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 on: April 14, 2018, 10:37:58 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times....

Trump Calls Comey ‘Untruthful Slime Ball’ as Book Details Released

President Trump, who fired James B. Comey as his F.B.I. director, took
to Twitter on Friday morning to disparage him as a leaker and liar.

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and ALEXANDER BURNS | 7:31PM EDT — Friday, April 13, 2018

James B. Comey last year at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. — Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times.
James B. Comey last year at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. — Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times.

WASHINGTON — James B. Comey's searing tell-all book was met with an aggressive counter-attack on his character by President Trump and his allies on Friday, even as many Democrats struggled with conflicted feelings about the man they blame for Hillary Clinton's loss in the 2016 election.

In the book, Mr. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired as F.B.I. director in May, describes the president as “unethical, and untethered to truth,” and writes that he often wondered about Mr. Trump's refusal to acknowledge Russia's attempt to influence the election. “Maybe it was a contrarian streak,” he wrote, “or maybe it was something more complicated that explained his constant equivocation and apologies for Vladimir Putin.” He also compares the president to a Mafia boss.

Pointed details from the book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership leaked out Thursday night before its official release on Tuesday. The response from the president was personal and vicious, even by Mr. Trump's standards.

In two early-morning tweets, the president called the former F.B.I. director an “untruthful slime ball” and a “proven LEAKER & LIAR.” Mr. Trump said that it was his “great honor to fire” Mr. Comey.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, escalated the criticism later in the day, saying Mr. Comey will “be forever known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the president of the United States.”

The Republican National Committee joined in with an all-hands effort to discredit Mr. Comey by distributing lengthy talking points to conservative pundits, sympathetic media hosts and Republican lawmakers.

The message was coordinated with the White House's and echoes Mr. Trump's. “Comey is a liar and a leaker, and his misconduct led both Republicans and Democrats to call for his firing,” said Ronna McDaniel, the committee chairwoman.

The talking points describe Mr. Comey as a “disgraced former official” and a “consummate Washington insider who knows how to work the media to protect his flanks.” It says that Mr. Comey was “strongly criticized by members of both parties for his history of bizarre decisions, contradictory statements and acting against Department of Justice and F.B.I. protocol.”

The committee created a “Lyin' Comey” website and sent out mass emails to reporters litigating the claims in his book and interviews.

Foreshadowing the attack Mr. Trump delivered on Friday, the committee's talking points branded Mr. Comey as a leaker consumed with grievances against Mr. Trump and listed Comey-bashing quotes from Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the current Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

Mr. Comey will have an opportunity to respond to his critics during a book tour that will take him to venues across the country. His first major interview, with ABC News, is scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday night, though the network began airing clips on Friday morning after the book leaked out.

He will have several other high-profile appearances in Washington, followed by events at bookstores in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles and other cities. At each, Mr. Comey's observations about the president's behavior and character are certain to generate headlines.

The Republican National Committee is organizing television and radio bookings for people appearing to rebut Mr. Comey during the tour. Kellyanne Conway, one of Mr. Trump's most loyal advisers, was up early on Friday to question Mr. Comey's credibility for the TV cameras.

“We find that Mr. Comey has a revisionist view of history and seems like a disgruntled ex-employee,” Ms. Conway said. “After all, he was fired.”

Fox News, the president's preferred TV news network, plans to air its own special on Sunday night, “The Trial of James Comey”, at 9 p.m. on “The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton”.

President Donald J. Trump and James B. Comey at the White House days after the inauguration. — Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times.
President Donald J. Trump and James B. Comey at the White House days after the inauguration. — Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times.

Republicans on Friday also leapt at the chance to tie Mr. Comey to Andrew G. McCabe, his former deputy director, after the Justice Department inspector general issued a highly critical report that accused Mr. McCabe of repeatedly misleading investigators.

Not all of the personal insults were coming from the president and his allies. At times, Mr. Comey seemed to be doing the same thing in his book, writing at one point that Mr. Trump's face appeared “slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles.”

Mr. Comey's comparison of the president's operating style to the Mafia — “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them world-view. The lying about all things, large and small” — might have been expected to please Democrats if it had come from someone else. But at least initially, he received a somewhat muted defense from Democrats still angry about the way he handled the investigation into Mrs. Clinton's private email server.

While they cheered on his fight with Mr. Trump, they argued that Mr. Comey should not have made public the email inquiry the way he did.

“He let his own ego get in the way, and it put him in charge of fate that was not his decision to act on,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a senior adviser to Mrs. Clinton's campaign. “I don't think he had partisan motivations. But there's a lot of people I know who don't agree with me on that.”

Anger from Democrats toward Mr. Comey cascaded across social media on Friday. Ms. Palmieri said she would urge them not to join Mr. Trump in piling on Mr. Comey, even though she admitted there is “a lot of resentment” toward him.

“I don't agree that he's an untruthful slimeball,” she said, adding that Democrats should not help the president undermine Mr. Comey's credibility. “That's not responsible or productive.”

Mr. Trump's decision to fire Mr. Comey last May eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia's 2016 election meddling and whether Mr. Trump has deliberately tried to obstruct the investigation. In an extraordinary day of testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee the next month, he foreshadowed many of the themes of his book, describing how Mr. Trump had tried to derail an investigation of Michael T. Flynn, who served briefly as national security adviser and accused the president of lying and defaming him and the F.B.I.

The former F.B.I. chief's much-anticipated 304-page memoir is the first major memoir by one of the key characters in the Trump administration.

Some of the moments that Mr. Comey describes in the book were already publicly known: He describes a January 2017 dinner where he said that Mr. Trump asked him for a loyalty pledge, an episode that was reported by multiple news organizations last year. But the details cast Mr. Trump and his aides in a negative light.

The time Mr. Comey first briefed Mr. Trump on Russian election meddling has also been frequently described. In the book, Mr. Comey added his own description of how a discussion about a grievous intrusion into the American election process became “a strategy session about messaging on Russia — about how they could spin what we'd just told them.”


Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Alexander Burns from New York. Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting from Washington.

• Michael D. Shear is a White House correspondent in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, where he covers President Trump, with a focus on domestic policy, the regulatory state and life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A veteran political correspondent, he covered Barack Obama's presidency, including the 2012 re-election campaign. Before coming to The N.Y. Times in 2010, he spent 18 years at The Washington Post, writing about local communities, school districts, state politics, the 2008 presidential campaign and the White House. A member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that covered the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, Mr. Shear is a 1990 graduate of Claremont McKenna College and has a masters in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Virginia with his wife and two teenage children.

• Alexander Burns is a political reporter for The New York Times on the National desk, covering elections and the dynamics of political power across the country. He was one of the lead reporters covering Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016, after coming to The Times in 2015 as a political correspondent for the Metro desk. Mr. Burns was a reporter and editor at Politico before joining The N.Y. Times, covering the 2012 presidential election and the Republican Party's struggle to define itself during the Obama presidency. He is a graduate of Harvard College, where he edited the Harvard Political Review.


Related to this topic:

 • Read The New York Times' review of Mr. Comey's memoir: James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It's Very Persuasive.

 • Comey's Memoir Offers Visceral Details on a President ‘Untethered to Truth’

 • F.B.I. Agents Supported Comey, Surveys Show, Weakening Trump's Claim of Turmoil


 on: April 13, 2018, 12:30:09 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times....

EDITORIAL: The Law Is Coming, Mr. Trump

Donald Trump has spent his whole career in the company of grifters, cons and crooks.
Now that he's president, that strategy isn't working — for him or for the country.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | 11:59PM EDT — Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Illustration: Jon Han.
Illustration: Jon Han.

WHY DON'T WE take a step back and contemplate what Americans, and the world, are witnessing?

Early on Monday morning, F.B.I. agents raided the New York office, home and hotel room of the personal lawyer for the president of the United States. They seized evidence of possible federal crimes — including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to payoffs made to women, including a porn actress, who say they had affairs with the president before he took office and were paid off and intimidated into silence.

That evening the president surrounded himself with the top American military officials and launched unbidden into a tirade against the top American law enforcement officials — officials of his own government — accusing them of “an attack on our country.”

Oh, also: The New York Times reported on Monday evening that investigators were examining a $150,000 donation to the president's personal foundation from a Ukrainian steel magnate, given during the American presidential campaign in exchange for a 20-minute video appearance.

Meanwhile, the president's former campaign chairman is under indictment, and his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. His son-in-law and other associates are also under investigation.

This is your president, ladies and gentlemen. This is how Donald Trump does business, and these are the kinds of people he surrounds himself with.

Mr. Trump has spent his career in the company of developers and celebrities, and also of grifters, cons, sharks, goons and crooks. He cuts corners, he lies, he cheats, he brags about it, and for the most part, he's gotten away with it, protected by threats of litigation, hush money and his own bravado. Those methods may be proving to have their limits when they are applied from the Oval Office. Though Republican leaders in Congress still keep a cowardly silence, Mr. Trump now has real reason to be afraid. A raid on a lawyer's office doesn't happen every day; it means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe they'd find evidence of a crime there and that they didn't trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

On Monday, when he appeared with his national security team, Mr. Trump, whose motto could be, “The buck stops anywhere but here,” angrily blamed everyone he could think of for the “unfairness” of an investigation that has already consumed the first year of his presidency, yet is only now starting to heat up. He said Attorney General Jeff Sessions made “a very terrible mistake” by recusing himself from overseeing the investigation — the implication being that a more loyal attorney general would have obstructed justice and blocked the investigation. He complained about the “horrible things” that Hillary Clinton did “and all of the crimes that were committed.” He called the A-team of investigators from the office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, “the most biased group of people.” As for Mr. Mueller himself, “we'll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said. “Many people have said, ‘You should fire him’.”

In fact, the raids on the premises used by Mr. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, were conducted by the public corruption unit of the federal attorney's office in Manhattan, and at the request not of the special counsel's team, but under a search warrant that investigators in New York obtained following a referral by Mr. Mueller, who first consulted with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. To sum up, a Republican-appointed former F.B.I. director consulted with a Republican-appointed deputy attorney general, who then authorized a referral to an F.B.I. field office not known for its anti-Trump bias. Deep state, indeed.

Mr. Trump also railed against the authorities who, he said, “broke into” Mr. Cohen's office. “Attorney-client privilege is dead!” the president tweeted early on Tuesday morning, during what was presumably his executive time. He was wrong. The privilege is one of the most sacrosanct in the American legal system, but it does not protect communications in furtherance of a crime. Anyway, one might ask, if this is all a big witch hunt and Mr. Trump has nothing illegal or untoward to hide, why does he care about the privilege in the first place?

The answer, of course, is that he has a lot to hide.

This wasn't even the first early-morning raid of a close Trump associate. That distinction goes to Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman and Russian oligarch-whisperer, who now faces a slate of federal charges long enough to land him in prison for the rest of his life. And what of Mr. Cohen? He's already been cut loose by his law firm, and when the charges start rolling in, he'll likely get the same treatment from Mr. Trump.

Among the grotesqueries that faded into the background of Mr. Trump's carnival of misgovernment during the past 24 hours was that Monday's meeting was ostensibly called to discuss a matter of global significance: a reported chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. Mr. Trump instead made it about him, with his narcissistic and self-pitying claim that the investigation represented an attack on the country “in a true sense.”

No, Mr. Trump — a true attack on America is what happened on, say, September 11, 2001. Remember that one? Thousands of people lost their lives. Your response was to point out that the fall of the twin towers meant your building was now the tallest in downtown Manhattan. Of course, that also wasn't true.


 on: April 10, 2018, 11:50:30 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from the Los Angeles Times....

Trump meets his match: Stormy Daniels' combative lawyer Michael Avenatti

By MICHAEL FINNEGAN and MAURA DOLAN | 4:00AM PDT — Saturday, April 07, 2018

Michael Avenatti is interviewed on Thursday by Kristen Scholer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. — Photograph: Richard Drew/Associated Press.
Michael Avenatti is interviewed on Thursday by Kristen Scholer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. — Photograph: Richard Drew/Associated Press.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, the newly famous lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, has more than a few things in common with President Trump.

He's brash. He's media savvy. He enjoys the high life. He revels in antagonizing opponents.

In short, Trump may have met his match in this Newport Beach lawyer whose client, now America's best-known stripper, is suing the president to break free of a deal that bars her from discussing what she says was a one-night stand with Trump in 2006.

With a swagger worthy of the young Trump who barged his way into New York's tabloids decades ago, Avenatti has spent weeks shuttling among Manhattan TV studios to taunt the president and his fixer Michael Cohen.

His pugnacious edge makes Avenatti a natural on cable news.

“Wait a minute, I'm not done, I'm not done, I'm not done,” he snapped at Cohen spokesman David Schwartz on CNN.

His casual allusions to impeachment — “To address the rumor: We DO NOT have a ‘Monica Lewinsky type’ dress,” he announced on Twitter — underscore the lawsuit's high stakes for Trump.

More than anyone, Avenatti has shaped the scandal's narrative and kept it in the news. He has out-foxed the Trump forces over and over, most strikingly by getting Daniels on “60 Minutes”.

Avenatti — whose professional history, like Trump's, is messy — had already appeared twice himself on “60 Minutes”, both times playing the broadcast's stock part of dogged consumer lawyer nailing big companies for wrong-doing.

“Among trial lawyers, Avenatti is regarded as extraordinarily tenacious and aggressive,” said Brian Kabateck, the incoming president of the Los Angeles Bar Association.

“He may be the perfect foil for Trump,” he said, “because he understands Trump and is in Trump's head.”

Louise Sunshine, a former New York lobbyist who worked closely with Trump early in his career, agreed that Avenatti was a vexing adversary.

“I think he's sort of got Donald figured out,” she said.

Anderson Cooper interviews Stormy Daniels for “60 Minutes”. — Photograph: CBS News.
Anderson Cooper interviews Stormy Daniels for “60 Minutes”. — Photograph: CBS News.

BORN IN Sacramento, Avenatti, 47, grew up mainly in Chesterfield, Mo., a St. Louis suburb where he developed a love for sports cars and the Cardinals.

He studied political science at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a law degree as a night student at George Washington University, working on opposition research for both Democratic and Republican campaigns along the way.

In 2000, he moved to Los Angeles to practice law, spending three years at O'Melveny & Myers, then switching to a smaller firm.

He gravitated toward celebrity cases, working for the Eagles' Don Henley and Glenn Frey when fellow band member Don Felder sued them, claiming he was cheated out of album and concert earnings. Avenatti also handled lawsuits against heiress Paris Hilton and actor Jim Carrey.

In 2007, Avenatti and two partners started a Newport Beach plaintiffs' firm, Eagan, O'Malley & Avenatti.

He soon took on Service Corporation International, a cemetery company accused of desecrating graves in the San Fernando Valley. He won an $80-million settlement, along with his first star turn on “60 Minutes”, the CBS News flagship.

His biggest victory, now on appeal, was a $454-million jury verdict last year against surgical gown manufacturers Halyard Health and Kimberly-Clark. The gowns were supposed to protect doctors and nurses from blood-borne viruses such as Ebola and HIV, but sometimes leaked.

Avenatti was featured in the opening tease for a “60 Minutes” segment on the case. An executive at one of the gown makers, he said, “forgot the 11th commandment.”

“Which is?” Anderson Cooper asked.

“Do not lie to ‘60 Minutes’,” Avenatti replied, his close-up yielding to the ticking stopwatch.

“He's a dangerous lawyer,” said Brian Panish, an attorney who used to work with Avenatti, “because he is so sharp, quick and fearless.”

Avenatti can be difficult with allies.

After a few years of booming business, he told the partners in his firm that he was leaving unless they agreed to give him a bigger share of the profits, John C. O'Malley alleged in a 2011 lawsuit.

Dumbfounded by what he called “brazen tactics,” O'Malley protested, but Avenatti drove him out of the practice, he said in court documents. A judge confirmed an arbitration award of $2.7 million against Avenatti and the firm.

Avenatti, who declined to be interviewed and requested all questions in writing, said by email that the case was resolved to the satisfaction of all involved. “Anybody can say anything in a lawsuit,” he wrote.

With his reliance on contingency cases, Avenatti lives on a boom-or-bust pay cycle.

He and his wife sold their ocean-front bluff-top house in Laguna Beach for $12.6 million in 2015. Since then he has rented high-end homes in Newport Beach and Los Angeles.

In recently filed court papers in their divorce case, his wife detailed extravagant holidays in France, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Japan. Avenatti collects artwork and watches, travels by private jet and leases a Ferrari Spider, his wife claimed in the documents.

A part-time race-car driver, Avenatti has competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit.

Michael Avenatti. — Photograph: Hoch Zwei/Corbis/Getty Images.
Michael Avenatti. — Photograph: Hoch Zwei/Corbis/Getty Images.

“Once you've driven 190 miles per hour in the pouring rain, in the middle of the night, down the Mulsanne Straight with prototype cars whizzing by you at 240-plus miles per hour … compared to that, what I'm doing right now is a warm-up lap,” he told Sports Illustrated after the Daniels case vaulted him to fame.

His Porsche race car and white uniform both advertise Tully's Coffee, the Seattle chain that he bought in 2013 for $9 million in a partnership with “Grey's Anatomy” star Patrick Dempsey, a fellow racer.

Avenatti's sideline as coffee entrepreneur turned into a morass of legal and financial trouble. Dempsey sued and withdrew from the deal, saying Avenatti had borrowed $2 million against Tully's assets without telling him. They resolved the dispute out of court.

Keurig Green Mountain, which owns the Tully's brand, claims the chain has missed royalty payments and has moved to revoke its license to use the name. Tully's denied wrongdoing in its court response.

Multiple landlords have sued for back rent or eviction of Tully's stores.

A race car driven by Michael Avenatti. — Photograph: Hoch Zwei/Corbis/Getty Images.
A race car driven by Michael Avenatti. — Photograph: Hoch Zwei/Corbis/Getty Images.

After a gradual shutdown of Tully's outlets, the remaining stores closed a month ago when they nearly ran out of coffee, according to the Seattle Times, but a company spokeswoman said it was simply launching a “rebranding process.”

David Nold, an attorney for one of the landlords, compared Avenatti to Trump. “They sure seem to have a very similar business style,” he said. “Unpaid bills. Taxes owed. Bombastic to a fault when it comes to the facts.”

Avenatti called Nold “an embarrassment to the legal profession.”

“Any claim that problems arose as a result of anything I did or did not do personally is ridiculous and baseless,” he wrote.

He said he divested his interest in Tully's long ago and now serves solely as outside counsel.

In bankruptcy and civil court papers, however, Avenatti claimed a substantial ownership stake in the coffee chain as recently as April 2017, and in July 2017 identified himself as chairman, general counsel and a board of managers member at Global Baristas US, the company that runs Tully's.

A Tully's Coffee in Tacoma, Washington, in March. — Photograph: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press.
A Tully's Coffee in Tacoma, Washington, in March. — Photograph: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press.

At both Tully's and the Eagan Avenatti law firm, unpaid taxes have been a problem for Avenatti.

The Internal Revenue Service put a $5-million lien on Global Baristas US last June, initially naming Avenatti as the person responsible for payment.

The company withheld payroll taxes from employees, but did not transmit the money to the IRS, the government said. The state of Washington has filed more than $800,000 in similar liens against the company.

When Eagan Avenatti emerged last month from an involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy triggered by an unpaid vendor, Avenatti personally agreed to pay the IRS $2.4 million in back taxes, penalties and interest, bankruptcy court records show.

Nearly $1.3 million of that was for payroll taxes that the firm withheld from employees, but failed to turn over to the government.

Avenatti, who was responsible for holding the money in trust for the IRS, has repaid $1.5 million so far, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.

Avenatti attributed the unpaid taxes at Eagan Avenatti and the coffee company to “payroll companies that failed to do their job.”

He called the Los Angeles Times' reporting inaccurate, but said he did not have the time or energy to address further questions about his dealings with the IRS and Tully's.

The IRS also has put a $904,000 lien on all of Avenatti's personal property, due to unpaid 2009 and 2010 income taxes, Orange County records show. Avenatti said it “was placed in error,” no taxes are due and the issue was resolved many months ago. The lien remains open, according to the Orange County clerk-recorder's office.

Avenatti said his taxes and personal life were irrelevant to his role in the Daniels case.

As he tries to resolve his financial troubles, his law practice is getting enormous publicity from the sex scandal. Savannah Guthrie, Wolf Blitzer and Megyn Kelly have each grilled him on television. To buttress his case, for the public if not for the court, he rations out scoops to TV networks.

Avenatti has been especially pointed in attacking Cohen, the long-time Trump personal attorney who set up the shell corporation that paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money just before the 2016 presidential election.

On CNN, he ridiculed Cohen for saying he paid off a woman who never had sex with Trump.

“I would encourage every American tomorrow morning to call … Mr. Cohen, claim you had an affair with the president. They will promptly send you a check for $130,000, no questions asked,” Avenatti said sarcastically.

On Twitter, he rips both Cohen and Schwartz, Cohen's lawyer, punctuating tweets with his customary basta, Italian for enough.

“Where have the two legal geniuses of our time, Michael Cohen and David Schwartz, gone?” he tweeted on Thursday. “Forced to sit down by Mr. Trump after repeatedly making a disaster of their case on national television and being mocked by every real lawyer in America? #didtheygotolawschool #basta.”

Trump responds to Avenatti's provocations mostly with silence, leaving it to his spokesmen and lawyers to fight back.

Schwartz dismissed Avenatti's case as “completely wrong on the merits.”

“But,” Schwartz conceded, “he's an excellent performer.”

• To read this article in Spanish, CLICK HERE.


• Michael Finnegan is a Los Angeles Times politics writer. Since joining the L.A. Times in 2000, he has covered elections for mayor, governor and president, most recently the Donald Trump campaign. In 2011, Finnegan and fellow Los Angeles Times reporter Gale Holland won the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism for articles on rampant waste in the $6-billion rebuilding of Los Angeles community colleges. A Los Angeles native, Finnegan started newspaper work at the Hudson Dispatch in New Jersey. For seven years, he covered city and state politics at the New York Daily News. He plays piano on the side.

• Maura Dolan is the California-based legal affairs writer for the Los Angeles Times. She covers the California Supreme Court and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A California native, she graduated from UC Berkeley and has worked in Washington and Los Angeles for the L.A. Times. She is now based in San Francisco.


Related to this topic:

 • Stormy weather, or how a meeting at a golf resort blew up into a Trump scandal


 on: April 10, 2018, 01:19:55 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times....

Europe Caught in the Middle as Trump Threatens China

The United States is Europe's biggest trading partner, but China is closing fast.
If a trade war breaks out, neutrality may not be an option.

By JACK EWING | 12:05AM EDT — Monday, April 09, 2018

Some European companies, like the German carmaker BMW, manufacture in the United States and export to China. Their sales would suffer if China slaps tariffs on American goods. — Photograph: Christof Stache/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Some European companies, like the German carmaker BMW, manufacture in the United States and export to China. Their sales would suffer
if China slaps tariffs on American goods. — Photograph: Christof Stache/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

FRANKFURT — One is a good customer, a military ally, and an old friend, although lately its behavior has been erratic.

The other is also a good customer and despite a few spats and some lingering mistrust, it's getting to be a more lucrative and dependable business partner all the time.

Which side would you choose?

That more or less sums up the dilemma confronting Europe as it watches the escalating conflict between its two biggest trading partners, the United States and China.

The United States is Europe's biggest market for exports like cars and other goods, not to mention a NATO ally. But China is big, too — and getting ever bigger.

The Trump administration has also threatened the institutions that govern global relationships, calling NATO obsolete and stoking trade tensions. So China no longer automatically seems like the less reliable partner.

European leaders were largely silent after President Trump threatened to impose another $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. But watching from a safe distance as China and the United States argue is not an option for Europe. Its economy is too deeply entwined with both.

“What can they do in terms of staying out of the crossfire?” said Adam Slater, lead economist at Oxford Economics in Britain. “Not a lot.”

Although Mr. Trump's threats are aimed at China, Europe is certain to suffer collateral damage if the president follows through. A spiraling war of tariffs and counter-tariffs would interfere with the global flow of raw materials and components for manufactured goods, disrupting the European economy. And some European companies, like the German carmaker BMW, manufacture in the United States and export to China. Such companies would see their sales suffer if China were to slap tariffs on American goods.

The mere threat of a trade war has already unsettled financial markets and made it more difficult for companies to raise money, Benoît Coeuré, a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, said on Friday. “None of this supports growth and employment,” Mr. Coeuré said at a conference in Cernobbio, Italy.

The Piraeus Container Terminal in Athens is operated by the Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco. In recent years, Chinese investors have snapped up European assets including Greek ports, German machinery companies and a 10 percent stake in the automaker Daimler. — Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/The New York Times.
The Piraeus Container Terminal in Athens is operated by the Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco. In recent years, Chinese investors
have snapped up European assets including Greek ports, German machinery companies and a 10 percent stake in the automaker Daimler.
 — Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/The New York Times .

The disruption to world trade comes at an unfortunate time for Europe. Recent economic indicators suggest that the Continent's recovery, after a decade of crisis, is losing momentum. Industrial production in Germany shrank 1.6 percent in February, according to official data published this week.

But European leaders' biggest fear may be that Mr. Trump's belligerent approach to trade will destroy the post-war system for resolving conflicts, which involved getting all the parties together in one room. Mr. Trump has already succeeded in forcing countries to beg for individual exemptions to steel and aluminum tariffs, bypassing the World Trade Organization, the usual forum for trade disputes.

“He has created an environment to divide countries,” said André Sapir, a senior fellow at Bruegel, a research organization in Brussels. “Maybe we will remember that 2017 was the last year of the functioning of the multilateral system.”

It's possible Europe might enjoy a few short-term benefits as China and the United States duke it out. If, for example, China were to raise tariffs on Boeing airliners, its European rival Airbus could step into the breach. But positive effects of that sort are not likely to outweigh the risks.

European companies have invested far more in the United States over the years than they have in China. But increasingly, China is where the action is. Germany's total trade with China, exports and imports together, is already bigger than it is with the United States. And China is the biggest single market for companies like Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker.

China is also where more German companies are putting their money.

In a poll published on Thursday, 39 percent of German companies questioned said they planned to invest in China this year, up from 37 percent in 2017. The number who said they planned to invest in North America dropped to 35 percent, from 37 percent, according to a survey by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Even so, Europe remains wary of China's intentions. Though European leaders use tamer rhetoric, they share some of Mr. Trump's concerns about unfair competition from Chinese companies that receive government subsidies. They worry that Chinese companies are stealing European technology, and accumulating too much economic power.

In recent years, Chinese investors have snapped up European assets including Greek ports, German machinery companies and a 10 percent stake in the automaker Daimler. The Chinese government's “Made in China 2025” campaign, a plan to dominate cutting-edge industry, is a threat to German companies who supply precision machinery that the Chinese companies are not yet able to manufacture themselves.

Leaders in Brussels, Berlin and Paris have called for tighter scrutiny of Chinese acquisitions in Europe, though it is unclear how tough they will be.

A blast furnace in Salzgitter, Germany. Europe's most immediate preoccupation is to resolve its own trade disputes with Mr. Trump. The European commissioner for trade is negotiating with the U.S. commerce secretary about winning a permanent exemption from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. — Photograph: David Hecker/European Pressphoto Agency/via Shutterstock.
A blast furnace in Salzgitter, Germany. Europe's most immediate preoccupation is to resolve its own trade disputes with Mr. Trump.
The European commissioner for trade is negotiating with the U.S. commerce secretary about winning a permanent exemption
from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. — Photograph: David Hecker/European Pressphoto Agency/via Shutterstock.

At the same time, Europe and the United States have been through a lot together, most notably the Cold War. Both are multi-party democracies with free market economies, unlike China's one-party autocracy. And European and American historical and cultural ties go back centuries.

Still, a trade war could push Europe closer to China.

Europe's most immediate preoccupation is to resolve its own trade disputes with Mr. Trump. Cecilia Malmstrom, the European commissioner for trade, is negotiating with Wilbur Ross, the United States commerce secretary, about winning a permanent exemption from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. A temporary exemption to the tariffs expires on May 1.

Ms. Malmstrom and other European leaders have also made plain their unhappiness with what they see as Mr. Trump's crusade to undermine the World Trade Organization as the arbiter of trade conflicts. They may see China as a potential ally in efforts to preserve the W.T.O., of which China is also a member.

“The E.U. believes that measures should always be taken within the World Trade Organization framework which provides numerous tools to effectively deal with trade differences,” a spokesperson for the European Commission said in a statement.

For the moment, there is little Europe can do but hope that Mr. Trump's bluster is just a tactic to win concessions from China, and that no trade war will break out. There are few other good options.

Mr. Sapir of Bruegel argues that, longer term, Europe should push for reforms of the trade body to respond to American criticism that the organization is too slow moving, and has failed to curb unfair competition by China. Mr. Trump is unlikely to take much interest in fixing the global trade regime rather than ignoring it, Mr. Sapir said, but it's still worth a try.

“That is the only structural solution,” Mr. Sapir said. “Otherwise we will always be caught in between.”


• Jack Ewing writes about business, banking, economics and monetary policy from Frankfurt, and sometimes helps out on terrorism coverage and other breaking news. Mr. Ewing joined The International Herald Tribune, now the international edition of The New York Times, in 2010. Previously, he worked for a decade at BusinessWeek magazine in Frankfurt, where he was European regional editor. He first came to Europe in 1993 as a German Marshall Fund journalism fellow in Brussels, and wound up staying permanently. Mr. Ewing won a New York Times publisher's award in 2011 for coverage of the European debt crisis. He is the author of Faster, Higher, Farther: The Volkswagen Scandal, published in 2017 by W.W. Norton.


Related to this topic:

 • Trump Aims New Threat at China as Mnuchin Warns of Trade War

 • U.S. and China Play Chicken on Trade, and Neither Swerves

 • U.S. Exempts Some Allies From Tariffs, but May Opt for Quotas

 • Wary of China, Europe and Others Push Back on Foreign Takeovers


 on: April 08, 2018, 03:33:31 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

He said if Trump were to confess to an affair and say he's sorry if he's guilty, the country would be forgiving.

“I think seeing pornographic actresses being with the president could indeed suppress the evangelical vote,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. “In my circles, people want to live in a world where the president and a porn star are not on the news every night. I really don't want to explain again to my middle-school daughter what spanking and the president have to do with one another.”

 on: April 08, 2018, 01:07:32 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The Washington Post....

A planned space hotel hopes to welcome guests by 2022
 — for a cost of almost $800,000 a night

The hotel will accommodate up to four travelers and two crew members at a time, the company says.

By MARWA ELTAGOURI | 9:55PM EDT — Friday, April 06, 2018

Artist's rendering of the proposed Aurora Station hotel. — Illustration: Orion Span.
Artist's rendering of the proposed Aurora Station hotel. — Illustration: Orion Span.

LOOKING FOR a getaway that offers unmatched views of sunrises and sunsets? Specifically, 384 of them in 12 days?

Try outer space.

Houston-based Orion Span hopes to launch the “first luxury hotel in space” — the 35-by-14-foot Aurora Station — by late 2021 and bring guests on board the following year. The hotel will accommodate up to four travelers and two crew members at a time, racing them around the planet at high speeds for 12 days, the company said in a news release.

Adventurers pay $9.5 million per person — or about $791,666 a night — and their $80,000 deposit can already be reserved online, company officials said. But don't fear: The deposit is fully refundable.

“We want to get people into space because it's the final frontier for our civilization,” Orion Span's founder and chief executive, Frank Bunger, told Bloomberg.

Bunger said that one reason Orion Span can aim for a price of less than $10 million per person is because of the declining price of launches.

“Everybody's forecasting that [launch prices are] going to fall,” he told Bloomberg. “Almost every week, there's another rocket-launch company that's starting up with a new way to get to orbit cheaper, faster, better.”

Orion Span's announcement of a luxury hotel in space comes amid a revival of the commercial space industry. The launch of Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center in February, for example, was the latest in a series of milestones that have renewed companies' interest in space.

The launch raised the question of whether SpaceX and other private enterprises could maintain their momentum and fulfill the promise of returning humans to space. That likelihood could increase as the Trump administration looks to restructure the role of NASA, allowing private enterprise and international partners to work closely with the space agency.

Orion Span's proposed hotel offers plenty of attractions: zero-gravity flying throughout the station, views of patrons' home towns from space, the ability to take part in research experiments such as growing food while in orbit, and live-streams with friends and family at home through high-speed Internet.

Since commercial spaceflight has yet to launch humans into space, Aurora Station visitors will have three months of training, which would begin with online courses to better understand “basic spaceflight, orbital mechanics, and pressurized environments in space,” officials told Bloomberg. The guests will also have contingency training at the company's headquarters in Houston.

“Orion Span has … taken what was historically a 24-month training regimen to prepare travelers to visit a space station and streamlined it to three months, at a fraction of the cost,” company officials said. “Our goal is to make space accessible to all, by continuing to drive greater value at lower cost.”

Bunger, a former software engineer, told Bloomberg that the experience won't be for everyone. The Aurora Station will mainly cater to those who are passionate about space and astronomical study.

“We're not selling a hey-let's-go-to-the-beach equivalent in space,” Bunger said. “We're selling the experience of being an astronaut. You reckon that there are people who are willing to pay to have that experience.”


Christian Davenport contributed to this report.

• Marwa Eltagouri is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. She previously worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, where she covered crime, immigration and neighborhood change.


Related to this topic:

 • The crowds are back. Now can the space industry build on the momentum?


 on: April 08, 2018, 12:39:22 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times....

U.S. and China Play Chicken on Trade, and Neither Swerves

How far will trade threats go? It may just be a start — victory could be difficult to verify, much less
achieve, as the U.S. protests Beijing's effort to re-tool Chinese industries for the 21st century.

By KEITH BRADSHER | 8:37PM EDT — Friday, April 06, 2018

China wants to create a commercial aircraft maker to rival Boeing or Airbus. — Photograph: Carlos Lemos/Reuters.
China wants to create a commercial aircraft maker to rival Boeing or Airbus. — Photograph: Carlos Lemos/Reuters.

SHANGHAI — At the heart of the intensifying trade dispute between the United States and China is a fundamental question: Which country is more willing to endure short-term pain for the long-term gain of playing a leading role in high-tech industries.

China has embarked on an aggressive and expensive plan to re-tool its economy for the future as it moves to dominate in robotics, aerospace, artificial intelligence and more. President Trump has said China's approach relies on unfair and predatory practices, and on stolen American technology. And even as Chinese leaders say they want to avoid a trade war, they are staunchly defending their plans and showing little sign of backing down.

Mr. Trump's threat to sharply escalate the administration's tariffs on Chinese imports — a threat he reiterated on Friday — shows that neither side has yet gone far enough to persuade the other to compromise. Bigger and broader tariffs may be necessary to get China's attention.

“The administration, if it's serious, better be prepared for much more,” said Derek Scissors, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

China's $300 billion plan for government assistance, Made in China 2025, calls for helping cutting-edge industries by providing low-interest loans from state-controlled banks, guaranteeing large market shares in China and offering extensive research subsidies. The goal is to help Chinese firms acquire Western competitors, develop advanced technology and construct immense factories with considerable economies of scale.

It is an agenda that China would probably go to great lengths to protect. “We will not start a war — however, if someone starts a war, we will definitely fight back,” Gao Feng, the commerce ministry spokesman, said at a news conference in Beijing on Friday. “No options will be ruled out.”

For the United States, victory in such a war would be difficult to verify, much less achieve.

China could say it plans to ease back on government support. But that could be difficult to quantify because of the country's opaque political system and the state's control of information.

China could back off from rules that favor local competitors and require American companies to share technology if they want access to the Chinese market. For example, foreign automakers face pressure to transfer electric-car technology to their local partners, and foreign technology companies are increasingly required to submit to security reviews. Foreign businesses have long complained that many of the rules they must follow are unwritten.

China wants to dominate cutting-edge industries like electric cars. — Photograph: Gary Cameron/Reuters.
China wants to dominate cutting-edge industries like electric cars. — Photograph: Gary Cameron/Reuters.

China's government-financed campaign is already paying off in some ways. Drive into downtown Shanghai from Pudong International Airport and you pass a seemingly endless series of huge hangars and vast, glass-walled design centers, all part of the country's effort to create a commercial aircraft manufacturing giant to rival Boeing or Airbus. Travel to factory districts in Shanghai and on the outskirts of many other Chinese cities and you see enormous, newly built factories ready to churn out electric cars, the batteries they use and other components.

Proving that the Chinese government unfairly supports the effort could be difficult, however.

The United States could press its argument with the World Trade Organization, which oversees global trading rules and prohibits big loans from government-controlled banks at artificially low interest rates. But the W.T.O. requires many contracts and government documents to prove cases, evidence that can be hard to get in a tightly controlled country like China.

Even when the W.T.O. rules against China, persuading the country to comply can be challenging. One such ruling, involving China's restrictions on foreign electronic payment systems, was issued nearly six years ago. China is still mulling how it will comply — despite numerous complaints from the Obama administration and more recent nudges from the Trump administration.

So the United States has turned to tariffs. That means it is using a 1980s tool to address an industrial policy issue that is already shaping the 21st century.

Mr. Trump's top trade official, Robert Lighthizer, was a deputy United States trade representative under President Ronald Reagan. The tariffs that Mr. Lighthizer threatened against Japan in those days are among the same ones he is wielding now. But the two periods differ in two big ways.

One is that Japan depended on the United States in the '80s for military protection from the Soviet Union. China, by contrast, is an increasingly assertive global rival, sending naval vessels to the Baltic Sea and building a naval base in East Africa.

The second major difference between then and now is that the European Union deeply resented the tariffs of the 1980s, and Mr. Trump's use of them could make it difficult to persuade European officials to present a united front. In response to American tariffs, Beijing could simply shift business from American companies like Boeing and Ford to European rivals like Airbus and Daimler.

Chinese officials dispute the American accusations about their unfair trade practices. They say Mr. Trump's tariffs violate W.T.O. rules, and they dispute claims that China forces American companies to hand over technology. As for Made in China 2025, Chinese officials say the plan is only guidance, not a government directive — and that foreign companies are free to participate, too.

China is already a major force in solar panels. — Photograph: China Network/Reuters.
China is already a major force in solar panels. — Photograph: China Network/Reuters.

In China's current industrial policy, the Trump administration sees an extension of how the country has already come to dominate one major industry of the future: solar power.

Mr. Trump himself is no fan of solar panels. He has spoken enthusiastically about coal, not renewable energy, throughout his campaign and his presidency. But the solar power industry is one of the biggest success stories so far in China's efforts involving advanced industries.

The United States played a central role in developing solar panels and manufacturing them until a decade ago. Around then, the Chinese government decided to finance a lavish expansion of the sector. State-controlled banks lent tens of billions of dollars at low interest rates despite the high-profile bankruptcies of solar manufacturers.

Chinese firms now produce three-quarters of the world's solar panels. Most American and European companies have closed factories, and many have become insolvent. China's success in producing solar panels has given Beijing a blueprint for seizing the lead in a long list of other high-tech industries.

Many foreign companies are caught between China's industrial ambitions and Washington's efforts to stop them, including major aerospace companies and car-makers. The conflict may spread: Made in China 2025 could create major competitors to General Electric and Intel, and to companies outside the United States like Siemens and Samsung.

Tariffs could hurt such companies if the United States and China follow through on their plans. They also risk losing their competitiveness if Beijing succeeds in subsidizing the creation of large Chinese rivals in their industries.

Boeing, for example, could be hit by American tariffs on civilian aircraft parts it buys from Avic, a state-controlled Chinese military and aviation company — required purchases if the company, which is based in Chicago, wants to sell planes in China. China, in turn, is pushing a consortium that includes Avic to become a Boeing rival. Boeing, like other multi-national companies, has refrained from endorsing or criticizing the tariffs.

“Although our members are unhappy with retaliatory tariffs being used,” said Kenneth Jarrett, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, “there is a belief that greater pressure has to be brought to bear on China.”


Ailin Tang contributed research for this article.

• Keith Bradsher is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Shanghai bureau chief for The New York Times, having reopened the Shanghai bureau on November 14th, 2016. He has previously served as the Hong Kong bureau chief and the Detroit bureau chief for The Times. Before those postings, he was a Washington correspondent for The Times covering the Federal Reserve and international trade, and a New York-based business reporter covering transportation and telecommunications for The Times. Born in 1964, Mr. Bradsher received a degree in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar. He received a master's degree in public policy with a concentration in economics from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Prior to joining The New York Times, Mr. Bradsher wrote for the Los Angeles Times from 1987 until 1989.


Related to this topic:

 • China's Plan to Build Its Own High-Tech Industries Worries Western Businesses

 • Goldman Sachs's China Deal Prompts Questions About Country's U.S. Investment

 • China's Technology Ambitions Could Upset the Global Trade Order


 on: April 08, 2018, 12:39:10 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times....

More Jobs, Faster Growth and Now, the Threat of a Trade War

Trade War Fears Dull Fed Chief's Focus on Health of Economy: In his inaugural speech,
the new Fed chairman tried to focus on the strength of the economy
even as a spiraling tariff battle with China spooked investors.

By BEN CASSELMAN and JIM TANKERSLEY | 8:16PM EDT — Friday, April 06, 2018

Jerome H. Powell, the new Federal Reserve chairman, on Friday visited a Chicago incubator for industrial start-ups, highlighting the role of manufacturing in the recovery. — Photograph: Lyndon French/The New York Times.
Jerome H. Powell, the new Federal Reserve chairman, on Friday visited a Chicago incubator for industrial start-ups, highlighting
the role of manufacturing in the recovery. — Photograph: Lyndon French/The New York Times.

THE rapidly escalating trade conflict with China has up-ended the prevailing economic dynamic of falling unemployment and faster growth, leaving policymakers and investors scrambling to figure out the way forward.

The threat of a trade war loomed over Jerome H. Powell's inaugural speech as Federal Reserve chairman on Friday in Chicago, even as he tried to focus attention on the fundamental strength of the American economy. Financial markets fell Friday morning after President Trump's latest salvo against China, then tumbled further after Mr. Powell indicated that the Fed saw no imminent need to adjust its outlook. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index ended the day down 2.2 percent, closing a turbulent week.

And there was uncertainty in Washington, where lawmakers, lobbyists and even White House officials struggled to discern how much of Mr. Trump's move was policy and how much was bluster.

The president acknowledged that the trade friction could take a toll. “I'm not saying there won’t be a little pain,” he said in a radio interview on Friday. “But we're going to have a much stronger country when we're finished.”

The concern over trade was evident at Mr. Powell's appearance before the Economic Club of Chicago. The Fed chief did not mention tariffs in his speech, but in a question-and-answer session afterward, they were the first topic raised.

The Fed chief, who took his post in February, said it was “too early to say” what impact the dueling trade measures would have. “We don't know the extent to which the tariffs will actually come into effect and, if so, how big will that effect be and what will the timing of it be,” Mr. Powell said. But he made it clear that the Fed would watch closely for any sign that the trade dispute was knocking the recovery off course.

The trade tensions complicate what was already a tricky task for the Fed. Hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts and spending increases risk fueling inflation, as do wage pressures from a robust labor market. The government's monthly jobs report on Friday, while more subdued than in recent months, still pointed to a healthy employment picture.

Yet policymakers are wary of acting too aggressively to slow the economy at a time when wage growth has been tepid. The Fed's response has been gradual interest-rate increases.

A trade war could act as a drag on economic growth, forcing the Fed to be even more cautious. But tariffs could also raise consumer prices by limiting cheap imports from China and other countries. That could increase the risk that the Fed will lift rates too quickly, choking off the recovery.

“There's an immediate, knee-jerk reaction to tighten policy more,” said Ellen Zentner, chief United States economist for Morgan Stanley.

The latest escalation between the United States and China came on Thursday evening, when Mr. Trump said he was considering tariffs on an additional $100 billion of Chinese imports. That came on top of the tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed last month and those on $50 billion in Chinese goods that he proposed in recent days. China has responded with its own new tariffs.

It is not clear whether Mr. Trump will make good on his latest threats. Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump's new top economic adviser, has sought to portray the tariffs as an opening bid in a negotiating process with China, and he told reporters on Friday that “there are all kinds of back-channel discussions going on.”

But Mr. Trump's Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, indicated that tensions had reached a more combustible level. “There is the potential of a trade war,” Mr. Mnuchin said during Friday on CNBC. “There is a level of risk that we could get into a trade war.”

The trade upheaval threatens to undermine an American economy that is at its strongest point since the financial crisis struck a decade ago. Employers have added jobs for 90 consecutive months, by far the longest streak on record; the unemployment rate, at 4.1 percent, is the lowest since 2000.

“The labor market has been strong, and my colleagues and I on the Federal Open Market Committee expect it to remain strong,” Mr. Powell said on Friday, referring to the Fed's policy group.

Imported soybeans being unloaded in Nantong, China. In response to President Trump's trade salvos, China proposed new tariffs on American soybeans, which could hurt farmers already struggling with low prices for their crops. — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Imported soybeans being unloaded in Nantong, China. In response to President Trump's trade salvos, China proposed new tariffs
on American soybeans, which could hurt farmers already struggling with low prices for their crops.
 — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

Wage growth, weak for much of the recovery, ticked up in March, and Mr. Powell said he expected the gains to continue in the months ahead. And while workers would, without a doubt, like to see their pay rise more quickly, the gradual pace is comforting for some investors, who have been watching for any hints that the economy is overheating.

In his speech, Mr. Powell said the Fed saw “other signs of economic strength,” citing “steady income gains, rising household wealth and elevated consumer confidence,” which he said would continue to support consumer spending.

Other economists agreed, saying that the recently passed tax and spending measures give the economy added momentum. A full-blown trade war might be enough to short-circuit the recovery, they said, but isolated tariffs — even large ones — most likely are not.

Certain categories are more vulnerable. Among the retaliatory moves announced by China are new tariffs on soybeans, which could hurt American farmers already struggling with low prices for their crops.

The nation's factories, a sector that Mr. Trump has championed, have become a bright spot in the recovery — a development Mr. Powell underlined on his Chicago visit by touring an incubator for industrial start-ups. But Mr. Trump's tariffs could force manufacturers to pay more for materials, and China's countermeasures could hurt their overseas sales.

Just the prospect of tariffs — even before they begin to take a direct bite — could hurt the economy if it makes corporate executives reluctant to invest.

Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup, a staffing firm, said she was already hearing from clients that they are more hesitant to commit to major projects, at least until they see whether this week's skirmishes develop into an all-out trade war.

“We're not seeing the impact directly of tariffs yet, but we would say there's pretty broad conservatism as a result,” she said.

Mr. Powell said Fed policymakers, too, were conscious of concerns from corporate executives.

“We did hear from a number of business leaders around the country that changes in trade policy had become a bit of a risk to the medium-term outlook,” Mr. Powell said in the question-and-answer session.

Continued turmoil in financial markets could begin to hurt spending, especially among higher earners, who are more likely to own stocks. Ms. Zentner said surveys suggested that some high-income consumers had already become more pessimistic as markets have become more volatile.

“It's starting to affect those groups, whose spending is more tied to the stock market,” Ms. Zentner said. “If they simply pause their spending or become more prudent in their spending because of market volatility, it drags down consumer spending in the aggregate.”

The effect of all this on the Fed's thinking won't be clear until the next policy meeting on May 1 and 2. Fed officials raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point at their most recent meeting, in March, to a range of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent. Officials indicated that they considered the economy and labor market healthy, and that they expected to raise rates twice more this year and three times in 2019.

Mr. Powell, like his predecessor, Janet L. Yellen, cast that gradual series of increases as a carefully planned strategy to ensure that the Fed will not need to raise rates abruptly in the event of a steep rise in inflation. But he also cautioned that policymakers could change course if necessary.

“Our views about appropriate monetary policy in the months and years ahead will be informed by incoming economic data and the evolving outlook,” Mr. Powell said. “If the outlook changes, so will monetary policy. Our over-arching objective will remain the same: fostering a strong economy for all Americans — one that provides plentiful jobs and low and stable inflation.”


• Ben Casselman writes about economics and other business topics for The New York Times, with a particular focus on stories involving data. He previously served as chief economics writer for the data-journalism web site FiveThirtyEight, and before that as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Casselman won a Loeb Award in 2011 for his coverage of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and was part of a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. A graduate of Columbia University, Mr. Casselman lives in New York with his wife.

• Jim Tankersley covers economic policy for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, he wrote for National Journal, covering the breakdown in American job creation, the decline in economic mobility and the failure of policy makers to adapt to an increasingly complex set of global economic challenges. He has also worked at the Tribune Washington Bureau, the Toledo Blade, the Rocky Mountain News and The Oregonian. Jim and a colleague at the Toledo Blade won the 2007 Livingston Award for Young Journalists for their “Business as Usual” series of stories revealing the true roots of Ohio's economic decline. He was also part of the “Coingate” team at the Toledo Blade that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


 on: April 08, 2018, 12:37:04 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The Washington Post....

Evangelicals are planning a high-profile meeting with Trump

Some evangelicals are worried about turnout in the mid-term elections.

By SARAH PULLIAM BAILEY and JULIE ZAUZMER | 6:28PM EDT — Friday, April 06, 2018

President Donald J. Trump greets the Reverend Robert Jeffress during the at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington on July 1st, 2017. — Photograph: Olivier Douliery/European Pressphoto Agency.
President Donald J. Trump greets the Reverend Robert Jeffress during the at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington on July 1st, 2017.
 — Photograph: Olivier Douliery/European Pressphoto Agency.

PRESIDENT TRUMP's evangelical advisers are planning a meeting between him and as many as 1,000 evangelical pastors later this spring, according to one of the leading advisers, Johnnie Moore, and several other people involved. The meeting will fall at a time when some prominent evangelical leaders are nervous that a dramatically lower number of conservative Christian voters will turn out for this fall's mid-term elections, as a president embraced by evangelical voters is enmeshed in a high-profile sex scandal.

The group organizing the pastors' meeting with Trump consists primarily of white evangelicals, who have had regular access to the White House during Trump's term unlike other U.S. faith groups. The details of the gathering, which was first reported by NPR, aren't nailed down, but several people who have had discussions about attending the event say that the Trump International Hotel in June has been proposed as a venue and time.

Most of the pastors who would be invited are supporters of Trump's positions on abortion, Israel and churches' ability to endorse political candidates. But some of these evangelical leaders say that recent implications of sexual immorality have cast a shadow among “values voters” over the administration's policy achievements — especially the claim by porn star Stormy Daniels that she was paid off by Trump's lawyer to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

Florida mega-church pastor Paula White, one of the organizers of the summit, said the plan is to celebrate the president's accomplishments and identify priorities for the future. White said in a text message that there has been “zero talk” about Daniels.

Moore, a spokesman for the unofficial group of evangelical advisers who visit Trump at the White House, said he has sat in on several meetings about planning the gathering. “I'm certain there wouldn't be this quizzing of the president on various things. If anything, I think it would be a celebration of the various policy achievements of this administration,” he said. “The administration, from the perspective of religious liberty and the sanctity of human life, has achieved so much, so quickly.”

The meeting appears to be an effort to keep the bond close between Trump and this particular slice of U.S. evangelical leadership — to show him deference and praise while reminding him of their priorities, and to make a public splash the way a similar meeting did in early 2016, ostensibly to remind American Christians that there are hundreds of pastors who say Trump deserves their vote.

At the 2016 gathering, when Trump met with pastors in New York City, he promised he would end a ban on churches' ability to endorse candidates and would appoint anti-abortion Supreme Court justices. During that meeting, pastors had a chance to ask the then-candidate questions.

There is a range of opinions among participating pastors about what should take place during this meeting. Some said the meeting is mainly about praising the president and thanking him, and there are no plans to mention the words “Stormy Daniels”. Others said Christian conservatives behind the scenes are panicked that evangelical voters, discouraged by sex scandal stories, will lose enthusiasm for voting in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Bob Vander Plaats, the president of conservative group the Family Leader in Iowa, who has been asked to serve on a committee for the meeting, said Trump has done more for evangelicals than any other administration in recent history. But news events threaten to cloud Trump's accomplishments and cause people “angst,” he said. He listed stories about Daniels, Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal's allegations of an affair with the president and the on-going Russia investigation. He also criticized Trump's profanity in his recent comments railing against the mainstream media, when the president called NBC's “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd a “sleeping son of a bitch”.

“We're in this environment of unease, definitely among evangelicals. But it's broader than that,” he said, saying he thinks it could affect the mid-term elections.

He said if Trump were to confess to an affair and say he's sorry if he's guilty, the country would be forgiving.

“As people of faith, we should cheer him on when he does right,” he said. “But when he goes outside the boundaries, when he needs a voice of accountability, we also need to be a voice of accountability. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

White evangelicals have been among Trump's most loyal voters, and polls suggest they continue to strongly support him. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted between March 7th to 14th, 78 percent of them approve of his job performance, about double what Americans as a whole say of the president's job performance.

Moore said that Daniels's allegations have not changed evangelicals' strongly positive approval of Trump and his presidency. He declined to say if any evangelical leaders have discussed the affair with Trump in their pastoral capacity, but he said that in their role as political advisers, he is not aware that any of them have brought it up on their frequent visits to the White House.

Trump's evangelical supporters are not surprised by any licentiousness in his past, Moore said. “There wasn't any kind of illusion of piety,” he said. “[The evangelical vote] was a conversation about policy priorities that they thought were moral and were righteous.”

Evangelical leaders have praised Trump for several moves they had hoped for, including appointing Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, nominating conservative judges to appeals courts and announcing that he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, who has participated in organizing meetings for the gathering, said there might be some “sidebar conversations” about the president's alleged affairs, but it would not be the focus of the gathering.

Nance said that when the Access Hollywood tapes came out, showing Trump describing his attempt to seduce a married women and speaking in crude terms, she thought he was going to lose the election. But voters knew what they were getting and still elected him.

“In a weird way, that [tape] helps him,” she said. “It's not the shock and awe you'd expect because so much came out in advance…. He's not a Bible-banging evangelical. He doesn't pretend to be one of us. People appreciate that.”

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, said that the evangelicals he's speaking with are not talking about the president's sex life. Instead, he said, people are upset with Congress for continuing to fund Planned Parenthood and not providing funding for the border wall.

“The fact that Trump has a past was already baked into the equation when people voted in November,” he said.

But some evangelical leaders do say the recent focus on Trump's alleged affairs could be damaging in the upcoming election.

“I think seeing pornographic actresses being with the president could indeed suppress the evangelical vote,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. “In my circles, people want to live in a world where the president and a porn star are not on the news every night. I really don't want to explain again to my middle-school daughter what spanking and the president have to do with one another.”

Chad Connelly, who led faith engagement for the Republican Party for five years, said that many evangelicals believe the media failed to investigate President Bill Clinton's indiscretions as vigorously as they have pursued Trump's past. “They see hypocrisy, and it makes them want to defend the guy,” he said.

But Connelly, who runs the ministry Faith Wins that aims to get Christians to participate in politics, is concerned about the mid-term elections, where he sees enthusiasm lacking among conservative voters. “The enthusiasm gap is very real,” he said. “We take people for granted.”

Evangelical voters made up about a quarter of the electorate in the 2016 election, and David Lane, who does get-out-the-vote activism among conservative Christian voters, said he believes that number could be cut by at least half this year. But he said that the Daniels story doesn't dissuade voters because it happened 12 years ago. “If he were to do something stupid and sinful and we find out he's pulling that stuff in the White House? It's over,” he said.

Ahead of the mid-terms, Lane said he's focused on states where Trump performed well: Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, Montana and West Virginia. Recently he helped organize a pastors' gathering in Missouri that featured popular Christian speakers Eric Metaxas, Os Guinness and David Barton.

“With evangelicals, you don't have to tell them how to vote,” he said. “They're conservatives — they know how to vote. The problem is getting them out.”


Michelle Boorstein and Scott Clement contributed to this report.

• Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a religion reporter, covering how faith intersects with politics and culture for The Washington Post. She runs Acts of Faith, The Post's religion blog. Before joining The Washington Post, she was a national correspondent based in New York City for Religion News Service. She was also online editor of Christianity Today magazine. During college, she edited Wheaton College's student newspaper and interned at four daily newspapers.

• Julie Zauzmer is a religion reporter for The Washington Post. She previously covered local news at The Post and at the Philadelphia Inquirer.


 on: April 08, 2018, 12:33:19 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times....

EDITORIAL: Putting Trump's Trade Bombast to the Test

The president's rhetoric suggests he's moving America toward a trade war with China.
But what will he actually do?

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | 7:55PM EDT — Friday, April 06, 2018

Illustration: Michael George Haddad.
Illustration: Michael George Haddad.

PRESIDENT TRUMP's recent threat to escalate his trade skirmish with China into a full-scale trade war is a foolish gambit with little historical precedent. It is also hard to take seriously, given how quickly Mr. Trump changes his mind and how rarely and clumsily he tends to follow through on tough talk.

Mr. Trump said on Thursday that he wants to slap tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese imports in response to Beijing's plan to retaliate against an earlier American proposal that was aimed at $50 billion in Chinese goods. The president also said he was seeking ways to protect American farmers hurt by Chinese retaliation — a move that could result in fresh trade fights with other countries as they seek to defend their farmers from subsidized American grain.

If you're confused or shocked by these announcements, you are not alone. Most experts say that a trade war between the world's two largest economies would hurt American businesses, farmers and workers whose profits and livelihoods depend in part on commerce with China. That's probably why the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell more than 2 percent on Friday.

Historians say there is little precedent for Mr. Trump's direct and forceful targeting of China. The last time a president used trade policy to hurt specific nations was when Thomas Jefferson and Congress restricted trade with Britain and France in the early 1800s, said Douglas Irwin, an economics professor at Dartmouth College who recently published a history of American trade policy. Those trade battles ended up leading to the War of 1812. “We haven't seen anything like this in centuries,” he said.

Even the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariffs that Congress enacted in 1930 were put in place to protect struggling domestic industries and farmers, not to penalize specific countries. Of course, those tariffs did not quite work as intended, because other countries moved to shield their own economies by raising tariffs, too. Experts now believe those trade policies probably exacerbated the Great Depression.

Mr. Trump's bombast is so odd that it has scrambled the usual politics of trade. Many Republican lawmakers, including those who support him on most issues, have come out strongly against him on trade. For example, Pat Roberts, a senator from Kansas, said the impact of the president's threats against China was “disconcerting”, and Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said American farmers and ranchers “would bear the brunt of retaliation” by China. At the same time, Mr. Trump has won praise from some Democrats, like Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who are opposed to many other Trump policies.

The big question now is what Mr. Trump will actually do. Some officials — like Larry Kudlow, the former cable-TV pundit who recently became the top economic adviser in the White House — are trying to tamp down talk of a trade war, and say the administration is using the threat of tariffs to get China to the negotiating table. To Mr. Kudlow's way of thinking, the Trump strategy is similar to how President Ronald Reagan got Japan to voluntarily limit exports to the United States in the 1980s by threatening to impose steep tariffs.

There is a strong case to be made that the United States needs to do all it can to get Chinese officials to change economic policies that have hurt American businesses and workers. For example, officials in Beijing have forced foreign businesses to transfer technology to local joint-venture partners as a condition of doing business in China. China for many years also artificially depressed the value of its currency, the renminbi, against the dollar to make its clothes, electronics and other products more affordable to American consumers.

But it is hard to see this administration striking an effective and comprehensive deal with China. That's because Mr. Trump and his officials seem incapable of putting in the time and hard work required to hammer out such agreements with other countries or political adversaries. They have also displayed little of the finesse and diplomacy needed to strike international deals.

Consider, for example, the trade deal the administration struck with South Korea last month. Experts say that it will do little to increase American exports to that country and will only modestly reduce imports to the United States. A day after formally announcing that agreement, Mr. Trump said he might delay it in an effort to pressure North Korea to reach a deal on its nuclear weapons. That about-face would no doubt make other countries reluctant to reach an agreement with this president — they could never be sure if a deal was a deal.

Or take the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the Trump administration has been renegotiating for months. American officials have apparently walked back from some of their most aggressive demands in recent talks, The New York Times recently reported. Those changes might make it easier to get agreements with Canada and Mexico. But they could leave many domestic groups disappointed with Mr. Trump — as were many of the workers at Carrier whose jobs he claims to have saved early in his presidency but who were eventually laid off anyway. Some Democratic lawmakers, American labor unions and other groups that theoretically support Mr. Trump's tougher trade policies are worried that their priorities, like a provision requiring Mexico to improve labor rights for factory workers, will not be included in a new trade agreement.

Mr. Trump has dramatically raised the stakes on trade with his brash pronouncements about tariffs. But there's little cause to hope he and his team can deliver the big economic gains that they argue can come only from such a combative approach.


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