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Post by thelivyjr »





"Kudlow says White House ‘taking a look’ at regulating Google searches"

By Robert Schroeder

Published: Aug 28, 2018 4:09 p.m. ET

Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, said Tuesday the administration is “taking a look” at whether Google searches should be regulated, hours after Trump complained on Twitter about search results.

In a pair of morning tweets, the president said Alphabet Inc.’s Google search results for “Trump News” showed only “the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media.”

The origin of the president’s complaints appears to be an article from the right-wing blog PJ Media headlined “96 Percent of Google Search Results for ‘Trump’ News Are from Liberal Media Outlets.”

Google spokesperson Riva Sciuto said “search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”

In his tweets, Trump said “Illegal?” and wrote that the company is “controlling what we can & cannot see."

"This is a very serious situation—will be addressed!”

Neither Trump nor Kudlow gave specifics of how the administration would address the issue.

The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“We’ll let you know,” Kudlow said in a brief appearance outside the White House.

“When Google returns search hits that you don’t like, that doesn’t make it illegal,” Professor Ari Waldman of New York Law School told MarketWatch.

Google’s Sciuto said, “every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries."

"We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

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Post by thelivyjr »


"U.S. trade deficit widens in July to highest in five months"

By Greg Robb

Published: Aug 28, 2018 10:11 a.m. ET

The numbers:

An early look at trade patterns in July showed a widening in the nation’s trade deficit to the highest level in five months, perhaps a sign that growth will slow down a little in the third quarter from the torrid pace in the April-June period.

The trade gap in goods — services are excluded — rose 6.3% to $72.2 billion from a revised $67.9 billion in June, the government said Tuesday.

That’s the highest rate since February.

Economists were looking for the deficit to widen somewhat less, to $69.4 billion.

The government will release overall trade numbers next week, but the size of the deficit is tied to changes in exports and imports of goods.

Services don’t change much month to month.

An advanced look at wholesale inventories estimated a 0.7% increase in July.

And an early look at retail inventories estimated a 0.4% increase.

What happened:

There were widespread reductions in exports in July, which fell for the second month in a row.

Exports of capital goods and consumer goods help pace the month’s losses.

At the same time, the gains in imports were across the board, with the only monthly drop for consumer goods.

The big picture:

For all of President Trump’s focus on the trade deficit, it remains on a steadily widening trajectory.

The trade gap is about 7% wider year-to-date compared with the corresponding period in 2017, said Oren Klachkin, economist at Oxford Economics.

A strong U.S. economy is drawing in imports.

On the other hand, the global economy has softened after a strong start in the year.

Exports are also being held down by the rising dollar.

The U.S.-Mexico agreement reached Monday has led to hopes that the various ongoing trade disputes with China and others would devolve into trade wars.

What they are saying:

The decline in exports could also be some retaliation on U.S. goods from the Trump administration’s tough global trade negotiation stance, said Robert Brusca, chief economist at FAO Economics.

Market reaction:

Stocks were set to open higher a day after the U.S. and Mexico announced their deal.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose in early trading.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-tr ... 2018-08-28
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Post by thelivyjr »


And so ...


"Trump, without evidence, blames China for hacking Clinton emails"

29 AUGUST 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter early on Wednesday China hacked the emails of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton but did not offer any evidence or further information.

"Hillary Clinton’s Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China."

"Next move better be by the FBI & DOJ or, after all of their other missteps (Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA, Dirty Dossier etc.), their credibility will be forever gone!" he tweeted a little after midnight on Wednesday.

Trump said in an earlier tweet on Tuesday night: "China hacked Hillary Clinton’s private Email Server."

"Are they sure it wasn’t Russia (just kidding!)?"

"What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this?"

"Actually, a very big story."

"Much classified information!"

U.S. intelligence officials have said Russia orchestrated the hacking of Democratic officials to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.

A U.S. federal grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in July on charges of hacking the computer networks of Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and whether the campaign of Republican candidate Trump colluded with Moscow.

Russia denies meddling in the elections, while Trump has denied any collusion.

Trump said in April 2017 China may have hacked the emails of Democratic officials to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.

He also did not provide any evidence backing his allegation at that time.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee Editing by Paul Tait)

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Post by thelivyjr »


"FBI rebuts Trump claim about China hacking Clinton's email"

Ken Dilanian

29 AUGUST 2018

WASHINGTON — Sixteen hours after President Trump tweeted about a right-wing media story alleging that China hacked Hillary Clinton's private email server, an FBI official is refuting the report in a comment to NBC News.

"The FBI has not found any evidence the (Clinton) servers were compromised," the official said.

It's the latest example of the widening breach between a president who traffics in unverified news accounts and the law enforcement agencies he frequently maligns.

The FBI official, speaking for the bureau, also pointed to a report issued in June by the Justice Department inspector general that examined the FBI's investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server.

In the report, the IG noted that while the FBI assessed that it was "possible" that hostile actors gained access to Clinton's private email server, the bureau "acknowledged that the FBI investigation and its forensic analysis did not find evidence that Clinton's email server systems were compromised."

According to the IG report, an FBI forensics agent assigned to the case told investigators that, although he did not believe there was "any way of determining ...100%" whether Clinton's servers had been compromised, he felt "fairly confident that there wasn't an intrusion."

When asked whether a sophisticated foreign adversary was likely to be able to cover its tracks, he stated, "They could."


"But I, I felt as if we coordinated with the right units at headquarters ... for those specific adversaries …"

"And the information that was returned back to me was that there was no indication of a compromise."

The FBI statement came after a right-wing media organization, the Daily Caller, published a story alleging that "a Chinese-owned company operating in the Washington, D.C., area hacked Hillary Clinton's private server throughout her term as secretary of state and obtained nearly all her emails."

The story cited two sources briefed on the matter.

The story cited a remark at a July hearing by a conservative Republican congressman, Louis Gohmert of Texas, that another inspector general — the Intelligence Community Inspector General — found that virtually all of Clinton's emails were sent to a "foreign entity."

The story said the Chinese firm "obtained Clinton's emails in real time as she sent and received communications and documents through her personal server," and that "the hacking was conducted as part of an intelligence operation."

The story appeared to prompt this tweet last night by Trump:

"Report just out: 'China hacked Hillary Clinton's private Email Server.'"

"Are they sure it wasn't Russia (just kidding!)?"

"What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this?"

"Actually, a very big story."

"Much classified information!"

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment about Gohmert's allegation or the Daily Caller story.

The Justice Department IG's report noted that the FBI conducted "'intrusion analyses' on each of Clinton's devices and other evidence to determine whether any classified information had been compromised," and said the agent assigned to conduct forensic analysis "described the team's efforts in this regard as exhaustive."

"He stated that these efforts included (1) examining the servers and others devices to identify suspicious logins or other activity, and (2) searching numerous datasets to determine whether foreign adversaries or known hostile domestic actors had accessed emails that the (team) had confirmed to contain classified information."

Former FBI Director James Comey, in his July 5, 2016, press conference regarding possible cyber intrusion of Clinton's email servers, said the FBI had not found direct evidence of any intrusion into her personal email domain, but didn't rule out the possibility.

"Given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence."

"We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account …"

"She also used her personal email extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries."

"Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton's personal email account."

Comey's remarks were widely reported.

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Post by thelivyjr »


"How the FBI botched tips about the Parkland school shooter"

By Paula McMahon and Brittany Wallman, Sun Sentinel

29 AUGUST 2018

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The FBI's quest to protect the public - a job it bungled in the case of the Parkland school shooter - has long depended on low-paid, overworked employees who were evaluated partly on how quickly they disposed of tips from callers.

The FBI has spread the message that "if you see something, say something," but then it mishandled two ominous tips to its national call center about Nikolas Cruz, the teenager who later gunned down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle.

Both tips suggested that Cruz was a school shooter in the making, but neither was sent to agents in South Florida to check out.

The episode has exposed serious questions about how the FBI's call center operates, years after it was established to try to head off deadly trouble before it happened.

And it has left the FBI scrambling to plug holes that allowed Cruz to slip through despite warnings that he was a danger.

Theoretically, the national operation was supposed to free agents in the FBI's 56 field offices to focus on investigations, not sit in the office taking phone calls.

FBI bosses also wanted a cheaper and more effective way to analyze information at one location, spot trends and then forward tips to investigators.

But the South Florida Sun Sentinel has found:

- Call-takers, classified as "customer service representatives," are among the FBI's lowest-paid employees, despite serving as the first line of defense against killers and terrorists while handling thousands of calls a day.

- Figuring out how they made decisions, including the botched Cruz case, has been impossible because no one was required to document precisely what information was considered.

- The most-detailed tip about Cruz seems to have been ignored partly because an earlier tip, which received only a cursory investigation, had already been rejected.

- With Cruz, the confusion is compounded because the call-taker and her supervisor give conflicting accounts of why the second tip was mishandled - each pointing the finger at the other.

- Now, FBI agents say they're being forced to chase pointless tips in an overly cautious system that fears a repeat of the Cruz debacle.

Senior FBI officials have admitted the FBI "committed serious, grave errors" with the Cruz tips, but they called the mistakes "judgment errors."

"The FBI could have and should have done more to investigate the information it was provided prior to the shooting," the deputy director of the FBI, David Bowdich, said earlier this year during congressional hearings on the Parkland shooting.

"While we will never know if we could have prevented this tragedy, we clearly should have done more."

The FBI has since decided to assign more call-takers and supervisors at the call center in Clarksburg, W.Va.; step up training for staff and agents; hire contractors to process online tips; create a management team to review all calls about terrorism or threats to life; and re-examine tips received in the past couple of years and send any potentially useful information to field offices for follow-up.

FBI acting assistant director Jill Tyson outlined many of those changes in a letter Monday to U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat who sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

He provided a copy Tuesday to the Sun Sentinel.

Deutch has called repeatedly for the FBI to brief all victims' families about the improvements and to reveal whether any employee was disciplined - a fact the FBI has refused to discuss.

"A terrible mistake happened," said Deutch, whose district includes Parkland.

"They acknowledge it."

"We expect accountability."

Nancy Savage, executive director of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, called the handling of the Cruz case "egregious."

She attributed it to inadequate staffing, failure to follow proper protocols and lack of experience by the call-taker and her supervisor, an FBI agent.

She considers the case a rare exception in a system that is overwhelmed with calls and emails, due to the explosion of social media and to the success of campaigns that encourage people to report suspicious behavior.

"They're doing phenomenal work at the call center and, personally, I think it's an improvement on what we had before," Savage said.

"A bad judgment call here on something so significant is a call to action for the FBI, and they're certainly taking it very seriously."

"They're fixing it."

The center that handles the tip line - known as the Public Access Line, or PAL - has a mammoth job to perform.

An average of 3,540 calls and tips come into the center each day.

The center has been inundated as social media has made it easy for anyone to spread a threat online.

A total of 142 civilians work in the center, handling calls and emails and reporting to 18 supervisors who are FBI agents.

The call-takers are hired at a starting salary of $33,394, well below the median income in West Virginia.

The staff - many with no previous law enforcement experience - go through an eight-week training period that includes getting useful information from callers, writing reports, searching FBI databases and understanding criminal violations.

Their job is to screen tips and pass along the credible ones to a supervisor, who decides whether further action is called for.

In the first six months of this year, the most recent figures available, the call-takers processed more than 296,787 calls and 344,142 emailed tips - or about 25 calls or emails per call-taker per day.

One of those employees took the first tip about Cruz less than five months before the Parkland shooting.

It came in through the FBI's online page on Sept. 25, 2017, submitted by a bail bondsman in Mississippi.

"I am going to be a professional school shooter," someone with the username "nikolas cruz" had commented on a YouTube video.

The information was correctly flagged and forwarded from the call center to the FBI's field office in Jackson, Miss.

An FBI agent and a local law enforcement officer, assigned to a counterterrorism task force, interviewed the tipster and took a copy of a screen shot the man had taken of Cruz's comment.

The investigators checked FBI databases and did online searches but decided that the true identity of the person who posted the comment could not be determined.

They closed their investigation 16 days later, on Oct. 11.

They did not ask Google, which owns YouTube, to voluntarily turn over information that could have been used to identify Cruz.

And they did not ask federal prosecutors to consider subpoenaing the information.

Less than three months later, on Jan. 5, a longtime friend of the Cruz family became so concerned about Cruz's posts on Instagram that she phoned the FBI call center.

For more than 13 minutes, the woman provided detailed information about Cruz's online postings, in which he said he planned to harm himself and others.

She said he had made comments about the Islamic State terrorist group; had bought multiple guns; had mutilated small animals; had the mental capacity of a 12- to 14-year-old; and was going to explode.

She had contacted local police, she said.

The woman gave the call-taker the name, address and phone number of the Parkland family, James and Kimberly Snead, who let Cruz move in with them in late November or early December after his mom had died.

The tipster also spelled out his Instagram usernames.

"I just want someone to know about this so they can look into it. ... I just know I have a clear conscience if he takes off and, and just starts shooting places up," the woman said on the call.

She also said she was concerned about his "getting into a school and just shooting the place up."

Under questioning at the congressional hearings shortly after the Parkland shootings, Bowdich, the deputy FBI director, acknowledged that investigators still don't know precisely what went wrong with the handling of the second tip.

After hanging up, the call-taker ran Cruz's name through several FBI databases and found he had no criminal record.

She also found the prior tip, submitted by the Mississippi man a couple of months earlier, which investigators had closed out.

That's where the information gets muddled.

When questioned after the Parkland shootings, the call-taker told investigators that she had presented the relevant information to her supervisor.

Based on what she told him, the agent told her to close the file as having "no lead value."

The tip was never forwarded to the FBI field office in Miramar for investigation.

"We still to this day don't, and I'm not sure we will ever, know how it was presented to the supervisor because we have two different recollections between those two employees," Bowdich, the deputy director, told legislators.

"They have two different recollections ... probably because of the volume of calls they're taking every day."

Worse, agents and workers were not required at the time to document how they made their decisions, so there were no records to show precisely what information was used to make the decision.

By the time the agent and worker were questioned about the call, shortly after the shooting, six weeks had passed.

Call-takers at the time were evaluated in part on how quickly they processed calls and the follow-up checks of databases and prior tips.

Bowdich said internal investigations are examining whether that standard caused call-takers to value speed over thoroughness.

Officials have declined to say whether they've changed the evaluation method.

Savage, from the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, said the agency is tightening up protocols - such as documenting how decisions were made - to create more "fail-safe accountability systems."

Under questioning from legislators, Bowdich said the decision to close the first Cruz tip might have influenced the decision on the second one.

And, because the second caller said she had contacted the Broward Sheriff's Office, the agent may have inappropriately assumed that local law enforcement was handling it, he said.

In the letter to Deutch, the agency said it plans to assign an additional 12 agents and 50 civilians to the center's staff - adding to the current 18 supervisors and 142 civilians.

Deutch said he appreciated the FBI's improvements, but he said he will keep pushing for more information about how online and over-the-phone tips will be handled.

"When Americans see something and say something, law enforcement has to do something," Deutch said Tuesday.

The agency's reluctance to reveal information also drew the ire of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who issued a blistering letter Monday calling the situation unacceptable.

Grassley said committee staff had asked the FBI seven times for its final report detailing why it failed to prevent the shooting.

He demanded that the FBI brief the committee by Sept. 14 at the latest and issue the report to the committee at least 48 hours ahead of the briefing.

"If we want to prevent future tragedy," Grassley said in a written statement, "we must have an understanding of what mistakes may have led to the shooting in Parkland."

In an interview in June, Joshua Skule, the FBI's executive assistant director for intelligence, said agents are continuing to look for ways they "can connect the dots faster while staying within the lines of what the laws provide."

The agency also is working on developing more effective ways to comb through the huge volume of social media posts for threats, he said.

"It's much broader than the single (Parkland) incident," Skule said.

"It's how we are going to move forward as an organization in handling tips such as this."

"It wouldn't be fair to focus on a single issue, knowing that there's a much broader issue."

"We have got to fix this today but also going into the future because the volume is not going to stop."

The call center handled more than 1.5 million phone calls and e-tips in 2017 - almost as many as the 1.8 million tips it received in the first five years it operated.

Only 2 percent of those tips - about 30,000 last year - are considered significant enough to be forwarded for investigation by FBI agents in local field offices.

The center sent more than 600 leads to the FBI in South Florida last year, and the number doubled in just the first six months of this year, when more than 1,300 tips were forwarded for further investigation, officials told the Sun Sentinel.

The missteps in the Cruz case have exposed how local agents had been left in the dark about important leads and how, even when the tips were forwarded, the investigations didn't always yield the kind of results the public expects.

Several current and former agents told the Sun Sentinel the reasons for setting up the call center were well-intended, allowing higher-paid agents to focus on investigations instead of answering phone calls.

They say there is no question the serious, specific tips about Cruz were bungled, but they also say that, since the Parkland shootings, agents are routinely sent scurrying on tips with little value.

"Nobody wants to be the agent or the call-taker who messed up the warning about the school shooting, so we spend a lot of time following up on these tips about some kid or some co-worker who made a vague, dumb post on social media," said one South Florida agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment for the agency.

"Even if the call center people had sent the Cruz tips to us, we'd have gone and talked to him and if he'd told us he was just kidding around, we couldn't have done anything to him - until he did what he did."

The FBI supervisor on duty should have had his "hair on fire" given the troubling and specific details the caller shared about Cruz, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said during one of the congressional hearings.

Stephen L. Morris, a former FBI agent who was involved in establishing the public access line, was reluctant to comment about the Cruz case.

But he said: "Putting myself in that position ... I really struggle with believing an agent hearing that set of facts would even think that it was an iffy case or a close call."

"Even the most junior, green agent is going to send that out to the field office for investigation."

Call-takers also have to deal with a huge percentage of callers who have no good reason for calling the FBI: "people venting about things they've seen on news; people calling because they didn't get their Social Security check; people calling because they think their local fire department didn't act as responsively as they should have."

But Morris said the call center is still more efficient than the old system.

The problems identified by the Parkland missteps can be fixed, he said.

"Despite the criticism and the Monday-morning quarterbacking, overall, the system is an effective one," Morris said.

"It was a human error."

"I don't believe it was a breakdown in policies or processes."

(Staff writers Stephen Hobbs and Skyler Swisher contributed to this report.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at http://www.sun-sentinel.com

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Post by thelivyjr »




"Nixon-Cuomo Debate Has Tempers Flaring: ‘Can You Stop Interrupting?’"

By Gideon Resnick

30 AUGUST 2018

LONG ISLAND, New York—“Can you stop interrupting?” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sneered at Cynthia Nixon, who was seated across from him before a blue curtain in a Hofstra University gymnasium.

“Can you stop lying?” Nixon shot back.

“As soon as you do,” Cuomo said.

Such was the tenor of the first and only debate between the incumbent governor and his insurgent challenger, who faced each other just two weeks before the state’s Sept. 13 Democratic primary.

As the two traded barbs in Cuomo’s first head-to-head debate in a decade—he stood across from Jeanine Pirro (yes, that one) in 2006, when they jockeyed to be New York attorney general—Cuomo sought to portray himself as the leader of a vanguard against President Trump, while Nixon challenged him on his progressive bonafides, corruption in the state’s capital, and his vision for improving public transportation in the state.

Cuomo’s focus on Trump even prompted an early question from the moderators about whether he could commit to being governor for four additional years and not mount a presidential run in 2020.

“Yes and yes,” Cuomo responded.

“Double yes.”

He added that “the only caveat is if God strikes me dead.”

Nixon, who has been trailing by double digits in publicly available polling—though New Yorkers are all too familiar with those polls failing them recently—spent more time attacking Cuomo, labeling him a “corrupt corporate Democrat.”

Best known as an actress, Nixon hasn’t held office, and she was questioned about her experience and whether it would translate to a successful tenure in the governor’s office.

“I’m not an Albany insider like Governor Cuomo, but experience doesn’t mean that much if you’re not actually good at governing,” she answered.

Cuomo’s response to questions about experience, and the lofty goals—single payer, marijuana legalization among them—of a prospective Nixon administration, was to argue that he was effective and to dismissively say that “you don’t snap your fingers” just to get stuff done.

Both of their respective camps suggested that their opponent was losing their temper throughout the debate.

Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Cuomo, tweeted early on that Nixon “appears unhinged.”

A release from Nixon’s camp after the event said the governor’s temper erupted.

“Now we know why Andrew Cuomo hates debates so much,” Cynthia for New York spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said in a statement.

“The governor was visibly angry about Cynthia contrasting his corrupt, centrist administration with her progressive vision for New York—and his resulting temper flare-ups and rants told the story.”

Neither of the candidates showed up in the spin room for reporters, held on the side of the gym where the debate took place.

(The room was, in fact, quite cold following a reported battle about what temperature it would be.)

On policy specifics, Nixon went after Cuomo for his handling of New York’s mass transit system, the MTA, saying he used “the MTA like an ATM.”

"As someone who is on the subway literally every day, I know that delays have tripled under Cuomo," she said, promising to delay the next fair hike.

“It has been declining for decades,” Cuomo said, passing the buck.

During an exchange about corruption, specifically Cuomo aide Joe Percoco, who was found guilty in a bribery conspiracy, Cuomo hit Nixon for asking for favors from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, saying, “You are a corporation.”

“I’m a person,” Nixon responded.

They also differed on New York’s Taylor Law, which curtails the right to strike for public employees.

Nixon is against it, saying, “We’re in a moment of unprecedented attacks on labor."

"Our labor unions are the most important counterbalance we have to unrivaled corporate power and greed."

Cuomo disagreed, saying that if workers were allowed to strike, it “would cripple the city,” with teachers possibly going on strike, sanitation going on strike, and subway workers going on strike.

The debate ended in a brief lightning round of short answers in which Nixon promised not to take a salary as governor of New York and both candidates were noncommittal about getting an endorsement from de Blasio.

“I love Mayor de Blasio."

"I’m sure he loves me in a strange sort of way,” Cuomo remarked of their notorious relationship.

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Post by thelivyjr »


"Trump to Back $200 Billion China Tariffs as Early as Next Week, Sources Say"

Jennifer Jacobs, Shawn Donnan, Andrew Mayeda, Saleha Mohsin

Published:Aug 30 2018, 6:18 PM Last Updated:Sep 01 2018, 1:42 AM

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump wants to move ahead with a plan to impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports as soon as a public-comment period concludes next week, according to six people familiar with the matter.

Asked to confirm the plan in an interview with Bloomberg News in the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump smiled and said it was “not totally wrong.”

He also criticized management of the yuan, saying China has devalued its currency in response to a recent slowdown in economic growth.

Companies and members of the public have until Sept. 6 to submit comments on the proposed duties, which cover everything from selfie sticks to semiconductors.

The president plans to impose the tariffs once that deadline passes, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions aren’t public.

Broadening the tariff battle would mark the most significant move yet in a months-long trade standoff and dent China’s growth prospects.

Data released on Friday will allay some concerns over the near-term outlook as China’s official factory gauge unexpectedly strengthened this month following government measures to underpin demand.

"China is more prepared, mentally, this time than it was for the previous round of tariffs," said Gai Xinzhe, an analyst at the Bank of China’s Institute of International Finance in Beijing.

"The scale is enormous and once the tariffs materialize, they will definitely send jitters through financial markets."

Such unease was already on display Friday with Asian and European stocks declining, and and U.S. equity futures pointed to a dip at the open.

The yen held on to gains, while the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index drifted.

The tariff news exacerbated already fragile market sentiment amid currency routs in Argentina and Turkey.

Tariffs Loom

Some of the people cautioned that Trump hasn’t made his final decision, and it’s possible the administration may enact the duties in installments.

The U.S. has so far imposed levies on $50 billion in Chinese goods, with Beijing retaliating in kind.

It’s also possible the president could announce the tariffs next week, but say they will take effect at a later date.

The Trump administration waited about three weeks after announcing in mid-June that it was imposing tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods before they were implemented.

The next stage of tariffs on $16 billion of goods took hold in August.

China has threatened to retaliate by slapping duties on $60 billion of U.S. goods.

The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg faxes seeking comments on Trump’s intentions.

Tensions with the U.S. may be having an effect elsewhere, helping bring Japan and China closer together.

The nations’ finance ministers agreed in Beijing on Friday that protectionist policies aren’t in anyone’s interest and they would support and promote the multilateral trading system.

The previous day, Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso discussed U.S. trade with China’s Vice Premier Liu He, who led a previous round of negotiations with the U.S.

The Trump administration is finalizing the list of Chinese targets and tariff rate, which could range from 10 percent to 25 percent, following six days of public hearings earlier this month.

Trump’s plan to bring down his biggest hit yet on China comes as two-way trade talks show little signs of progress.

China hawks have been on the ascendancy in the Trump administration.

One of them -- U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer -- has been responsible for one of the president’s biggest trade victories so far by forging a bilateral trade deal to replace Nafta with Mexico.

The deal was announced on Monday and Canada is now negotiating to join.

The latest China tariff decision is causing heated debate within the administration, with Lighthizer and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro pushing for quick action, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow arguing for more time, according to people familiar with the matter.

Squeezing China

Trump cut off negotiations with China because of what he perceives as Beijing’s lack of cooperation in nuclear talks with North Korea, one of the people said.

The president wants to squeeze China, believing the U.S. has leverage over Beijing, that person said.

Trump on Wednesday accused China of pressuring North Korea not to bend in nuclear negotiations with the U.S.

But he insisted that the trade differences would be resolved.

“As for the U.S.-China trade disputes, and other differences, they will be resolved in time by President Trump and China’s great President Xi Jinping."

"Their relationship and bond remain very strong,” Trump said on Twitter.

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Post by thelivyjr »


"Opinion: Trump’s exasperating ignorance on trade"

By Caroline Baum

Published: Aug 30, 2018 3:00 p.m. ET

There is nothing more infuriating than Donald Trump’s repeated insistence that the U.S. “loses over 800 Billion Dollars a year on really dumb Trade Deals.”

(The random capitalizations are Trump’s, not mine.)

One loses money to the house at a gambling casino.

One loses money selling a home below the purchase price.

One loses money when a cash-filled wallet is stolen.

And one loses money when a company goes belly up — except, of course, in the case of Donald Trump and his Atlantic City casinos.

But on a voluntary transaction between two parties, there is no “loss” unless one party misrepresents the product he is selling or delivers less than the contractual amount, in which case it falls to the courts to remedy the buyer.

Trump might want to consult the dictionary to alleviate his confusion.

Trade is defined as the activity of buying and selling goods and services, especially between countries.

A trade is the act of “exchanging one thing for another.”

Nothing there about one side “losing.”

Trade is also a verb: to buy, sell or exchange goods.

It’s hard to find any meaning of the word that comports with Trump’s definition of other countries ripping off the U.S. through long-standing trade agreements, the effect of which has been to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers over time.

(I’ll leave it to the hipper set to decipher the Urban Dictionary definition.)

So why does Trump persist in advocating something that makes him look stupid?

For someone whose policy preferences blow with the prevailing winds, Trump has been amazingly consistent in his commitment to protectionism and his insistence that trade is a zero-sum game.

He cannot, or will not, be convinced by research and statistics that trade creates more jobs than it eliminates because access to cheaper imports enables consumers to spend more on something else.

He cannot, or will not, be convinced by research and statistics that trade does not affect the total number of jobs in an economy over the long run; just the particular types of jobs, which will reflect the areas in which that nation excels.

And don’t even try to explain the notion of comparative advantage to him: the idea first proposed by David Ricardo in 1817 that a country benefits from producing items in which it specializes, or has a comparative advantage, and buying lower-cost goods from another country.

That is true even if one country excels, or has an absolute advantage, in producing all goods.

This is why the U.S. imports T-shirts and sneakers from less-developed countries and specializes in manufacturing high-tech fabrics for NASA astronauts.

And no, those jobs aren’t coming back to the U.S., which would be tantamount to putting the car into reverse.

It’s true that as wages rise in developing nations, businesses may find it advantageous to relocate to the U.S. to be closer to their biggest customers and afford themselves the legal protections offered by this country.

But in general, the goal should be to create an environment to attract new, high-tech manufacturing industries, such as the plants that were lured to Mississippi’s Golden Triangle, one of the poorest regions of the country.

All countries are losing, or will lose, manufacturing jobs to automation over time.

That’s what happened in agriculture.

The U.S. was once a nation of farmers.

In 1800, 83% of the U.S. labor force was employed in agriculture.

Today it’s about 1.7%.

Between 1948 and 2011, U.S. farm output rose 1.5% a year, according to a 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture study.

The “extraordinary performance of the U.S. farm sector was driven mainly by productivity growth:” specifically, by total factor productivity, or the more efficient use of inputs.

Then there’s Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that there’s more to the economy than manufactured goods.

After all, the U.S. is a services economy.

Last year, private goods-producing industries accounted for 18.4% of gross domestic product.

Services? 68.9%.

(The residual, 12.7%, is government.)

So service-producing industries are responsible for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic output, but in Trump’s world, services don’t count.

The U.S. ran a $552 billion trade deficit in 2017: a goods deficit of $807 billion, partially offset by a services surplus of $255 billion.

Trump focuses solely on the goods deficit, not to mention his mistaken categorization of it as a “loss.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump fashioned himself as the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

Towards that end, he has extrapolated the message of one of Reagan’s classic remarks, only to apply it mistakenly to international trade.

Asked about his Cold War strategy, Reagan offered a terse response: “We win, they lose.”

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Post by thelivyjr »


"Manafort associate paid Trump inauguration $50,000 in Ukrainian cash"

Jon Swaine

31 AUGUST 2018

A Republican political consultant linked to Paul Manafort and Cambridge Analytica has admitted to funneling $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration committee.

Sam Patten paid the money to an American “straw purchaser” on behalf of the unidentified oligarch, in return for four tickets to Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, according to a plea agreement made public on Friday.

The inauguration committee was not allowed to accept money from foreigners.

The disclosure came as Patten pleaded guilty to illegally lobbying in the US for pro-Russia politicians from Ukraine.

As part of his plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating links between Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Patten, 47, admitted causing the Ukrainian funds to be paid to the inauguration committee, and to then lying to a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in an attempt to cover this up.

He was not charged for these actions.

He pleaded guilty to one count of working as an unregistered agent for the oligarch’s Ukrainian political party, Opposition Bloc, which also employed Manafort, the former chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Patten was released on bail by judge Amy Berman Jackson following a hearing in Washington.

The charge was brought by the US attorney’s office in the capital, which took over the case following a referral from Mueller’s office.

The court filings indicated that Patten had been in discussions with Mueller’s office for at least three months.

A spokesman for the US attorney’s office said the charge against Patten was a felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and also carried potential fines.

Stuart Sears, an attorney for Patten, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Thomas Barrack, the chairman of Trump’s inauguration committee, did not respond to requests for comment.

The filings recounted how Patten formed a consulting company in the US with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political operative with alleged ties to intelligence services.

Kilimnik, identified as “foreigner A” in the filings, has also worked extensively with Manafort, who was a consultant to Opposition Bloc in Ukraine.

After discovering foreigners were barred from giving money to the inauguration, Patten enlisted another American to buy four tickets.

The oligarch paid $50,000 to Patten and Kilimnik’s company from an account in Cyprus.

Patten then wrote the American “straw purchaser” a $50,000 check and the American used these funds to buy the tickets the following day.

Patten then lied about this arrangement during testimony to the Senate intelligence committee in January 2018, he admitted on Friday.

He failed to provide requested documents, gave misleading evidence and then after his interview deleted files relating to his work for the Ukrainians.

In all, according to the court documents, Patten’s firm was paid about $1m for advising Opposition Bloc and lobbying US politicians on its behalf.

Patten worked to set up meetings for Kilimnik and the oligarch with state department officials and members of Congress, including senators on the foreign relations committee and House members on the foreign affairs committee.

Patten admitted that he knew he was required to register as an agent for a foreigner but failed to do so after the Ukrainian oligarch said “he did not want them to” until an unspecified future date.

Patten also drafted opinion articles for the Ukrainian oligarch and succeeded in having at least one published by a national American media outlet in February 2017.

The Ukrainian figure and media outlet were not identified in the charging documents.

A pro-Trump article was published by US News & World Report in February 2017 under the byline of SerhiyLyovochkin, an Opposition Bloc MP who was a senior official in Ukraine’s former pro-Kremlin administration.

Enxhi Myslmi, a spokeswoman for US News & World Report, said: “To our knowledge, no one at US News has been contacted by law enforcement regarding the publication of this piece.”

Lovochkin’s office declined to say if it believed he was the oligarch described in the court documents.

In an unsigned email, it said: “Mr Lovochkin was indeed invited to the inauguration and had the honor to attend."

"At the same time, he did not pay for that.”

Earlier this month, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud arising from the Mueller investigation.

During the trial, a former colleague testified that Manafort received payments from Lyovochkin and disguised them as loans to avoid paying tax.

Kilimnik is charged alongside Manafort in a separate criminal case brought in Washington by Mueller.

Patten also carried out work for Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct consultancy that is under scrutiny for its work on Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

A page on Patten’s website that has since been removed said he “worked with one of London’s most innovative strategic communications companies to introduce new technologies and methodologies” during the 2014 US election.

During an interview last year with a British academic researcher, Patten said: “I’ve worked in Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and [the American] system isn’t very different.”

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Post by thelivyjr »


"Obama readies fall campaign push, but some Dems say no thanks"

Alexander Bolton and Amie Parnes


Former President Obama is set to dive into the midterm elections next week with a speech in Illinois where he is expected to urge Democrats across the country to vote - addressing a problem that plagued the party in 2016.

Obama has kept a low political profile since leaving office, but sources familiar with his plans say he will soon hit the campaign trail to help Democrats in their quest to take back the House, protect vulnerable Senate incumbents and win state legislative races.

The former president will kick off his push by delivering a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Friday.

In the weeks ahead, Obama will also campaign in California, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, a person familiar with his schedule said.

Not all Democrats want Obama's help.

Democratic candidates running in states that President Trump won by double digits in 2016 would prefer that the former president stay far away.

Some Democrats in pro-Trump states, such as Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), say they hope Obama will campaign for them.

Others, such as Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), want to keep the race locked on the battle between themselves and their state rivals, fearing a high-profile surrogate like Obama could distract from the strategy.

"We're not going to use any surrogates."

"Surrogates are fine but we don't need them."

"The race is myself and Matt Rosendale and that's the way we want to keep it," Tester told The Hill, referring to his GOP challenger.

Asked if she thought Obama might show up in North Dakota, Heitkamp said: "Nope, no."

"He threatened to campaign against me once so I don't think he's coming out there," she said.

While the former president remains extremely popular with the Democratic base, especially among African-American voters, Democrats fear his entrance into some battleground states could inadvertently rev up conservatives and pro-Trump voters.

"Trump wants nothing more than a foil."

"He knows he can activate the other side," said a source familiar with Obama's thinking.

The former president is "going to be involved this fall in a very Obamaesque, smart way," the source added.

Democrats say that one way Obama can have a big impact on races is by urging infrequent voters to show up to the polls in November, something that will be a major theme of the former president's speech on Friday.

"He will echo his call to reject the rising strain of authoritarian politics and policies."

"And he will preview arguments he'll make this fall, specifically that Americans must not fall victim to our own apathy by refusing to do the most fundamental thing demanded of us as citizens: vote," said Obama communications director Katie Hill.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), said the party welcomes Obama's help but noted it's up to individual candidates whether to invite him to their states.

"We welcome his participation in these races as a DSCC."

"Every senate candidate will decide in conversation with President Obama whether it makes sense for him to come to their states," Van Hollen said on CSPAN's "Newsmakers" program last month.

Van Hollen noted that Obama held a joint fundraiser for the DSCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last year.

Obama also held a fundraiser in May for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who is running in a state Trump won by 19 points.

Still, the former president has held off on endorsing Democratic senators running in states won by Trump, even though he has backed Democratic candidates down the ballot in some of those states.

For example, while he endorsed Richard Cordray, Betty Sutton and Steve Dettelback, the Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in Ohio, respectively - as well as two U.S. House candidates and a slew of state House candidates in the Buckeye State - he did not endorse Brown, the incumbent U.S. senator.

Asked why his name was missing from Obama's endorsement list, Brown said, "I don't have any idea" but added, "I make nothing of that."

The Democratic senator noted that Obama is likely to make additional endorsements and said he would welcome his support.

"I'd love for him to come to Ohio and help us with voter turnout for Cordray and for me," he said.

Democratic sources say Obama will campaign with Casey in Pennsylvania, even though the former president also didn't include him on the list of candidates from the Keystone State he endorsed last month.

Obama announced his support for two House candidates in Pennsylvania, Madeleine Dean and Susan Wild, and three state house candidates, but not Casey.

Trump carried both Ohio and Pennsylvania over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

He won Ohio by 8 points and Pennsylvania by less than 1 point.

When Obama made his first round of endorsements in August, he stayed away from Democratic Senate candidates with the exception of Rep. Jacky Rosen (D), who is running to unseat Sen. Dean Heller (R) in Nevada - the only Senate battleground that Trump lost.

Obama's endorsement in state and local races is less likely to hurt Democratic candidates because those contests are often less partisan than federal races.

The GOP strategy in Senate races in red states is to tie the centrist Democratic incumbents to party leaders in Washington.

One Democratic strategist said the lack of endorsements from Obama falls under the 'do no harm' category.

"Both of those senators are doing well their respective states and they don't exactly need Obama's seal of approval."

"In fact, it might do more harm than good," the strategist said.

"Obama is still popular with certain folks in those states but he's not exactly popular with some others."

But Chuck Rocha, a Democratic strategist, said he doesn't think it has to do with unpopularity but a focus on races that need his support.

"There are others who have tougher races than Sherrod's and Casey's," he said.

"Those races are shaping up to be easier than some others...And they have robust war chests so they don't really need Barack Obama's endorsement."

Rocha said he wouldn't expect Obama to endorse senators like Tester and Heitkamp.

"Places like that, they're probably not advocating to get that endorsement."

A person familiar with Obama's thinking cautioned against reading too much into his endorsements, noting that he will come out with another round before Election Day.

Casey expects to receive Obama's support and to campaign with him in the next few weeks.

"We look forward to campaigning with him, we hope, in the fall."

"I hope to."

"I don't know what the schedule will be," he said.

Casey said he thinks Obama would help Democrats up and down the ballot if he campaigns in Pennsylvania and noted that Obama has made it a priority to focus on local races in order to give Democrats more leverage in future congressional redistricting.

Patrick Rodenbush, communications director for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said Obama has been very helpful in trying to give Democrats more influence over future congressional district maps.

"He helped us with fundraising since we were launched in 2017," he noted.

"He cut a video for us in July about the stakes of redistricting and why these elections in November matter."

"He's going to hit the road in September."

"We expect he'll talk about the issue of redistricting when he's out on the trail," he added.

Obama also headlined fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee in September of last year and this past June.

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