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Long IslandPolitics

In fog of Trump’s trade war, it’s hard to see where it’s going

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, March 5, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Pool

Trading places

This much is clear. On Friday, Donald Trump tweeted that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” On Monday, the president said, “I don’t think you’ll have a trade war.”

Trump insisted he is “not backing down” on his plan to impose stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. He said that includes Canada and Mexico, unless they see things more Trump’s way on renegotiating NAFTA.

But the White House is buying time — two weeks before the tariffs become official. Could the plan change? “We haven’t actually fully rolled out all of the details, so therefore it would be hard for me to say,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Free-trade advocates remain worried. Through a spokeswoman, the usually Trump-pliant House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan.”

GOP leaders are even talking vaguely of finding a way to thwart Trump through legislation, though it would be difficult to put together veto-proof two-thirds majorities.

But the stock market closed higher Monday, suggesting a steadying of nerves after last week’s freakout over trade war fears. See Laura Figueroa Hernandez’s story for Newsday.

Skin in the game

Did Trump lawyer Michael Cohen tell Trump before he made a $130,000 hush-money payment to stop porn star Stormy Daniels from telling her story about her affair with the future president?

He tried but couldn’t reach him, a source told The Wall Street Journal [pay site], and missed two deadlines from her lawyer before going ahead on his own. The transaction went through 12 days before the 2016 election. After Trump’s victory, Cohen complained to friends that he had yet to be reimbursed, the report said.

Whether Trump knew of the Daniels deal and reimbursed Cohen could affect a Federal Election Commission review of whether the arrangement violated campaign-finance law.

Janison: Tunnel in a hole

Trump’s move to block federal funding for the Gateway rail tunnel is the latest obstacle for the project, but hardly the first, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Even before Trump decided it would be a good way to punish Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the administration had scaled back its planned support. The chances for Trump’s broader infrastructure plan in Congress this year aren’t looking good.

Back in 2010, $8.7 billion in federal funding was lined up. Then New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie backed out, choosing to spend on road rehabilitation instead.

Zadroga fight

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), other New York members of Congress and comedian Jon Stewart denounced as “downright irresponsible” a Trump administration proposal that would change the leadership of a federal health program that provides aid to 9/11 first responders.

They urged Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to withdraw what they called an “ill-thought out proposal” to separate the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides free health care to 9/11 first responders from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

King was a co-sponsor of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act legislation. See Figueroa’s story for Newsday.

A plot that’s hard to follow

By the time Trump finished his morning rage tweet about the Russia investigation, he may have forgotten what he said at the beginning.

It began: “Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November?”

It ended: “Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling.”

In between, Trump called it a plot to discredit him so Hillary Clinton would win.

Except the Obama administration didn’t make the Russia-Trump investigation public. An Associated Press fact-check found much that was “problematic” in Trump’s tweet.

Won’t talk, won’t stop talking

It’s fair to call Sam Nunberg disgruntled — with Trump, who fired him from a senior campaign post in the summer of 2015, and now with Robert Mueller. The special counsel, Nunberg says, has subpoenaed him for emails and to appear before a grand jury, but he won’t go.

“Let him arrest me,” Nunberg said during a bizarre blitz of media interviews Monday. He said, without clear explanation, that based on questions he has received, he suspects Mueller has concluded Trump “may have done something” but “I could be wrong.”

He said the special counsel wanted him to testify against his mentor, outside Trump adviser Roger Stone, who is “like my father.” When a CNN anchor said she smelled alcohol on his breath, Nunberg said no, he was on antidepressants. Still later, he told The Associated Press he probably would cooperate with Mueller.

POTUS: No chaos... you're chaos.

This very orderly presidential tweet was issued at 7:55 a.m. Tuesday: 

"The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!"

So there's your answer. Apparently some people are confounded by his "strong dialogue" and the never-ending search for "perfection."

What else is happening:

  • The siege of the Trump hotel in Panama is over. The Trump managers who were holed up for 12 days in a dispute with the owners were ousted, along with their security guards. Then the Trump name was pried off signs outside the property.
  • Hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said he might travel to Jerusalem to preside over the opening of the new U.S. Embassy. He said little about his still-mysterious peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.
  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, told The New York Times that “There are more complexities here than in brain surgery.” He has also learned he doesn’t have much influence on Trump.
  • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have found their powers restricted and their enemies emboldened, The Associated Press reports. The president himself has wavered on whether his daughter and son-in-law should stay in the White House.
  • The State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it was allocated to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy, The New York Times reports.
  • That call that Trump said Saturday he got from the North Koreans? A National Security Council official said he was referring to a call with South Korea’s president, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
  • Trump nominated a Long Island native, Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino, to command the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, reports Newsday’s Martin C. Evans.

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