Hands across North America
In the end, Donald Trump came not to bury NAFTA — "perhaps the worst trade deal ever made" — but to rewrite and rename it.
When asked what he gave up for the new free-trade pact, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump said: "I think my biggest concession would be making the deal."
Reflexively and pre-emptively, the president forecast that Democrats will soon attack it. "Anything you submit to Congress is trouble, no matter what," he said at a White House Rose Garden ceremony, predicting Democrats will say, "Trump likes it, therefore we're not going to approve it because that would be good for the Republicans."
But reaction across the aisle fell within a spectrum between mixed and cautiously positive.
"As someone who voted against NAFTA and opposed it for many years, I knew it needed fixing. The president deserves praise for taking large steps to improve it," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). He said any final agreement "must be judged on how it benefits and protects middle class families and the working people in our country."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) saw "improvements that could be good for U.S. workers," but not enough "enforcement mechanisms" to make sure that happens.
Janison: What's next for USMCA
There's little question that NAFTA, signed in 1994, has been overdue for an update. The agreement reached Sunday night would set new rules for financial-services and digital businesses that didn't exist when the original pact was signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The first summaries of its details are getting positive reviews, including those aimed at keeping a greater share of motor vehicle production inside the U.S. But stakeholders will be poring over the fine print yet to come. If Democrats take over either or both houses of Congress in next month's elections, they'll have more leverage in hashing out any disagreements that emerge. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.
More Stormy weather
Trump personally directed an effort in February to stop porn actress Stormy Daniels from describing her alleged sexual encounter with him, telling his then-fixer Michael Cohen to seek a restraining order, the Wall Street Journal reports Tuesday.
Sources said Trump told Cohen to coordinate the response with son Eric Trump. States the Journal story:
"Direct involvement of the president and his son in the effort to silence Ms. Clifford hasn’t previously been reported. The accounts of that effort recently provided suggest that the president’s ties to his company continued into this year and contradict public statements made at the time by the Trump Organization, the White House and Mr. Cohen."
Trump: No reins on Kavanaugh probe
Trump offered reassurance Monday that he won't limit the scope of the FBI's investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, saying agents “should interview anybody they want within reason” including the judge himself.
The Associated Press reported that the original, more restrictive White House guidance was loosened over the weekend. "I want it to be comprehensive," Trump said of the probe. "I actually think it’s a good thing for Judge Kavanaugh.”
But Trump also said he wanted the bureau, which was given one week for the investigation, to wrap it up fast. "The one thing I want is speed," he said during a news conference following the trade agreement announcement. For more, see Ferrette's story for Newsday.
A no-problem drinker
Since Thursday's hearing, Democrats questioning Kavanaugh's credibility have focused in part on his drinking in high school and college, along with accounts he was "belligerent" and "aggressive" when under the influence.
Kavanaugh denied such misbehavior. He acknowledged that "I liked beer" — and sometimes had "too many" — and to this day, "I still like beer."
Said Trump on Monday: “I watched him and I was surprised at how vocal he was about the fact that he likes beer." And Trump's take on that wasn't entirely in sync with Kavanaugh's no-big-deal attitude.
"I watched a man saying that he did have difficulty as a young man with a drink,” Trump said, adding, "I don’t think it’s a big discrepancy.”
Would a bar brawl be a problem?
While at Yale, Kavanaugh was questioned by police called to a New Haven, Connecticut, bar because of an altercation during which he was accused of throwing ice on another patron “for some unknown reason,” according to a 1985 police report obtained by The New York Times.
A witness to the fight said that Chris Dudley, a Yale basketball player who was friends with Kavanaugh, then hit the man in the ear with a glass, resulting in bleeding that required a trip to the hospital. Kavanaugh was not arrested, and Dudley denied the accusation, the report said. Dudley has been a character reference for Kavanaugh, disputing reports he drank excessively.
The details line up in part with an account Sunday by a former Kavanaugh classmate, Chad Ludington, who said Kavanaugh threw beer in a man's face.
The Times and Bloomberg News said the incident occurred after Kavanaugh and friends attended a UB40 concert. (Trivia item: The English reggae band's best known hit was "Red, Red Wine.")
Whatever anyone thinks about Trump's behavior, it can't be blamed on drinking, as the president pointed out in an aside while speaking about Kavanaugh's beery history.
"I can honestly say I've never had a beer in my life" and "it's one of my only good traits." He added: "Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I'd be? I'd be the world's worst."
Trump has spoken more seriously in the past about a painful reason behind his abstinence from alcohol: His older brother Fred died at age 43 after a losing battle with the bottle.
Dishing dirt? Hold my beer
“I happen to know some United States senators," he said. "One who is on the other side who is pretty aggressive. I’ve seen that person in very bad situations, OK? ... Somewhat compromising. And you know, I think it’s very unfair to bring up things like this.”
He'll leave it others to speculate who he is talking about and wouldn't name a name. “I think I will save it for a book like everybody else,” Trump said.
What else is happening:
- Julie Swetnick, the Michael Avenatti client who claimed Kavanaugh spiked the punch at parties where inebriated girls were gang raped, changed part of her story in an MSNBC interview. She now says he was “around the punch containers,” but she didn’t see him spike them. She also was less certain Kavanaugh participated in the assaults.
- Donald Trump Jr. said in an interview with DailyMailTV that the wave of sexual misconduct claims makes him fear more for his sons than for his daughters. He has three boys and two girls.
- Gratuitous insult of the day: Fielding a question from ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega, President Trump observed, "She's shocked that I picked her." Said Vega: "I'm not, thank you, Mr. President." Said Trump: "That's OK. I know you're not thinking. You never do."
- Public support for Kavanaugh has slipped, according to two new polls. A CBS News survey said 35 percent favor confirmation and 37 percent oppose. The Quinnipiac poll said 42 percent favor Kavanaugh and 48 percent say no. Both polls show big divides by party and gender.
- On the anniversary of the Las Vegas massacre in which a sniper killed 58 people, Trump said a ban on bump stocks is coming "over the next couple of weeks." The devices allow semiautomatic weapons to shoot more rapidly.
- The Republican National Committee has chosen Charlotte, North Carolina, as the site for the 2020 GOP convention. It will be held Aug. 24-27. The Democratic convention is scheduled for July 13-16, 2020, but the host city is still to be determined.
- Trump taped a video tribute to honor just-retired New York Mets captain David Wright.