Rep. Chris Collins speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland...

Rep. Chris Collins speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 19, 2016. Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Collaring Collins

There would be little cause to bring President Donald Trump into the conversation if Rep. Chris Collins of western New York hadn't been the first member of Congress to endorse him for president — or if Collins didn't get a key speaking slot at the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland.

But he was and he did. So this was mentioned in news coverage of Collins' indictment on Wednesday on charges of insider trading of a stock issued by a foreign-based pharma company in which Collins was a director and major shareholder. Newsday's John Riley covers the case.

It was during the congressional picnic at the White House in June 2017 that Collins made phone calls described as key to the case. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, a Trump appointee, said politics had no effect on the decision to file the charges three months before the midterm elections, when Collins and other incumbents are due to be on the ballot.

Deficit disorder 

The federal deficit grew by a striking 20 percent in the first 10 months of the 2018 fiscal year, the Congressional Budget Office said, citing increased federal spending and tax cuts.

Spending ran ahead of revenue by $682 billion between the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 and July, the nonpartisan office found, as The Hill summarizes.

Last week, Larry Kudlow, Trump's chief economic adviser, said the CBO numbers show "the entire $1.5 trillion tax cut is virtually paid for by higher revenues and better nominal GDP.”  Not so, experts say.

Lordy there’s a tape

Rep. Devin Nunes, who leads the GOP House charge defending Trump against multiple probes, was recorded at a fundraiser posing interesting scenarios.

Audio of his private address to Republicans reveals Nunes saying how an impeachment of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must wait until after Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court conformation. 

Trading tariffs

The trade tit-for-tat escalated Wednesday as Chinese officials announced a new 25 percent charge on hundreds of goods,  including large passenger cars, motorcycles, fiber-optic cables and various fuels.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office released a finalized list of Chinese goods to be hit with the 25 percent taxes, to take effect Aug. 23. 

Above the wild blue yonder 

Vice President Mike Pence is due at the Pentagon Thursday morning to detail plans for a U.S. Space Force, which would add a new bureaucracy to the military for the first time since just after World War II.

The added branch would be assigned, for example, to protect spy satellites or even civilian satellites that a rival nation could destroy using the latest ballistic missiles. The Air Force already has its own space programs — estimated cost, $11 billion — with many details long kept under wraps. NASA would continue to function as a civilian space agency.

What else is happening: 

  • Ohio's congressional fight and a GOP primary for governor in Kansas remained too close to definitively declare a win in Tuesday's balloting.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who defended Trump's controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, has delivered a letter from Trump to Putin.
  • New sanctions were announced stemming from Russia's alleged attempt to assassinate British citizen and former double agent Sergei Skripal.
  • An FBI forensic accountant testified that more than $60 million passed over five years through ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s overseas accounts, $15 million of it going to clothes, houses and other personal expenses.
  • Don Lemon, a black CNN anchor, alleges that Trump told him seven years ago that Lemon's race made him incapable of unbiased reporting.
  • Negotiations continue between Trump's lawyers and special counsel Robert Mueller over whether and how the president would be interviewed in the Russia probe.

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