Trump says China agreed to good deal for American farmers

President Trump touted in a tweet on Monday China’s promise to buy more US agricultural products following trade talks between the two countries, calling it a good deal for American farmers.

“China has agreed to buy massive amounts of ADDITIONAL Farm/Agricultural Products – would be one of the best things to happen to our farmers in many years!,” the president posted on his account, one of three tweets about China.

In another tweet, he questioned why former President Barack Obama failed to take action against China for the trade imbalance and suggested that he would work with Senate Democrats on developing fair trade policies.

“I ask Senator Chuck Schumer, why didn’t President Obama & the Democrats do something about Trade with China, including Theft of Intellectual Property etc.?,” Trump wrote. “They did NOTHING! With that being said, Chuck & I have long agreed on this issue! Fair Trade, plus, with China will happen!”

A third tweet said: “On China, Barriers and Tariffs to come down for first time. ”

About two hours later, he reiterated his earlier tweet that American farmers would benefit.

“Under our potential deal with China, they will purchase from our Great American Farmers practically as much as our Farmers can produce,” Trump said.

The final tweet said: “On China, Barriers and Tariffs to come down for first time. ”

In the joint US-China statement issued Saturday, China pledged to “significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services.”

“This will help support growth and employment in the United States. Both sides agreed on meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports. The United States will send a team to China to work out the details,” it said.

The statement followed two days of talks involving Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

On Sunday, Mnuchin said the US was putting a trade war with China on hold by not imposing major tariffs after the concessions by Beijing.

“We’re putting the trade war on hold. So right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” But Mnuchin and Lighthizer said that could change if China doesn’t follow through on its commitments.

“As this process continues, the United States may use all of its legal tools to protect our technology through tariffs, investment restrictions and export regulations,” Lighthizer said in a statement.

Trump during the presidential campaign railed about how China’s trade policies hurt American business, and his administration has been trying to get Beijing to take steps to lower its trade deficit with the US by at least $200 billion by the end of 2020.

[New York Post]

Reality

China agreed to the same deal we had before, with no commitment to buy a specific amount of any goods, and their “concession” was to buy the same products it was going to buy anyway.

Trump claimed he could easily win a trade war, yet got nothing he wanted, the trade gap hasn’t shrunk, and we just spent months harming US agriculture so we can be back to where we were before.

Trump Swipes at ‘Pundits’ Talking About North Korea: They ‘Couldn’t Come Close to Making a Deal’

The President of the United States is once again going after TV pundits criticizing him on policy decisions.

President Trump directly called out Chuck Todd on this issue earlier today, tweeting, “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing. Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!”

Now he’s going more generally after “pundits”:

[Mediaite]

Trump bragged that his tower withstood a fire — but has been silent about the man who died in it

Depending on whom you followed more closely, there were two accounts of the fire Saturday night that tore through a 50th-floor apartment in Trump Tower, President Trump’s namesake building on Fifth Avenue in New York.

The first narrative unfolded through official alerts and images from the New York Fire Department, which painted a picture of an extraordinarily challenging — and ultimately fatal — blaze to contain and extinguish.

The fire broke out just before 6 p.m. Saturday, officials said. Soon, flames could be seen making their way across the unit as dark plumes of smoke billowed upward, obstructing many of the floors above.

By the time firefighters arrived at the 50th floor of the building, they found “the apartment was entirely on fire,” New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Saturday.

Forcing their way into the unit, firefighters pulled out one person, unconscious and unresponsive, who had been trapped inside, Nigro added.

The man was taken to the hospital in critical condition, police said. He later died.

In all, six firefighters — of the roughly 200 or so who had responded — suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze, Nigro said.

For the president, however, the fire seemed first a chance to boast of the construction quality of Trump Tower on Twitter, his preferred method of communicating with the public.

“Very confined (well built building),” Trump tweeted Saturday, about an hour after the fire broke out. “Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!”

Trump also declared that the fire had been extinguished — before it actually had been.

The fire was still not considered to be under control then because of smoke conditions above the 50th floor, Nigro said Saturday. It was brought under control shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday, about an hour after Trump’s tweet, fire officials said.

[Washington Post]

Trump says he rejected Mexico request about border wall

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he rejected a demand from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that Trump say Mexico would not have to pay for a proposed U.S. border wall.

At a campaign rally in western Pennsylvania for a Republican congressional candidate, Trump gave some details of a testy phone call he had last month with Pena Nieto that led to the postponement of plans for the Mexican leader’s first visit to the White House.

Trump brought up the issue when the crowd started chanting “Build that Wall.”

Trump called Pena Nieto a “really nice guy” who made his request respectfully.

“He said, ‘Mr. President, I would like you to make a statement that Mexico will not pay for the wall,'” Trump said.

“I said, ‘Are you crazy? I am not making that statement,'” Trump said he replied.

When Pena Nieto said yes, Trump said he told him, “Bye, bye. There is no way I’m making that deal.”

Officials in Pena Nieto’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s remarks.

The Mexican leader’s visit to Washington has yet to be rescheduled. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, traveled to Mexico City last week to try to smooth over the tensions.

Trump is set to visit a prototype of his long-sought wall in the San Diego area on Tuesday.

[Reuters]

Trump Claims He is Building a $250,000 Embassy in Jerusalem. He is Lying.

Real estate nowadays is expensive.

Have you seen the prices in Jerusalem lately? You can barely buy a two-room apartment for less than 2 million shekels. (That’s about $577,000).

What’s any of this got to do with U.S. politics? At a meeting at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump told reporters that he had rejected a $1 billion plan to build a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Instead, he’s going to build one for just $250,000.

What a deal!

But that’s not quite the whole story.

What did Trump say?

Here’s what Trump said in full about the cost of the new embassy with Netanyahu by his side:

“We’ll have it built very quickly. A lot of people wouldn’t be doing it quickly like that. We’re going to have it built very quickly and very inexpensively. They put an order in front of my desk last week for $1 billion. I said, ‘a billion? What’s that for? We’re going to build an embassy.’ I said, ‘We’re not going to spend $1 billion.’ We’re actually doing it for about $250,000. So check that out.”

Trump quickly added: “Now, it’s temporary, but it’ll be very nice.”

He then boasted: “$250,000 versus a billion dollars.”

Turning to an already laughing Netanyahu, he asked rhetorically, “Is that good?”

What was Trump talking about?

We checked it out. Is the United States somehow building “it,” as in a permanent embassy, for $250,000?

No.

Trump was probably conflating two things: a permanent new embassy to be built years from now and a temporary embassy office the U.S. is building inside an existing consular building in Jerusalem to be set up by May, NPR diplomacy correspondent Michele Kelemen and international correspondent Daniel Estrin, based in Jerusalem, report.

“Internal modifications to allow the embassy to open in an existing facility in May is anticipated to cost $200,000 to $400,000,” a State Department official tells Kelemen.

As for financing the permanent embassy, The Associated Press reported in late February:

“The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, four U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

“Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials said. …

“In one possible scenario, the administration would solicit contributions not only from Adelson but potentially from other donors in the evangelical and American Jewish communities, too. One official said Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and staunch supporter of Israel, had offered to pay the difference between the total cost — expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars — and what the administration is able to raise.”

In January, Trump chafed at the $1 billion cost of the new U.S. Embassy in London. He canceled a trip to London for a ribbon-cutting because he said it was a “bad deal.”

The U.S. Embassy in London remarkably put out a statement defending itself, as NPR’s Frank Langfitt reported.

[NPR]

Trump: ‘I’d love to see a shutdown’ over immigration

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he supports a government shutdown if Democrats won’t agree to tighten immigration laws, undercutting ongoing bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The comment, which came during a White House meeting on the violent MS-13 gang, was not well received in the room. Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican who represents a district with thousands of federal workers, confronted Trump about the remark and urged him to avoid another government shutdown.

“If we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown,” Trump said of the nation’s immigration laws. “We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”

He added: “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety, and unrelated but still related, they don’t want to take care of our military, then shut it down. We’ll go with another shutdown.”

The government will run out of funding Thursday if negotiators can’t strike a deal.
Several Republican aides working on the budget deal have voiced concern to CNN that the President’s comments about a shutdown may cause things to fall apart.
“Holding my breath right now,” texted one senior Republican working on the deal.

The issue is whether House Democrats — who have for months been outright resistant to signing onto a budget agreement without a resolution on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — will now back away from the breakthrough deal negotiators are approaching.

The President’s remarks happened at the same time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, in separate news conferences, touted the progress on the talks and made clear a deal was close. The talks also separate the issue from immigration altogether — long the GOP goal — making the President’s comments somewhat confusing.

“Things are in a good place, but also fragile,” another GOP aide said, noting all of the moving parts in the talks. “We could do without anything inflammatory for a couple of days.”

Speaking shortly after Trump during the White House meeting, Comstock said she would not back such a move and urged Trump to avoid it.

“We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” she said. “I think both sides have learned that a government shutdown is bad.”

At a later event, Comstock described her comments with Trump as “a very civil discussion” and that she doesn’t “support government shutdowns.

When asked to clarify his remarks at the end of the roundtable, Trump told reporters again that he would shut down the government over immigration.

“I would shut it down over this issue. I can’t speak for everybody at the table but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue,” he said, adding that if the US doesn’t straighten out its borders “we don’t have a country. Without borders we don’t have a country.”
Rep. Pete King, R-New York, who attended the White House meeting, told reporters afterward that he doesn’t think the government will shutdown over immigration policy, despite Trump’s comments.

“I don’t see that in the offing,” King said.

Schumer responded to Trump’s shutdown threat, saying it “speaks for itself.”

“We had one Trump shutdown, nobody wants another, maybe except him,” Schumer said.
Trump oversaw a multi-day government shutdown last month over immigration reform.

Though Trump opposed that government shutdown, he has previously said the United States could use a government work stoppage.

“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess,” he tweeted in May.

[CNN]

Trump contradicts self repeatedly in immigration meeting

President Donald Trump appeared to contradict himself multiple times in a meeting on immigration with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Tuesday — a reflection of growing frustration from Capitol Hill about the lack of direction from the White House on the issue.

The President at times suggested he would be looking to sign everything from a stand-alone fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — set to expire in March — to comprehensive immigration reform, often appearing to being guided by lawmakers in the room to modify his positions.

The comments came during a nearly hour-long conversation between the roughly two dozen lawmakers, the President and White House staff that the press was allowed to record — a window into the difficult negotiations that still surround the issue of replacing DACA, which protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation, and border security.

At the end of the session, Trump suggested that ultimately, he would sign whatever he was presented with.

“I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with,” Trump said. “If they come to me with things I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it. Because I respect them.”

Sens. Jeff Flake and James Lankford after the meeting both said the meeting was surprisingly helpful and they appreciated the President adding some clarity to the discussions, while noting hammering out the details remains to be worked out.
Lankford acknowledged that the meeting got “confusing,” saying though Trump at the beginning defined “DACA” as a deal that included DACA plus border security and two other areas of reform, it was unclear during some parts of the meeting.

“It got confusing at times, in fact he said later, ‘I just want a clean DACA and we’ll do a comprehensive later,’ and some of us said, ‘Whoa, what do you mean by that?’ And he came back to those four items,” the Oklahoma Republican told reporters afterward.
The White House declared the meeting a success in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“President Donald J. Trump just concluded a successful bipartisan and bicameral meeting on immigration reform,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in the statement. “During the closed-door portion of the meeting, they reached an agreement to negotiate legislation that accomplishes critically needed reforms in four high-priority areas: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.”

Asked during the White House briefing by CNN’s Jim Acosta whether Trump is demanding border wall funding in exchange for a DACA deal, Sanders would only say: “The President wants border security.”

Pressed again repeatedly, Sanders again insisted Trump wants “border security” funding — but would not commit to the wall.

Trump’s equivocation was the opposite of what lawmakers have long sought from the President. Republicans especially have pushed for the administration to draw clear lines around what would be a doable deal, giving them cover with the base to compromise and giving them leverage with Democrats to move the debate forward.

Asked if Tuesday provided the clarity that lawmakers have been asking for, Lankford said there was still more to be done.

“Oh no, there’s still some room to go on it,” he said. “They’re continuing to get more and more clear on what they’re putting out, we’re getting closer and closer.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn made the point directly to Trump during the meeting, saying that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both told the President at a legislative retreat with Republicans over the weekend that only a bill with Trump’s support would move forward for a vote.

“So, that’s I think the picture that we need to be looking through, the lens we need to be looking through, not only what can we agree to among ourselves on a bipartisan basis, but what will you sign into law,” Cornyn said. “Because we all want to get to a solution here and we realize the clock is ticking.”

But details in the meeting were still hard to come by.

At one point, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, suggested to Trump that Congress could pass the “Dream Act” alone, which would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and which has been Democrats’ starting point demand, and then turn to comprehensive reform.

When Trump indicated he would agree to that, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said border security would have to be part of the package, prompting Trump to say that’s what he thought Feinstein meant, and then a flurry of clarifications.

Trump said his version of a “clean” deal would include DACA, border security, ending “chain migration” or family-based migration, and ending the diversity visa lottery. But those issues are commonly thought to only be achievable in a comprehensive immigration deal.

Trump then both endorsed doing comprehensive immigration reform sooner and later.
Lawmakers working on a DACA deal have long fought to keep the bill narrow, saying adding more into it would only make it collapse under its own wait.

Trump said he would “take the heat” if lawmakers wanted to move toward comprehensive immigration reform, saying they were “not that far away” from it.

But then a few minutes later, Trump said DACA could come first and reform could come down the road, or immediately after.

“I think what we are all saying is we’ll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon, OK?” Trump said. “We’ll take an hour off and start. I do believe that. Because once we get DACA done if it’s done properly with security and everything else, if it’s done properly, we have taken a big chunk of comprehensive out of the negotiations. I don’t think it’s going to be that complicated.”

Since Trump decided to end DACA in September, lawmakers have been working to find a deal on the issue. The Tuesday meeting came ahead of a January 19 government funding deadline that Democrats are pushing to include DACA and a host of other issues.

[CNN]

Media

Trump Promised Not to Work With Foreign Entities, His Company Just Did

A major construction company owned by the Chinese government was hired to work on the latest Trump golf club development in Dubai despite a pledge from Donald Trump that his family business would not engage in any transactions with foreign government entities while he serves as president.

Trump’s partner, DAMAC Properties, awarded a $32-million contract to the Middle East subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corporation to build a six-lane road as part of the residential piece of the Trump World Golf Club Dubai project called Akoya Oxygen, according to news releases released by both companies. It is scheduled to open next year.

The companies’ statements do not detail the exact timing of the contract except to note it was sometime in the first two months of 2017, just as Trump was inaugurated and questions were raised about a slew of potential conflicts of interest between his presidency and his vast real estate empire.

The Chinese company, known as CSCEC, is majority government-owned — according to Bloomberg and Moody’s, among others — an arrangement that generally encourages growth and drives out competition. It was listed as the 7th largest company in China and 37th worldwide with nearly $130 billion in revenues in 2014, according to Fortune’s Global 500 list.

The company, which has had a presence in the United States since the mid-1980s, was one of several accused by the World Bank of corruption for its role in the bidding process for a roads project in the Philippines and banned in 2009 from World Bank-financed contracts for several years.

Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at Issue One, which works to reduce the role of money in politics, said doing business with a foreign entity poses several potential problems for a president, including accusations that a foreign government is enriching him, gaining access to or building goodwill with him and becoming a factor in foreign policy.

The Trump Organization agreed to not engage in any new foreign deals or new transactions with a foreign entity — country, agency or official — other than “normal and customary arrangements” made before his election.

But Trump ignored calls to fully separate from his business interests when he became president. Instead, he placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his “exclusive benefit,” which he can receive at any time. He retains the authority to revoke the trust.

McGehee said Trump clearly knew foreign arrangements could be problematic because he outlined a list of restrictions, although vague ones, for his company to follow while he served as president. But more importantly, she said, the writers of the U.S. Constitution knew they could be too.

The Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution says officials may not accept gifts, titles of nobility or emoluments from foreign governments with respect to their office, and that no benefit should be derived by holding office.

“This is not just a concern of good government organizations,” she said. “It was a fundamental concern of the founding fathers.”

Trump pledged to donate profits from spending by foreign governments at his hotels to the U.S. Treasury, though he has been accused of violating the constitutional restriction and faces multiple lawsuits over the issue.

In some deals reviewed by McClatchy, the Trump Organization licenses its name and receives royalties from a project but does not have any input on who the developer hires. But in other cases, officials from the Trump Organization, including the Trump children, have taken a great interest in the development, walking the sites to check on progress.

An official with the Trump Organization, which is run by the president’s adult sons, confirmed the company licensed its name and brand to DAMAC Properties and has entered into an agreement to manage the Dubai golf course.

The Chinese company was appointed by DAMAC to undertake some infrastructure work and to build one of their hospitality developments” said the Trump Organization official who asked for anonymity. The official said the residential project and the golf course are “totally unrelated” despite marketing materials, including brochures, websites and news releases, showing them intricately tied together. DAMAC and CSCEC did not respond to messages about the development.

CSCEC appears in the Panama Papers, a massive data breach from law firm Mossack Fonseca whose publication last year lifted the veil on the secretive world of offshore companies, which can be used for legitimate business purposes but can also be used to evade taxes and launder money.

The documents show CSCEC had offshore companies listed in the Bahamas and in Panama, where it has projects. Mossack Fonseca subjected it to greater scrutiny, giving it Politically Exposed Person status, in part because of its state-owned status.

The company’s contract is for work on the Trump World Golf Club Dubai project, which boasts of “living on a grand scale” with a golf course designed by famed American golfer Tiger Woods, thousands of sleek, modern villas, restaurants, shops, schools, nurseries and a lake. The development touts it will house Dubai’s first tropical rainforest complete with waterfalls and tropical birds under a sky dome.

“This unparalleled development provides luxury living on a grand scale, with over 2,000 hotel apartments of varying size, all offering exceptional views of the development, the lake and the lush fairways of the Trump World Golf Club Dubai,” according to a brochure. “The properties are fully furnished and our staff is available to you 24 hours a day, to ensure that you enjoy premium service on a par with the world’s finest hotels.”

In February, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., attended a ceremony to open the first golf club in Dubai after their father spent years trying to break into the Middle East market.

Trump International Golf Club Dubai, part of a larger project built by a development giant DAMAC Properties on the outskirts of Dubai, includes more than 100 Trump-branded villas selling from $1 million to $4 million.

Hussain Sajwani, DAMAC’s wealthy chairman, who has family members listed in the Panama papers, offered the Trump Organization $2 billion in deals following Trump’s election, according to both sides. Trump said he rejected the offers to avoid conflicts of interest.

“Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great, great developer from the Middle East,” Trump said at a news conference in January. “And I turned it down. I didn’t have to turn it down because as you know I have a no conflict situation because I’m president…But I don’t want to take advantage of something.”

Trump’s Plan to End Qatar-Saudi Arabia Deadlock Fails

 

President Trump’s plan to de-escalate the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar ended in failure this week after the two countries released conflicting statements hours after a phone call organized by Trump.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that a phone call late Friday between the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, was meant to find common ground between the two nations. Instead, the two countries attacked each other hours later in the media over which country capitulated and agreed to peace negotiations first.

“The problem is as much about appearing to not capitulate to the other side as it is trying to solve any problems,” Michael Stephens of the Royal United Services Institute told the Times.

“Given the hypersensitivity of both sides to appearing weak,” he added, “it makes the problem considerably harder to solve.”

Trump himself seemed to hint that he was favoring Saudi Arabia in the negotiations on Thursday in comments at the White House, saying that “massive funding of terrorism by certain countries” was still a huge problem. Trump has accused the country of sponsoring terrorism in the region in the past.

“If they don’t stop the funding of terrorism, I don’t want them to come together,” he added.

Trump called the two leaders separately on Friday, urging them to work together to end terrorism in the region and work with the United States to counter Iran’s influence.

Unity among the Arab nations “is essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran,” read a White House read out of the calls.

Trump “also emphasized that all countries must follow through on commitments from the Riyadh Summit to defeat terrorism, cut off funding for terrorist groups, and combat extremist ideology,” it added.

[The Hill]

Finland Says No Fighter Deal with Boeing After Trump’s Ad-Lib Comments

President Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday denied that Finland was buying new fighter jets from American planemaker Boeing (BA.N), following remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Finland is looking to replace its ageing fleet of 62 F/A-18 Hornet jets with multirole fighter aircraft in a procurement estimated at 7-10 billion euros by 2025.

“One of the things that is happening is you’re purchasing large amounts of our great F-18 aircraft from Boeing and it’s one of the great planes, the great fighter jets,” Trump said on Monday at a news conference with his Finnish counterpart in the White House.

Niinisto, who was standing next to Trump, looked surprised but did not follow up on the comment. He later denied the deal with Boeing on his Twitter account and on Tuesday in Washington.

“It seems that on the sale side, past decisions and hopes about future decisions have mixed … The purchase is just starting, and that is very clear here,” Niinisto told Finnish reporters.

Helsinki is expected to request that European and U.S. planemakers provide quotations for new jets in 2018, with a final decision made in the early 2020s.

A government working group has listed possible candidates as Saab’s (SAABb.ST) Jas Gripen, Dassault Aviation’s (AVMD.PA) Rafale, Boeing’s Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s (LMT.N) F-35 and the Eurofighter, made by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

[Reuters]

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