March 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 PM


Read Donald Trump's Speech on Trade: Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at Alumisource, a metals recycling facility in Monessen, PA, June 28, 2016. (TIME)

[T]oday I'm going to talk about how to make America wealthy again. We have to do it. With 30-miles from Steel City, Pittsburgh played a central role in building our nation. The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our a great American landscape.

But our workers' loyalty was repaid, you know it better than anybody, with total betrayal. Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization, moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. [...]

And I have been talking about China for many years. And you know what? Nobody listened. But they are listening now. That, I can tell you.

The city of Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania have lost 1/3 of their manufacturing jobs since the Clinton's put China into the WTO. 50,000 factories across America have shut their doors in that time. And this factory, because of your great owners, Gabe and Gloria, it's hanging in. Hanging in. But they just told me, it is not easy.

Almost half of our entire manufacturing trade deficit in goods with the world is the result and it's the result of trade with China. It was also Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, who shoved us into a job-killing deal with South Korea, as reported by the Economic Policy Institute in May . This deal doubled our trade deficit with South Korea and destroyed nearly 100,000 American jobs.

As Bernie Sanders said, Hillary Clinton voted for virtually every trade agreement that has cost the workers of this country millions, millions of jobs. [...]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the greatest danger yet. The TPP, as it is known, would be the death blow for American manufacturing. It would give up all of our economic leverage to an international commission that would put the interests of foreign countries above our own. It would further open our markets to aggressive currency cheaters -- cheaters, that's what they are, cheaters.

They are not playing by the rules. They are cheating. It would make it easier for our trading competitors to ship cheap subsidized goods into United States markets, while allowing foreign countries to continue putting up barriers in front of our exports -- which is what they do. It is very hard to export to their countries. They make it very difficult.

We, on the other hand -- come on in, everybody. Come on in. Bad leadership.

The TPP would lower tariffs would lower tariffs on foreign cars, while leaving in place the foreign practices that keep American cars from being sold overseas.  [...]

I am going to direct the secretary of commerce to identify every violation of trade agreements a foreign country is currently using to harm you, the American worker.

I will then direct all appropriate agencies to use every tool under American and international law to end these abuses. And abuse is the right word. [...]

Number six, I'm going to instruct the U.S. trade representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO.

China's unfair subsidy behavior is prohibited by the terms of its entrance to the WTO and I intend to enforce those rules and regulations. And basically, I intend to enforce the agreements from all countries, including China.

Seven, if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets, I will use every lawful -- this is very easy. This is so easy. I love saying this. I will use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes, including the application of tariffs consistent with Section 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. [...]

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of fear will try to spread the lie that these actions will start a trade war. You already have a trade war, and we're losing badly. Badly.

She has it completely backwards. Hillary Clinton unleashed a trade war against the American worker when she supported one terrible deal after another, from NAFTA, to China to South Korea. It doesn't matter. No matter where she went, the American worker was hurt and you'll be hurt worse than ever before if she becomes president of the United States. That, I can tell you.

A Trump administration will end that war by getting a fair deal for the American people and the American worker. The era of economic surrender will finally be over. It will be over. You're not going to see it anymore. Well, I can't guarantee it, because after me, they'll probably start doing it again. But we will have four and maybe eight great, great productive years and we'll never go back and we'll make sure we never go back.

Thank you. Thank you, very much. Thank you. Thank you very much, everyone. I appreciate it.

A new era of prosperity will finally begin. America will be independent once more. Independent once more. Doesn't that sound great?

Under a Trump presidency, the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them.

We will stand up to trade cheating. Cheating. Cheaters, that's what they are. Cheaters. We will stand up to trade cheating anywhere and everywhere it threatens the American job.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Publishers already contacting Hicks about book deal: report (JOHN BOWDEN, 03/01/18, The Hill)

One White House insider also told the website that Hicks reportedly kept a "detailed diary" of her interactions and time in the White House, a resource that could be a major asset if she plans to write a memoir.

"[But] she is certainly under some sort of nondisclosure agreement," that source told the Mail.

The subpoena was delivered before we finished reading this.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


NPR Poll: After Parkland, Number of Americans Who Want Gun Restrictions Grows (Asma Khalid, 3/02/18, NPR)

Three-quarters of people polled said gun laws should be stricter than they are today. That's an increase -- in a short period of time -- from October 2017, when NPR conducted a similar survey in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. Then, 68 percent said gun laws should be stricter than they were.

The poll also found widespread bipartisan support for a range of gun-control policies, including:

*requiring background checks for all gun buyers (94 percent),

*adding people with mental illnesses to the federal gun background check system (92 percent),

*raising the legal age to purchase guns from 18 to 21 (82 percent),

*banning bump stocks (81 percent),

*banning high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds (73 percent) and

*banning assault-style weapons (72 percent).

The only policy intended to curb gun violence that is opposed by a majority of Americans (59 percent) is the one most frequently touted by President Trump -- the idea of training teachers to carry guns in schools.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Arming Teachers Is Not a Good Option: The president's suggestion is not being informed by the existing data on both mass shootings and what terminates them (John J. Donohue III, February 28, 2018, Scientific American)

The FBI analyzed 160 cases of active shooters over the period from 2000-2013, and not one was stopped by a concealed carry permit holder who was not active duty military, a security guard, or a police officer. 21 were stopped by unarmed civilians.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Trump was angry and 'unglued' when he started a trade war, officials say (STEPHANIE RUHLE and PETER ALEXANDER, 3/02/18, NBC)

On Wednesday evening, the president became "unglued," in the words of one official familiar with the president's state of mind.

A trifecta of events had set him off in a way that two officials said they had not seen before: Hope Hicks' testimony to lawmakers investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election, conduct by his embattled attorney general and the treatment of his son-in-law by his chief of staff.

Trump, the two officials said, was angry and gunning for a fight, and he chose a trade war, spurred on by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director for trade -- and against longstanding advice from his economic chair Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Ross had already invited steel and aluminum executives to the White House for an 11 a.m. meeting on Thursday. But Ross, according to a person with direct knowledge, hadn't told the White House who the executives were. As a result, White House officials were unable to conduct a background check on the executives to make sure they were appropriate for the president to meet with and they were not able to be cleared for entry by secret service. According to a person with direct knowledge, even White House chief of staff John Kelly was unaware of their names.

By midnight Wednesday, less than 12 hours before the executives were expected to arrive, no one on the president's team had prepared any position paper for an announcement on tariff policy, the official said. In fact, according to the official, the White House counsel's office had advised that they were as much as two weeks away from being able to complete a legal review on steel tariffs.

He is a moody little thing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


The Irony of the Nunes Memo (David Kris  Thursday, March 1, 2018, LawFare)

[N]unes's claim that the FBI misled the court was itself misleading. There are other ways in which the memo was misleading--discussed in the back and forth between Nunes and his critics on the House Intelligence Committee, and in Charlie Savage's characteristically excellent summary in the New York Times--but the FBI's alleged effort to deceive the court about Steele has always been the heart of the matter, and I am trying in this post to stick to the core.

The FISA applications did not mention the "DNC" or the "Clinton campaign" by name, but they did recount how Steele was approached and then hired by "an identified U.S. Person," Glen Simpson, who explained to Steele that he in turn had been hired by a "U.S.-based law firm," Perkins Coie, "to conduct research regarding Candidate #1," Donald Trump, and Trump's "ties to Russia." (The use of generic identifiers in the FISA applications is consistent with standard practice, as Nunes is well aware; the minority memo provides the names for each identifier.) The FISA applications also advised the court: "The FBI speculates that [Simpson] was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump's] campaign." [...]

2. It's even more disturbing that a purported oversight memo would withhold key facts from the American people in accusing the government of withholding key facts from the court. Had the FBI done in its FISA applications what Nunes did in his memo, heads would have rolled on Pennsylvania Avenue. The court itself, as well as both intelligence committees, several inspectors general, and the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility all could have brought their shillelaghs to bear. The court, in particular, has done so once before, when it was dissatisfied with the candor of an FBI agent.

 Congressional oversight is a critically important function, but who watches the watchers?

Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


'Jared has faded': Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Kushner badly diminished (Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey March 2, 2018, Washington Post)

They were the ascendant young couples of the Trump White House: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Rob Porter and Hope Hicks. They enjoyed rarefied access to the president and special privileges in the West Wing. Glamorous and well-connected, they had an air of power and invincibility. They even double-dated once.

But an unlikely cascade of events -- set in motion by paparazzi photos of Porter and Hicks published Feb. 1 in a British tabloid -- crashed down on Kushner this week. The shortest month of the year delivered 28 days of tumult that many inside and outside the White House say could mark the fall of the House of Kushner.

Once the prince of Trump's Washington, Kushner is now stripped of his access to the nation's deepest secrets, isolated and badly weakened inside the administration, under scrutiny for his mixing of business and government work and facing the possibility of grave legal peril in the Russia probe.

Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


Business Group Powerpoint Mocks Trump's 'Dumpster Fire' Presidency  (Justin Elliott, March 2, 2018, National Memo)

What does American business really think of President Donald Trump?

One candid glimpse emerges in a pair of PowerPoint presentations delivered last year by top executives of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), one of the construction industry's national trade groups.

Trump, the presentations state, is an "autocratic leader" who regularly "humiliates [his] senior team" and is running the administration "like a bad family owned small business." One presentation quotes the president's statement that infrastructure should be "easy" and follows it with a rhetorical eye-roll: "Really?????" [...]

AGC spokesman Brian Turmail told ProPublica that saying the administration is "run like a bad family owned business" wasn't intended to be pejorative. 

...but he has rallied us all around universal contempt for him.

Posted by orrinj at 1:58 PM


The Trump-Russia Story Gets Even Weirder (Michelle Goldberg, MARCH 2, 2018, NY Times)

Vashukevich first came to the attention of close watchers of the Trump-Russia story last month, thanks to a 25-minute video by Aleksei Navalny, a Russian dissident famed for exposing corruption in his country. Like many domestic opponents of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Navalny had regarded the American uproar over Trump's Russia ties skeptically. But his investigation -- which he said led to the "most scandalous findings in the history of our work," according to the video's English-language subtitles -- appears to have altered his thinking.

It began last September, when a group of women in scanty bondage gear walked into the Moscow office of Navalny's organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation. At that very moment, journalists from a pro-Putin media outlet just happened to be passing by, and recorded their presence.

Navalny wanted to find out who the women were and who had sent them. He discovered that they were, as he put it in the video, a "mildly insane" squad of activist sex workers who specialize in weird pranks, like picketing the American Embassy naked in support of Harvey Weinstein. And one of them, Vashukevich, had lots of photographs of herself and the politically powerful Deripaska on her Instagram account.

Deripaska, remember, is the oligarch that the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort offered to brief privately on the American presidential campaign. He's been connected to Russian organized crime, and Manafort appeared to owe him a lot of money. (A court filing in the Cayman Islands said Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, couldn't account for nearly $19 million that they were supposed to invest for a business controlled by Deripaska.) After joining the Trump campaign, Manafort emailed an intermediary, asking, apparently in reference to Deripaska, "How do we use to get whole?"

Navalny initially dismissed speculation that Deripaska had served as a back channel between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. "Among all the conspiracy theories of American mass media, this part was the most unconvincing," he said in the video. "Many oligarchs are close to Putin," and there was no evidence that Deripaska was transmitting secret intelligence to him.

But then Navalny and his team looked closely at the Instagram account of Deripaska's nubile consort. Vashukevich had posted video from an August 2016 trip to Norway on Deripaska's yacht with several other escorts. And on that yacht was a Russian deputy prime minister, Sergei Prikhodko. In the video, you can even hear Deripaska and Prikhodko talking about Russia's bad relations with the United States, for which Deripaska blamed Victoria Nuland, Barack Obama's assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Seeing it, said Navalny, "the pieces of this puzzle fell into place."

Within 24 hours of Navalny posting his investigation, a Russian court issued a ruling trying to block access to it. Deripaska filed a claim against Vashukevich and Aleksandr Kirillov, a self-styled "sex guru" she's close to, for invasion of privacy. And at some point Vashukevich and Kirillov took off for Thailand.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


AP Analysis: Like Trump, Netanyahu sidesteps norms (DAN PERRY, 3/02/18, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When Netanyahu and Trump meet Monday, they will share circumstances that are as strikingly similar as they are historically rare: two elected leaders who are at loggerheads with their countries' establishments, holding on, despite scandals, to a base that if anything, seems to delight in the angst being wrought upon many of the wealthy, the educated and the cultured.

In Netanyahu's case, legal complications are mounting by the day, with four cases under investigation and counting, two sets of police recommendations to indict him for bribery, two states' witnesses against him and a grim collection of aides and other associates in detention or house arrest. Netanyahu is also suspected of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from billionaire friends and breaking the law while trying to engineer favorable media coverage.

An associate is suspected of trying to broker a deal on Netanyahu's behalf with a judge in exchange for dropping a case against Netanyahu's wife. Another case involves suspected kickbacks in a massive deal to purchase submarines from Germany that may have benefited a Netanyahu relative. For good measure the story line also includes a fortune in illicit gifts of champagne and cigars, as well as side plots featuring his son joyriding to strip clubs at taxpayer expense and his wife screaming hysterically at an aide.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 AM


#MAGA's Hall of Mirrors (NOAH ROTHMAN, MAR. 1, 2018, Commentary)

The President of the United States has resumed his preferred pastime: screaming into the Internet. The target of Donald Trump's ire this time was his supposedly "embattled" attorney general, Jeff Sessions. For deferring to the Justice Department's inspector general's office regarding alleged FISA abuse, Trump called his appointee's conduct "disgraceful." With the theatrical zeal of any absolutist movement, Trump's keenest supporters were quick to condemn this new Bukharin in their ranks.

The competition was over before it began. "I couldn't agree more," read the winning entry, submitted by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. Sessions, he insisted, "must be part of the Bush/Romney/McCain Republican Establishment. He probably supported @realDonaldTrump early in [the] campaign to hide who he really is. Or he could just be a coward."  Jeff Sessions spent his career in the Senate opposing his party's orthodoxy on immigration. That career culminated in his decision to buck his party orthodoxy on Trump--legitimizing the future president's outsider campaign by becoming the first sitting senator to endorse him. Sessions is many things, but he's no coward. Falwell's denunciation is valuable only insofar as it demonstrates the malleability of the epithet "establishment" and the cultish pusillanimity around this president.

...Trumpbots are also required to excuse his corruption.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 AM


GOP senators blast Trump's tariffs announcement (Daniella Diaz and Ted Barrett, 3/01/18, CNN)

Sen. Ben Sasse, who's been a frequent critic Trump, slammed the tariffs decision as something Americans would expect from a "leftist administration," not a Republican commander in chief.

"Let's be clear: The President is proposing a massive tax increase on American families. Protectionism is weak, not strong," he said in a statement. "You'd expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one."

Sen. Pat Roberts, who is the chair of the Senate agriculture committee, also blasted the decision for the tariffs and warned of retaliation.

"They've already done this on washing machines and solar panels and the sorghum producer, one of the rare crops where we were making a profit, got targeted by China," he said. "Every time you do this, you get a retaliation. And agriculture is the number one target. I think this is terribly counterproductive for the (agriculture) economy and I'm not very happy."

When asked why Trump made the decision Roberts and other senators made the case to him, Roberts responded: "Good question."

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said the tariffs would be a "huge job-killing tax hike."
"While I am sympathetic to the issues facing domestic steel manufacturers, there must be a better way to address the steel industries concerns, and I hope Congress and the executive branch can identify an alternative solution before these tariffs are finalized next week," he said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 AM


This may be most baffling picture of Donald and Melania yet (Independent,  2 March 2018)

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


Depth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed (TIM MAK, 3/01/18, NPR: Morning Edition)

A prominent Kremlin-linked Russian politician has methodically cultivated ties with leaders of the National Rifle Association, and documented efforts in real time over six years to leverage those connections and gain access deeper into American politics, NPR has learned. [...]

Torshin's use of NRA connections to open doors, and his 2015 claim to know Trump through the organization, raise new questions about the group's connections with Russian officials -- at a time when the organization is being roundly criticized by its opponents, and at times the president himself, for opposition to gun control.

The president has also defended the group in recent days as the gun debate has reemerged in the wake of a Florida school shooting, including a tweet calling the group's leaders "Great American Patriots."

The NRA has been a key part of Trump's conservative base.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Trump ignored 'bright line' on discussing Russia with Hicks (DARREN SAMUELSOHN and ELIANA JOHNSON 03/01/2018, Politico)

President Donald Trump's lawyers have urged him not to discuss details of the unfolding Russia investigation with anyone outside his legal team, warning of a conversational "bright line" that could put aides and associates in legal jeopardy, according to current and former Trump aides.

But Trump often ignores that legal advice in the presence of senior aides -- including his departing confidante and White House communications director, Hope Hicks.

"I think the president has put her in a very precarious position," a senior Trump administration official said in a recent interview.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


Trump's Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll (MARK LANDLER and MAGGIE HABERMAN, MARCH 1, 2018, NY Times)

In private conversations, Mr. Trump lashes out regularly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a vitriol that stuns members of his staff. Some longtime advisers said that Mr. Trump regards Mr. Sessions's decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as the "original sin," which the president thinks has left him exposed.

Mr. Trump's children, meanwhile, have grown exasperated with Mr. Kelly, seeing him as a hurdle to their father's success and as antagonistic to their continued presence, according to several people familiar with their thinking. Anthony Scaramucci, an ally of some in the Trump family, whom Mr. Kelly fired as communications director after only 11 days, intensified his criticism of the chief of staff in a series of news interviews on Wednesday and Thursday.

Yet Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family's real estate company and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded, according to two people familiar with his views. In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.

Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president's daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Kentucky could become the first state to tax opioid prescriptions (ANDREW JOSEPH, MARCH 2, 2018, Stat)

Lawmakers in Kentucky are weighing whether to impose a new tax on opioid prescriptions, the latest effort in a string of so-far failed attempts to pull new revenue from the painkillers that helped seed a nationwide addiction crisis.

The proposed tax -- a 25-cent levy on drug distributors for every dose sent to the state -- was approved by the Kentucky House Thursday as part of a broader budget and tax plan. But unlike in other states, where lawmakers aimed to steer the new revenue to addiction treatment and education programs, the Kentucky plan, if enacted, would direct the money to fill budget gaps elsewhere, including boosting funding for the state's public schools.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 2:59 AM


Poverty in America: America's welfare programmes are not the problem (Democracy in America, Mar 1st 2018, The Economist)

The Census Bureau's poverty line is set as a fixed level of pre-tax cash income adjusted by family size and composition and, over time, for urban consumer price inflation (CPI-U). That it is a pre-tax measure means the poverty calculation ignores the impact of tax credits and in-kind transfers like housing and nutrition assistance. And using the CPI-U overstates the inflation in the price of goods purchased by poor people. 

Correcting for tax and inflation problems alone make a difference, according to Bruce Meyer and Jason Sullivan, economists. The official poverty rate climbed between 1972 and 2015 from 11.9% to 13.5% of the population. But after-tax income poverty using a better measure of price change fell from 15.6% to 7.3% over the same period. And a measure they design that uses consumption rather than income to define poverty suggests a decline from 16.4% to 3.0% since 1972.    

These measures better reflect changes in household welfare. Bruce Sacerdote, an economist at Dartmouth College notes the poorest quarter of households in America had 0.75 vehicles per household in 1970 compared to 1.4 per household in 2015. In 1960, more than one third of households in the bottom quarter of the income distribution lacked indoor plumbing; by 2015 virtually all households had indoor water and sewer systems. Microwave ovens have spread from luxury to ubiquity alongside mobile phones--microwaves are now owned by 97% of households.