Today in Trumpworld — Jan. 23

TRUMP’S SCHEDULE TODAY

11 a.m.: President Donald Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.

1:30 p.m.: Trump will sign Section 201 actions on trade in the Oval Office.

DAILY BRIEFING: Press secretary Sarah Sanders will brief the press at the White House at 2:30 p.m.

TRUMP’S TWITTER THIS MORNING: “Even Crazy Jim Acosta of Fake News CNN agrees: ‘Trump World and WH sources dancing in end zone: Trump wins again…Schumer and Dems caved…gambled and lost.’ Thank you for your honesty Jim! … In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts, perhaps 50,000, and all in prime time. Wow! … Nobody knows for sure that the Republicans & Democrats will be able to reach a deal on DACA by February 8, but everyone will be trying….with a big additional focus put on Military Strength and Border Security. The Dems have just learned that a Shutdown is not the answer!”

HOW TRUMP RODE OUT THE SHUTDOWN: From POLITICO’s Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook: “The shutdown drama taught White House aides a lesson: When it comes to President Donald Trump, sometimes less is more. For about 48 hours this weekend, Trump kept an unusually low profile, making no public appearances and keeping his direct contact with lawmakers — especially Democrats — to a minimum. Instead, the president left the heavy lifting to his staff, temporarily suppressing his instinct to invite lawmakers to the White House to strike a grand bargain. The hands-off strategy emerged after Trump met with top White House aides on Friday night. Frustrated with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had been invited in for what wound up being an unproductive meeting earlier in the day, Trump and his team decided to call Democrats’ bluff, issuing a statement at 11:58 p.m. declaring that the president ‘will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands.’ House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell followed suit with similar statements. For the rest of the weekend, Senate Democrats barely heard a word from Trump’s team, leaving them hanging while government agencies closed their doors. In the end, the stand-back-and-watch approach paid off, putting pressure on Senate leaders to reach an agreement to open the government on their own — and delivering Trump a much-needed victory, according to half a dozen White House officials and advisers.”

TRADE MOVES: From the New York Times’ Ana Swanson and Brad Plumer: “President Trump slapped steep tariffs on imports of washing machines and solar energy cells and panels on Monday, the first major step by the administration to erect the kind of trade barriers Mr. Trump has frequently said are necessary to protect manufacturers in the United States. The twin announcements came after a year of tough rhetoric — but little action — on curbing imports of cheap products from countries like China and South Korea. White House advisers warned that additional trade measures related to steel, aluminum and other products from China could be coming, a signal that Mr. Trump is ratcheting up the protectionist policies he has long espoused as part of his ‘America First’ approach. The imposition of tariffs will most likely exacerbate trade tensions with other nations, including China, and could result in an escalation of retaliatory trade measures against imports from the United States. Both China and South Korea harshly criticized the move, with both suggesting they could take their complaints to the World Trade Organization, which settles trade disputes between countries. The decisions also seemed poised to ignite a wave of similar trade cases from other American companies, which might be encouraged by Mr. Trump’s action.”

THE NEXT FIGHT: From POLITICO’s Rachael Bade: “Washington will be back on the brink in less than three weeks. Lawmakers may have pulled themselves out of a debilitating government shutdown Monday, but the fight over immigration and spending that’s ground virtually all congressional business to a halt is far from over. And the fundamentals of the debate haven’t changed at all. Republican leaders are under increasing pressure from their own members to reach a long-term budget agreement by Feb. 8, when the government next runs out of money. Their defense hawks are desperate to increase defense spending, a key 2018 priority for President Donald Trump. And their members are sick of voting on short-term funding bills that they say cripple the military. But in order to strike any long-term budget accord, at least nine Senate Democrats are needed for passage. And while Democrats’ strategy of shuttering the government until securing relief for Dreamers blew up in their faces Monday, they can still withhold support for a long-term budget deal to get what they want on immigration."

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/23/trump-schedule-today-white-house-358252

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Trump calls missing FBI texts ‘one of the biggest stories in a long time’

Missing text messages between two FBI employees accused of bias against President Donald Trump is “one of the biggest stories in a long time,” Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning, seemingly renewing his questions about the bureau’s objectivity.

“In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI says it is now missing five months worth of lovers Strzok – Page texts, perhaps 50,000, all in prime time. Wow!” Trump wrote online.

That the FBI is missing five months worth of text messages between agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page, from December, 2016, to May, 2017, was revealed over the weekend in a letter from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who wrote to bureau Director Christopher Wray seeking information about the messages.

Strzok and Page have faced significant criticism from Republicans in the wake of publication of text messages between them in which they were critical of Trump. Strzok had been part of special counselor Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, but was removed following the text messages’ release.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from any investigation related to the 2016 election, pledged Monday that the Justice Department would look into the missing text messages.

“We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable,” he said in a statement released by the Justice Department, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/23/trump-missing-fbi-texts-358250

Trump slams CNN’s ‘Crazy Jim Acosta’ in shutdown victory lap tweet

President Donald Trump on Tuesday celebrated the end of a government shutdown with a tweet citing a reporter from perhaps his least favorite media outlet: CNN.

“Even Crazy Jim Acosta of Fake News CNN agrees: ‘Trump World and WH sources dancing in end zone: Trump wins again…Schumer and Dems caved…gambled and lost.’ Thank you for your honesty Jim!” Trump wrote online Tuesday morning.

It was not immediately clear which of Acosta’s reporting Trump was citing, or if the quote Trump attributed to the CNN reporter is accurate. Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, has at times drawn the ire of Trump supporters for his particularly pointed and, at times, confrontational lines of questioning during press briefings.

A spokesperson for CNN did not immediately return a request for comment.

In addition to his frequent attacks against the mainstream media in general, Trump has often directed specific ire towards CNN, the network whose name he often affixes a “fake news” prefix. The president’s complaints about CNN’s coverage of him, which he views as unfair, has trickled down to his base of supporters, many of whom have also begun to distrust the network.

Atlanta’s CBS affiliate reported this week that a Michigan man had been arrested after threatening a CNN operator, saying "fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down."

After shuttering the government for three days over an impasse on immigration issues, the Senate voted Monday to reopen the government, with Democrats agreeing to support government funding legislation in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up a bill in the coming weeks to address protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The compromise has been characterized as a victory for Republicans.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/23/trump-tweet-cnn-jim-acosta-358249

Tony Perkins: Trump Gets ‘a Mulligan’ on Life, Stormy Daniels

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Donald Trump is still the answer to many conservative evangelical leaders’ prayers. Or at least to their continuing grievances.

They embrace Trump the policymaker, says Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, despite being uneasy about Trump as a man.

Perkins knows about Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claimed, in a 2011 interview, that in 2006 she had sex with Trump four months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron. He knows of the reports that she was paid off to keep the affair quiet in the waning weeks of the 2016 election. He knows about the cursing, the lewdness and the litany of questionable behavior over the past year of Trump’s life or the 70 that came before it.

“We kind of gave him—‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins told me in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.

Weigh a paid-off porn star against being the first president to address the March for Life, and a lot of evangelical leaders insist they can still walk away happy.

Evangelical Christians, says Perkins, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

What happened to turning the other cheek?, I ask.

“You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins says. “Look, Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”

***

In all the clashes between principles and power over the last two years, conservative evangelicals can seem to have made one of the biggest and more confusing tradeoffs—at least to outside observers. After all, they say the roots of their beliefs go far deeper than partisan concerns.

During the primaries, evangelicals turned out in numbers that surprised everyone, and more than 80 percent stayed with Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton, even after the “Access Hollywood” tape and everything else during the campaign. But their support is starting to waver: According to a Pew poll out in December, Trump’s support has dropped sharply among white evangelical Protestants, from 78 percent in February to 61 percent in December, as his approval rating among the overall electorate has settled in the mid-30s.

Perkins—who started out the 2016 race as a strong supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz—has been a frequent visitor to the Oval Office. He’s prayed with Trump. He says he’s seen the president grow, including in his sense of faith.

What might look like hypocrisy, Perkins says, is actually attention to detail.

Perkins cheers the White House’s restrictive posture towards abortion rights and its “religious freedom” executive orders (which critics allege are part of a thinly veiled attempt to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ Americans). He says his only gripe with the administration is that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not doing enough to stop abortions and liberal activism around the world. “We’re seeing Soros dollars being connected with USAID funds and they’re creating these pro-abortion, pro-communist groups in some cases, working to take down conservative governments,” Perkins says.

According to Perkins, evangelical leaders have no illusions about the nature of their relationship with Trump. “I don’t think this president is using evangelicals … I think he genuinely enjoys the relationship that had developed. He has found, I think—and he’s a very transactional president. Trust is important to him. Loyalty is important to him, and I think in this transaction, he realizes, ‘hey, these are people I can count on, because they don’t blow with the political winds,’” he says. “It’s a developing relationship, but I’ll have to say this: from a policy standpoint, he has delivered more than any other president in my lifetime.”

Later, Perkins adds, “I think the president is providing the leadership we need at this time, in our country and in our culture.”

As a moral leader? I ask.

“As a leader,” Perkins replies.

Perkins isn’t the only one pushing this rationalization. “Our country’s got a sin problem,” the Rev. Franklin Graham told MSNBC host Alex Witt in an interview this past Saturday. Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham and current president of his Evangelistic Association, said he saw no reason to believe the allegations about Trump and Stormy Daniels, nor the reports that the president called certain countries “shitholes,” despite the fact Trump reportedly bragged about saying it in private phone calls. Graham deflected questions about whether he was holding Trump to a different personal standard than he might for a politician he disagreed with more.

“We certainly don’t hold him up as the pastor of this country, and he’s not,” Graham told the network. “But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values, he does have a concern to protect Christians—whether it’s here at home or around the world—and I appreciate the fact that he protects religious liberty and freedom.”

Plus, there’s Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical himself and the constant reassurance many evangelical leaders cite, who while traveling in Israel on Monday said he wouldn’t talk about the “latest baseless allegations” in the Stormy Daniels confessional.

Many evangelical leaders have struggled with Trump’s position on immigration, including several on his own advisory council. Last week, after a meeting on with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), several religious leaders joined her and other Democrats for a press conference pressing Trump to protect the Dreamers.

“To those members of Congress committed to life: it doesn’t finish when the baby is born,” said National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez, who was one of the speakers at Trump’s inauguration. “Womb to tomb.”

Though Trump kicked off his campaign by railing against Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, Perkins says, “it’s not—a lot of people think, ‘well, they don’t want Mexicans down here; they don’t want people from south.’ That’s not what it is. It’s the ‘OTMs’—the ‘other than Mexicans’—that are crossing the borders, who are coming from Islamic countries that are coming into this country to do harm to this nation.”

A father of five, including a 10-year-son, Perkins says the president has posed a challenge in what to tell his children. None of them like all the tweeting, and Perkins says he’d change that if he could, though he understands it.

“These things that are said about him bother him, and he is one of those people, like most people, looking for acceptance, not rejection. That’s why his reference to the polls and stuff like that, and so when someone on TV, a talking head is saying things about him, his natural reaction is to respond, and I think that’s what he’s done with Twitter,” Perkins says. “And so, in terms of my family, my kids growing up in a Christian home, and as we talk about these things, there’s an understanding that he has a need, and he wants to be accepted, and these things that are said are hurtful.”

Is that forgiving attitude in keeping with conservative Christian teachings?

“We see right and wrong. We see good and evil, but also among evangelicals, there’s an understanding that we are all fallen, and the idea of forgiveness is very prominent,” Perkins says. “And so, we understand that, yes, there is justice, but there is mercy.”

Mercy in politics can be harder to find.

Perkins recalls the day in July 2015, at a religious forum in Iowa, when Trump snapped back at John McCain’s criticism by saying he didn’t consider the Arizona senator and former POW a war hero. Perkins, who was waiting to go on stage following Trump, figured that those remarks alone would end Trump’s candidacy. What he underestimated, Perkins says, was the anger at McCain, whom he considers a friend, but who’s “been extremely disappointing politically” to evangelicals for years.

The evangelical reaction, according to Perkins, was “‘Look, I agree with [Trump]. I can’t stand John McCain.’ I think that’s what people were connecting with.”

He acknowledged that doesn’t seem very Christian, “but again, I think this president, in his authenticity, is what has connected with people.”

As long as Trump doesn’t disappoint evangelicals politically, Perkins predicts, they’ll stick with him. “Whenever the policy stops, and his administration reverts to just personality,” he adds, “that’s where I believe the president will be in trouble.”

Source: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/23/tony-perkins-evangelicals-donald-trump-stormy-daniels-216498

Trump’s energy juggernaut faces a more daunting Year 2

President Donald Trump has resurrected the Keystone XL pipeline, renounced the Paris climate agreement, opened a long-disputed Alaska refuge to oil drilling and ordered his agencies to erase Obama-era regulations on the petroleum, coal and power industries — all in the name of asserting U.S. “energy dominance.”

But from here on, his victories will become harder to achieve.

Reversing Barack Obama’s environmental and energy agenda is one of the Trump administration’s big first-year successes, alongside achievements like December’s $1.5 trillion tax overhaul. It has certainly been one of Trump’s most persistent strategies, as his agencies have moved to revoke Obama’s climate and water regulations, ease limits on fracking, wipe out drilling restrictions on almost the entire U.S. coastline and postpone energy-efficiency requirements.

Now, however, the courts will have their say in how far these rollbacks go, as much of Trump’s deregulatory agenda faces legal challenges from state attorneys general and environmental groups stretching from D.C. to California.

More seriously, the parts of Trump’s agenda that survive may not have the deep impact that he is promising — especially as the nation moves into the second decade of a boom that has already made the U.S. the world’s biggest oil and gas producer, and as market forces continue to take a bite out of coal.

“We already seem to have more oil than we can say grace over,” said John Northington, a former Clinton-era Interior Department official now working as an energy consultant. “I don’t think the new policies will have any impact on the market. A lot of the rulemaking they’ve proposed will be held up in courts or overturned.”

Even so, industry groups that chafed under Obama’s regulations say they’re pleased with what Trump has achieved so far.

"We were excited by what we saw in 2017," said Dan Naatz, senior vice president of government relations and political affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. "The administration got off to a strong start in reshaping and rebalancing American energy development. It was a look at putting in thoughtful policies, in contrast to the challenges we faced in the Obama administration."

So far, Trump’s most concrete impact on energy policy came when he approved the Keystone XL pipeline and ordered a speedy environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, both of which had languished under the Obama administration. The Dakota pipeline started transporting oil in June, less than half a year after Trump signed an executive order, but it’s not clear if the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be built, despite Trump’s comments suggesting it was already operating.

Keystone developer TransCanada said only last week that it believed it had secured adequate demand for the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline — after garnering a significant commitment for oil shipments from customers including the Alberta government — but it hasn’t said for sure it will build the $8 billion project. The company is also still negotiating with Nebraska landowners on the route the state’s regulator approved. Meanwhile, environmental groups are challenging Trump’s approval process in court, saying the administration didn’t follow proper procedure.

Trump’s Interior Department also began the repeal process on Obama-era rules that had forced oil and gas companies to tamp down on methane emission and disclose the chemicals they use to frack wells on federal land. But those rollbacks, lauded by the industry, are also being contested in court.

"It was a concentrated attempt to reverse the gains we made in the past 40 years," Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce said. "It takes so long to put a rule in place, and it takes the same administrative process to unwind, so it’s slow. So the immediate impact to public health and the environment are down the road and certain to be challenged in court."

Meanwhile, last year’s mammoth tax bill cleared the way for Interior to sell drilling leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, fulfilling a decades-old goal of the oil and gas industry.

But the administration’s penchant to cut corners has imperiled what should have been another energy win: its proposal this month to open up nearly 100 percent of federal waters to new offshore drilling. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did a quick about-face when Florida’s elected officials objected to the possibility of oil drilling off its coast. Zinke’s Twitter announcement that he would remove the state from his plan galvanized lawmakers and governors from other coastal states who were already wary of how drilling rigs off their beaches may harm their tourism and fishing economies.

Governors from both political parties have pressed Zinke to rethink his offshore drilling move. And his reversal on Florida drilling, which came before Interior had gone through a public comment period, could put the whole draft proposal in court over alleged violations of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Meanwhile, even with oil prices on the rise, oil companies appeared to have little appetite to pour billions of dollars into new drilling projects either in Alaska or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts when onshore fields opened up by fracking remain cheap.

“A lot of the stuff coming out of Interior is just PR,” said Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst with financial services firm Raymond James in Houston. “It doesn’t mean anything to drilling. Drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, it’s pure fantasy to think we’ll see that.”

On coal, Trump’s promises to revive the industry have received praise from backers like Murray Energy founder Bob Murray, who had complained that the Obama EPA’s climate regulations for power plants unfairly targeted them. While EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has begun rescind that rule and the Interior Department has lifted a moratorium on coal leases on federal land, experts see little chance coal will reverse the sharp declines it has suffered in the past decade.

A last-ditch effort by the Energy Department to throw the coal industry a lifeline fell flat earlier this month when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — a panel dominated by Trump appointees — rejected Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to offer financial support to coal-fired power plants. The DOE plan had drawn sharp criticism after photos of Murray delivering a plan to protect coal emerged.

U.S. coal production did rise in 2017, boosted by exports of steel-making coal. But demand is expected to drop this year as natural gas continues to take its share of the electricity market.

“If natural gas prices drop, the pace of us coal decline will accelerate,” Rhodium Group energy analyst Trevor Houser said. “This mini-recovery in coal production in 2017, the bottom will fall out from that.”

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/23/trump-energy-pipeline-drilling-paris-climate-353585

GOP chairmen raise alarms over missing FBI texts

Top House Republicans are fuming over the FBI’s claim that it lost five months of text messages between two top officials that GOP lawmakers have accused of anti-Trump bias.

The officials, former senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page, have become an increasing focus of President Donald Trump’s allies in Congress, who raised alarms after a previous round of text messages turned over by the Justice Department revealed hostility toward Trump and other political figures.

The FBI had been expected to produce a new batch of texts that included communications after the 2016 presidential election, but the bureau informed lawmakers in a letter over the weekend that "misconfiguration issues" resulted in the texts being lost.

"The omission of text messages between December 2016 and May 2017, a critical gap encompassing the FBI’s Russia investigation, is … concerning," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte in a joint statement.

"Rather than clearing up prior FBI and DOJ actions, these recently produced documents cause us to further question the credibility and objectivity of certain officials at the FBI," they said.

Their statement comes amid a steady drumbeat of frustration among rank-and-file Republicans who suggested there must be more nefarious efforts underway to keep the text messages from Congress.

The three chairmen also met over the weekend to discuss growing calls on the right to make public a classified memo they allege will reveal misconduct by senior DOJ and FBI officials. The memo, compiled by Nunes’ staff, has been shared with all members of the House this week, but lawmakers have declined to provide them to DOJ and the FBI for review.

The missing text messages have only ratcheted up the tension between the bureau and congressional Republicans.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed late Monday that the Justice Department has already launched a review to determine whether the records can be recovered

"If any wrongdoing were to be found to have caused this gap, appropriate legal disciplinary action measures will be taken," he said in a statement.

“We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source," he said.

Democrats have accused GOP lawmakers of working to create an anti-FBI narrative in order to shield Trump and the White House from investigations about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, as well as an ongoing special counsel criminal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — and whether any Trump associates aided the effort.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/22/missing-fbi-texts-republicans-358245

California state rep: ‘Trump and Sessions should come here and arrest Xavier Becerra’

A California state lawmaker is asking President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come to the state and arrest its Attorney General Xavier Becerra for "crossing the line" in enforcing an immigration law.

"He’s crossed the line, this is now a criminal defense, the Department of Justice needs to come," Travis Allen, a GOP assemblyman from California said on Fox News Monday night. "Sessions needs to come and Trump need to come to California to literally arrest and indict Xaiver Becerra for breaking federal law."

Allen, who is running for governor in the state, was responding to comments Becerra made last week in regards to enforcing a new California immigration law.

"It’s important, given these rumors that are out there, to let people know — more specifically today, employers — that if they voluntarily start giving up information about their employees or access to their employees in ways that contradict our new California laws, they subject themselves to actions by my office," Becerra said, according to a Sacramento Bee report. "We will prosecute those who violate the law."

Becerra’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new California law is the state’s latest step to thwart the Trump administration, which in this case is sparked by fears that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will conduct large raids of workplaces.

The measure does contain provisions that tell employers to comply with federal law when compelled to do so.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/22/trump-sessions-arrest-xavier-becerra-358244

Trump: Imports of washing machines and solar panels not welcome here

President Donald Trump took his first major action as trade enforcer-in-chief, opening the door to a host of other trade restrictions that buck the global order and give him a hammer to push his “America First” vision at the gathering of global elites in Davos, Switzerland.

The decision to slap tariffs and other trade restrictions on imports of both solar panels and washing machines is being seen as a prelude to coming actions on steel and aluminum imports, as well as a wide-ranging case that aims to punish China for intellectual property abuses.

“The president’s action makes clear again that the Trump administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

But even as Trump trumpeted that his move fulfills a long-held promise to defend American manufacturers, the restrictions themselves appeared unexpectedly restrained. That could be a sign that the White House took under consideration warnings that — in the case of solar — thousands of installation and other related jobs across the U.S. could be lost if the flow of cheap solar panels were cut off.

The actions hew closely to the recommendations of the U.S. International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body. It initially determined that the affected U.S. companies were at risk of being damaged by unfairly priced and subsidized imports.

The efforts are the result of a pair of rarely seen Section 201 investigations, a provision under trade law that allows U.S. companies to petition for remedies on a global basis as opposed to the country-specific approach most trade cases follow.

The tariffs that Trump set on solar products — 30 percent in the first year and stepping down by 5 percentage points over each of the next three years — were short of the 50 percent limit he is allowed to impose under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974.

The three years of trade restrictions on washing machines and parts will be set via a so-called tariff-rate quota, which allows imports of a certain number of fully assembled machines under a 20 percent tariff. Imports beyond the quota will be subject to a much higher 50 percent tariff the first year. The remedy stops short of Whirlpool’s petition for a flat 50 percent tariff on imported machines made by rivals Samsung and LG.

The effects of the decisions could soon be felt as other countries gear up legal challenges that could come with the potential for billions of dollars’ worth of retaliation.

The last time a similar measure was used dates to 2002, when President George W. Bush approved global tariffs on steel imports. However, those tariffs were withdrawn a little more than a year later after the WTO ruled them to be illegal and authorized the European Union to impose retaliatory duties on $2.2 billion worth of U.S. goods ranging from oranges to textiles.

Under Section 201, countries that the United States has trade agreements with are usually exempted from trade remedies — and the ITC commissioners had recommended to exclude them. But only developing countries with a very small percentage of imports were excluded in both the washing machine and solar actions; Canada was the only other country excluded from trade restrictions on washing machines.

The moves could embolden other U.S. manufacturing sectors waiting in the wings to petition for similar measures, said Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“By imposing tariffs in these two cases, President Trump just ended any doubt that he was hesitant on protectionism. But the big worry is the potential tariffs that are still to come,” he said.

U.S. manufacturing groups praised the actions, hoping they do indeed portend a coming wave of actions aimed at protecting U.S. workers.

"Now that President Trump has taken action in these high-profile cases, we hope that he also will keep his promise to defend American-made steel and aluminum,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Sen. Sherrod Brown cheered the curbs on washing machines. The Ohio Democrat has found trade to be a rare area of cooperation with the Trump administration. Lighthizer briefed Brown earlier Monday by telephone before the actions were announced, and the lawmaker has been in close contact with the administration throughout the investigation, a source said.

“This is welcome news for the thousands of Whirlpool workers in Clyde, Ohio, whose jobs have been threatened by a surge of cheap washers,” Brown said in a statement.

Whirlpool, based in Michigan, announced Monday that it would be able to add 200 new positions at its Ohio plant.

But in both cases, free-trade advocates say that the moves would do more harm than good.

While the actions may help the two solar companies that petitioned for the duties — Suniva and SolarWorld Americas — critics have warned that lifting the costs of solar energy could hamstring the industry that has seen torrid growth over the past decade and is now cheaper than coal and natural gas-fired electricity in parts of the country.

“More good-paying jobs will be jeopardized by today’s decision than could possibly be saved by bailing out the bankrupt companies that petitioned for protection,” Clark Packard, trade policy counsel at the conservative R Street Institute, said in a statement. “Today’s decision also will jeopardize the environment by making clean energy sources less affordable.”

Samsung and LG — the South Korean companies targeted in the washing machine case — have warned that restrictions could hinder their ability to ramp up production and hire U.S. workers at new factories in South Carolina and Tennessee. Samsung cut the ribbon on its new South Carolina plant this month with the first washing machine rolling off a production line that will employ 600 workers.

“This tariff is a tax on every consumer who wants to buy a washing machine,” a Samsung spokeswoman said in a statement. “Everyone will pay more, with fewer choices.”

Eric Wolff contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/22/trump-imports-trade-303859

Why the shutdown battle is only on pause

Washington will be back on the brink in less than three weeks.

Lawmakers may have pulled themselves out of a debilitating government shutdown Monday, but the fight over immigration and spending that’s ground virtually all congressional business to a halt is far from over. And the fundamentals of the debate haven’t changed at all.

Republican leaders are under increasing pressure from their own members to reach a long-term budget agreement by Feb. 8, when the government next runs out of money. Their defense hawks are desperate to increase defense spending, a key 2018 priority for President Donald Trump. And their members are sick of voting on short-term funding bills that they say cripple the military.

But in order to strike any long-term budget accord, at least nine Senate Democrats are needed for passage. And while Democrats’ strategy of shuttering the government until securing relief for Dreamers blew up in their faces Monday, they can still withhold support for a long-term budget deal to get what they want on immigration.

“We’re here to fight another day,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). “I think we still have an opportunity to win this.”

Democrats may be unlikely to force another shutdown after suffering such an embarrassing defeat. But a top aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi confirmed Monday that she will continue to withhold support for a long-term budget agreement until a bipartisan immigration deal is reached. And Republicans and Democrats are still far apart on immigration — meaning Congress may soon be facing another spending stalemate.

“The caps discussion will continue and Democrats will continue to link the two issues,” said the Pelosi aide. “Eventually the defense hawks are going to rise up. Republican leadership will be under immense pressure to get his caps deal done from their own members.”

Some Republican leaders are holding out hope that Democrats’ shutdown defeat will bring them to their knees on a long-term budget accord. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said Democrats are “not going to be able to play the same game in a few weeks.”

“They’ve tried to bring the two issues [budget and DACA] together, and it didn’t work for them,” the Louisiana Republican said. “The responsible thing to do would be to have honest negotiations over a long-term budget deal so we can have certainty for our military.”

Other Republicans, however, are not so confident that Democrats will give up their leverage on the matter.

“I have believed that for months that there is no caps deal without DACA,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), referring to strict spending caps that Democrats and Republicans hope to increase for their own defense and domestic priorities. “I think sequentially DACA has to come first.”

To be sure, Democrats have lost some leverage to fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. No longer can they threaten to withhold their votes to keep the government open hoping to scare Republicans into caving to their immigration demands. Republicans called their bluff, and ultimately Democrats caved in what progressive activists have now labeled the “#SchumerSellout.”

What’s more, Schumer put Trump’s wall on the table in negotiations over the weekend — showing flexibility on the matter that may only embolden Republicans to push harder for concessions.

But there’s a difference from learning a lesson on the shutdown strategy and agreeing to a long-term budget solution without DACA, Democrats say.

In the Senate, GOP leaders acknowledged the difficult negotiating that lies ahead. The No. 3 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, told reporters Monday afternoon that Congress was probably not going to pass a long-term budget deal in the next three weeks and suggested another stop-gap may be needed.

Some House appropriators and some defense hawks agreed.

“I think that they found that this [shutdown] didn’t work, so they may be reluctant to take the same path next time. But I am very concerned about getting defense funded,” said House Armed Services Committee member Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) “I don’t know what’s changed. We’ll see what 10.5 legislative days brings.”

Asked if he was any more confident that Democrats would strike a spending deal without DACA, Rep. Mike Simpson joked sarcastically, “Oh yes! I’m very positive that leadership is going to get on that!”

The Idaho Republican seemed more annoyed with his own leaders’ unwillingness to close the deal than with Democrats holding up the spending agreement for an immigration deal.

“We’re set up for another CR,” he said. “Unless leadership is going to get busy on a budget deal A.S.A.P.”

Democrats are betting that pressure from rank-and-file Republicans will force leadership to address DACA, particularly as GOP defense hawks in both chambers have threatened to sink government funding because they’re sick of stop-gap bills. And more and more Republicans are upping the pressure on their leaders to find a solution.

While applauding the GOP’s victory on the shutdown standoff Monday afternoon, conservative House Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker cautioned that the fight is not over because Republicans need a resolution on government funding for the entire year.

“I don’t want to get too excited because we’re still in a CR, which is a tool of the minority,” the North Carolina Republican said. “Maybe [the win] sets a precedent, knowing in the future that we can hold the line and get results. But before we start rolling kegs through Statuary Hall, we’ve got more work to do.”

Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Elana Schor contributed.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/22/government-shutdown-next-round-congress-358240