “to the victor belong the spoils” and he repeatedly said the U.S. should have seized Iraq’s oilfields as reimbursement for the steep costs of the war.

  • Top national security figures from both parties condemned Trump’s idea, calling it outrageous and unworkable — a violation of international law that would fuel the propaganda of America’s foes.

In the March meeting, the Iraqi prime minister replied, “What do you mean?” according to the source in the room. “And Trump’s like, ‘Well, we did a lot, we did a lot over there, we spent trillions over there, and a lot of people have been talking about the oil.'”

Al-Abadi “had clearly prepared,” the source added, “and he said something like, ‘Well, you know Mr. President, we work very closely with a lot of American companies and American energy companies have interests in our country,'” the source added. “He was smirking. And the president just kind of tapped his hand on the table as if to say ‘I had to ask.'”

  • “I remember thinking, ‘Wow. He said it. He couldn’t help himself,'” the source said.
  • A second source who was in the room confirmed this account. “It was a look down and reach for your coffee moment,” the second source said.
  • A third source, who was briefed at the time on the conversation between Trump and al-Abadi, told me the back and forth “made its rounds” around the National Security Council. “It was still early on in the administration, and we were all still trying to figure out how this was going to go, and so it was one of those horror stories … he’s really going to do this.”

Why it matters: Trump’s desire to raid Iraq’s oil is illegal and unworkable. But it reveals a great deal about his approach to the Middle East. Trump remains hellbent on extracting payments from Middle Eastern countries, in the form of natural resources, for the trillions of dollars America has spent since the early 2000s. Bob Woodward and others have reported on the formal steps Trump took to push his team to extract rare minerals from Afghanistan as repayment for the war. (Security concerns have stymied that effort; though Afghan’s leadership was more open to Trump’s pitch than Iraq’s leaders have been.)

Trump’s national security team has mostly pushed back on or ignored these desires to raid Middle Eastern natural resources. The president raised the issue of oil again with al-Abadi on a phone call in the summer of 2017. The conversation was vague and didn’t go anywhere, but H.R. McMaster admonished Trump afterward, according to a source with direct knowledge.

  • In the source’s recollection, the former national security adviser said to Trump, “We can’t do this and you shouldn’t talk about it. Because talking about it is just bad,” the source said, channeling McMaster, “It’s bad for America’s reputation, it’ll spook allies, it scares everybody, and it makes us look like — I don’t remember if he used words this harsh — like criminals and thieves, but that was the point he was trying to get across.”
  • “You won’t be able to do it anyway and you’ll harm our reputation and your own reputation just from talking about it.”

Trump did not react kindly, the source said. “It was frustration that he was trying to get his advisers to do things that he wanted them to do and they were just pushing back.”

The bottom line: It’s not a one-time thing. Two sources described being in the Situation Room in 2017 with Trump, Defense Secretary Mattis and national security officials discussing Iraq. Both said Trump brought up the prospect of seizing Iraq’s oil, and Mattis pushed back.

  • “Trump was like, ‘We’re idiots,'” recalled one of the sources who was in the Situation Room for the conversation. “[Trump] was like, ‘What are we doing there, what do we get out of this, why don’t we take the oil?’… And then Mattis spoke up. Made the same point that H.R. made. There’s no physical way to do it. It would be a violation of international law, it would be demoralizing for allies in the region, it would give our enemies propaganda — they’d be able to accuse us of theft.”

Asked about our reporting, Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White said, “We do not discuss internal deliberations, and the secretary’s advice and counsel to the president is private.” And an NSC spokesperson said, “We do not comment on the details of the president’s conversations with foreign leaders.”

[Axios]

Trump Announces All Asylum Seekers Must Now ‘Stay in Mexico’ Until Claims Approved in Court

On Saturday, President Donald Trump announced via a pair of tweets that migrants seeking asylum will now have to remain in Mexico until their claims are approved in court.

“Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court. We only will allow those who come into our Country legally. Other than that our very strong policy is Catch and Detain. No ‘Releasing’ into the U.S.,” Trump wrote.

He then added in a second tweet: “All will stay in Mexico. If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will CLOSE our Southern Border. There is no way that the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation anymore!”

Trump’s announcement comes just days after the Washington Postreported on plans to implement the policy as early as Friday.

According to DHS memos obtained by The Washington Post on Wednesday, Central American asylum seekers who cannot establish a “reasonable fear” of persecution in Mexico will not be allowed to enter the United States and would be turned around at the border.

The plan, called “Remain in Mexico,” amounts to a major break with current screening procedures, which generally allow those who establish a fear of return to their home countries to avoid immediate deportation and remain in the United States until they can get a hearing with an immigration judge. Trump despises this system, which he calls “catch and release,” and has vowed to end it.

At the time, Department of Homeland Security spox Katie Waldman said the policy will not start “this week.”

Yet, Trump also teased plans to close the entire border while speaking with reporters on Thanksgiving Day.

Earlier today, WaPo also reported that the Trump administration had reached a deal with Mexico to allow migrants to wait in the country. However, incoming Interior Minister Olga Sanchez has since deniedsuch deal exists.

The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is likely to meet court challenges in the days ahead especially since just this past Monday a San Francisco judge ruled Trump may not rewrite immigration laws.

[Mediaite]

Trump Wishes Everyone Happy Holiday Then Bashes Chief Justice Roberts to Start Thanksgiving Day

President Donald Trump began the Thanksgiving holiday with a nice, generic, brief holiday greeting: “HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL,” he said, in all caps. The exact sort of greeting that you’d want from a president. Too bad twenty minutes later he decided to attack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Again.

Chief Justice John Roberts rebuked Trump’s criticism of the judge who ruled against him on immigration in a comment to the Associated Press. Trump had referred to the federal judge as an “Obama judge.” Roberts said in a statement there are no Obama judges or Bush judges but just an independent judiciary.

Trump then returned fire at Roberts saying he was wrong and that the ninth circuit is an activist court.

The attendant outrage, news reports, and Twitter meltdowns escalated things. And so Trump started Thanksgiving with another swipe at the Republican appointed conservative chief justice.

[Mediaite]

Trump Dismisses Report on Ivanka: She ‘Did Some Emails,’ They Weren’t Classified Like Hillary’s

President Donald Trump dismissed the Washington Post report on his daughterIvanka Trump, accessing and sending government-related emails on her private email account.

“Early on, and for a little period of time, Ivanka did some emails,” the president said. “They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33 [thousand] … She wasn’t doing anything to hide her e-mails.”

Trump claimed that his daughter’s emails were in the presidential record. The Washington Post piece was unclear on that point.

“Using personal emails for government business could violate the Presidential Records Act, which requires that all official White House communications and records be preserved as a permanent archive of each administration,” the piece read.

“What Ivanka Trump did, all in the presidential records, everything is there,” Trump said. “There was no deletion, no nothing. What it is is a false story. Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 e-mails, she had a server in the basement, that is the real story.”

[Mediaite]

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