Not tired, not winning
It's been more than 18 months since President Donald Trump imposed his first tariffs on China in pursuit of a deal to end Beijing's trade abuses. "Trade wars are good, and easy to win," Trump declared six seeks into the standoff, shortly before ordering another escalation.
So where are we now? On Thursday, Trump announced he will impose 10 percent tariffs Sept. 1 on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports he hasn’t already taxed, covering a vast range of consumer products from cellphones to silk scarves. The president has already imposed 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese products, and Beijing has retaliated by taxing $110 billion in U.S. goods.
Are efforts to end the trade war going that badly? In a series of tweets, Trump said his negotiators "have just returned from China where they had constructive talks." He referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as "my friend" and predicted "the future between our two countries will be a very bright one!"
But the present, as Trump described it, was not so bright. He said China had not lived up to an agreement to boost its purchases of agriculture products. The United States thought it had a deal three months ago "but sadly, China decided to renegotiate the deal prior to signing." His "friend" Xi "said that he would stop the sale of fentanyl to the United States — this never happened, and many Americans continue to die!"
The negotiations are scheduled to resume next month in Washington. It will be the 13th round of talks.
The skeptics on Trump's approach include his former top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who told the BBC in an interview Thursday that the tariffs had made it expensive for business to import vital products from China, negating the effect of Trump's 2017 tax cuts. "Literally the tax incentive we gave you with one hand was taken away with the other hand, so we are not seeing the manufacturing job creation," Cohn said.
Trump's announcement sent stock prices sinking, with the Dow dipping more than 500 points from its high for the day. The president told reporters just before the markets closed: "I expected that a little bit because people don't understand quite yet about what's happened." He stuck to his widely disputed view that the tariffs tit-for-tat is a win for the United States. "It hasn't cost our consumer anything; it costs China," he said.
Off the 'sent'
The crowd at a Trump rally in Cincinnati on Thursday shouted out the old "lock her up" standby about Hillary Clinton but didn't perform an encore of the "send her back" cry that raised the temperature of the president's targeting last month of four progressive congresswomen of color.
Trump attacked them. "The Democrat party is now being led by four left-wing extremists who reject everything that we hold dear," he said. But he didn't recite their names. The North Carolina crowd was triggered into its chant two weeks ago when Trump denounced Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
By early Friday the ever-protected Trump resumed his personal war on common decency, gloating about a burglary at the residence of his favored Twitter target, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland).
Second-guess they can
On the morning after the 2020 Democrats' dust-up in Detroit, there was a post-debate debate over the pokes taken at former President Barack Obama to get at former Vice President Joe Biden.
"I must tell you I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack — about the president … I'm proud of the job he did. I don't think there's anything he has to apologize for," Biden said.
In counterpoint, Cory Booker said on CNN that the Democrats are just "having an honest conversation about an administration that was incredible." Booker asserted that Obama "ain't perfect. Nobody has pulled that off … and I'm sure [if] Barack Obama was sitting here … He will tell you, 'I made some mistakes.' "
Newsday's Emily Ngo has five take-aways from the second Democratic debate, including the discomfort some felt about sniping at Obama's legacy. Former Rep. Steve Israel called it “self-defeating … This election’s going to be a referendum on President Trump, and Democrats are making it a referendum on President Obama.”
But Booker's confrontation of Biden was part of what experts called a standout performance that could bring the New Jersey senator a breakthrough in the polls. There's a long way to go before the race is settled, along with the ideological tug-of-war between the party's left and center.
Janison: Elective outrage
By the end of Barack Obama's first term, his administration had deported a record 1.5 million people deemed to have been residing in the country illegally, many of them convicted criminals. If Democrats disliked the policy they didn't form a roaring chorus of national dissent, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. The enforcement came in tandem with Obama's push to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally but who were otherwise law-abiding.
But Trump's harsher approach — including the ugliness of family separations, the slurs, and the effort to cancel "Dreamers'" protections — opened the door to retrospective scrutiny. Biden's rivals for the Democratic nomination rushed through that door in Wednesday night's debate to make a case that Obama's vice president deserves a share of blame.
Though Obama remains highly popular among Democratic voters, it's not unknown for presidential aspirants to turn on the last president from their party. In late 2008, Republican John McCain was slamming GOP President George W. Bush's approach to the financial crisis. In 2016, Hillary Clinton, who had been secretary of state, did an about-face and dropped her support for the Obama-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Can't see Russia from there
Trump has never unambiguously accepted that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, and on Thursday he seemed to be dismissing warnings that it will be at it again in 2020.
Those assessments came not just from special counsel Robert Mueller but also FBI Director Christopher Wray and a bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But asked about it as he was on his way the Cincinnati rally, Trump said to the reporter: "Oh you don't really believe this. Do you believe this?"
New eyes on Stormy payoff
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York closed out its investigation of the Stormy Daniels hush-money payoff without charging anyone besides Trump's ex-fixer Michael Cohen, but the Manhattan district attorney is taking a new look.
State prosecutors in Manhattan subpoenaed records from the Trump Organization on Thursday, seeking to determine whether any senior executives filed false business records about the transactions, which would be a state crime, The New York Times reported. The federal inquiry had focused on campaign finance law violations.
Marc L. Mukasey, an attorney for the Trump Organization, called the district attorney's probe a “political hit job.”
What else is happening:
- The Justice Department's internal watchdog referred former FBI Director James Comey for prosecution over the leaking of some of his memos to the media, CNN reported, but the department's prosecutors declined because they didn't believe evidence showed Comey intended to violate laws on handling classified information.
- The Senate on Thursday voted 67 to 28 to pass a budget deal that increases spending on defense and domestic programs and lifts the debt ceiling, reports Newsday's Tom Brune. Opponents were mostly Republicans who balked at adding $2 trillion or more to the federal deficit despite Trump's backing of the compromise.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a native of Baltimore, took a shot at Jared Kushner on Thursday as she defended Rep. Elijah Cummings from days of attacks by Trump. The president "could ask his son-in-law, who’s a slumlord there, if he wants to talk about rodent infestations,” Pelosi said.
- Trump didn't think much of Sean Spicer's turn as press secretary but he's throwing him a bone for continued loyalty. The president named him to the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors.
- Corey Lewandowski, one of Trump's 2016 campaign managers, said that he is "seriously considering" a run for Senate in New Hampshire next year to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
- The Pentagon called a timeout on plans to award a $10 billion cloud computing contract after Trump suggested the competition might have rigged the contest in favor of Amazon, a frequent target of his criticism because its chief Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.