Other people’s money
Well, that went south fast. President Donald Trump’s diplomatic engagement with Mexico — and a planned Jan. 31 meeting with its president — are off after an argument on Twitter and in front of TV cameras over the wall.
President Enrique Peña Nieto has said all along that his country won’t pay for the border barrier. In an ABC interview Wednesday, Trump seemed unbothered, observing mildly of his Mexican counterpart, “He has to say that.”
But a more belligerent Trump tweeted Thursday morning that if Mexico “is unwilling to pay ... then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” Done, said Peña Nieto.
Later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump may ask Congress for a 20% tax on imports to pay for the southern wall.
That would sting Mexico by making its goods less competitive. But Spicer estimated the tax would still raise $10 billion a year. So it’s a Mexican handoff— an assumption that Americans would keep buying the stuff and swallow the extra costs that are passed along.
It’s not just tequila
Several Capitol Hill Republicans signaled they would resist a tax on Mexican goods.
“Simply put, any policy proposal which drives up costs of Corona, tequila, or margaritas is a big-time bad idea. Mucho Sad,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
More seriously, he noted there’s a lot more at stake than happy hour: “Mexico is 3rd largest trading partner. Any tariff we can levy they can levy.”
For a fact sheet on U.S.-Mexico trade — which totaled an estimated $583.6 billion in 2015 — click here.
In the meantime, you’ll pay
Trump wants the wall sooner, not later, and it can’t be financed on layaway while waiting on Mexico.
So House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Congress will push ahead with legislation to approve funds for the wall, which they estimated would cost $12 billion to $15 billion.
The take-away: Prober, probee
Trump’s plan to order a voter-fraud investigation has been an attention-getter this week, but as time goes on, he’s going to be playing defense, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Russian attempts to influence the American election — and their potential links with Trump’s campaign — are just starting to draw scrutiny from the House and Senate intelligence committees.
And while the GOP-led Congress seems unenthused about looking for Trump conflicts of interest, the president and his Trump Organization are reported to be “lawyering up” for an expected surge of outsiders’ lawsuits.
His freedom to screech
Steve Bannon, a top Trump adviser, told The New York Times that the media should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”
Bannon, the former chief of Breitbart News, who has brought his nationalist vision to the White House, said, “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
Trump will give diplomacy another whirl Friday when he hosts British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House — his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader since assuming office, writes Newsday’s Laura Figueroa.
May, who stopped by a GOP congressional retreat in Philadelphia Thursday, told reporters she plans to discuss with Trump a future trade deal with the United States, emphasize the importance of the NATO peacekeeping alliance that Trump has described as “obsolete,” and counterterrorism efforts.
What else is happening
- On the morning after his inauguration, Trump called the acting director of the National Park Service and personally ordered him to find photos that he hoped would boost his claim that the news media lowballed the size of the crowds, The Washington Post reports. The extra photos didn’t.
- The Trump administration has forced Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan to resign, pleasing the pro-Trump union that represents the patrol’s thousands of agents.
- Vice President Mike Pence will appear in person to address the March for Life rally against abortion in Washington Friday.
- How’s he doing? Not so hot, according to a Quinnipiac Poll. Trump’s job approval rating for his first five days was 36%, while 44% disapproved and 19% were undecided.
- The Trump administration has halted all Obamacare advertising and outreach by the Department of Human Services for the final days before the annual enrollment deadline of Jan. 31, Politico reports.
- Trump often called Barack Obama a “weak” president, but was grateful for his help with the transition. So when Chelsea Manning — whose sentence for leaking classified information was reduced by Obama — called the ex-president “weak,” Trump took offense. “Ungrateful TRAITOR,” Trump tweeted.
- Add Spicer and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner to the list of presidential family and staff who are registered to vote in two states, The Washington Post reports. That is not — despite what Trump says — voter fraud unless they voted twice.