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Long IslandPolitics

No light at start of tunnel; blame Trump-Schumer feud

An Amtrak locomotive emerges from the North River

An Amtrak locomotive emerges from the North River Tunnel in North Bergen, N.J. Under Amtrak's proposed Gateway project, a new Hudson River tunnel will be built so the North River Tunnel can be repaired. The improvements will create new capacity that will allow the doubling of passenger trains running under the river. Photo Credit: Amtrak

Gateway project held hostage

After a White House meeting in September, New York and New Jersey officials figured they had President Donald Trump on board with providing federal funding for the $30 billion Gateway rail tunnel project under the Hudson River.

“It was almost like he was saying to ask for more money,” Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) recalled.

But last week, Trump buttonholed House Speaker Paul Ryan and told him to remove more than $900 million for the Gateway project from a spending bill expected to pass soon.

Why? “It’s a Schumer thing,” a senior administration official told The Washington Post.

Trump has complained about Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blocking his nominees and agenda. He also wants to increase pressure on Schumer to support the White House’s other infrastructure proposals.

Schumer said Sunday: “You don’t play games with this.” If Gateway isn’t built and the existing tunnels fail, “we could have a recession in New York and around the country.”

King tweeted in exasperation that Trump made a “commitment . . . Can’t let feud with Schumer hurt New York & United States.” See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.

Steely determination

Administration officials said Trump plans to press ahead this week or early next week with his proposal to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, even as foreign trading partners vow to retaliate.

Trade adviser Peter Navarro told “Fox News Sunday” he did not believe Trump would exempt countries, including longtime allies such as Japan and Canada, from being tariffed.

So it’s a done deal? Given the history of Trump about-faces, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross left out there a teensy hedge.

“Whatever his final decision is, is what will happen,” Ross said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “What he has said he has said; if he says something different, it’ll be something different.” Ross added: “The president has announced that this will happen this week. I have no reason to think otherwise.”

See the story for Newsday by Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Scott Eidler. Early Monday, Trump reinforced his intentions, adding on Twitter that tariffs on Mexico and Canada "will only come off if [a] new and fair NAFTA agreement is signed."

Janison: Doom or boom?

After setting off trade war jitters, Trump tried to reassure, tweeting “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

His long-standing confidence in that notion is about to get a real-life road test if he follows through with the tariffs, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

The counter-argument has been that making imported metals more expensive — including for U.S. manufacturers who depend on them — will drive up consumer costs. Winning or losing may depend on how other nations choose to retaliate.

He loves to kid

After a very bad week that, according to multiple reports, saw him in very dark moods, Trump lightened up for his appearance at the Gridiron Club press dinner. His found joke material in son-in-law Jared Kushner’s loss of his security clearance, his feud with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speculation on the state of his marriage and his towering self-regard:

“You know, we were late tonight because Jared could not get through security.”

“Attorney General Sessions is here with us tonight. . . . I offered him a ride over and he recused himself.”

“I like turnover. I like chaos. It really is good. Now the question everyone keeps asking is, ‘Who’s going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?”

“Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do.”

Mueller looks beyond Russia

The Trump White House pulled a Middle East surprise in June when it strongly backed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ blockade against Qatar. The United States has strategic partnerships with all three countries, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to steer a middle course.

Now special counsel Robert Mueller is curious about the episode. NBC News reports Mueller is looking at Qatar’s spurning of Kushner’s family real estate business when it was looking abroad for financing. The talks ended a week before the blockade.

Also on Mueller’s radar, according to The New York Times: possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Trump during the campaign. One subpoena seeks documentation of contacts with 10 key administration figures, Axios reports.

Till death to us part?

Trump already has his campaign team in place for 2020, but is he thinking even farther down the road? At a closed-door fundraiser, Trump told donors “it’s great” that China’s President Xi Jinping got the ruling Communist Party to eliminate term limits.

“He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great,” Trump said. And then he added: “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

There was laughter from the Mar-a-Lago audience at Trump’s remarks.

What else is happening:

  • Axios reports that Rudy Giuliani, at the Mar-a-Lago fundraiser, told a tasteless joke that Hillary Clinton, a guest at the Trumps’ 2005 wedding, “actually fit through the door.” The crowd gasped, and Trump later told them: “I’m just glad I didn’t say it.”
  • Trump’s White House “listening sessions” in recent weeks are a form of performance art for the reality show veteran, complete with the suspense of what surprise position he will voice (and sometimes cast off shortly thereafter), The New York Times writes.
  • Candidates in Texas’ Tuesday Republican primary are trying to outdo each other in professing who loves Trump and can emulate him the most, The Associated Press reports.
  • Trump marked a milestone for his presidency on Saturday — the 100th day spent at one of his golf clubs, according to CNN’s tally.
  • Kellyanne Conway is a Trump White House rarity — a campaign-time player who’s still there, The New York Times reports. Her lower public profile has helped her endure even as some “really awful people inside the White House . . . have been trying to hurt her,” according to fellow New Jerseyan Chris Christie.

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