Walmart letter warns tariffs will raise prices and tax American businesses

The retail giant says tariffs put a commitment to purchase ‘$250 billion in products that support American jobs’ at risk

Getty Walmart, and many other retailers, are opposed to the proposed tariffs

Walmart Inc. has sent a letter to U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer warning that proposed tariffs on $200 billion on Chinese goods would hurt consumers and American businesses.The letter, dated September 6, focuses on what Walmart WMT, +0.16%  says will be the repercussions of the tariffs, which would apply to goods like food and beverages, personal care products like shampoo, detergents, motor vehicles and paper goods like napkins. Walmart is the biggest retailer in the U.S.The tariffs were initially proposed in July and are scheduled to go into effect on September 24. The 10% tax on Chinese imports will rise to 25% on January 1, 2019, according to members of the Trump administration.  China said it would impose tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods. And China’s Commerce Ministry has vowed retaliation and says the proposed U.S. plan has led to “uncertainty” for negotiations between the two countries. “Should the tariffs go into effect, Walmart customers will face cost increases for essential items like car seats, cribs, backpacks, hats, pet products and bicycles,” Walmart’s letter says. The company also said that tariffs would put a commitment to purchase an additional $250 billion in products that support American jobs in jeopardy. “For lower-income families, a 25% tax on these items would be a serious burden on household finances,” Walmart wrote. “Walmart and our suppliers will pay the cost of increased duties, which are simply taxes levied on products at the border. As a result, either consumers will pay more, suppliers will receive less, retail margins will be lower, or consumers will buy fewer products or forego purchases altogether.” Walmart outlined the hurdles in finding alternate suppliers, including safety issues on products for children, and the fact that China is the primary or sole source of imports for many products. There are also requirements that new suppliers have to meet, and costs that could come from the change. The retailer also says that it serves as an exporter of many goods through channels like Walmart China. Many of these items face tariffs as well. Cherries, for example, face 50% duties and, according to Walmart, have seen sales and margins slip. Other U.S. items of concern include beef, pork, nuts and wine, which are subject to Chinese retaliation. The National Retail Federation has also chimed in, with the organization’s President Matthew Shay saying that “thousands” of businesses consider this a “tax on American families.” The NRF has joined a coalition of more than 100 groups called Americans for Free Trade that will oppose tariffs and partnered with Farmers for Free Trade on a campaign that will host town hall events and perform outreach to Congress and the Trump administration on the issue. Events are planned for Chicago, Nashville, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“It’s disappointing that, despite the voices of those impacted, the administration continues to advance harmful tariff policies that threaten to weaken the U.S. economy,” the statement said. “We cannot afford further escalation, especially with the holiday shopping season right around the corner.”

The Retail Industry Leaders Association says it is “disappointed” by the tariff announcement as well.

U.S. oil sanctions on Iran threaten global supplies, but a demand slowdown poses a real risk

China already shows ‘signs of reducing their level of [oil] imports’: analyst
Getty Images

There are still several weeks before U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil actually kick in, but expectations of tight crude inventories already have contributed to much of this year’s gain in global prices. The rise has come despite concerns over potentially lower energy demand and plans by two of the world’s biggest producers to boost output. “The markets are always forward-looking,” said Tamar Essner, energy director at Nasdaq IR Intelligence. “Exports from Iran are already down about 35%, when you look at crude and condensate [a very light oil] together,” since President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May. The deal between Iran and six world powers and the European Union was made to ensure that Tehran’s nuclear program had a peaceful purpose, rather than to make nuclear weapons. “The market has really been surprised by the degree of enforcement from the U.S.,” Essner said. In the past, she adds, Washington had “targeted reductions in exports” with sanctions, but the current administration has “focused on elimination” of exports from Iran, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ third-largest producer. Nations such as South Korea have reached full compliance with the sanctions, and “critically, we’ve also seen China already showing signs of reducing their level of imports,” Essner said, noting that a buildup of Iranian oil in offshore storage shows that “it’s been harder for Iran to find buyers.” U.S. allies have until Nov. 4 to end imports of oil from that country.Since Trump’s announcement in early May through mid-September, the price of Brent crude LCOX8, +0.91% the global benchmark, climbed roughly 7%. It settled at $78.60 a barrel on Thursday, up about 18% since the year began. “European companies will almost certainly comply with these sanctions to avoid fines and confrontation with the U.S.,” said Sebastian Leburn, senior portfolio manager of Boston Private. “About a third of Iran oil is exported to Europe, and this is where the curtailment will be most pronounced.” Iran’s crude and condensate exports averaged 1.92 million barrels a day in August, down from 2.32 million in July, according to estimates from S&P Global Platts. Saudi Arabia and Russia have been trying to ensure market stability in the aftermath of the Iran sanctions, but some question their ability to make up for the lost barrels of crude. In June, OPEC and allied producers said they would rein in production curbs implemented in January 2017. That could raise daily output by one million barrels, to help offset a possible supply shortage from the Iran sanctions and production losses in Venezuela and elsewhere. A committee of OPEC and non-OPEC producers was expected to discuss how best allocate the production increase at a meeting in Algiers on Sept. 23. However, it’s doubtful that Saudi Arabia or Russia can make up for the lost oil, maintains Campbell Faulkner, a senior data analyst at EOXLive. “Neither country has the swing production it did a number of years ago.” It’s more likely that U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude prices CLX8, +1.00%  will spike into the $100 range, prompting production from drilled-but-uncompleted wells to ramp up, “along with greater U.S. exports to ease the tight market,” said Faulkner. That “will not replace the totality of the loss, but it, along with marginal production increases globally, can soak the market to prevent” oil from going into the $130 range. Trump has imposed tariffs on, and plans even more, on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods from China, the world’s largest energy consumer. The “bigger factor through the rest of the year is likely demand rather than supply,” said Brian Youngberg, senior energy analyst at Edward Jones, and the “real” threat to oil demand comes from the “broader economic downturn in emerging markets as a whole, not just China.”

Wells Fargo plans to cut up to 10% of workforce in the next 3 years

  • A customer exits a Wells Fargo & Co. bank branch in Los Angeles Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images A customer exits a Wells Fargo & Co. bank branch in Los Angeles Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wells Fargo is lowering its employee headcount by 5 to 10 percent in the next three years as part of the bank’s ongoing turnaround plan, the company announced Thursday. “We are continuing to transform Wells Fargo to deliver what customers want — including innovative, customer-friendly products and services — and evolving our business model to meet those needs in a more streamlined and efficient manner,” the bank’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan said in a press release. Wells Fargo has 265,000 employees, meaning the reduction would result in a loss of between 13,250 and 26,500 jobs. The decline will be a mix of displacements and team member attrition, Sloan said. The move is part of Wells Fargo’s “ongoing transformation, which addresses industry trends and changes in customer behavior, during a regularly scheduled companywide town hall meeting,” Sloan said. The company, which has $1.9 trillion in assets, blamed “changing customer preferences,” including the “adoption of digital self-service capabilities,” as a key catalyst. Shares had little reaction to the news, and were last up by about 0.8 percent.

EU’s Brexit hard line angers Theresa May

We are preparing for no deal,’ says UK prime minister after EU leaders brand her plan unacceptable.
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media at the conclusion of the summit of leaders of the European Union on September 20, 2018 in Salzburg, Austria | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

SALZBURG, Austria — U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May warned Thursday that she is prepared to walk away from the Brexit talks — bringing an acrimonious end to an EU leaders’ summit that was supposed to showcase newfound unity and cooperation in working toward a deal. “Let nobody be in any doubt, as I’ve always said, we are preparing for no deal,” May, visibly angry, said at a news conference just moments after European Council President Donald Tusk declared at a gathering of EU leaders in Salzburg, Austria, that her Brexit plan “will not work.” Appearing defiant, May told reporters she still has hope. “I believe there is willingness to do a deal,” she said. But the prime minister quickly added that she and the U.K. would be ready to walk away. “If we get to the position where it is not possible to reach a deal,” she said, “then the British people can be confident that we will have done what is necessary to ensure we make a success of leaving the European Union, regardless of the terms on which we do so.” “I am negotiating hard in the interests of the British people,” May said. May’s warning came after Tusk and the EU27’s most powerful leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, forcefully rejected the central component of May’s plan for a post-Brexit relationship at a trio of news conferences. They reiterated that the EU would not agree to May’s plan for a free-trade area for goods but not services, which they said would divide the EU’s single market and grant the U.K. preferential benefits over EU members. “While there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work,” Tusk said at the informal summit’s closing news conference, “not least because it will risk undermining the single market.” In a move clearly aimed at pressuring London, Tusk also said EU leaders are standing firm in their demand that negotiators complete a Brexit withdrawal treaty by October, and would not call a special summit for November unless it becomes necessary.

Donald Tusk: UK Brexit plan ‘will not work’

“I am negotiating hard in the interests of the British people. I am negotiating to deliver on what the British people voted for in the referendum” — Theresa May

Tusk’s aides insisted that he merely restated positions that the EU, and its chief negotiator Michel Barnier, have articulated repeatedly over the more than two months since May first unveiled her proposal. The aides said that Tusk did not in any way intend to be provocative. But while the EU opposition is not new, the context of the remarks  — at a major summit, after May addressed her colleagues at a dinner on Wednesday and urged further compromise — seem to strike a significant blow, raising the risk of a breakdown in negotiations. It also appeared to put May in severe political jeopardy at home, just 10 days before the Conservative Party conference. Critics of May’s handling of Brexit, including the former Brexit secretary, David Davis, and the leading Brexiteer MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, quickly demanded that she abandon her Chequers plan. “Chequers goes pop,” Rees-Mogg gloated on Twitter.

More broadly, it is clear once again that Brussels and London might as well be in different universes when it comes to how officials see and hear the debate over Britain’s withdrawal. May’s reaction left a sense that she felt ambushed, even though she had met one-on-one with Tusk just minutes before his news conference. EU officials, in turn, were stunned that May was the least bit surprised by their remarks.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that Brexit shows “it’s not so easy to leave the EU, it’s not without a cost, it’s not without consequences …
[Chequers] is not acceptable because it doesn’t respect the integrity of the single market.” He said British voters opted to leave based on lies told to them by advocates of Brexit. Brexit, he said, is “the choice of the British people, a choice pushed by those who predicted easy solutions … they are liars, they left the next day so they didn’t have to manage it.” The spectacle of the EU’s top brass piling on in their rejection of May’s plan threatens her chances of reaching a divorce agreement with Brusselsacceptable to her party and parliament. Their criticism will be jumped on by Conservative Brexiteers as further evidence that May should abandon her Chequers plan altogether and begin serious preparations for a no-deal departure if a much looser arrangement cannot be reached for the whole of the U.K.

Michael Cohen spoke to Mueller team for hours; asked about Russia, possible collusion, pardon: Sources

PHOTO: Michael Cohen leaves Federal court, Aug. 21, 2018, in New York City.

President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has participated over the last month in multiple interview sessions lasting for hours with investigators from the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller, sources tell ABC News. Add Russia Investigation as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Russia Investigation news, video, and analysis from ABC News. The special counsel’s questioning of Cohen, one of the president’s closest associates over the past decade, has focused primarily on all aspects of Trump’s dealings with Russia — including financial and business dealings and the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign and its surrogates to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News. Investigators were also interested in knowing, the sources say, whether Trump or any of his associates discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen. Over the 16 months that Mueller has been investigating, the president has repeatedly bashed the investigation as a partisan witch hunt, insisting there has been no collusion and no obstruction of justice. The interviews with Cohen took place in Washington, D.C., and New York City. They were also attended in part by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. Cohen’s participation in the meetings has been voluntary — without any guarantee of leniency from prosecutors, according to several people familiar with the situation. ABC News has also learned that Cohen is also cooperating with a separate probe by New York state authorities into the inner workings of the Trump family charity and the Trump Organization, where Cohen served as an executive vice president and special counsel to Trump for 10 years.

PHOTO: Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 13, 2012.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 13, 2012.more +

The news of Cohen’s dealings with federal and state investigators comes close on the heels of another potentially perilous legal development for the president: the guilty pleas last week from Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who struck a deal with Mueller’s prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation. As the Manafort deal was taking shape — Mueller’s team had already been talking to Cohen.

Dow jumps more than 250 points to record high as Apple rises and trade-war fears simmer down

Market sentiment has changed in respect to the tariff story, says Pimco EVP
Market sentiment has changed in respect to the tariff story, says Pimco EVP
 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its first record high since January on Thursday as gains in Apple and a decrease in trade fears lifted the 30-stock index. The Dow jumped 255 points as Boeing, Caterpillar and Apple rose. The S&P 500 also rose 0.8 percent to an all-time high, its first since late August, as consumer staples and tech outperformed.President Donald Trump touted the S&P 500’s record in a tweet, saying “Congrats USA!”

The Nasdaq Composite also rose 1 percent as Amazon gained 1 percent ahead of an event where they are expected to unveil new Alexa-powered devices. Apple, meanwhile, jumped 1.3 percent.

Boeing and Caterpillar, two bellwethers for trade, rose 1.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

The Chinese commerce ministry said Thursday the country hopes the U.S. will take steps to correct its behavior. The comments come as the two countries slapped tariffs on each other’s goods.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at the closing bell, November 30, 2017 in New York City
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at the closing bell, November 30, 2017 in New York City

“I think we’re moving away from fears of a global trade war to maybe just one with China,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist for Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management. Earlier, “it seemed like more countries would be caught in the administration’s cross hairs; not it appears to be just one.” The U.S. administration announced Monday it would inflict 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, which would rise to 25 percent by year-end. China retaliated Tuesday by announcing levies targeting over 5,000 American products worth $60 billion and to go into effect next week. The country has also filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization about the U.S.’ latest round of duties. However, the levies imposed by both countries were seen as less than previously feared, helping lift sentiment on Wall Street. The Dow is up more than 1 percent over the past two days. The S&P 500, meanwhile, has risen more than 0.6 percent in that time period. “I’m not at all surprised investors are taking the latest tariffs and the more muted response from China as a positive,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. She noted that trade news have been both a positive and negative catalyst for stocks this year. Hence, a more muted escalation to the trade conflict is seen as a net positive. “But I don’t think the worries about trade are completely over, especially if the U.S. tariffs on China increase to 25 percent.” J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon also played down the conflict between the U.S. and China, calling it a skirmish and not a trade war. Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt, thinks investors should be more concerned with the trade situation, however. “It will take people some time realize this is not going away anytime soon,” he said. “We think the situation with China will take the longest time to resolve.”

Oil climbs as EIA reports a 5th-straight decline in U.S. crude stockpiles

Traders also weigh Iran sanctions concerns against U.S.-China trade tariffs
AFP/Getty Images

Oil  climbed Wednesday, with the U.S. benchmark getting a boost after a government report revealed a fifth-straight weekly decline in U.S. crude inventories. The decrease in supplies was smaller than the market expected, but it contradicted the increase reported by a trade group on Tuesday. Traders also weighed expectations for lower global output due to impending U.S. sanctions on Iran, as well as the prospects for energy demand on the heels of a worsening trade dispute between the U.S. and China. The U.S. benchmark, October West Texas Intermediate crude CLV8, +0.34% rose 86 cents, or 1.2%, to $70.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract, which expires at Thursday’s settlement, was trading at $70.41 before the supply data. November Brent LCOX8, +0.39% the global benchmark, added 16 cents, or 0.2%, to trade at $79.19 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, a day after ending up 1.3%.

The Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday that domestic crude supplies fell by 2.1 million barrels for the week ended Sept. 14. The EIA had reported declines in each of the previous four weeks.

“Although refinery runs have dropped 442,000 [barrels per day] as we slide into fall maintenance, refining activity remains elevated, with runs over 800,000 [barrels-a-day] higher than in 2016,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, adding that 2017’s figures were “muddied by Hurricane Harvey.” “We see another counter-seasonal draw to crude inventories as rising exports have countered a rebound in imports,” he said. Gasoline stockpiles declined by 1.7 million barrels for the week, while distillate stockpiles climbed by 800,000 barrels, according to the EIA. The S&P Global Platts survey had shown expectations for supply declines of 1.6 million barrels for gasoline, and 282,000 barrels for distillates, which include heating oil.

“If we continue to see that rise—and coupled along with the trade war—we could see the equity markets come off, along with a slowdown in global growth if the trade war goes to the next level,” said Zahir. “Even with Iran barrels [expected] to come off market, the global macro picture could put a damper on crude oil demand as we go through the end of the year.”

Major oil producers, including Russia, have been wrestling with how to ensure market stability once the U.S. sanctions against Iran are imposed in early November. Iran is the third-largest oil producer and a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. On Tuesday, oil prices got a lift from a report indicating that Saudi Arabia—OPEC’s de facto leader— is growing more inured to the prospect of higher Brent futures prices above $80 a barrel. OPEC and other producers including Russia are set to meet on Sept. 23 in Algeria to discuss how to best distribute planned increases to offset the loss of Iranian output, estimated at 1.4 million barrels a day, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

EIA: US crude inventories decrease 2.1 million bbl

US crude oil inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, decreased by 2.1 million bbl for the week ended Sept. 14, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. At 394.1 million bbl, US crude oil inventories are about 3% below the 5-year average for this time of year, the report indicated. The report said total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.7 million bbl and are about 8% above the 5-year range. Finished gasoline inventories increased while blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 800,000 bbl last week and are about 2% below the 5-year average for this time of year. Propane-propylene inventories increased by 100,000 bbl last week and are about 12% below the 5-year average for this time of year, EIA said. US refinery inputs averaged 17.4 million b/d for the week ended Sept. 14, about 442,000 b/d less than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 95.4% of capacity. Gasoline production decreased, averaging 10.3 million b/d. Distillate fuel production decreased, averaging 5.5 million b/d. US crude oil imports averaged 8 million b/d, up by 433,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged 7.7 million b/d, 6.9% more than the same period last year. Total motor gasoline imports averaged 561,000 b/d. Distillate fuel imports averaged 141,000 b/d.

Senate approves $854B spending bill

The Senate is racing to avoid the third government shutdown of the year ahead of a looming end-of-the-month deadline. Senators on Tuesday voted 93-7 to pass a sweeping $854 billion spending bill that includes funding for the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Education, which make up the lion’s share of total government spending. Six Republican senators — Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), David Perdue (Ga.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) — joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in voting against the bill, which also includes a short-term stopgap bill to fund the rest of the government through Dec. 7 and prevent a shutdown that would start Oct. 1. Passage of the sweeping package of defense and domestic spending marks a significant victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who has dedicated weeks of floor time to government funding and avoiding another catch-all omnibus bill less than two months before the midterm election, where control of Congress hangs in the balance.  It’s the first time the Senate has approved funding for Labor, HHS or Education outside an omnibus bill since 2007, though even then the package was not completed on time. The bills normally get bogged down by fights over partisan riders, but Senate negotiators agreed early on to avoid attaching them to their legislation and were able to keep them out of the final House-Senate version of the package. “These milestones may sound like inside baseball, but what they signify is a Senate that is getting its appropriations process back on track, a Senate that is attending to vital priorities for our country,” McConnell said.  Despite containing only two appropriations bills, the package represents roughly two-thirds of Congress’s 2019 spending. Of the $854 billion, $785 billion fell under agreed-upon budget caps, and the rest came from off-budget funds such as Overseas Contingency Operations. It includes provisions for military pay raises, defense research, increases for Pell grants and the National Institutes of Health, and workforce development training, among others. The House is out this week but expected to take up the funding legislation next week, ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline to keep the government funded. Congress already sent an initial spending bill to President Trump’s desk that funded military construction and veterans’ affairs, the legislative branch and energy and water. If Trump signs both bills before the end of the month that would allow lawmakers to get 5 out of the 12 individual appropriations bills to his desk before the end of the 2018 fiscal year. The two chambers are working on a third package of four bills they hope to send to the president as well, but differences remain between the House and Senate. Those bills include Agriculture, Interior, Financial Services and Transportation funding measures. A continuing resolution (CR) in the bill extends funding for all other agencies through Dec. 7, after the midterm elections.

The inclusion of the resolution in the Department of Homeland Security bill puts off a contentious debate on Trump’s proposed border wall. While Trump could still choose to veto the spending bills, congressional leaders have expressed confidence that the inclusion of the defense bill with the CR will make it difficult for him to do so.

And Trump told Fox News earlier this month that he “most likely” would not shut down the government, a move that would spark a risky fight for Republicans less than two months before the midterm. “I guess when you get right down to it, it is up to me,” Trump said during an interview with Fox News about shutting down the government, “but I don’t want to do anything to hurt us or potentially hurt us.” Instead, senators are bracing for a December fight over funding for the border wall with both chambers far apart on how much to include. The House version of the bill included $5 billion of funding, while the Senate version included $1.6 billion and limited construction to fencing along a 65-mile stretch of the Rio Grande Valley. Trump had made getting funding for his border wall a top priority, including threatening to veto a March spending bill that he and his conservative allies felt didn’t include sufficient funding for the wall.

Judge Napolitano: Manafort’s Deal ‘Bulletproof’ From Trump Pardon

Image: Judge Napolitano: Manafort's Deal 'Bulletproof' From Trump Pardon
(Getty Images) By Sandy Fitzgerald

President Donald Trump should be “very, very worried” at the news that his former campaign aide, Paul Manafort, is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, as the deal is “bulletproof” from a presidential pardon, Fox News judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said Monday.

“When Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two crimes, witness tampering and conspiracy to defraud the government, basically not paying taxes, he also admitted to 18 other crimes.” Many of those were federal crimes, or all state crimes, said Napolitano, making it “bulletproof” from being shot down by a pardon. “If President Trump were to pardon Paul Manafort, to prevent him from spilling the beans against the president to Bob Mueller, he would be immediately indicted by the attorneys general, appropriate authorities in the four states where the bank fraud occurred,” Napolitano said of Manafort. “This is part of the Mueller method of operating.” Last Friday, Manafort pleaded guilty to two federal crimes after he made a deal with prosecutors and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s Russia probe, allowing him to avoid a second criminal trial. Last month, Manafort was convicted of eight financial crimes during a trial in Virginia, and faces 7-10 years in prison in that case. Prosecutor Andrew Weissman said Manafort will plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.

U.S. trade war with China isn’t winnable, but Trump will likely claim victory anyway

With President Donald Trump announcing a new round of tariffs on China –imposing 10 percent on about $200 billion worth of goods from the country — Beijing said on Tuesday that it would retaliate with a new round of tariffs on U.S. imports. As these tariffs roll on and cause some fear and dread in several industries, it’s worth asking: What does a victory in a trade war with China actually look like? “If they get meaningful concessions out of the Chinese, they will consider this a success,” said Bart Oosterveld, director of the Global Business and Economics Program at the Atlantic Council. What, exactly, is a “meaningful confession,” though? Are there any hard targets included in that definition? Although the aim of these tariffs is to lower the U.S.-China trade deficit — by either $100 billion or $200 billion by the end of 2020 — a “win” can be defined in a number of ways. “Within the administration there are very different views about what a good outcome with China is,” said Oosterveld. Some, he pointed out, such as U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, want to see complete reform, with China becoming a free-market economy. “Then there are others who want concessions on specific trade practices,” said Oosterveld, adding, “You can claim victory pretty quickly in this environment.” So, with some kind of (at least claim to) victory assured, we can expect more of the same in the short term — at least, until the November midterm elections. Along with the announcement of the new tariffs on Monday night, President Trump also said that if China retaliates (which it is). then the U.S. will “immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion of additional imports” — or pretty much everything the U.S. imports from China. Feeling pretty confident with a strong stock market and high employment figures, Oosterveld said the administration is sure to push ahead with the third round of tariffs. “The administration has no incentive, politically or economically, to back down before the midterms,” said Oosterveld. “This escalation kind of serves them well,” he added. Will these tariffs work to change China’s behavior and help narrow the trade deficit? Well, maybe, said Oosterveld, who sees the Chinese as being “relatively willing” to make some concessions. “But if you’re going to address the trade practices of China, long-term, I think you need to work with allies, like the E.U. and Japan, to apply pressure. I don’t think that’s happening right now,” he said. Indeed, the president seems to view this as a bilateral issue rather than a global one, and his Tuesday morning tweets make more of a nationalistic (or emotional) case for his actions, rather than a pragmatic one pitting China against America’s “great patriots”:

But many U.S. businesses worry that the president’s tariffs will be what puts them in the line of fire: Thousands of companies and trade industries have registered their concerns with Lighthizer’s office, saying that their businesses will take a hit from which they can’t recover. Many have applied to get their products off the tariff list. This, said Oosterveld, seems to be an acceptable price to pay for the Trump administration. “We have very solid economic growth and this, in and of itself, won’t trigger an  economic downturn … I’m sure there’s downstream harmful effects to individuals, to certain companies, to certain industries, certainly to companies abroad and certain industries there — I don’t think that’s a major area of concern to this administration right now.”

May cautions: support my Brexit deal or face no deal

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKa

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned rebels in her party that unless they support her potential Brexit deal with the EU then they will face a no deal. The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29 and yet little is clear: There is, so far, no full exit agreement and some rebels in May’s Conservative Party have threatened to vote down a deal if she clinches one. “I think that the alternative to that will be having no deal,” May told BBC TV. The fate of May’s government and her Brexit plan is in doubt because it is unclear whether she could command the 320 votes she needs in the House of Commons, the lower house of the British parliament, to approve a deal. Recent signals from Brussels have buoyed hopes that the United Kingdom and the EU can agree and approve a proper divorce agreement before the UK leaves on March 29, though the sides are still divided on about one fifth of the detail of a deal. But many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would weaken the West, spook financial markets and block the arteries of trade. As Britain now faces a choice between a bad Brexit deal or a damaging “no-deal” Brexit, voters should be given another referendum, London mayor Sadiq Khan said. May’s former foreign minister, Boris Johnson, attacked May’s Brexit plans.

“If the Brexit negotiations continue on this path they will end, I am afraid, in a spectacular political car crash,” Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

May’s proposals, named for a country house where they were hashed out in July, call for free trade of goods with the EU, with Britain accepting a “common rulebook” that would apply to those goods. “The whole thing is a constitutional abomination, and if Chequers were adopted it would mean that for the first time since 1066 our leaders were deliberately acquiescing in foreign rule,” Johnson said, referring to the 11th Century invasion which established Norman rule over England. Johnson scolded May for her handling of the Brexit negotiations on the future of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the only land border between the EU and the United Kingdom after Brexit. The Times newspaper reported that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is working on a new protocol text outlining how to use technology to minimise checks on the border. Under the EU plan, goods could be tracked using barcodes on shipping containers under “trusted-trader” schemes administered by registered companies, the Times reported. Reuters reported on Sept. 12 that EU officials were working on a sensitive Irish protocol to the draft Brexit treaty with Britain, as part of what Barnier has called efforts to “de-dramatise” the issue and get a deal. The proposals are to be circulated to European governments after the Conservative Party conference which starts on Sept. 30, according to the Times. The “revised draft of the Northern Ireland protocol”, according to a diplomatic note of talks between EU ambassadors, will propose that most new checks would not happen at any border, the Times said.

US imposes new $200bn tariffs on China

The US is imposing new tariffs on $200bn (£150bn) worth of Chinese goods as it escalates its trade war with Beijing. The higher import taxes will apply to more than 5,000 items, marking the biggest round of US tariffs so far. Handbags, rice and textiles will be included, but some items expected to be targeted such as smart watches and play pens have been excluded. China has previously vowed to retaliate against any further US tariffs. The taxes will take effect from 24 September, starting at 10% and increasing to 25% from the start of next year unless the two countries agree a deal.President Donald Trump said the latest round of tariffs was in response to China’s “unfair trade practices, including subsidies and rules that require foreign companies in some sectors to bring on local partners. “We have been very clear about the type of changes that need to be made, and we have given China every opportunity to treat us more fairly. “But, so far, China has been unwilling to change its practices,” he said. He also warned that if China retaliated then the US would “immediately pursue phase three” which would mean imposing further tariffs with taxes on another $267bn worth of Chinese products. If he does go ahead with a further $267bn worth of tariffs, it would mean virtually all of China’s US exports would be subject to new duties. his latest round is the biggest to date, and unlike the earlier rounds this latest list targets consumer goods, such as luggage and furniture. That means regular households may start to feel the impact. US companies have already said they are worried about the effect of higher costs on their businesses. The White House says its tariffs are a response to China’s “unfair” trade policies. In theory, the tariffs will make US-made products cheaper than imported ones, so encourage consumers to buy American. The idea is they would boost local businesses and support the national economy. US officials hope the risk of economic harm will convince the Chinese government to change its policies. However, many US businesses are critical of the tariffs. Farmers, manufacturers, retailers and other industry groups have formed a coalition to oppose the tariffs, calling them taxes on American families. “Tariffs have already resulted in layoffs, and this escalation will continue to squeeze American businesses with higher input costs and American farmers with decreasing commodity values,” said Jonathan Gold, a spokesman for the coalition. Talks between high-level officials ended in May without resolving the matter. Efforts to re-start discussions have failed to progress. US and China officials had discussed a new round of talks over the past week, but President Trump’s latest move is likely to sour relations further.

US Border Patrol Agent Charged in 2-Week Killing Spree

Image: US Border Patrol Agent Charged in 2-Week Killing Spree
Law enforcement officers gather near the scene where the body of a woman was found near Interstate 35 north of Laredo, Texas on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. A U.S. Border Patrol agent suspected of killing four women was arrested early Saturday after a fifth woman who had been abducted managed to escape from him and notify authorities. (Danny Zaragoza/The Laredo Morning Times via AP)

Texas authorities charged a U.S. Border Patrol supervisor with murder following what they called a two-week serial killing spree that left four female sex workers dead and ended when a fifth woman escaped at a gas station and found help.

Juan David Ortiz, 35, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, was charged with four counts of murder as well as aggravated assault and unlawful restraint, Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said in a tweet.

Ortiz was arrested after the fifth woman managed to flee. State troopers found Ortiz hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo at around 2 a.m. Saturday. The border city about 145 miles (235 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio. “We do consider this to be a serial killer,” Alaniz said. Alaniz said that after the suspect picked up the fifth woman she quickly realized that she was in danger. “When she tried to escape from him at a gas station that’s when she ran into a (state) trooper,” Alaniz said. He said that authorities believe Ortiz had killed all four women since Sept. 3. The names of the victims were not immediately released. Alaniz said two of them were U.S. citizens but the nationalities of the other two were not yet known. All of them were working as prostitutes and one was a transgender woman, he said. Ortiz was a 10-year veteran of the Border Patrol. U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a statement saying that it was fully cooperating with the investigation. Nick Bit: A man who supervises children ripped from their mothers arms is a living piece of shit and as you are seeing is capable of anything. ” Its my job” is the excuse animals have used since dawn to commit atrocities.  Like dropping cyanide capsules into  “Sowers” full of women and children. THEIR IS NO DIFFERENCE! THESE THINGS HAVE A WAY OF GROWING!

‘Illusion’ to think states can completely prevent financial crises – Weidmann

German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann delivers a speech during a dinner of the Hellenic Bank Association in Athens, Greece, August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidi

BERLIN (Reuters) – Governments cannot completely prevent a repeat of events like the 2008 global financial crisis even though regulations have been tightened since the collapse of Lehman Brothers a decade ago, Germany’s top central banker told Bild newspaper. Bundesbank President Jen Weidmann said German banks were not only victims of the 2008 financial crisis, but many institutions had also taken on more risk than they could ultimately carry. Regulations had been tightened since then, but it would be “an illusion” to think that governments could completely avert such crises, he said.

Graham: Mueller is going to be allowed to finish investigation

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia will finish unimpeded. “Nothing’s going to happen to Mueller’s investigation politically. He’s going to be allowed to finish it,” Graham told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I’m intent on making sure that Mueller completes his investigation without political interference,” he added.  However, Graham said he was concerned about others involved in the initial stages of the Russia probe. “I’m very disappointed no Democrats seems to be worried about the corruption at the Department of Justice and the FBI regarding the Clinton email investigation, early stages of the Russian investigation,” Graham said. “I’m worried about that.”

He also expressed very little confidence that Mueller would find any evidence of collusion.

“I know that from the Judiciary point of view, we found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” Graham said. “I think Richard Burr said from the Intel point of view that he’s seen no evidence of collusion, but we’re waiting on Mueller.”

“Let’s let Mueller do his job,” Graham said.

President Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill have repeatedly expressed that they want the Mueller probe to end, fueling concern among Democrats that the GOP is trying to impede the investigation.

Last Thursday, Trump told Bloomberg News that he considered the investigation “illegal,” a statement the president doubled down on Sunday morning.

“The illegal Mueller Witch Hunt continues in search of a crime,” Trump tweeted out. “There was never Collusion with Russia, except by the Clinton campaign, so the 17 Angry Democrats are looking at anything they can find.”

“ALSO, not allowed under the LAW,” he said.

Grim warnings for White House, Republicans ahead of election

WASHINGTON (AP) — The prognosis for President Donald Trump and his party was grim. In a post-Labor Day briefing at the White House, a top Republican pollster told senior staff that the determining factor in the election wouldn’t be the improving economy or the steady increase in job creation. It would be how voters feel about Trump. And the majority of the electorate, including a sizable percentage of Republican-leaning voters, doesn’t feel good about the president, according to a presentation from pollster Neil Newhouse that spanned dozens of pages. Newhouse’s briefing came amid a darkening mood among Republican officials as the November election nears. Party leaders were already worried that a surge in enthusiasm among Democrats and disdain for Trump by moderate Republicans would put the House out of reach. But some Republicans now fear their Senate majority is also in peril — a scenario that was unthinkable a few months ago given the favorable Senate map for the GOP. “For Republican candidates to win in swing states, they need all of the voters who support President Trump, plus a chunk of those who do not,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster. “That is threading a very narrow strategic needle.” Operatives in both parties say Republicans still have the edge in the fight for control of the Senate. But GOP officials are increasingly worried that nominees in conservative-leaning states like Missouri and Indiana are underperforming, while races in Tennessee and Texas that should be slam-dunks for Republicans are close. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised an alarm last week, warning that each of the competitive Senate races would be “like a knife fight in an alley.” Some of the public fretting among Republicans appears to be strategic, as party officials try to motivate both voters and donors. Many moderate Republican voters “don’t believe there is anything at stake in this election,” according to the documents Newhouse presented to White House officials. He attributed that belief in part to a disregard for public polling, given that most surveys showed Democrat Hillary Clinton defeating Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

At the White House, anxiety over the midterms has been on the rise for months as polls increasingly show a challenging environment for the GOP and heightened Democratic enthusiasm. The sheer number of competitive races in both the House and Senate is stretching cash reserves and forcing tough calculations about where to deploy resources and surrogates. And there are growing fears that the coalition of voters that delivered Trump to the White House will not come out for midterms.

Even if those voters do show up in large numbers, Republicans could still come up short. The polling presented to White House officials, which was commissioned by the Republican National Committee, showed that Trump’s loyal supporters make up about one-quarter of the electorate. Another quarter is comprised of Republicans who like Trump’s policies but not the president himself and do not appear motivated to back GOP candidates. And roughly half of expected midterm voters are Democrats who are energized by their opposition to the president.

White House aides say Trump is getting regular briefings on the political landscape and is aware of the increasingly grim polling, even though he’s predicted a “red wave” for Republicans on Twitter and at campaign rallies. Aides say Trump’s sober briefings from GOP officials are sometimes offset by the frequent conversations he has with a cadre of outside advisers who paint a sunnier picture of the electoral landscape and remind the president of his upset victory in 2016. Nick Note: You get lucky once you rarely get lucky a second time. Donald… your screwed. the democrats are coming with pitch forks and torches to get you. the white house is under sage.

Trumpp administration to send U.S. cellphones a test alert on Thursday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration will send a message to all U.S. cellphones on Thursday to test a previously unused alert system that aims to warn the public about national emergencies. U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a reception for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria The messages will bear the headline “Presidential Alert”, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a statement this week. Phones will make a loud tone and have a special vibration, said FEMA, which will send the alert. The test message, scheduled for 2:18 p.m. EDT on Thursday, will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” The test has been scheduled to ensure that the alert system would work in the event of a national emergency. U.S. cellphone users will not be able to opt out. Former President Barack Obama signed a law in 2016 requiring FEMA to create a system allowing the president to send cellphone alerts regarding public safety emergencies. Since the wireless emergency alert system began in 2012, it has issued over 36,000 alerts for situations such as missing children, extreme weather and natural disasters, but never a presidential directive. Cell phone users can opt out of natural disaster or missing children alerts. FEMA said in a statement the alerts can only be used for national emergencies. The president has sole responsibility for determining when the national-level alerts are used. In the event of widespread severe weather or another significant event on Sept. 20, the test will be pushed back to Oct. 3, FEMA said. The administration announced in July that it would schedule the test alert for September. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its role in planning the test alert. The administration will send a test alert via radio and television broadcasters two minutes after the cell phone alert. It will interrupt programming for about one minute, FEMA said. Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 2:18 p.m. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules to ensure starting in 2019 that alerts are more precisely targeted, with links to photos or other important information. There have been issues with prior state alerts. In January, Hawaii issued a false alert of a missile attack that went uncorrected for 38 minutes after being transmitted to mobile phones and broadcast stations, causing widespread panic across the Pacific islands state. In April, the FCC blamed that false alarm on human error and inadequate safeguards

The next crisis is still lurking in the financial system: ‘We never addressed the root cause’

WEF chairman: We haven’t learned enough from Lehman collapse
WEF chairman: We haven’t learned enough from Lehman collapse

In a world swimming in debt, the next crisis is likely to bear at least a passing resemblance to the last one. The good news is that day seems to be a ways off. Not that anyone’s in a hurry, but there are few obvious signs of a situation akin to the 2008 meltdown on the horizon. The financial system is well-capitalized and operating with lower leverage and risk-taking than in at least generation or two. Economic pillars remain strong, the health of corporate America has rarely been better and new buffers put in place have been effective at absorbing shocks.

In fact, if anything it’s too quiet. That almost always has been the recipe for a good crisis.

“There was abundant liquidity in the system in 2006, too,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO and director of intelligence for Quill Intelligence, a research and analytics firm. She also served as advisor to former Dallas Federal Reserve president Richard Fisher during the financial crisis, so she had a front-row seat to how it unfolded. Indeed, before collapsing investment bank Bear Stearns had consistently ranked among Forbes’ best-run businesses. Lehman Brothers had $275 billion in assets under management prior to the crisis and had generated $3.1 billion in revenue in 2007, the year before it too capsized.

For DiMartino Booth, the exotic financial instruments that helped cause the calamity a decade ago and brought down those two venerable institutions, along with many more, are still lurking in the system, threatening a deadly repeat unless the issue is corralled.

“We never addressed the root cause of derivatives in the first place,” she said in an interview. “We still kind of operate in the dark as it pertains to the transmission mechanism of derivatives.” Derivatives refer to instruments that package bonds into blocks that are then sold off to investors. Warren Buffett famously called them “weapons of financial destruction.” In theory, they actually were meant to reduce risk by hedging exposure to any one security failing, sort of like the way exchange-traded funds combine entire sectors to alleviate exposure to a single company whose shares might slump. In practice, things were quite a bit different. Wall Street traders, in response to demand for yield from their clients, put together exotic bundles of mortgages, many tied to unqualified buyers who defaulted. Their structure was so opaque that many banks couldn’t even value what they held, creating a crisis of confidence on Wall Street that took out some of the financial world’s biggest names.

The market for some products, particularly collateralized debt obligations and leveraged loans, has increased dramatically in recent days. CLO volume was up 51 percent year-over-year in the first half, according to Dealogic, while Thomson Reuters reports that volume for loans used in leveraged buyouts has surged 33 percent.

Covenants, or protections for investors in bonds, particularly high-yield junk, are close to record lows, according to Moody’s Investors Services. Meanwhile, the federal government keeps ringing up more and more debt — $21.4 trillion and counting — and interest rates are on the rise. In an investing world that continues to clamor for yield, the debt bomb is always ticking.

“The search for yield has been spread across the globe once again, and now we’re seeing it crop up again in different countries every week,” DiMartino Booth said. “You wake up and wonder who blew up today.”

Indeed, a series of mini-explosions has been happening around the world, in countries like Turkey, the Philippines and India. Currency trading has gotten increasingly volatile, sparking worries that the U.S. may import its next crisis. “I’m concerned about the transmission mechanism,” DiMartino Booth said. “Even if the initial catalyst to set off the next downturn does not come from within the U.S. financial system, that does not mean that the U.S. financial system is not just as vulnerable as it was before to be the conduit to spread systemic risk.” Tightening financial conditions, the Fed continuing to raise rates and the sheer volume of debt instruments rising almost certainly means that while an earthquake may not be looming along the financial system’s many fault lines, tremors are almost certain.

“A lot of markets are going to reprice, but it won’t be systemic,” said Christopher Whalen, head of Whalen Global Advisors, an investment bank consultancy. “A lot of illusions will get broken, but spreads are still quite tight in the credit markets.”

In the interim, warnings about looming crises likely will get treated like the rantings of so many Chicken Littles who have been proven wrong time and again during the nine-year economic recovery. Few really believe in crises until they actually hit.’

“When we talk about leveraged loans and CLOs today, sure there’s obviously a problem. Until you see a sponsor fail and file bankruptcy, then people will start to believe it, but not yet,” Whalen said. “There is a significant mispricing of risk. That will come along soon. You’re going to see prices fall a lot.

“A shock turns into a crisis when the system is unprepared for it. The system is often at its most vulnerable near the end of the global economic cycle when excesses have built up and managing risks may have been neglected,” Kleintop said in a recent report looking at the source of the next crisis. “The global economic, financial and market system now seems better prepared to manage the shocks of the past were they to repeat in the future.”

Politics, the rise of index investing and higher interest rates that will make all that debt more expensive are the big ones investors will need to watch out for. “Vulnerabilities have shifted which may make the shocks that pose the greatest risk of a crisis somewhat different than those of the past,” Kleintop wrote. “Of these, the potential risk posed by a shock from higher interest rates coupled with a stronger U.S. dollar may pose the greatest threat to a vulnerable financial and economic system.”

READ: Manafort’s cooperation agreement with Mueller

Read Manafort’s cooperation agreement with Mueller below:

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two federal charges on Friday, reaching a cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort has agreed to sit for interviews with Mueller’s special counsel team, testify in any future cases and submit related documents, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in court. Manafort pleaded guilty plea to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice by witness tampering.

Nobel Prize winner Shiller sees ‘bad times in the stock market’ ahead

Robert Shiller
Adam Jeffery | CNBC Robert Shille

Nobel laureate Robert Shiller thinks investors ought to ignore the recent burst in corporate profits and focus on longer-term valuation, which he says carries foreboding news for the stock market. At a time when earnings are rising 25 percent a quarter, Shilller said that’s not indicative of what longer-term results in the market will be. History has shown that in previous times, particularly around World War I, the late 1920s approaching the time of the Depression, and in the high-inflation 1980s, profits could be strong but equity results not as much. In the present case, the recent surge in profits has been due to last year’s tax cuts, backed by President Donald Trump, that took the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Record bull run signals it's time to sell, says Yale economist Shiller
Record bull run signals it’s time to sell, says Yale economist Shiller

“My own way of thinking is it looks like an overreaction,” Shiller said Friday at a conference in New York presented by the Wharton School. “We’re launching a trade war. Aren’t people thinking about that? Is that a good thing? I don’t know, but I’m thinking it’s likely to be bad times in the stock market.” The Yale economist is known for a number of groundbreaking views and theories on the market, but perhaps most for a gauge he uses to measure stock market valuations. The Cyclically Adjusted Price to Earnings ratio — often referred to as the “Shiller CAPE” or “Shiller PE” — looks at valuations over a 10-year period to smooth for fluctuations in the business cycle. Currently, the gauge is at 33.3, its highest level since June 2001. The index peaked near 45 in mid-2000, just as the dot-com bubble was about to burst. Testing the model over time, it saw the market crashes in 1929 and 1987 as well as the dot-com bubble. Shiller cautioned that he is not predicting major calamity for the market but rather a much lower level of returns, in the 2.6 percent annual range, than investors have come to expect during the 9-year-old bull market. The longest rally in history has the S&P 500 up more than 335 percent since the March 2009 bottom. “It’s not like I’m predicting a crash,” he said. “This is a 10-year forward return. This is not going to be great, because we’re just too high at the present value.” Among other things, he said the current tax climate won’t last and corporate earnings will come back down, just as they have done in the past. “Is Donald Trump permanent?” he asked to laughter. “I won’t get into that, a lot of discord about that.” To be sure, the Shiller CAPE has been elevated for years and crossed 30 nearly a year ago. And not everyone agrees with his analysis — including his friend and sparring partner of 51 years and fellow speaker at the Friday event, Jeremy Siegel. Siegel is the Russell E. Palmer professor of finance at the Wharton School and has long served as the bull to Shiller’s bear. He contested several of Shiller’s points, particularly about whether the market necessarily needs to revert to trend and what he sees as an oversight on the impact of low-cost passive investing on the market. On the latter point, thanks to low-fee ETFs it now costs investors less to have a balanced portfolio so they don’t require returns as high to beat the market. Even if stocks are expensive, Siegel said, they remain a bargain compared with bonds when considering the risk premium, or the amount of return investors demand compared to risk. “Stocks are overvalued on a longer-term basis, but bonds are enormously overvalued on a long-term basis,” he said. “Relative valuation of stocks vs. bonds is among the more favorable — not the most favorable but among the more favorable — in history.”

Trump wants tariffs on $200 billion more Chinese goods despite talks: source

Shipping containers are seen at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has instructed aides to proceed with tariffs on about $200 billion more Chinese goods, despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s attempts to restart trade talks with China, a source familiar with the decision said. But the timing for activating the additional tariffs was unclear, the person said. The green light for the tariffs, first reported by Bloomberg, had an immediate effect on financial markets. It led U.S. stocks to trade lower, fueled drops in the Chinese yuan in offshore trading CNH=EBS and gains in the dollar index .DXY, and sent the S&P 500 index .SPX negative. The decision comes one week after Trump said he would be adding tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods and had tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese imports “ready to go on short notice if I want.” A public comment period also ended last week for the $200 billion tariff list, which would hit various internet technology products and other electronics, printed circuit boards and consumer goods ranging from handbags to bicycles and furniture. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has said it was working to revise the list based on issues raised in public hearings and written submissions. In previous rounds of anti-China tariffs, it has taken one to two weeks to revise the list and another two to three weeks to begin collecting tariffs. The decision also comes despite a Treasury invitation earlier this week to senior Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Liu He, for more talks to try to resolve trade differences between the world’s two largest economies. China’s foreign ministry said it welcomed the invitation, but Trump later raised questions about it, saying on Twitter that he was under no pressure to make a deal with Beijing and that the United States “will soon be taking in Billions in Tariffs & making products at home. If we meet, we meet?” A Treasury spokesman did not immediately respond to a query on the status of the China talks invitation. A USTR spokesman did not respond to queries about the tariffs. Trump has already levied duties on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods based on his demands that China reduce its $375 billion trade surplus with the United States and make sweeping changes to policies on intellectual property and technology transfers and roll back high tech industrial subsidies. The tariffs on the $50 billion of goods already imposed, the $200 billion list and another $267 billion of Chinese goods would exceed the $505 billion in goods that the United States imported from China last year. But 2018 imports from China through July were up nearly 9 percent over the same period of 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert and David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Phil Berlowitz

Paul Manafort Pleads Guilty, Will Cooperate With Mueller Probe

Ex-campaign chairman is the latest Trump associate to admit wrongdoing in federal investigations

Paul Manafort, shown in February, already faces about eight to 10 years in prison.
Paul Manafort, shown in February, already faces about eight to 10 years in prison. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal charges and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating links to Russian election interference, developments that could add momentum to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Mr. Manafort, who becomes the fifth associate of President Trump’s to plead guilty in connection with federal investigations, admitted to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He already was convicted last month by a federal jury in Virginia of not reporting to tax authorities more than $16 million he earned for political consulting work in Ukraine in the early 2010s. criminal trial for Mr. Manafort that was to begin next week. That trial, in Washington, D.C., was set to cover additional charges related to that Ukraine work. In connection with the agreement, Mr. Manafort agreed to forfeit four of his multimillion-dollar homes, including a Brooklyn townhome and an estate on Long Island, and funds in multiple bank accounts. Other terms of the deal couldn’t immediately be determined.Paul Manafort Convicted: How the Trial Unfolded former campaign manager, guilty of eight counts of fraud, but couldn’t reach a verdict on 10 other counts. Photo: Associated Press

The cooperation agreement raises the legal and political pressure on Mr. Trump less than two months before midterm elections that will decide control of Congress. His former campaign chairman and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, are now both cooperating with a prosecutor tasked with probing whether Trump associates aided what the U.S. has said was an influence campaign by Russian interests designed to help Mr. Trump win in 2016.

Mr. Mueller is also looking into whether Mr. Trump sought to obstruct justice by firing Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey in May 2017, while the FBI’s Russia probe was under way. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that the Manafort case “had absolutely nothing to do” with Mr. Trump or the 2016 campaign. Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, said in a statement that Mr. Trump “did nothing wrong.” Mr. Manafort had previously resisted any notion of cooperating with Mr. Mueller, and his lawyer said at the outset of the Virginia trial that there was no chance of such cooperation. Mr. Manafort, 69 years old, has been in jail since June, after he was accused of trying to influence the testimony of a potential witness against him.

FBI Director Christopher Wray details Russia’s “information warfare” before midterms

ctm-0913-christopher-wray-norah-odonnell.jpg
FBI Director Christopher Wray with “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell CBS News

FBI Director Christopher Wray says Americans can feel confident in the election results this November. We spoke with Wray Wednesday at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington for an interview you’ll see only on CBS News. “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell asked about the anonymous New York Times op-ed that described a White House in turmoil.

NORAH O’DONNELL: The president has said that he wants the attorney general to investigate who wrote that anonymous New York Times op-ed. Do you believe, as the president does, that this is an issue of national security?

CHRISTOPHER WRAY: Well, first off, I can tell you I didn’t write it, I didn’t have anything to do with it. Second, I would tell you that we’re not really in the practice of confirming or discussing whether we’re going to be conducting a particular investigation. I would tell you that we’re going to make decisions about that kind of thing based on all the factors we normally do, which is whether or not we have sufficient evidence of federal crime.

O’DONNELL: You’ve said you did not write the New York Times

WRAY: Right.

O’DONNELL: op-ed. I know that you have denied that. But – but I want to ask you about the content. It described the president’s leadership style as, quote, “impetuous,” “adversarial,” “petty,” and “ineffective.” It said that the root of the president’s problems is, quote, “amorality.” Does that sound like the president you know?

WRAY: I try very hard to make sure that my relationship with the president is a professional one. … And beyond that, I’m not going to really be weighing in on opinions, especially anonymously-expressed opinions. I can tell you that there are lots of ways for people to express their views and their disagreements. For me, the idea of doing it through an anonymous op-ed is about the furthest thing from my mind.

O’DONNELL: Let me turn now to Russia and its malign activities. … When Vladimir Putin said that Russia has never interfered and is not going to interfere in American affairs, including the election process, was he lying?

WRAY: Well, again, I’m not going to accuse somebody of lying. I’ll just say that that doesn’t jive with our read of the evidence, and we’re pretty confident in our read.

O’DONNELL: What is Russia doing to disrupt the midterms that are now just about 60 days away?

WRAY:  So what we’re seeing now is a continuation of the – what we call malign foreign influence efforts. … What they do is sow both inaccurate information, disinformation, it’s a kind of information warfare, and then propaganda. Exaggerated half-truths, distortions.

O’DONNELL: Why are we letting this happen? Why are we letting Russia do this? We have the greatest law enforcement agency in the world, the FBI. We have the most powerful tech companies in the world. Why are we allowing Russia to do this?

WRAY: I don’t view us as allowing them to do anything. I think we’re countering it. We are working hard to counter it more and more effective all the time.

O’DONNELL: How are we countering it? How are we fighting back?

WRAY: Well, in some cases, we have law enforcement investigations that lead to charges. In some cases, we have steps that the technology companies can take themselves… And in some cases, we’re raising awareness. Because the best defense against disinformation and propaganda is accurate information.

O’DONNELL: So come November… can Americans be confident that it was a fair election?

WRAY: I think Americans can have confidence in our election system.

Despite headlines about Russian meddling, the FBI director said China is the single biggest threat to Amer

UK Prime Minister May calls special meeting to discuss ‘no-deal’ Brexit

GP: Theresa May Attends Prime Minister Questions
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to makes her way to the Parliament as she attends Prime Minister Questions session (PMQs), London on July 4, 2018. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The U.K. government is set to meet Thursday morning for three-hours to discuss the eventuality of a “no-deal” Brexit. The meeting takes place at a time when the government is also releasing more than 20 documents, outlining some more preparations in case the U.K. leaves the European Union in March 2019 without a deal. This is not the first set of papers outlining what will happen in case the U.K. and the EU do not reach a deal. In late August, the U.K. government said that businesses should prepare for higher barriers to trade, more red tape and potentially higher costs too, if Brexit talks collapse. All these steps are part of a wider attempt to step up works for the worst-case scenario. The EU has also strengthened its preparations in case the U.K. leaves the bloc abruptly.

The U.K.’s Brexit chief, Dominic Raab, warned on Wednesday that the U.K. will not pay the so-called divorce bill, if there is no final deal over Brexit. Raab wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the £39 billion ($50.82 billion) the U.K. owes to the EU, due to previous policy agreements, will not be repaid if there is no deal.

Brexit negotiators want to conclude talks by the end of November to ensure that there is enough time to get the deal approved by all Parliaments. However, there are divergences about their future relationship, including what’s going to happen to the Irish border. This has prevented negotiations from being concluded.

Political analysts and investors have become particularly worried about the prospects of a no-deal over the summer, following several comments from U.K. officials, including the Governor of the Bank of England. Mark Carney who said in early August that the risk of a no-deal is “uncomfortably high.”

The sterling has lost nearly 10 percent of its value against the dollar since Brexit. The currency has seen a lot of volatility since the referendum vote on June 23. While the initial moves were dramatic, plunging from the highs of $1.50 to a 31-year low of $1.32, the pound continues to remain under pressure at current levels of $1.30. So far, on Thursday morning, sterling seemed muted to the Brexit developments.

Despite the preparations for a no-deal, both the U.K. and the EU are still saying they are working towards a deal. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union address on Wednesday said that the EU stands ready to work “day and night” to find an agreement with the U.K. over Brexit.

However, Juncker also warned that the U.K. needs to be reasonable. “But we also ask the British government to understand that someone who leaves the Union cannot be in the same privileged position as a member State,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brexit chief Raab told the BBC Thursday morning that Brexit talks will be intensified over the coming weeks and that he is confident that a deal will be achieved.

Moody’s warns a ‘no-deal’ would damage the economy

Credit ratings agency Moody’s said Thursday morning that an abrupt break-up between the EU and the U.K. would be “credit negative for a range of sectors.”

“The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union without an agreement to replace existing arrangements, a risk that has risen materially in recent months, would damage the U.K. economy and be credit negative for a range sectors and debt issuers in the UK and Europe,” Moody’s said in a statement.

Moody’s outlined that U.K. based companies in the automotive industry, airlines, chemical sectors and aerospace are set to be the most impacted, in a no-deal scenario.

Earlier this week, the U.K.’s finance minister, Philip Hammond told the BBC, that the Brexit uncertainty is hurting the economy.

Retirees Tax Surprise From New Law Warned by IRS

Image: Retirees Tax Surprise From New Law Warned by IRS
(Dreamstime) By Zoe Papadakis | Thursday, 13 September 2018 07:03 AM

Retirees face a big tax surprise if they haven’t withheld enough from their pension or annuity income, the IRS has warned, noting the penalty for failing to pay the proper amount of estimated taxes. With tax reform bringing about major changes for the year ahead, the IRS embarked on an awareness campaign, and last week started telling retired filers to ensure they avoid an estimated tax penalty. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which went into effect in December, drastically altered how tax is calculated, not just for regular taxpayers but retirees as well. As a result, the majority of taxpayers have to change the amount of tax paid during the year, and retirees receiving monthly pension or annuity checks may have to alter the amount of federal income tax they have withheld accordingly, the IRS noted. While working, taxpayers automatically pay their withholding with each paycheck, but retirees now have to write checks four times a year to the IRS, “With estimated tax payments, there’s the issue of making sure they actually paid the tax,” said Harjit Virk, a CPA and senior associate at Getzel Schiff & Pesce in Woodbury, New York “Sometimes you have to send reminders when the payments are due.”Jonathan Zimmerman, a benefits attorney with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, noted that circumstances for pensioners payments and filers vary widely, making it difficult to estimate who is at risk of not withholding enough, according to the Wall Street Journal. He explained that income doesn’t just drop after retirement and that certain types of retiree income may be taxable, such as part-time work, Social Security payments, or retirement-plan withdrawals. According to Gil Charney, a director of H&R Block’s Tax Institute, “the onus is on the taxpayer to make sure the withholding is correct,” which is why the IRS now offers a new withholding calculator for taxpayers and retirees to calculate how much to withhold.

Trump declares administration ‘completely ready’ for Hurricane Florence

Trump declares administration ‘completely ready’ for Hurricane Florence
© Anna Moneymaker

Trump urged Americans to “be careful!” during the storm, which he claimed had strengthened. Florence was downgraded by the National Weather Service from a Category 3 to a Category 2 storm overnight, but was growing in size early Thursday. “We are completely ready for hurricane Florence, as the storm gets even larger and more powerful. Be careful!” he tweeted.

“I don’t care if this goes down to a Category 1,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said on Thursday. “We’re still going to have a Category 4 storm surge.” Current paths show Florence making landfall near Wilmington, N.C., before tracking inland. At least 800 flights have been canceled or grounded due to the storm’s expected landfall, CNN reported. As many as 1.5 million people are believed to live within mandatory evacuation zones. A similar-strength hurricane, Maria, struck the island of Puerto Rico last year, resulting in the deaths of nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens. “You put your life at risk by staying,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday. “Don’t plan to leave once the winds and rains start.”

–Updated at 9:06 a.m.

Kroger misses same-store sales estimates, shares fall

(Reuters) – Kroger Co missed quarterly same-store sales estimates on Thursday, as disruptions caused by the supermarket chain changing the way it stocks merchandise on shelves kept some customers away from its stores. The company’s shares fell 7 percent to $29.51 in premarket trading. Under its “Restock” program launched this year, Kroger has been adjusting product assortments, rearranging store layouts and highlighting private label brands on its shelves. However, analysts have said that the short-term disruption and inconvenience the program has caused could lead some customers to shop for their groceries elsewhere. The company said its adjusted gross margin fell 36 basis points in the second quarter from a year earlier, hurt by price cuts and higher freight costs. The company’s same-store sales, excluding fuel, rose 1.6 percent in the quarter. Analysts on average had expected a 1.86 percent increase, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S Kroger said its net income jumped 44 percent to $508 million, or 62 cents per share, in the quarter ended Aug. 18. Excluding one-time items, Kroger earned 41 cents per share. Analysts had estimated a profit of 38 cents. Total sales rose 1 percent to $27.87 billion, but missed analysts’ estimate of $27.95 billion.

Oil prices fall as IEA data reveal rise in output among OPEC members

Getty Images Global supply hit a record in August, says the IEA

Oil futures fell in early Thursday trade as a report showed production among OPEC members surged in August, pushing global inventories to a record.The International Energy Agency in a closely followed monthly report said daily crude-oil output in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries climbed in August by 420,000 barrels a day, to average 32.63 million a day. That output more than made up for an expected decline in Iranian supply due to extant and pending U.S. economic sanctions. The August report also signaled that global supplies hit a record of 100 million barrels a day. October futures on West Texas Intermediate crude CLV8, -2.29% the U.S. benchmark, fell 93 cents, or 1.3%, to $69.44 a barrel, a day after marking the highest settlement since July 20, according to Dow Jones Market Data. November Brent LCOX8, -1.71% gave up 56 cents, or 0.7%, to $79.17 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Wednesday’s settlement for the global benchmark was the highest since May. The IEA’s report reflects monthly data from OPEC on Wednesday which also showed that members of the oil cartel boosted total output last month. The IEA report comes after the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday revealed that domestic U.S. crude supplies fell by 5.3 million barrels for the week ended Sept. 7. Analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts had forecast a fall of 2.7 million barrels, while the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday reported a drop of 8.6 million barrels. “The IEA left global oil demand growth unchanged at 1.4 million [barrels per day] for 2018 and 1.5 million bpd for 2019,” wrote Robert Yawger, director of energy at Mizuho USA, in a Thursday research note. “The IEA warned of higher oil prices as Iran and Venezuela losses deepen, and Brent’s $70 to $80 trading range may be tested by tightening,” he wrote. Concerns about expected disruptions to supply have underpinned recent crude-price gains. Renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran that take full effect in early November are expected to sharply curtail exports by the Middle Eastern nation. However, the moves from crude may be stalling out after the IEA report highlighted the ramp-up in global supplies and OPEC’s largest month-on-month increase in more than two years, bringing the supply from the group’s 15 producers to a nine-month high. The increase mainly came from higher production in Libya, Iraq, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia—the de facto head of OPEC. Market participants also have been watching Hurricane Florence, which was downgraded over the Atlantic Ocean late Wednesday to a Category 2 storm. Even so, it is expected to remain an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” when it nears the coast late Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. The storm, which is on track to disrupt the Carolinas and Virginia, has the potential to cause disruptions to the flow of fuel through the key Colonial Pipeline, which moves gasoline and diesel from Houston through states in the Southeast, including the Carolinas, to Linden, N.J.

Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear’ sells 750,000 copies in 1st day, breaks Simon & Schuster’s pre-order sales record

RT: Bob Woodward, author, journalist 180909
Bob Woodward, author of a new book on the Trump White House.Alex Gallardo | Reuters

Bob Woodward’s in-depth and unflattering look at President Donald Trump’s White House just broke a 94-year sales record. The celebrated Watergate reporter’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” boasted higher pre-order sales than any other title in the history of its publisher, Simon & Schuster, the company said Wednesday. The tell-all book, released Sept. 11, sold more than 750,000 copies in its first day on sale, according to a press release from the company. That figure combines sales of print copies, ebooks and audiobooks. Simon & Schuster, a New York City-based publisher founded in 1924, added that it ordered a ninth printing of the book on the same day it was released, sending the total number of hardcover copies in print surging past 1.15 million. “Based on immense pre-publication and ongoing interest, the reading public clearly has an enormous appetite for what we believe, as Woodward says, is ‘a pivot point in history,’” the company’s president, Jonathan Karp, said in the release. The book is based on “deep background” sources whose identities are concealed to allow for less guarded interviews. Woodward’s reporting paints a picture of Trump as politically ignorant, mercurial and antagonistic to his staff, who in turn vent rage against him and, at times, undermine his own agenda.The president has attacked Woodward and his book repeatedly since excerpts were first published in The Washington Post, where Woodward works, earlier in September. Trump’s salvos, most of which were launched from his Twitter account, assailed the book as an “already discredited” fabrication intended to help Democrats. Woodward stands by his reporting. Woodward’s book is far from the first attempt to document the internal workings of the Trump administration. Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” published in January, made incendiary claims about Trump and his administration, and broke sales records for its publisher, Henry Holt. Former administration officials, including senior advisor Omarosa Manigault-Newman and press secretary Sean Spicer, recently published their own books documenting their experiences working for Trump.

Bank ‘living wills’ won’t save financial system from a panic, Bernanke and Geithner agree

Fighting the next financial crisis is a ‘forever war,’ experts say
Bloomberg Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner during the Brookings Institution discussion.

The so-called living wills that the largest banks have to submit every year would not work in a financial panic, said Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke on Wednesday. Living wills are plans to unwind a failing bank without government aid. These plans would only work if the financial sector was relatively stable, the two former policymakers said. “If the rest of the system was broadly OK, I think the [living wills] would work,” Bernanke, the former Fed chairman, said. Bernanke and Geithner, a Treasury secretary in the Obama administration and formerly president of the New York Fed, discussed sources of future financial instability and the lessons form the financial crisis with another former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson at a Brookings Institution event. Geithner called the effort to combat financial instability a “forever war.” Paulson said despite the dysfunction in politics, he remained optimistic that Washington would be able to rescue the economy again if there was another crisis. The three policymakers all expressed regret that the American public still has profound doubts over the steps taken to protect the financial system in 2008-2010. Geithner said that, during the heat of the crisis, his wife would look at him across the breakfast table with “a mix of despair and doubt,” that was later mirrored by the general public. “We didn’t persuade the country that what we were doing was necessary,” Bernanke said. Paulson agreed, saying the American people remain convinced that the $700 billion bailout was, in essence, a “reward for the arsonist.” “People don’t like banks and during financial crises they really don’t like banks,” Paulson said.

Fed’s Brainard says an inverted yield curve won’t get in way of rate hikes

Bloomberg News/Landov Lael Brainard, governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve

A key Federal Reserve official on Wednesday said that an inverted yield curve would not necessarily point to an imminent recession, despite its historical track record in doing so. The comment, from Gov. Lael Brainard in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, isn’t hugely different from comments Brainard made in May on the topic, or from other Fed officials including New York Fed President John Williams. What her remarks do suggest is the Fed won’t let the prospect of an inverted yield curve deter the central bank from continuing to lift short-term interest rates. Brainard told the Detroit audience that this time is different.“Like many of you, I am attentive to the historical observation that inversions of the yield curve between the 3-month TMUBMUSD03M, +0.47%  and 10-year Treasury rates have had a relatively reliable track record of preceding recessions in the United States,” she said. However, the current 10-year yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.43%  is around 3%, compared with the average of 6.25% before the financial crisis. Market expectations of interest rates in the longer run are themselves quite low, and also the term premium — the compensation investors require for taking on duration risk — is low. “If the term premium remains very low, any given amount of monetary policy tightening will lead to an inversion sooner so that even a modest tightening that might not have led to an inversion historically could do so today,” she said. So, why is the term premium so low? One reason, she says, is the changed correlation between stock and bond returns, likely associated with changes in expected inflation outcomes. Another reason is the asset purchases of central banks in major economies. Brainard, who as a Fed governor gets a vote at every meeting, says further gradual increases in the federal-funds rate will likely be warranted. “With fiscal stimulus in the pipeline and financial conditions supportive of growth, the shorter-run neutral interest rate is likely to move up somewhat further, and it may well surpass the longer-run equilibrium rate for some period,” she said.

Manafort in talks with prosecutors about possible plea, according to people familiar with the discussions

Paul Manafort arrives at a federal courthouse in Washington on June 15. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Days before in-person jury ­selection is set to begin in his second trial, President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in talks with the special counsel’s office about a possible plea deal, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to ­describe the conversations, cautioned that the negotiations may not result in a deal with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is prosecuting Manafort for alleged money laundering and lobbying violations. But the discussions indicate a possible shift in strategy for Manafort, who earlier this year chose to go to trial in Virginia, only to be convicted last month in Alexandria federal court on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. He had derided his former business partner, Rick Gates, for striking a deal with prosecutors that provided him leniency in exchange for testimony against Manafort. “I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence,” Manafort said in February.

The specifics of Manafort’s current negotiations with prosecutors were unclear, including whether he would provide any information about the president. President Trump refused to answer questions about pardoning former campaign manager Paul Manafort, leaving questions about the convicted lobbyist’s next moves. Earlier this summer, Kevin M. Downing, an attorney for Manafort, said there was “no chance” his client would flip and cooperate with prosecutors.

However, Manafort’s current willingness to engage in talks could rattle Trump, who in the past has praised his former campaign chairman for his unwillingness to cooperate with the special counsel.

Prosecutors “applied tremendous pressure on him and . . . he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal,’ ” the president tweeted last month. “Such respect for a brave man!” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni and Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment. Manafort’s attorneys, Downing and Thomas E. Zehnle, did not immediately return calls for comment. Jury selection for Manafort’s second trial is set to begin Monday, with opening statements scheduled for Sept. 24.

USA Is Now The Largest Global Crude Oil Producer – Surpasses Russia and Saudi Arabia

The United States likely surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest crude oil producer earlier this year, based on preliminary estimates in EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook

In February, U.S. crude oil production exceeded that of Saudi Arabia for the first time in more than two decades. In June and August, the United States surpassed Russia in crude oil production for the first time since February 1999. Although EIA does not publish crude oil production forecasts for Russia and Saudi Arabia in STEO, EIA expects that U.S. crude oil production will continue to exceed Russian and Saudi Arabian crude oil production for the remaining months of 2018 and through 2019. U.S. crude oil production, particularly from light sweet crude oil grades, has rapidly increased since 2011. Much of the recent growth has occurred in areas such as the Permian Basin in western Texas and eastern New Mexico, the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico, and the Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana. Following the oil price decline in mid-2014, U.S. producers reduced their costs by temporarily scaling back crude oil production. However, after crude oil prices increased in early 2016, investment and production began increasing later that year. By comparison, Russia and Saudi Arabia have maintained relatively steady crude oil production growth in recent years.

Trump’s sagging approval ratings have GOP staring at worst-case scenarios for midterm elections

President Donald Trump arrives on September 11, 2018, to speak at the site of a new memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed during the September 11 attacks, as somber ceremonies take place at Ground Zero in New York and at the Pentagon. 
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump arrives on September 11, 2018, to speak at the site of a new memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed during the September 11 attacks, as somber ceremonies take place at Ground Zero in New York and at the Pentagon.

President Donald Trump’s sagging approval ratings suddenly have Republicans staring at their worst-case scenarios for midterm elections. In several surveys in recent days, the proportion of Americans who approve of Trump’s job performance has fallen back below 40 percent. Voters intensely hostile to the president far outnumber intense supporters. And without Trump on the ballot, a dangerous number of those intense supporters may not even show up to vote. The record of midterm elections shows the power of the president’s standing clearly and consistently. In each of the last three such contests, more than 80 percent of those approving of the president’s performance back his party’s House candidates; more than 80 percent of those disapproving of the president voted against his party. This week’s Quinnipiac University poll showed that just 38 percent approve of Trump’s performance while 58 percent disapprove. If those numbers hold over the next eight weeks, Republicans struggling to hold their House and Senate majorities will be fighting steeply uphill. The disparity in enthusiasm between the two sides makes it even steeper. Recent special elections have shown Democrats more motivated than Republicans to vote. A CNN poll this week measured an identical imbalance in intensity: 27 percent of voters strongly approve of Trump, while 48 percent strongly disapprove. Trump himself, addressing supporters in the White House recently, worried aloud about what that means. “There’s a real question as to whether people are going to vote if I’m not on the ballot,” the president told a gathering of conservative Christians.

Republicans have always known they’d face a challenging political climate in November. Any president’s party almost invariably loses House seats.

Their hope had been that a robust economy would keep their House losses below the 23 seats Democrats need to seize control. Though Democrats need to gain only two seats to take over the Senate, several Democratic incumbents must defend their jobs in strongly pro-Trump states such as North Dakota and West Virginia.

Earlier this year, Republicans felt growing encouragement. The strong economy helped lift Trump’s approval ratings into the low- to mid-40s and narrowed the Democratic advantage in the national surveys gauging voter preferences for control of the House. But now Trump’s unpopularity provides Democrats a path to victory for both chambers. It is overpowering satisfaction with the economy and widening the Democrats’ “generic ballot” edge.

“The situation looks more worrisome for Republicans,” says GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson. One particular vulnerability is among the young voters whose attitudes are Anderson’s specialty; in the Quinnipiac survey, voters 18-34 disapprove of Trump by a 2-to-1 margin.

The Cook Political Report now lists 66 Republican-held House seats as in serious danger of flipping. Polling averages on realclearpolitics.com show Democratic Senate candidates currently leading for three Republican-held seats — in Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee. History paints an especially ominous picture. Since World War II, presidents with job approval ratings below 50 percent in the Gallup Poll have lost an average of 36 House seats. In each of the last three midterms — 2006, 2010 and 2014 — the president’s party has lost six Senate seats.

In the last half-century, only President George W. Bush in 2006 has suffered pre-midterm approval ratings as low as Trump’s recent sub-40 percent levels. That year, Democrats ousted Republicans from control of both the House and Senate.

Report: Permian producers hedging bets in fear of pipeline shortages

Oil drillers increased their hedges on Permian Basin oil prices beyond 2019 by 431% during Q2 in order to lock in healthier prices in case planned pipeline projects fail to come online in time, according to a new report from energy research firm Wood Mackenzie. The huge jump represents unusually high trading for 2020 commodity pricing, and “the only reasonable conclusion one can draw from this surge is that Permian producers are concerned that key pipeline projects won’t be completed on schedule,” says WoodMac research analyst Andrew McConn.

Permian production has surged from 2.5M bbl/day last year to 3.4M bbl/day currently, resulting in Permian oil selling at a nearly $15/bbl discount vs. the U.S. benchmark in the Cushing, Okla., storage hub.

WoodMac also notes concern of an overcorrection, with too many new pipelines coming online by the end of 2020 and leaving some pipelines unable to move oil near their full capacities.

Oil rises more than 2 percent as U.S. sanctions on Iran squeeze supply

FILE PHOTO: A view of Equinor’s oil platform in Johan Sverdrup oilfield in the North Sea, Norway August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Nerijus Adomaitis/File Photo

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices rose more than 2 percent on Tuesday as U.S. sanctions squeezed Iranian crude exports, tightening global supply despite efforts by Washington to get other producers to increase output. Since spring when the Trump Administration said it would impose sanctions on Iran, crude traders have priced in a risk premium reflecting the supply shortages that may occur when exports from the third-largest OPEC member are cut. As the Nov. 4 date for imposing sanctions draws nearer, the premium has increased. “The fear is that the sanctions could be so successful that it takes more oil off the market than the OPEC and non-OPEC producers can make up for,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. Brent crude LCOc1 futures rose $1.67 to $79.04 a barrel, a 2.2 percent gain, by 1:10 p.m. EDT (1710 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures gained $1.95, or 2.9 percent, to $69.49 a barrel. Washington has told its allies to reduce imports of Iranian oil and several Asian buyers, including South Korea, Japan and India appear to be falling in line. But the U.S. government does not want to push up oil prices, which could depress economic activity or even trigger a slowdown in global growth. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry met Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih on Monday in Washington, as the Trump administration encourages big oil-producing countries to keep output high. Perry will meet with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Thursday in Moscow.

Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia are the world’s three biggest oil producers by far, meeting around a third of the world’s almost 100 million barrels per day (bpd) of daily crude consumption.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday that Russia and a group of producers around the Middle East which dominate the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries may sign a new long-term cooperation deal at the beginning of December, the TASS news agency reported. Novak did not provide details. A group of OPEC and non-OPEC producers have been voluntarily withholding supplies since January 2017 to tighten markets, but with crude prices up by more than 40 percent since then and markets significantly tighter, there has been pressure on producers to raise output. On Tuesday the U.S. Energy Information Administration cut its 2018 world oil demand growth forecast by 80,000 barrels per day to 1.58 million bpd. U.S. crude inventories were forecast to have fallen for a fourth consecutive week last week, according analysts polled ahead of reports from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) and the U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday. Also supporting prices was an attack on the headquarters of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) in the capital Tripoli on Monday. As Middle East markets tighten, Asian buyers are seeking alternative supplies, with South Korean and Japanese imports of U.S. crude hitting a record in September. U.S. oil producers are seeking new buyers for crude they used to sell to China before orders slowed because of the trade disputes between Washington and Beijing.

U.S. crude supply fell 8.6M barrels last week, API says The American Petroleum Institute reportedly shows a draw of 8.64M barrels of oil for the week ended Sep. 7, vs. a draw of 1.17M barrels in the previous week; the latest draw would be the largest since early July if confirmed tomorrow by EIA data. Gasoline reportedly shows a build of 2.12M barrels and distillates show a build of 5.82M barrels; the Cushing, Okla., hub reportedly shows a draw of 1.16M barrels.

One million Catalans rally for independence in Barcelona

Around one million Catalans rallied in Barcelona on Tuesday, banging drums and blowing whistles in a show of support for independence nearly a year after a failed attempt to break away from Spain.
© Lluis Gene, AFP | Protesters hold letters reading “Independencia” during a rally in Barcelona on September 11 to mark the National Day of Catalonia, the Diada.

Wearing coral-red T-shirts and waving the red, yellow and blue Catalan separatist flag, a sea of protesters gathered for the rally on Catalonia’s “national day” which commemorates Barcelona’s fall to troops loyal to Spain’s King Philip V in 1714. The annual “Diada” holiday has since 2012 been used to stage a massive rally calling for secession for the wealthy northeastern region with its own distinct language. But this year’s event had particular significance as a test of strength after a referendum last October 1, and the Catalan parliament’s unilateral declaration of independence on October 27, all came to naught. Demonstrators climbed on each others shoulders to form human towers, a Catalan tradition, while others carried yellow and black signs that read “Free Catalan political prisoners now”, a reference to Catalan separatist leaders in jail awaiting trial over last year’s independence bid. City police said on Twitter that around one million people took part, a similar amount to last year’s protest. Organisers said they had sold over 200,000 coral-red T-shirts — the colour used in the ties used to secure the ballot boxes during last year’s contested referendum. At the start of the rally demonstrators knocked down a symbolic wall decorated with separatist symbols, a metaphor for the power of the people to overcome obstacles and achieve independence.Catalan president Quim Torra said the rally marks the start of a “mass mobilisation”. Further protests are planned for an anniversary of last year’s banned referendum, which was marred by police violence, and on the anniversary of the failed declaration of independence. Nick Note: this growing movement is to be watched. A further sign of the growing unrest that will blow apart the European Union

Russia launches biggest ever war games

Chita (Russia) (AFP) – Russia launched Tuesday what it called its largest ever military drills, with hundreds of thousands of troops taking part along with Chinese soldiers in a show of force NATO condemned as a rehearsal for “large-scale conflict.” President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the games after hosting an economic forum in Russia’s far eastern city Vladivostok where his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is one of the prominent guests. The week-long war games dubbed “Vostok-2018″(East-2018) “have kicked off” in far eastern Russia, the defence ministry said. Taking part in the drills are around 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and drones. Some 3,500 Chinese troops will take part in the games. The defence ministry released video footage of military vehicles, planes, helicopters and ships getting into position for the initial stage of the drills. Putin praised Russia’s increasingly close ties with China as he met with Xi at the economic forum in Vladivostok on Tuesday. “We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defence spheres,” the Russian leader said. Xi for his part said the two countries’ “friendship is getting stronger all the time.” The drills, which also include Mongolian soldiers, have been condemned by NATO as a rehearsal for “large-scale conflict”. The military exercises come at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 war games that saw between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in “Zapad-81” (West-81) — the largest military exercises of the Soviet era. But Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said these exercises are even larger. “Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles — and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible,” Shoigu said. The exercises will be held across nine training ranges and three seas: the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. The Russian army is rolling out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes. At sea, the Russian fleet is deploying several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria. Wednesday will see games featuring anti-aircraft technology, while the main event will be on Thursday, the defence ministry told journalists covering the event in eastern Siberia and the Far East. NATO said that Vostok-2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”. “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence,” the alliance’s spokesman Dylan White said late August. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns on Tuesday. “These are very important drills but they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces,” he told journalists. Peskov has earlier said Russia’s “ability to defend itself in the current international situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative”. Relations between Russia and the West declined sharply in 2014 with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of a Kremlin-backed uprising in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has accused NATO of expanding westwards and threatening Russian national security. Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic in recent years. Russia’s previous military exercise in the region, Vostok-2014, was almost half the size, with 155,000 soldiers participating. The country’s war games in Eastern Europe last year, Zapad-2017, saw 12,700 troops take part, according to Moscow. Ukraine and the Baltic states said the true number was far bigger.

Boris Johnson says Theresa May is ‘wrapping a suicide vest around Britain’ with Brexit plan

Boris Johnson has launched an attack on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, claiming she has ‘wrapped a suicide vest’ around Britain. The ex-foreign secretary accused the Prime Minister of handing ‘the detonator’ to Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier. His extraordinary comments – just hours after he announced he would be divorcing his wife of 25 years, Marina Wheeler – have exposed deep divides within the Tory party, prompting a backlash from senior colleagues. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson lashed out at the Northern Ireland ‘backstop,’ aimed at making sure there is no hard border with Ireland. He said: ‘We have opened ourselves to perpetual political blackmail. We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier. ‘We have given him a jemmy with which Brussels can choose – at any time – to crack apart the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’ Under the EU’s version of the exit plan, if no trade deal with the UK resolved the issue of the border problem, Northern Ireland would effectively remain part of the single market. Mr Johnson added: ‘At every stage in the talks so far, Brussels gets what Brussels wants. ‘We have agreed to the EU’s timetable; we have agreed to hand over £39 billion, for nothing in return. ‘Under the Chequers proposal we are set to agree to accept their rules – forever – with no say on the making of those rules. ‘It is a humiliation. We look like a seven-stone weakling being comically bent out of shape by a 500lb gorilla.’ The prominent Brexiteer’s latest assault will fuel speculation about his own leadership ambitions. Mr Johnson quit the Cabinet in opposition to her Chequers plan which would see the UK remain closely aligned with EU rules on goods. But the plan and the UK’s alternative backstop would both mean ‘agreeing to take EU rules, with no say on those rules’, leaving the country a ‘vassal state’. He said: ‘We have managed to reduce the great British Brexit to two appalling options: either we must divide the Union, or the whole country must accept EU law forever.’ He claimed there are ‘far better technical solutions’ to the Irish border issue. His comments drew a furious response from Tory MP and ex-army officer Tom Tugendhat. ‘A suicide bomber murdered many in the courtyard of my office in Helmand,’ he said. “Comparing the PM to that isn’t funny.’

Goldman Bear-Market Risk Indicator at Highest Since 1969: Chart

A Goldman Sachs Group Inc. indicator designed to provide a “reasonable signal for future bear-market risk” has risen to the highest in almost 50 years.

The firm’s Bull/Bear Index, which is based on measures of equity valuation, growth momentum, unemployment, inflation and the yield curve, is now at levels last seen in 1969.

While the gauge is at levels that have historically preceded a bear market, Goldman strategists including Peter Oppenheimer wrote in a note last week that a long period of relatively low returns from stocks is a more likely alternative.

Trump official John Bolton declares International Criminal Court ‘dangerous’ and is ‘dead to’ America

National Security Advisor to Donald Trump, John Bolton, has said the International Criminal Court (ICC) is “dead to us” in his latest speech.  He labelled the court as “illegitimate” and “for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”  Mr Bolton was speaking at a meeting of the Federalist Society, a conservative group based in Washington DC, said the ICC “ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed outright dangerous”. The court, established in 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands, has the power to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The US never ratified the Rome Statute which established the court and Mr Bush, in the early days of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, never ratified it.  Russian officials to meet with John Bolton next week, says Kremlin The court is getting ready to investigate detainee abuse in Afghanistan, an investigation Mr Bolton called “utterly unfounded,” adding: “We will provide no cooperation to the ICC”. The former US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W Bush went on to say the “central aim of [the ICC’s] most vigorous supporters was to constrain the US”.  Mr Bolton said the court’s statute had “glaring, significant flaws” and “constituted an assault on the Constitutional rights of the American people and the sovereignty of the US.”  He also acknowledged his hecklers as Code Pink, an international charity which works to end US-funded wars, his “friends who follow me” everywhere.  Mr Bolton, following a trend in the Trump administration of criticising multilateralism, branded the ICC as a “freewheeling global organisation governing over individuals without their consent”.  He claimed American “soldiers, politicians, and private citizens” are at risk because the court assumes the automatic right to prosecute over everyone, even in countries which did not ratify the Rome Statute establishing the court.  Israel, Sudan, Russia, and the US under Mr Bush, are four signatories of the statute who renounced their signatures and informed the UN they would no longer be subject to the legal obligations under the statute.  Mr Bolton said the US’ “unsigning” of the Rome Statute was meant to protect Americans from the “unacceptable overreach” of the court.

The Urgent Question of Trump and Money Laundering

How Bruce Ohr, President Trump’s latest Twitter target, fits a suspicious pattern of behavior on Russia.
President Trump with President Putin in Helsinki in July. Trump’s odd affinity for Russia continues to cause him trouble.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Donald Trump has a long history of doing what he thinks is best for Donald Trump. If he needs to discard friends, allies or wives along the way, so be it. “I’m a greedy person,” he has explained. It’s important to keep this trait in mind when trying to make sense of the Russia story. Trump’s affinity for Russia, after all, is causing problems for him. It has created tensions with his own staff and his Republican allies in Congress. Most voters now believe he has something to hide. And the constant talk of Russia on television clearly enrages Trump. He could make his life easier if only he treated Vladimir Putin the way he treats most people who cause problems — and cast Putin aside. Yet Trump can’t bring himself to do so. This odd refusal is arguably the biggest reason to believe that Putin really does have leverage over Trump. Maybe it’s something shocking, like a sex tape or evidence of campaign collusion by Trump himself. Or maybe it’s the scandal that’s been staring us in the face all along: Illicit financial dealings — money laundering — between Trump’s business and Russia. The latest reason to be suspicious is Trump’s attacks on a formerly obscure Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ohr and called for him to be fired. Ohr’s sin is that he appears to have been marginally involved in inquiries into Trump’s Russian links. But Ohr fits a larger pattern. In his highly respected three-decade career in law enforcement, he has specialized in going after Russian organized crime. It just so happens that most of the once-obscure bureaucrats whom Trump has tried to discredit also are experts in some combination of Russia, organized crime and money laundering. Consider: The financially rickety Trump Organization, shunned by most mainstream banks, long relied on less scrupulous Russian investors. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said a decade ago. “We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” Eric Trump reportedly said in 2013. And what was the rare major bank to work with Trump? Deutsche Bank, which has a history of illegal Russian money laundering. Trump also had a habit of selling real estate to Russians in all-cash deals. Money launderers like such deals, because they can turn illegally earned cash into a legitimate asset, usually at an inflated price that rewards the seller for the risk. One especially dubious deal was Trump’s $95 million sale of a Palm Beach house to a Russian magnate in 2008 — during the housing bust, only four years after Trump had bought the house for $41 million. Then there is Trump’s paranoia about scrutiny of his businesses. He has refused to release his tax returns. He said that Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line by looking into his finances. When word leaked (incorrectly) that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank’s records on Trump, he moved to fire Mueller (only to be dissuaded by aides). Trump is certainly acting as if his business history contains damaging information. For months, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has been trying to get Congress to pay attention to the possibility of money laundering.

Continue reading “The Urgent Question of Trump and Money Laundering”

Ford not moving production from China to U.S., despite Trump’s tweet

China-made Focus Active crossover won’t be sold in U.S. because of high tariffs
Bloomberg News Ford will not be making Focus Active crossovers in the U.S.

Ford Motor Co. had a quick and firm response Sunday to a claim by President Donald Trump that tariffs on Chinese goods would force the auto maker to build its Focus Active crossover in the U.S. — um, no. “It would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the U.S. given an expected annual sales volume of fewer than 50,000 units,” Ford said in a statement Sunday. “Ford is proud to employ more U.S. hourly workers and build more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker.” Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that “Ford has abruptly killed a plan to sell a Chinese-made small vehicle in the U.S. because of the prospect of higher U.S. Tariffs. . . . This car can now be BUILT IN THE U.S.A. and Ford will pay no tariffs!” In fact, on Aug. 31, Ford canceled plans to import compact Focus Actives that were made in China because of the high tariff costs. But that just meant the car will not be sold in the U.S. at all, since Ford saw it as a niche vehicle. The cars will continue to be sold elsewhere around the world.

“This is further evidence that neither the president nor his trade representatives have any clue of the complexities of global supply chains,” Jon Gabrielsen, a market economist who specializes in the auto industry, told the Detroit Free Press on Sunday.

Ford shares F, +1.02%   have sunk almost 26% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s SPX, +0.25%   gain of more than 7%.

Bob Woodward: “People better wake up to what’s going on” in the Oval Office

woodward-fear-book-cover-inset-244.jpg
Watergate journalist Bob Woodward made headlines once again this past week, with his new book about the Trump White House, entitled “Fear.” This morning, in his first TV interview, Woodward paints a picture for our David Martin of an administration in disarray:

 

“You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, ‘Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis,'” said Bob Woodward.  For the Washington Post reporter, that is the bottom line to all the jaw-dropping chaos and discord described in his new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” (published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS.

“People who work for him are worried … that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or the financial security of the country, or of the world,” Woodward said.

Aides like then-Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter literally stole documents off the president’s desk in the Oval Office, such as a letter terminating a trade agreement with South Korea, so that, Woodward explained, Mr. Trump could not sign them: “Because they realized that this would endanger the country.” Martin asked, “How’d they get away with that?” “[Trump] doesn’t remember. If it’s not on his desk, if it’s not immediately available for action, it goes away.” Unelected officials like Cohn and Porter intentionally thwarting the actions of the elected president – the exact reverse of what a White House staff is supposed to do.  In Woodward’s telling, President Trump does not see America as the indispensable nation; he sees it as an international sucker taken advantage of by allies and trading partners. He complained his advisors “don’t know anything about business. All they want to is protect everybody … that we pay for.” According to Woodward, the president is obsessed by the fact that the U.S. pays $3.5 billion a year to station troops in South Korea as a first line of defense against the North. “I don’t know why they’re there,” he said at one meeting. “Let’s bring them all home.” At another meeting, Secretary of Defense James Mattis starkly why the U.S. has 28,000 troops in Korea: “We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III.”

Continue reading “Bob Woodward: “People better wake up to what’s going on” in the Oval Office”

With Trump in crisis, Pence waits in his shadow

(CNN)Vice President Mike Pence was among the first to make the “I didn’t write it” pledge in the wake of a shocking anonymous essay — “I Am Part of the Resistance” — that revealed a conspiracy to save America from an unhinged President. Pence would likely pass the lie detector test that Sen. Rand Paul suggested to find the author, but this wouldn’t prove Pence had no influence on the thoughts of the anonymous writer or is preparing for Trump’s departure. The op-ed, published in The New York Times, notes that members of the Cabinet considered using the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to declare Donald Trump unfit and replace him with the vice president. (This is what is meant by those who suggest a “soft coup” is underway.) Although this scenario seems unlikely, Trump’s response to Anonymous — for example, asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate who wrote the op-ed — could prompt him to act in ways that would finally alienate supporters in Congress and elements of his base. Thus weakened, Trump’s departure by impeachment or other means would also open the door of the Oval Office to the vice president. The grave possibility of a crisis that ends the scandal-scarred Trump presidency could explain the vice president’s remarkable record of praising the chaotic commander-in-chief while making himself scarce at moments of crisis. Between his sycophancy, which moved George Will to say that Pence could be “America’s most repulsive figure,” and his widely noted absences, Pence has established a record that would make him blameless but also acceptable as a successor. In the role of loyal but often absent vice president, Pence has retained the support of the Trump base, which means there would be no great uprising if he assumes the presidency. Calm would prevail and no proof would be found linking him to the Resistance.

US officials secretly met with Venezuelan military officers plotting a coup against Maduro

Washington (CNN)US officials met secretly with Venezuelan military officers who were plotting a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, both a current and a former US official confirmed to CNN. American officials met with the renegade Venezuelan military officers several times over the last year after the Venezuelan officers made contact, but Washington ultimately decided against supporting the coup, the two sources said. The US did not provide the Venezuelan officers with any support and the plans for the coup ultimately fell apart, the sources said. The Trump administration’s discussions with the Venezuelan military officers about a potential coup were first reported Saturday morning by the New York Times. The current and former US officials confirmed to CNN that report is accurate. The White House declined to comment on the meetings between US officials and Venezuelan military officers, but said in a statement the US continues to support “a peaceful orderly return to democracy in Venezuela.” “U.S. policy preference for a peaceful, orderly return to democracy in Venezuela remains unchanged. The United States government hears daily the concerns of Venezuelans from all walks of life — be they members of the ruling party, the security services, elements of civil society or from among the millions of citizens forced by the regime to flee abroad. They share one goal: the rebuilding of democracy in their homeland,” said National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis. “A lasting solution to Venezuela’s worsening crisis can only arise following restoration of governance by democratic practices, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded to the news through his verified Twitter account, saying the Maduro government denounces efforts to intervene in the Latin American nation. “We denounce before the world the intervention plans and the support to military conspiracies by the US government against Venezuela. In the US’s own media came to light new and crass evidence,” Arreaza tweeted. President Donald Trump has previously discussed the possibility of a military option in Venezuela. “We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I am not going to rule out a military option,” Trump said last August. Asked about the possibility of a military intervention in response to the mounting crisis in the country, the President said that is something the US “certainly could pursue.” Taking military action against Venezuela would be a dramatic escalation of the US’s so-far solely diplomatic and sanctions-focused response to the political and economic crisis roiling the South American country. In August 2017, Trump asked several advisers about the possibility of invading Venezuela, CNN reported in July. The Times’ report included details from the secret meetings, citing 11 current and former US officials and a former Venezuelan military commander sanctioned by the US government who was involved in the secret meetings.

US and China could soon prompt a ‘big slowdown’ in global growth, former bank regulator warns

Lord Turner: US and China could trigger a global slowdown
Lord Turner: US and China could trigger a global slowdown
 

The economic policies being pursued by the U.S. and China could bring about a massive slowdown in global growth, according to Britain’s top former bank regulator. Economic growth in the U.S. remains robust in 2018, yet in much of the rest of the world signs of deteriorating momentum have emerged since the start of the year. Strong and synchronized global growth in 2017 appears to have given way to a more varied outlook, with escalating global trade tensions — notably, between Washington and Beijing — keeping financial markets on edge. Investors are also keen to see how a package of massive U.S. tax cuts, instigated by Trump in late 2017, affect the economy. “The sheer scale of the Trumpian expansion in the U.S. could lead to inflationary pressures which produce a faster increase in U.S. interest rates than we anticipate. And that may then produce quite a sudden slowdown in the U.S. economy,” Adair Turner, former chair of the U.K. Financial Services Authority (FSA), told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy on Saturday. Simultaneously, he argued China’s ongoing efforts to rebalance its economy away, generally away from construction and towards consumption, were likely to prompt a slowdown in global economic growth. “Those two things together could produce a big slowdown in the global economy in 2020. Then a slowdown in the European economy, and where do I think the trouble will then arise? Well, maybe right here (Italy).”

“Italian government debt is only sustainable if the Italian economy keeps going. You just need a small recession across the European Union … And we could be back to talking about what are you going to do about Italian debt?” Turner said.

Italy’s coalition government is poised to present its 2019 budget next month, setting out its economic and financial plans for the coming year. The unveiling of Rome’s economic policies and growth projections for 2019 is likely to be a key moment for its populist government. That’s because Italy is the euro zone’s third-largest economy and the prospect of an economic collapse in Rome could damage the entire region’s financial and political stability. Earlier on Saturday, Italy’s former prime minister designate, Carlo Cottarelli, told CNBC he was also worried about Italy’s fragile economy. Cottarelli warned a global recession in the second-half of the year would represent a clear and present danger to the country’s economic prosperity.

Trump to Apple: ‘Make your products’ in the US to avoid tariffs

Trump to Apple: 'Make your products' in the US to avoid tariffs
© UPI Photo President Trump on Saturday pitched what he called an “easy solution” for Apple to avoid his proposed tariffs on China: Make the products in the U.S.

Trump acknowledged in a tweet that “Apple prices may increase because of the massive Tariffs we may be imposing on China,” but suggested the issue was not with the tariffs themselves. “There is an easy solution where there would be ZERO tax, and indeed a tax incentive. Make your products in the United States instead of China. Start building new plants now,” Trump wrote. “Exciting!”

The president’s comments came after Apple warned this week that Trump’s proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods would affect a host of its products, including Apple Watch and Apple AirPods. “It is difficult to see how tariffs that hurt U.S. companies and U.S. consumers will advance the Government’s objectives with respect to China’s technology policies,” Apple said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. “We hope, instead, that you will reconsider these measures and work to find other, more effective solutions that leave the U.S. economy and U.S. consumer stronger and healthier than ever before.” Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously voiced optimism that Trump’s trade measures would not impact the price of the iPhone, which drives the majority of the company’s profits. Trump met with Cook last month amid rolling discussions on his tougher trade measures, touting that the Apple chief “is investing big dollars in U.S.A.” The president told reporters Friday on Air Force One that imposing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products “will take place very soon depending on what happens.” Trump added that he was prepared to slap another $267 billion in tariffs on Chinese products, beyond the $200 billion he has already promised.

Trump says he could use the MILITARY to build his wall

if Congress won’t fund it through Homeland Security’s budget – and he won’t rule out another government shutdown to get his way

President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s considering using military resources to finish construction of his long-promised border wall instead of relying on Congress to fund the project through the Homeland Security Department’s budget. He also wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of a government shutdown if Democrats continue to confound his efforts to appropriate money for the project on the U.S.-Mexico border. ‘We have two options,’ he told DailyMail.com aboard Air Force One as he flew from Billings, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota. ‘We have military, we have homeland security.’ He was asked specifically about using the Army Corps of Engineers as a taxpayer-funded construction crew.  President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s considering using military resources to finish construction of his long-promised border wall, as she spoke to the press on Air Force One, above on Friday ‘We have two options,’ he told DailyMail.com aboard Air Force One as he flew from Billings, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota. ‘We have military, we have homeland security’ Trump said he would prefer to fund the ambitious construction ‘the old-fashioned way – get it from Congress – but I have other options if I have to.’ He’s seeking about $25 billion. The possibility of diverting Pentagon funding and assets to build a border wall is a hole card the president is holding but has never directly acknowledged before. Two Defense Department officials told DailyMail.com in August that the Army Corps of Engineers could take on the task. The White House appears headed for another confrontation with Congress over an increase in funding for the project after securing $1.6 billion for 2007 and the same amount for this year. A senior White House official said Thursday that the money was ‘basically a down-payment on the thing’. The possibility looms that the president will refuse to sign the next federal budget, due September 30, if lawmakers don’t go along with more installments. That would trigger a government shutdown. ‘If it were up – I don’t want to say “up to me,” because it is up to me – I would do it,’ he said aboard Air Force One, ‘because I think it’s a great political issue.’ But he said some Republicans in Congress, facing tough re-election fights, have counseled more patience.

Trump says he’s ready to hit China with another $267 billion in tariffs

Trump administration reportedly readying another $267B in tariffs on Chinese imports

Trump administration reportedly readying another $267 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports   President Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One Friday that he was “ready to go” on tariffs for another $267 billion in Chinese goods “if he wants,” which would come on top of the $200 billion in goods already targeted, according to Bloomberg and Reuters. Already the administration was set to announce it would impose the tariffs on the $200 billion in goods, after threatening them in an ongoing and escalating dispute with China. A public comment period on this set of tariffs expired Thursday in the U.S. China’s commerce ministry has said the country would retaliate if the U.S. imposes new tariffs.
President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference with China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017.
Nicholas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017

The world’s two largest economies have already applied tariffs to $50 billion of each other’s goods. Talks aimed at easing tensions ended last month without major breakthroughs, and Washington appears emboldened by a sell-off in Chinese markets and a weakening economy. Trump said Wednesday he was not prepared to make a deal with China “that they’d like to make.” Still, he added, his administration will “continue to talk to China.” Trump’s remarks to reporters on Friday sparked a 100-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average around 12 p.m. ET, with the apparent escalation in the trade tensions with China.

Fed official: The fleeting impact from Trump’s stimulus is at its height right now

Dallas Fed’s Kaplan comfortable with raising rates to a range between 2.5%-2.75%
Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

The president of the Dallas Federal Reserve said Friday the tax cuts and federal spending increases are having their biggest impact right now, suggesting they will not make lasting changes to the economy. Robert Kaplan, in an interview with Fox Business Network, said the economic impact from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will decrease next year.

“It is our view and it’s my view at the Dallas Fed that we’re at the height of the impact of the stimulus right now, the fiscal stimulus.

That will fade somewhat in ’19 and will fade further in ’20 and you still got some headwinds, sluggish labor force growth because the demographics [of] aging and sluggish productivity, those will start to kick in more as the fiscal stimulus fades,” he said.

Kaplan said trade disputes are having the impact of limiting capital expenditure growth.

“The tax legislation and tax reform cause companies to accelerate capex that they might have done a year or two from now to do it today because of the tax incentives,” Kaplan said. “I also think you’re seeing additional capex in the energy business because of the production growth, high prices but I do think companies are telling me that they, yes, they are taking a wait-and-see approach because of the uncertainty around trade. So, it’s having a little bit of a chilling effect and so that’s something to just be aware of and take note of.”As for the jobs report, Kaplan said it didn’t change his view of the U.S. economy. He also said he’s been expecting wage growth to accelerate, as it did in August. “I’ve been expecting for several months now that you’d see the wage number firming. And it’s consistent with a tight labor market, I still believe that a lot of the big structural drivers in the world, automation, globalization will mute overall inflation pressures. But I actually think the wage growth number is welcome and it is probably consistent with our outlook for the economy and what it’s been the last few months,” he said.

Wall Street drops on tariff worries, with Apple in crosshairs

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S.,

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street’s major indexes fell on Friday as U.S. President Donald Trump raised the possibility of additional tariffs on Chinese imports and Apple Inc indicated that some of its products could be subjected to such levies. U.S. stocks were lower for most of Friday’s session but dipped further in the last half-hour of trading on reports that Apple products, including the Apple Watch and AirPods, would be slapped with duties. Apple shares, which had been in positive territory for most of the session, ended 0.8 percent lower. The company provided those details in response to the White House’s proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. A comment period for those tariffs ended on Thursday night. Earlier on Friday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Trump would not make any decisions on those tariffs until officials evaluated public comments. “Apple is a bellwether name,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey. “(That’s) why we may be seeing some profit-taking going into the weekend.” U.S. stocks had already been pressured after Trump said he had tariffs ready to impose on an additional $267 billion worth of Chinese imports, on top of the proposed $200 billion. The escalated trade rhetoric contributed to anxiety among investors regarding the market’s outlook. “There’s the possibility of (China) devaluing its currency again, which pushes up the dollar and turns the pressure up on U.S. exporters,” Krosby said. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 79.33 points, or 0.31 percent, to 25,916.54, the S&P 500 lost 6.37 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,871.68 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 20.19 points, or 0.25 percent, to 7,902.54. For the week, the Dow lost 0.19 percent, the S&P fell 1.03 percent, and the Nasdaq shed 2.55 percent. The Nasdaq registered its greatest weekly percentage decline since late March, while the S&P’s weekly percentage drop was its biggest since late June. With the added pressures from trade concerns, 10 out of the S&P’s 11 major sectors ended lower. Only health care stocks posted gains. Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.21-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.24-to-1 ratio favored decliners. The S&P 500 posted 37 new 52-week highs and 16 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 99 new highs and 66 new lows. Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.25 billion shares, compared to the 6.2 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Trump Wants Attorney General to Investigate Source of Anonymous Times Op-Ed

“I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” President Trump said on Air Force One on Friday.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

 

WASHINGTON — President Trump intensified his attack Friday on an anonymous Op-Ed essay published in The New York Times, declaring that he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the source of the article, which he has condemned as an act of treason. Mr. Trump said he was also considering action against The Times, though he did not elaborate. Prosecutors said it would be inappropriate for the Justice Department to conduct such an investigation, since it was likely that no laws were broken, while The Times said it would be an abuse of power. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One as he traveled to Fargo, N.D., Mr. Trump said, “I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security.” The president has raged against the essay since The Times published it on Wednesday afternoon, setting off a frenzy of speculation in the capital about the identity of the author and prompting a parade of denials from cabinet members and other prominent officials in the Trump administration.

Mr. Trump’s latest remarks indicate that he wants to use the machinery of the government to root out the source of the Op-Ed, which described some administration officials as being in a state of near mutiny against a president they view as dangerous and untethered from reality.

“We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he’s talking about, also where he is right now,” he said. While the president suggested that the anonymous writer was not a senior official, he said that the person might nonetheless have a security clearance that allows him or her to attend sensitive national security meetings involving China, Russia or North Korea. “I don’t want him in those meetings,” Mr. Trump said.

In a statement, The Times said, “We’re confident that the Department of Justice understands that the First Amendment protects all American citizens and that it would not participate in such a blatant abuse of government power.

“The president’s threats both underscore why we must safeguard the identity of the writer of this Op-Ed and serve as a reminder of the importance of a free and independent press to American democracy,” the statement said.

Obama jumps back into political fray, calls out Trump by name: ‘He is a symptom, not the cause’


Former President Barack Obama on Friday lamented the state of politics today, calling out his successor, Donald Trump, by name as he started his push to ramp up Democratic energy for midterms. Mr. Obama made his return to the political arena by giving a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after receiving the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government. He praised America’s accomplishments but said there is a darker side to progress when politicians peddle resentment and mistrust to preserve the status quo. “It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,” Mr. Obama said. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.” Mr. Obama also took a jab at Mr. Trump’s emphasis on the economy, telling the audience “remember when that recovery started.”

U.S. adds 201,000 jobs as worker wages accelerate to nine-year high

Unemployment stays at 18-year low

 The United States created 201,000 new jobs in August, keeping the unemployment rate at an 18-year low and generating the fastest increase in worker pay since the end of the Great Recession. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 200,000 increase in new nonfarm jobs. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, was unchanged at 3.9%, the Labor Department said Friday. The increase in hiring in August was another solid gain that reflects broad strength in an economy that accelerated in the spring and showed little sign of slowing down toward the end of summer.  The biggest news in the August employment report was a sharp increase in pay. The average wage paid to American workers rose by 10 cents to $27.16 an hour. What’s more, the yearly rate of pay increases climbed to 2.9% from 2.7%, marking the highest level since June 2009. White-collar professional firms filled 53,000 positions, bringing the total created over the past 12 months to more than half a million. These are the fastest growing jobs in the country. Health-care providers hired 33,000 people, transport firms added 20,000 jobs and construction companies hired 23,000 workers. Employment fell by 3,000 in manufacturing, the first decline in 13 months. U.S. tariffs and a scarcity of skilled laborers may finally be taking their toll.

Retailers also cut jobs.

Employment gains for July and June, meanwhile, were revised down by a combined 50,000, the Labor Department said Friday. Still, the economy has produced an average of 207,000 new jobs a month so far this year — faster than the pace of hiring in both 2017 and 2016.The economy surged in the spring and is still growing rapidly as the fall approaches. Most companies are hiring and layoffs have tumbled to a nearly 50-year low.

Aside from a shortage of skilled labor, companies say their biggest problem is coping with a spate of higher U.S. and foreign tariffs that have raised the cost of key materials such as steel and lumber and made it harder to obtain supplies.

Consumers are feeling more of the brunt of inflation. Most if not all of the increase in pay over the past year has been eaten up by higher inflation. The cost of living as measured by the consumer price index has also climbed 2.9% in the past year.

NAFTA talks make progress; U.S., Canadian officials to work into night

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland takes part in a news conference at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

WASHINGTON/OTTAWA (Reuters) – The United States and Canada have made progress in talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, and officials from the two sides will work together into the night to flesh out areas for further discussion, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday. Freeland sounded upbeat as she emerged from a day of talks with top U.S. trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer, although she cautioned that no trade deal was done until the last issue was nailed down. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to push ahead with a bilateral deal with Mexico, effectively killing the almost 25-year-old three-country pact, which covers $1.2 trillion in trade. The United States and Mexico reached an agreement on overhauling NAFTA at the beginning of last week, turning up the pressure on Canada to agree to new terms. “We sent them (the officials) a number of issues to work on and they will report back to us in the morning, and we will then continue our negotiations,” Freeland told reporters on leaving the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in Washington on Wednesday.Trump sounded a more upbeat note earlier, and said he expected to know whether a deal could be struck to include Canada in the next few days. Neither Freeland nor Trump spelled out areas of disagreement and neither detailed the progress that had been made. Lighthizer did not speak to the press or issue a statement. Wednesday was the first day that talks between the two countries resumed after four intensive days of talks last week ended on Friday without a deal after the mood soured. Canada wants a permanent exemption from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs and the threat of auto tariffs to be removed. It also wants to continue protections for its dairy industry and defend lumber exports to the United States, which have been hit with duties. As the two sides met for talks, new economic data showed that the U.S. trade deficit with Canada grew to $3.1 billion in July. This could provide ammunition to Trump, who has accused Canada of “cheating” Americans. Trump nearly tore up the NAFTA pact last year after visiting farmers in Wisconsin, a major U.S. dairy producer that Washington says has been hurt by Canadian protectionism. Trump charges that the 1994 pact has caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs, something that most economists dispute. Data released on Wednesday showed the U.S. trade deficit hit a five-month high of $50 billion. The shortfall with Canada shot up 57.6 percent. Trump has notified Congress that he intends to sign the trade deal reached last week with Mexico by the end of November, and officials said the text would be published by around Oct. 1. But Canadian officials, who note increasing political pressure on Trump from U.S. business and labor circles to keep NAFTA as a trilateral arrangement, said they were in no hurry. “We’re not saying we don’t want to move swiftly to try and get a deal. But I think certainly we were always intending to take as long as it was going to take,” said a government source who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the situation. “We’re seeing goodwill on all sides and if we see some more flexibility, then I think we can start to see things moving in a good direction,” added the source. Negotiators have blown through several deadlines since the talks started in August 2017. As the process grinds on, some in Washington insist Trump cannot pull out of NAFTA without the approval of Congress. “Trump is relying on bluster and bullying in a desperate attempt to get Congress to swallow his half-baked deal. You can’t fix NAFTA without fixing issues with Canada,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade.

John Kerry: ‘This is a genuine constitutional crisis’

(CNN)Former Secretary of State John Kerry said the country faces “a genuine constitutional crisis” following Bob Woodward’s reporting on President Donald Trump’s dysfunctional White House and the unnamed senior administration official’s op-ed assailing Trump in The New York Times on Wednesday. “We have a presidency which is off the rails,” Kerry told Anderson Cooper on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” “We have a President who is not capable of doing the job, who clearly has these temper tantrums, doesn’t know enough to be making many of the decisions he makes.” In the Times op-ed, the unnamed senior Trump administration official attacked the President’s “amorality” and reckless decision-making and said he or she is part of a “resistance” working to thwart  Trump’s worst impulses. Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which exploded onto the political scene Tuesday, paints a portrait of a chaotic, dysfunctional White House under Trump.

“We see the evidence of people stealing a presidential document off his desk,” Kerry said, referencing Woodward’s reporting. “We see a general, the secretary of defense, ordered to kill another leader — a leader of another country — who turns to everybody after the phone is hung up and says, ‘I’m not gonna do that. We’re not gonna do that.’ ” Trump responded to the book Wednesday in the Oval Office and said, “The book is fiction.”
The President also lashed out on Wednesday and dismissed the op-ed as “really a disgrace” and “gutless” and assailed the author and the Times for publishing the anonymous opinion piece.
“This is unbelievable,” Kerry said, and said the constitutional “crisis” is heightened because Republican senators are defending, “not the Constitution, not the institution of the Senate — they’re defending party and the President, who simply doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Trump rips searing Times op-ed from unnamed senior official

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a striking anonymous broadside, a senior Trump administration official wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday claiming to be part of a group of people “working diligently from within” to impede President Donald Trump’s “worst inclinations” and ill-conceived parts of his agenda. Trump said it was a “gutless editorial” and “really a disgrace,” and his press secretary called on the official to resign. Trump later tweeted, “TREASON?” and in an extraordinary move demanded that if “the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!” The writer, claiming to be part of the “resistance” to Trump but not from the left, said, “Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.” The newspaper described the author of the column only as a senior official in the Trump administration. “It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the author continued. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.” President Donald Trump says it’s “really a disgrace” that an unsigned op-ed critical of him and written by a senior administration official has been published. (Sept. 5) A defiant Trump, appearing at an unrelated event at the White House, lashed out at the Times for publishing the op-ed. “They don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them,” he said of the newspaper. The op-ed pages of the newspaper are managed separately from its news department. The essay immediately triggered a wild guessing game as to the author’s identity on social media, in newsrooms and inside the West Wing, where officials were blindsided by its publication. And in a blistering statement, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused the author of choosing to “deceive” the president by remaining in the administration. “He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people,” she said. “The coward should do the right thing and resign.” Sanders also called on the Times to “issue an apology” for publishing the piece, calling it a “pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed.” White House officials did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate on Trump’s call for the writer to be turned over to the government or the unsupported national security ground of his demand. To White House officials, the ultimatum appeared to play into the very concerns about the president’s impulses raised by the essay’s author. Trump has demanded that aides identify the leaker, according to two people familiar with the matter, though it was not yet clear how they might go about doing so. The two were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A “House of Cards”-style plot twist in an already over-the-top administration, Trump allies and political insiders scrambled late Wednesday to unmask the writer. The text was pulled apart for clues: The writer is identified as an “administration official”; does that mean a person who works outside the White House? The references to Russia and the late Sen. John McCain — do they suggest someone working in national security? Does the writing style sound like someone who worked at a think tank? In a tweet, the Times used the pronoun “he” to refer to the writer; does that rule out all women? The newspaper later said the tweet referring to “he” had been “drafted by someone who is not aware of the author’s identity, including the gender, so the use of ‘he’ was an error.” Hotly debated on Twitter was the author’s use of the word “lodestar,” which pops up frequently in speeches by Vice President Mike Pence. Could the anonymous figure be someone in Pence’s orbit? Others argued that the word “lodestar” could have been included to throw people off.

Nets Go Wild for Anonymous NYT Op-Ed From White House Aide Trashing Trump

On Wednesday, The New York Times published a scathing op-ed trashing President Trump written by an anonymous senior White House official (or so the paper claims). The author pompously painted them self as part of a secret, superhero-like team in the White House keeping the wildly unstable President from harming us all. During the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and, NBC, they spent almost 15 minutes combined pushing the writer’s claims.

“The President’s leadership style is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective. Senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails. He engages in repetitive rants. And his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.”  “President Trump is confronted tonight with what may be the most daunting opposition he’s faced yet. This time it’s coming from within his own ranks,” anchor Lester Holt proclaimed as the program began.

 

 

“An extraordinary alarm sounded from the inside out, jaw-dropping charges against the President by someone who says they work for him. An anonymous source describing a secret cluster of top aides, quote, ‘working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,’” added NBC White House correspondent Hallie Jackson. Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd joined Holtr being asked by Holt, “should all Americans be shaken,” Todd vehemently agreed. “Look, I think so. Because I mean, the portrait that’s being painted is a President that is not fit to run the country. That’s what this senior administration official is saying,”  Duncan also noted the reaction from former Times public editor (and current Washington Post columnist) Margaret Sullivan who jokingly tweeted: “It’s a good day not to be the public editor of The New York Times.”

French President Macron’s popularity slumps to record low in poll

 French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting, following a government reshuffle the day before, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France September 5, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool by Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity has hit a record low following the resignation of a popular minister and a summer scandal over his bodyguard, a poll showed on Thursday. Only 23 percent of those surveyed reported a favourable opinion of Macron in September, down from 27 percent last month, the YouGov poll for Le Huff Post and CNEWS found. Macron’s popularity is low in most polls but the YouGov survey pegged it worse than others and indicated poor ratings across the political spectrum. The former investment banker has sold his pro-business reform drive on promises that it will boost growth and jobs, but many voters ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain his policies mostly benefit companies and the rich. He was dealt a blow last week with the surprise resignation of his environment minister, a popular former activist and TV presenter, during a live radio interview. In July his leadership was put to the test when a scandal broke out as video emerged showing his top bodyguard beating May Day protesters. Meanwhile, soft economic data has raised questions about whether he has the right recipe for growth while hesitation over a tax collection reform has painted him as unusually indecisive. His government has repeatedly shrugged off poor poll ratings, insisting it will not waver on the reform agenda as politically sensitive overhauls of unemployment insurance and pensions loom in the months ahead. The YouGov poll was conducted on Aug. 29-30 with a sample of 1,099 people.

Turkey begins constructing site for Russian missile system — despite US warnings

  • A Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
    Sergei Malgavko | TASS via Getty Images A Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

NEW DELHI Turkey is in the process of constructing a site for a Russian missile system despite warnings from the United States to not buy the platform, according to a source with firsthand knowledge of an intelligence report covering the subject. The assessment, published a month ago, included satellite imagery of a concrete launch facility as well as bunkers, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The new construction fits the pattern for Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system, the source indicated. Last year, Ankara signed an agreement with Moscow for S-400 missiles, a deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion. Since then, Turkey’s march toward procuring the Russian missile system has raised concerns among NATO partners, who are wary of Moscow’s increasing military presence in the region. The S-400 system is believed to have a larger range than the American-made THAAD missile system and is estimated to cost significantly less. Turkey is slated to receive the S-400 next year and is expected to have the system ready for war by 2020. Meanwhile, all of that comes as Congress is inching closer to blocking the transfer of two F-35 jets to Turkey.

The stealth fighter jets that hang in the balance

Turkey, an F-35 program partner, is currently slated to receive two of the jets. That delivery of Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation jets is the start of what Ankara hopes will eventually amount to 100 of the stealth aircraft. In June, the U.S. defense giant held a formal hand-off ceremony at its F-35 facility in Fort Worth, Texas. After the ceremony, Lockheed ferried the aircraft to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where Turkish pilots began training alongside U.S. airmen. The Russian-made S-400 missile system, which is equipped with eight launchers and 32 missiles, is capable of targeting stealth warplanes like the F-35 fighter. In the colossal $717 billion National Defense Authorization Act, Congress tasked the Pentagon to deliver a report in 90 days outlining the potential risks associated with Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile system. “We are going through this current issue between us, and we are engaged in, I would call it, frequent, right now, very frequent, discussions at very high levels to try to sort this out,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday when asked about the F-35 sale to Turkey. “I believe that there is sincerity on both sides to try to work this out. So we’re engaged in it right now, and I — you know, I need to work with them directly on this, as does Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo and others on our side,” he added. What’s more, tensions between the U.S. and Ankara have intensified over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. In August, the Department of the Treasury issued sanctions to Turkey’s ministers of Justice and Interior for the arrest and detention of Brunson. “The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being,” U.S. President Donald Trump wrote in a tweet. “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”.

In quick reversal, Trump threatens shutdown over border wall

FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks before signing an executive order on strengthening retirement security in America at Harris Conference Center in Charlotte, NC, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be willing to shut down the U.S. government if Congress does not provide enough funding for border security, reversing a stance he took a day earlier. Trump made his comments at a meeting with congressional Republican leaders at the White House about the legislative agenda for the next few months, including extending government funding past a Sept. 30 deadline. He said Congress was making “tremendous progress” on funding, but that he wanted to make good on a promise to fund border security. Trump has repeatedly threatened not to sign funding legislation if Congress fails to include enough money for a wall on the border with Mexico. Trump reiterated that threat on Wednesday. Responding to a reporter’s question about a possible shutdown, he said: “If it happens, it happens. If it’s about border security, I’m willing to do anything. We have to protect our borders.”

His stance contradicts an interview he gave to the Daily Caller on Tuesday, when he said: “I don’t like the idea of shutdowns.” “I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now,” Trump was quoted as saying.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, in an interview with Fox News, called the meeting with Trump a “good discussion” and said he expected the president to sign funding bills before the end of fiscal year, averting a shutdown. McConnell said there was “no chance” of a government shutdown. “We are still in favor of the wall. We still want to get funding for the wall. But we think the best time to have that discussion is after the election,” he said Republican lawmakers had welcomed Trump’s move away from a possible government shutdown, saying party leaders wanted “no drama” ahead of the Nov. 6 election to decide whether fellow conservatives keep hold of Congress. House Republicans, who were leaving a closed-door party meeting held on Capitol Hill before Trump made his remarks, said the message from leadership was aimed at avoiding any crises before the midterm contest, an approach echoed by several Republican senators. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a Republican representative with close ties to the administration, said he did not expect the federal government to shut, and that any decision on the controversial issue of funding border security would likely be delayed. “We were told no drama,” Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky conservative, said after the closed-door meeting. The planned border wall, the Trump administration’s ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries and other immigration issues loom large as Americans prepare to head to the polls in November. Trump campaigned heavily on a promise to build a wall that would be paid for by Mexico, which it has refused to do. He has subsequently turned to Congress to seek $25 billion for the project, along with other immigration demands. Still, lawmakers have not reached a consensus on any immigration steps. While a few conservatives like Republican Representative Jim Jordan insist the border issue should be dealt with now, others seem resigned to waiting at least until the new Congress takes office in January following the election. Trump and U.S. lawmakers averted a government shutdown in March after passing a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through Sept. 30. A shutdown could backfire on Trump if voters blame Republicans for any federal government service disruptions. Trump hits back at union leader on Labor Day “It doesn’t benefit anybody, certainly not Republicans,” Republican Senator Jeff Flake said.

Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency

Chief of Staff John F. Kelly in the Oval Office in February. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,

John Dowd was convinced that President Trump would commit perjury if he talked to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. So, on Jan. 27, the president’s then-personal attorney staged a practice session to try to make his point. In the White House residence, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool. “This thing’s a goddamn hoax,” Trump erupted at the start of a 30-minute rant that finished with him saying, “I don’t really want to testify.” The dramatic and previously untold scene is recounted in “Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals. Woodward writes that his book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses that were conducted on “deep background,” meaning the information could be used but he would not reveal who provided it. His account is also drawn from meeting notes, personal diaries and government documents.

Woodward depicts Trump’s anger and paranoia about the Russia inquiry as unrelenting, at times paralyzing the West Wing for entire days. Learning of the appointment of Mueller in May 2017, Trump groused, “Everybody’s trying to get me”— part of a venting period that shellshocked aides compared to Richard Nixon’s final days as president.

The 448-page book was obtained by The Washington Post. Woodward, an associate editor at The Post, sought an interview with Trump through several intermediaries to no avail. The president called Woodward in early August, after the manuscript had been completed, to say he wanted to participate. The president complained that it would be a “bad book,” according to an audio recording of the conversation. Woodward replied that his work would be “tough” but factual and based on his reporting.

The book’s title is derived from a remark that then-candidate Trump made in an interview with Woodward and Post political reporter Robert Costa in 2016. Trump said, “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, ‘Fear.’ ” A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead. Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them. Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders. At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all. “We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him. After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

Continue reading “Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency”

WashPost: Woodward’s Book Depicts White House ‘Nervous Breakdown’

Image: WashPost: Woodward's Book Depicts White House 'Nervous Breakdown'
Bob Woodward (Getty Images) By Eric Mack

If Explosive Book Claims Are True, Trump Lawyer’s Resignation Makes Perfect Sense

It was jarring but not necessarily a surprise when John Dowd resigned from President Donald Trump‘s legal team back in March, but new details in another book about life in the Trump administration have shed some light on why Dowd left when he did. Bob Woodward of Woodward and Bernstein fame has penned a book called Fear: Trump in the White House. It is scheduled to drop on Sept. 11. The Washington Post preview is a seemingly endless catalogue of White House staffer intrigue behind the scenes. One of the major claims of the book is that Dowd was so against Trump doing an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he staged a practice session to prove Trump would perjure himself and then reenacted it in front of Mueller to show why he couldn’t be interviewed. As per the Post:

On March 5, Dowd and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow met in Mueller’s office with the special counsel and his deputy, James Quarles, where Dowd and Sekulow reenacted Trump’s January practice session.

Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’”

Woodward claims that Mueller responded to Dowd’s words by saying, simply, “John, I understand.” The subject supposedly came up again the day before Dowd submitted his resignation. “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit,” Dowd allegedly said to Trump. Trump, on the other hand, was concerned that not testifying would look bad. “I’ll be a real good witness,” Trump is quoted. “You are not a good witness,” Dowd is quoted in turn. “Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.” It’s worth noting that none of this contradicts what Dowd said in an interview after he resigned. Dowd said that his relationship with Mueller was more than good — it was “terrific.” “We had a terrific relationship with Mueller — the best that I can recall in my 50 years of practice,” Dowd said. “It was terrific, completely open, people trusted each other, and we had no misunderstandings.”

Mueller Makes Major Connection, Tying Secret Ukrainian Money to Trump Inauguration

Robert Mueller Paul Manafort blank subpoenas

Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred the Sam Patten Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), the picture is becoming clearer as to why Patten was on Mueller’s radar in the first place. Earlier Friday, Law&Crime noted that Patten, an associate of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in the lobbying world, had ties to suspected Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik.Patten was charged for acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia and Ukraine between 2014 and 2017. It happened after Mueller referred the investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice National Security Division. Kilimnik, you may recall, was slapped with lobbying violations in June, as Mueller brought witness tampering and conspiracy charges against Manafort in a superseding indictment. Kilimnik’s ties to Patten go back two decades. CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz is now reporting that prosecutors are alleging that Patten sought tickets to Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States “on behalf of a prominent Ukrainian oligarch” and acted as a “straw purchaser” to do so. Prosecutors say Ukrainian money was secretly funneled to the inauguration committee “through a Cypriot bank account.”

Trump Campaign Aide ‘Talked Frequently’ With Person Linked To Russian Intelligence


Rick Gates, former deputy campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, is now cooperating with the investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. (file photo)
Rick Gates, former deputy campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, is now cooperating with the investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. (file photo)

A top campaign official for U.S. President Donald Trump had repeated communications during the final weeks of the 2016 presidential race with a business associate the FBI believes had ties to Russian intelligence, a court filing says. The connection between Rick Gates, a former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, and the associate was revealed in a court document filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office late on March 27 and cited in media reports on March 28. The document identifies the associate only as “Person A” and says he was working for the campaign at the time. The New York Times, citing a “person with knowledge of the matter,” identified “Person A” as Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both during the campaign and when he worked as a consultant to the government of Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was ousted and fled to Russia in 2014. The court document says Gates had frequent phone calls in September and October 2016 — weeks before the November election — with the associate, who the document says the FBI believes had active links to Russian spy services at the time. Manafort has denied that Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence. But the court document says Gates told an associate that “Person A” was “a former Russian intelligence officer with the GRU,” the Russian military intelligence agency. Mueller has charged both Gates and Manafort with alleged crimes unrelated to their connections with “Person A.” Gates pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI and conspiring to defraud the United States, and he is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Gates’ alleged communications with the business associate were revealed in a sentencing document for former Skadden Arps attorney Alex van der Zwaan filed late on March 27. Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty earlier this year to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Gates and the business associate. He is due to be sentenced on April 3. In the document, prosecutors said Gates and van der Zwaan were in touch with “Person A” just before the election and that van der Zwaan acknowledged that he knew about the man’s suspected intelligence ties because Gates had told him about them.

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Global debt soars, along with fears of crisis ahead

Ten years after the worst financial panic since the 1930s, growing debt burdens in key developing economies are fueling fears of a new crisis that could spread far beyond the disruption sweeping Turkey. The loss of investor confidence in the Turkish lira, which has surrendered more than 40 percent of its value this year, is only a preview of debt problems that could engulf countries such as Brazil, South Africa, Russia and Indonesia, some economists say. “Turkey is not the last one,” said Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, an economics professor at the University of Maryland. “Turkey is the beginning.” Argentina this week asked the International Monetary Fund to accelerate a planned $50 billion rescue as the peso crashed to a historic low. But the danger of a financial contagion that could hit Americans by crushing U.S. exports and sending the stock market plunging should be taken more seriously in light of a massive increase in global debt since the 2008 downturn, the economists said.

Total debt is a whopping $169 trillion, up from $97 trillion on the eve of the Great Recession, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

While previous debt crises involved U.S. households and, later, profligate European governments such as Greece, this time the concern centers on companies in emerging markets that borrowed heavily in dollars and euros. In Turkey, for example, companies and banks borrowed in recent years to finance bridges, hospitals, power plants and even a mammoth port development for cruise ships.

Foreign investors, particularly European banks, lent freely in search of the higher returns these markets offered at a time when the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank were keeping interest rates low.

“We were supposed to correct a debt bubble,” said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, a wealth-management firm. “What we did instead was create more debt.” “The free money is going away,” said economist Tim Lee of Pi Economics, who has been warning of a potential Turkish crisis since 2011.

The situation could grow even more perilous. Money is fleeing Turkey and similar markets precisely when many of the loans their companies took out in recent years are coming due. Globally, a record total of up to $10 trillion in corporate bonds must be refinanced over the next five years, according to McKinsey.

Earlier this week, Moody’s cut its credit ratings on 20 Turkish financial institutions. The ratings agency cited “a substantial increase in the risk” that banks would struggle to finance normal operations. The prospect of a new debt crisis is striking because the world has already seen two in the past 10 years Debt has grown furiously and is almost 2 1/2 times the size of the global economy. Among the chief casualties from Turkey’s plight will be European banks, especially Spanish institutions that have loaned Turkey more than $82 billion. And Italian banks that have exposure of over $100 billion.

Yemen conflict: Saudi-led coalition admits mistakes in deadly bus strike

Image copyright AFP Image caption At least 40 children were among 51 people killed in the 9 August strike
 

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has expressed regret over “mistakes” made in a deadly air strike on a bus. More than 40 children were killed in the strike in a market in northern Saada province on 9 August, drawing international condemnation. In a statement on Saturday, the coalition pledged to hold those responsible for the strike accountable. But a spokesman for the coalition’s own investigation maintained that the strike had targeted a Houthi leader. The head of the coalition’s Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), Lt Gen Mansour al-Mansour, said its investigation had found that the bus was carrying Houthi leaders and fighters and was therefore a “legitimate” military target, but admitted that the location of the strike had led to collateral damage. A statement carried by the Saudi state news agency SPA on Saturday said: “The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition expresses regret over the mistakes, extends its sympathies, condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims.” The coalition said it would co-ordinate with the Yemeni government to compensate families of victims and would also review its rules of engagement. The coalition insists it never deliberately targets civilians, but human rights groups have accused it of bombing markets, schools, hospitals and residential areas. Earlier this week, the coalition rejected the findings of a UN report which said that war crimes may have been committed by all parties in the conflict. UN experts accused Yemeni government forces, the coalition backing them, and the rebel Houthi movement of making little effort to minimise civilian casualties. Last week, another strike to the south of the port city of Hudaydah killed at least 22 children and four women.  Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in early 2015, when the Houthis seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad. Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian proxy, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and seven other Arab states intervened in an attempt to restore the government. Almost 10,000 people – two-thirds of them civilians – have been killed and 55,000 others injured in the fighting, according to the United Nations. The fighting and a partial blockade by the coalition has also left 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid, created the world’s largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is thought to have affected a million people.

Mueller Makes Major Connection, Tying Secret Ukrainian Money to Trump Inauguration

Robert Mueller Paul Manafort blank subpoenas

Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred the Sam Patten Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), the picture is becoming clearer as to why Patten was on Mueller’s radar in the first place. Earlier Friday, Law&Crime noted that Patten, an associate of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in the lobbying world, had ties to suspected Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik.Patten was charged for acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia and Ukraine between 2014 and 2017. It happened after Mueller referred the investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice National Security Division. Kilimnik, you may recall, was slapped with lobbying violations in June, as Mueller brought witness tampering and conspiracy charges against Manafort in a superseding indictment. Kilimnik’s ties to Patten go back two decades. CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz is now reporting that prosecutors are alleging that Patten sought tickets to Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States “on behalf of a prominent Ukrainian oligarch” and acted as a “straw purchaser” to do so. Prosecutors say Ukrainian money was secretly funneled to the inauguration committee “through a Cypriot bank account.”

Trump threatens to cut Canada out of trade deal with Mexico

“There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” he tweeted.

President Donald Trump threatened to cut Canada out of the trade deal his government has been negotiating with Mexico — one day after admitting in an off-the-record interview that he was just stringing Ottawa along. “There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning, in reference to the North American Free Trade Agreement. “If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out.” In a follow-up tweet, Trump ripped the 1994 trade agreement among the Mexico, Canada, and the United States, which he said has resulted in the U.S. losing “thousands of businesses and millions of jobs.” “We make new deal or go back to pre-NAFTA!” the president tweeted Saturday. The Trump administration announced a new preliminary deal with Mexico last week. The president implied during that announcement that he would be willing to cut Canada out of any new deal “They used to call it NAFTA,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “We’re going to call it the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement.” The tweets come after The Toronto Star published harsh comments about Canada on Friday that Trump made off the record — meaning not for publication — during an interview with Bloomberg News. Trump confirmed those comments via Twitter. “Here’s the problem,” Trump told Bloomberg, according to The Star. “If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people.” The president went on to say he will only approve a deal with Canada that is “totally on our terms.” Canadian officials reportedly registered their objections to Trump’s comments during a session of trade negotiations on Friday. Those talks are set to pick up again on Wednesday.

‘Strange disappearance’ of WikiLeaks consultant in Norway

WikiLeaks has raised concern after Arjen Kamphuis, an associate of founder Julian Assange, went missing in Norway. The cybersecurity expert was last seen in northern Norway on August 20. The internet transparency entity WikiLeaks tweeted on Sunday about Arjen Kamphuis’ “strange disappearance,” saying he has been missing since August 20, when he left his hotel in the northern Norwegian town of Bodo. WikiLeaks said that Kamphuis, an associate of founder Julian Assange, had a ticket for a flight departing on August 22 from Trondheim, which is over 700 kilometers (435 miles) south of Bodo. “The train between the two takes (approximately) 10 hours,” suggesting he disappeared either in Bodo, Trondheim or on the train, WikiLeaks said. A website set up to gather information on the missing person says: “He is 47 years old, 1.78 meters tall and has a normal posture. He was usually dressed in black and carrying his black backpack. He is an avid hiker.” There have reportedly been two unconfirmed possible sightings, one in Alesund, Norway, and the other in Ribe, Denmark. Norwegian police started looking into the disappearance on Sunday. “We have started an investigation,” police spokesman Tommy Bech told the French news agency AFP, adding that so far they had “no clue” where the Dutch citizen was. The police “would not speculate about what may have happened to him,” Bech said. Norwegian police can’t legally access his cellphone movement data until Kamphuis is officially reported missing in the Netherlands, according to the Norwegian Verdens Gang tabloid newspaper. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of his disappearance after Kamphuis’ friend and privacy activist Ancilla van de Leest tweeted about his disappearance.

WTO chief says ‘no panic’ over Trump withdrawal threat

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) attends a meeting with the Association of Correspondents to the United Nations (ACANU) in Geneva, Switzerland, July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) – World Trade Organisation head Roberto Azevedo said on Friday U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about potentially leaving the WTO were consistent with what the United States has said previously and did not reflect new concerns. Trump said on Thursday that he could pull out of the WTO, potentially undermining one of the foundations of the modern global economy, which the United States was instrumental in creating. “If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” Trump said. In a response on Friday, Azevedo, the WTO’s director general, said there was no reason for “panic”. “The U.S. concerns about areas in the WTO that they would like to improve are not new. And I think what he said yesterday is consistent with what they have expressed before.” Trump has previously called the WTO a “disaster” and a “catastrophe”. During his election campaign he told NBC’s Meet the Press programme that if the WTO rules blocked his policies, he would renegotiate U.S. membership or pull out. Trump’s ambassador has said the United States will not shy away from being disruptive to shake up what it sees as a complacent organisation, and has precipitated a crisis by blocking appointments of WTO appeals judges, forcing other countries to discuss potential reforms to assuage Trump. Many diplomats say that although they dislike the U.S. tactics, they agree that the WTO needs reform, and hope that the situation can be used to make the 23-year-old trading club more efficient and effective. The WTO is run on the basis of “consensus”, meaning that every one of its 164 members has an effective veto and it is almost impossible to get agreement on any change to the rules. Azevedo said many WTO members were now talking about improvements, which was a good development. “Everyone that would like to see improvements in the WTO is very welcome to present their ideas and their suggestions to improve the organisation, sit down with the other members and get the job done,” he said.

U.S. fund managers trim bank stocks on profit worries

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S.-based mutual fund managers worried about the outlook for bank earnings have been trimming financial stocks from their portfolios, although some value-oriented portfolio managers and analysts said they still see attractive opportunities in the sector. The average U.S. based mutual fund reduced its stake in financial companies by nearly 1.1 percentage points in the second quarter to approximately 14 percent, the largest one-quarter decline since at least 2013, according to Goldman Sachs. The move away from banks, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders came as the financial sector has underperformed the broad S&P 500 benchmark index by more than 5 percent since April.

Many fund managers believe banks have already hit peak earnings. One red flag is that the U.S. Treasury yield curve has been flattening as short-term yields rise in anticipation of U.S. interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve while long-term yields fall on worries about economic growth and trade tensions. This situation generally squeezes bank profits.

Some investors worry long-term yields might eventually dip below short-term yields. Such a yield curve inversion that can signal a looming recession. “The flatter the yield curve the harder it is to make money,” said Ian McDonald, co-leader of the financials research team at Janus Henderson Investors, which oversees $370.1 billion in assets under management, adding that “funds are looking around and saying that if we’re going to see weaker growth then we need to get out of financials.” The spread between the yield of two- and 10-year U.S. Treasuries US2US10=RR is trading around its flattest in 11 years. Rising short-term rates raise a bank’s borrowing costs, while falling long-term rates limit how much they can charge for loans. Though banks have stronger balance sheets than at the start of the financial crisis 10 years ago, “we’re having a hard time finding anything to get excited about in financials,” said Tom Plumb, manager of the $29.7 million Plumb Equity Fund.  Kyle Martin, an analyst at Westwood Holdings Group, a Dallas firm with $21.6 billion in assets under management, said that rising interest rates and the flattening yield curve could point to a recession in 2020.

Trump to Skip Summits With Asia Leaders; Pence to Attend

Image: Trump to Skip Summits With Asia Leaders; Pence to Attend
President Donald Trump, does the “ASEAN-way handshake” with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the ASEAN Summit on November 13 in Manila, Philippines. (AP/Andrew Harnik) Friday, 31 August 2018
President Donald Trump will skip summits with Asian leaders in Singapore and Papua New Guinea in November, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place, the White House said on Friday.Trump was invited to attend the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and the East Asia summit in Singapore and also the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea. He attended these events last November. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump asked Pence to represent him at the summits, where he will “highlight the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, based on respect for sovereignty, the rule of law, and the principles of free, fair and reciprocal trade.” Trump will travel to Paris to attend a Nov. 11 commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War One. Trump had wanted a U.S. military parade in Washington but balked at price estimates. “While in Europe, the president also will visit Ireland to renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations,” Sanders said. Later in November, Trump will attend the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires and will also travel to Colombia for talks about security, narcotics and regional affairs, Sanders said.

Trump’s decision to skip the Asian summits will inevitably raise questions about the extent of his commitment to a region that is home to some of the most pressing U.S. foreign policy challenges.

These include Trump’s stalled efforts to persuade North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States and strategic rivalry with China, with which Trump has engaged in a major trade war. The Trump administration has touted an Indo-Pacific strategy aimed at increasing regional cooperation, notably with India, Australia and Japan, to counter China’s influence, including in the disputed South China Sea, where Washington has mounted naval patrols to challenge what it sees as Beijing’s excessive territorial claims. In August, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended a regional foreign ministers’ meeting in Singapore to prepare for the November summits and pledged nearly $300 million in new security funding for the Indo-Pacific – a drop in the ocean compared to the billions China has been pouring into the region. Asia experts were not surprised by Trump’s decision. “Trump hates traveling outside the U.S. and dislikes multilateral meetings,” said Bonnie Glaser of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Convincing Trump to travel to PNG, in particular, was likely impossible,” she said. “He will have a chance to meet with (Chinese President) Xi Jinping at the G20 a few weeks later,” adding that the decision on the summits “will further stoke doubts about the administration’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.” Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution think tank, noted that Trump was not the first president to cancel trips to the Asian summits – his predecessor Barack Obama caused great disappointment when he withdrew from them in 2013. Obama did so due to a government shutdown at home, but the decision raised questions about his vaunted “pivot” to Asia to counter China. “There’s no question that many in Southeast Asia see the region caught uncomfortably between the United States and China,” Pollack said. “The Trump administration’s repeated calls for a free and open Indo-Pacific have fallen flat in various capitals, which many see as very thin gruel, begging the issue of how the U.S. intends to remain relevant to the regional future.”

Emerging-market pain is seen lasting into next year, as Argentina and Turkey lead currency crisis

People wait outside of a currency exchange house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. 
Erica Canepa | Bloomberg | Getty Images People wait outside of a currency exchange house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.

As Argentina’s currency plungedand interest rates spiked this week, the South American country was at the epicenter of an emerging-markets financial spiral that is expected to continue well into next year. Argentina’s peso steadied Friday after losing about 20 percent against the dollar since Tuesday as its central bank said it would auction dollar reserves. On Thursday, the country’s central bank jacked up interest rates to 60 percent from 45 percent. The International Monetary Fund on Friday said it supports Argentina and that it would meet with officials Tuesday on a revised economic plan, after the country requested accelerated payments from a $50 billion credit line. The emerging markets have been hurt by U.S. Federal Reserve rate hikes, which have driven up the value of the dollar versus other currencies, making it more expensive to repay dollar-denominated debt. Trade wars have also been a factor, and they hurt commodity prices. Commodities are important revenue sources in emerging markets. As Argentina’s currency suffered, other emerging markets’ currencies fell in sympathy this past week, including Turkey’s lira, which has been under pressure recently as its central bank has refused to hike interest rates. The lira was recovering some losses Friday.

“This is not over by any means,” said National Alliance’s Andrew Brenner. “The longer the Fed takes easing away, the more they’re tightening, the more trouble for emerging markets, and we haven’t seen the worst of it.”

Argentina’s inflation rate is now more than 30 percent, and Turkey is expected to release new inflation data next week, which Jackson said could show a pace of 20 percent. But while Turkey has resisted taking the steps strategists see as necessary, like raising interest rates, Argentina has tried to restore confidence, but so far its difficulties are recurring. “Part of it is that their economic vulnerability is really large. They’ve had a recession every two years for the past six years. The IMF deal is the 23rd since the 1950s,” said Jackson. “They have a quite weak domestic base, a large reliance on imports.” Strategists said trade tensions have been one big factor hitting emerging markets, starting with China. The Trump administration has put tariffs on steel and aluminum globally and on $50 billion of Chinese goods. The president is expected to consider tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods in September.

Russia Controls Trump: Congressional testimony

Donald Trump pardon self George III

Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr had a closed-door meeting with members of Congress this week, during which he provided details of a breakfast meeting he had with Christopher Steele, the former British spy behind the controversial dossier on Donald Trump‘s ties to Russia, sources told the Associated Press. Ohr told the House Oversight Committee that at that meeting, Steele recalled how Russian intelligence believed they had significant leverage over Trump, saying they had him “over a barrel.” This is in line with unverified information from the Steele dossier that indicated that the Russian government may have had blackmail material on Trump. Both the dossier and Ohr have come under criticism from Republicans, who believe that the FBI improperly relied on its contents in seeking surveillance warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Ohr and Steele had reportedly met during the months before the FISA warrant application was first made, during the infancy of the investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russia, which was then handled by the FBI. At the same time, Ohr’s wife Nellie Ohr was working for Fusion GPS, the research company hired by the Clinton campaign to conduct opposition research. That research included Steele’s work. Steele had been used as an FBI source in the past, but Bruce Ohr reportedly continued to meet with Steele on even after the FBI stopped using him as a source.President Trump and his supporters have pointed to the Ohrs as evidence that there was an improper connection between Hillary Clinton‘s opposition research and the Justice Department. Ohr still remains at the Justice Department despite this. President Trump has questioned the reasoning behind keeping him on board in recent days.

The cost of buying a home is rising three times faster than the cost to rent

In nearly two-thirds of counties nationwide, it’s now cheaper to rent than buy a home
Bloomberg Buying a home is becoming a costlier proposition, pushing more people toward renting.

As the monthly cost of buying a home continues to trudge upwards, renting is becoming a more affordable option across much of the U.S.The monthly cost of buying a home — which includes mortgage payments, taxes and insurance — jumped 14% between July 2017 and July 2018, according to a report released Thursday by Realtor.com. Comparatively, it only became 4% more expensive to rent a home over that same period.That disparity means that for much of the country, it’s now much more affordable to rent than it is to buy. It’s cheaper to buy in only 35% of counties nationwide, and just 41% of the U.S. population lives in those counties. The gap is even greater in counties where the population exceeds 100,000 people — buying is more affordable in only 7% of those counties. Over the past year, 20 counties with 100,000 residents or more shifted from being more affordable for home buyers to being cheaper for renters. Three-quarters of these counties were located in the South and the Midwest, Realtor.com reported.

Top 5 counties favoring buying
Rank County Monthly cost to buy Monthly cost to rent Percent of income to buy Percent of income to rent
1 Clayton County, Ga. $699 $1,236 18% 32%
2 Baltimore City, Md. $1,097 $1,475 27% 36%
3 Wayne County, Mich. (Detroit) $695 $1,040 18% 27%
4 Cumberland County, N.C. $864 $1,012 23% 27%
5 Madison County, Ill. $832 $1,019 17% 21%
Top 5 counties favoring renting
Rank County Monthly cost to buy Monthly cost to rent Percent of income to buy Percent of income to rent
1 New York County, N.Y. (Manhattan) $9,840 $2,086 141% 30%
2 Kings County, N.Y. (Brooklyn) $4,860 $2,086 102% 44%
3 Monterey County, Calif. $4,816 $1,682 85% 30%
4 San Mateo County, Calif. $8,405 $3,471 89% 37%
5 Santa Barbara County, Calif. $4,878 $1,910 81% 32%

This trend, if it continues, could have major ramifications for consumers, said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “Even setting aside big upfront expenses like a down payment, rising month-by-month costs are likely keeping many people from purchasing,” Hale said in the report. “Since home ownership has historically been an important source of household wealth creation, it could be problematic if this trend continues for too long. Still, even in places where renting is currently more affordable, rising home prices provide wealth building opportunity for home buyers.” Indeed, the homeownership rates in the markets that favor renting the most range from 23% to 59%, which is lower than the national rate of 64%.

 

Scaramucci: Trump’s Actions After McCain’s Death a ‘Slap’ to Veterans

Image: Scaramucci: Trump's Actions After McCain's Death a 'Slap' to Veterans

By Sandy Fitzgerald . Ex-White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said Thursday he wasn’t surprised by President Donald Trump’s behavior following the death of Sen. John McCain last weekend, but he is “disappointed” and considers it a “slap” to other veterans.”I disagree with it,” Scaramucci told CNN’s “New Day.” “John McCain was a veteran. He served the country with distinction, he’s a war hero and — whether he was captured or not doesn’t really make a difference, he is a war hero — and you have to honor him the way you would honor other veterans.”

He said he is happy the decision to put the flag at the White House back at half-staff was made, after the flag initially was raised back to full staff shortly after the Arizona Republican’s death. “I put my flag at half-staff, and others should too,” said Scaramucci. “The White House shouldn’t…forget about Sen. McCain. Sometimes the symbolism coming out of the Oval Office and the White House is for all Americans.”

Trump was widely criticized on Monday after the White House flags went back to full staff, less than 48 hours after McCain died. Trump also refused to answer questions from reporters about McCain during White House events Monday.

However, later in the day, Trump issued a proclamation about the flags, and expressed respect for the late senator’s service.

Ex-ambassador: How Trump has treated Canada is ‘the definition of insanity’

US-Mexico deal without Canada is a folly and will harm the United States, says former ambassador to Canada
US-Mexico deal without Canada is a folly and will harm the United States, says former ambassador to Canada 9 Hours Ago | 04:29
 

President Donald Trump risks seriously damaging the relationship between Canada and the U.S. as he pushes toward a new North American Free Trade Agreement, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman told CNBC on Friday. “The definition of insanity, just listening to the president there, is how the president has been treating Canada all this time. You know, this is our best trading partner in the world,” Heyman said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” After being sidelined from talks for more than two months, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland rushed to Washington, D.C., Wednesday, following Monday’s preliminary deal between the U.S. and Mexico. The Trump administration gave Canada a Friday deadline to hash out its differences with the U.S. and join a preliminary, new trade agreement, which serves as a start to replace the 1994 NAFTA among the three nations. The Trump administration’s deadline passed with no agreement. In a news conference late Friday afternoon, Freeland said the two parties will continue to work toward a deal, maintaining that “we’re not there yet” on an agreement. “We know that a win-win-win agreement is within reach,” Freeland told reporters. “With goodwill and flexibility on all sides, I know we can get there.” Her comments followed reports from The Toronto Star that Trump privately said he would not make any compromises in trade talks with Canada. Trump later confirmed he had made the comments, writing in a tweet, “At least Canada knows where I stand!” With an economy 10 times the size of Canada’s, the U.S. clearly has all the leverage in these trade negotiations, said Heyman, who served under President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. should use it.

“The U.S. has all the leverage in the world, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. When you take your best friend, your greatest ally in the world, and start squeezing them, you can win, but I will tell you, the relationship will be damaged much longer than it will take the ink to dry on a new NAFTA deal,” said Heyman.

As for Mexico’s role in all of this, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza, who served under President George W. Bush from 2002 to 2009, said he didn’t feel the southern neighbor was really at fault. “I wouldn’t say [Mexico] threw Canada under the bus. I think what happened Monday was there was a narrowing of issues, a consensus reached on issues that were particularly difficult in the context of the U.S. and Mexico,” Garza said during the same “Squawk on the Street” interview as Heyman. Heyman said a trilateral agreement is the only possible option, and that parties will likely reach some sort of negotiation, but U.S.-Canada relations may be damaged in the process. “You look at this, and it’s not just trade. They were with us in 9/11, like no other country. They were on our side in Afghanistan. They helped diplomats come out of Iran,” Heyman said. “Canada’s there, they are going to negotiate that out, but I don’t think [Trump’s] been treating them too well,” he added. The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

US, Canada fail to reach a deal on rewriting NAFTA

(CNN)The fate of NAFTA became uncertain Friday when the United States and Canada failed to come to an agreement on rewriting the three-nation trade pact.But negotiations will resume on  Wednesday. “We know a win-win-win agreement is within reach and that’s what we’re working towards,” said Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland at a press conference Friday. The US Trade Representative’s office said talks with Canada would continue and that President Donald Trump has formally notified Congress of the trade deal he struck with Mexico earlier this week. “Today the President notified the Congress of his intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico — and Canada, if it is willing — 90 days from now. The agreement is the most advanced and high-standard trade agreement in the world,” the statement said. Talks came to a head on Friday as officials rushed to beat a US-imposed deadline that would allow them to sign the deal before Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, takes office on December 1. The United States and Mexico announced a preliminary bilateral deal on Monday after resolving an issue over auto manufacturing. Canadian officials rejoined the talks this week. Officials from both the US and Canadian negotiating teams confirmed Friday that they will continue working towards a trilateral deal, and that good progress has been made over the past year at revamping the 24-year-old trade deal “The government of Canada will not sign an agreement unless it’s good for Canada and good for Canadians,” Freeland said Friday.At issue is  Canadian concessions on agriculture. Trump has said he wants Canada to end its steep tariffs on US dairy products, claiming they hurt US farmers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to protect his country’s dairy industry.

NAFTA talks: Canada voices optimism as it rejoins negotiations

During Friday’s negotiations, Canadian officials reportedly brought up remarks made by President Trump on Thursday during an off-the-record conversation with Bloomberg News . The Toronto Star reported that Trump said he would not make any compromises at all in the talks with Canada.
The deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms,” he reportedly said. During an event in North Carolina on Friday, Trump said he would move ahead with a bilateral agreement with Mexico.
“If we don’t make a deal with Canada, that’s just fine. I say, affectionately, we’ll just have to tariff those cars coming in.” “That’s a lot of money coming into the coffers of the United States,” he added. When asked about Trump’s comments on Friday, Freeland said that her negotiating counterpart is US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and not President Trump.
“This week, and from the beginning of negotiations, Ambassador Lighthizer and his team have been negotiating in good faith and with good will,” she said.

The Oil Export Boom Houston-Galveston exports exceed imports for the first time.

The Houston Ship Channel in Deer Park, Texas.
The Houston Ship Channel in Deer Park, Texas. Photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press
 

When George W. Bush signed legislation in 2007 to subsidize and mandate the production of biofuels, he cited the urgent need to liberate America from “long-term” dependence on “oil from foreign lands.” Turns out there was an easier, much less expensive way: drill, baby, drill. The Energy Information Administration announced this month that the port district of Houston-Galveston began exporting more crude oil than it imported for the first time. Houston-Galveston exports in April surpassed imports by 15,000 barrels a day, and by May the difference had grown to 470,000 barrels a day. That port district handles more than half of all U.S. crude exports, which hit a record of two million barrels a day in May. The export boom is testament to U.S. ingenuity that has driven rapid advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, especially in shale rock. The breakthroughs have lowered drilling costs and put Texas’s Permian Basin at the center of an oil-and-gas drilling revolution that will next year see the state producing more oil than either Iraq or Iran. Washington also gets credit for removing regulatory hurdles like the oil export ban. Republican leaders in Congress took flak in 2015 for agreeing to extend green-energy subsidies for a few years in return for Barack Obama’s signature on a statutory end to the 40-year-old export ban. Some conservative pressure groups derided the policy trade as a sellout while liberals complained that ending the ban would serve Big Oil. The real beneficiaries are workers, investors and the overall economy, as well as greater flexibility in foreign policy as the U.S. is less vulnerable to authoritarian oil exporters. The U.S. is unlikely to be a net oil exporter soon, since American refineries require heavy crude from abroad. Shale drillers produce lighter grades. But the gap between imports and exports shrank in 2017 to a 24-year low of 6.8 million barrels a day from more than nine million in 2012. The lesson is that American invention and entrepreneurship remain indomitable—when government gets out of the way.

Trump Says Mueller Investigation Is ‘Illegal’, Trump-Appointed Judge Says He’s Wrong

Trump Mueller meeting after June 12 Giuliani

President Donald Trump expressed his feelings about facts on Thursday in comments to Bloomberg, including that he views special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia probe as “illegal.”

“I view it differently. I view it as an illegal investigation,” the president said, citing unnamed “great scholars.” “There should never have been a special counsel,” he added. Of course, this is not news in the sense that Trump often refers to the Russia investigation as a RIGGED and ILLEGAL WITCH HUNT, but it is news in the sense that Trump has repeated a claim that has been debunked a number of times already by federal judges, in light of their rulings. Indeed, even a judge that Trump appointed in 2017 has ruled against a challenge of Mueller’s authority brought before the court by alleged troll farm Concord Management and Consulting, LLC. You may recall that Dabney L. Friedrich informed Concord that their challenge of Mueller’s authority was a losing one. Just over two weeks ago, Friedrich explained at length why Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was proper and that he had the power to prosecute Concord. All of this argumentation centered on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution and whether Mueller is an “inferior officer” or “principal officer.” The difference is important because principal officers are to be nominated by the president of the United States “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” Inferior officers, on the other hand, have different rules: “Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such Inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.” Friedrich, along with other judges, have consistently held that Mueller is an “inferior officer.” Friedrich also stated that the (acting Head of Department) Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein‘s memo empowering Mueller as special counsel “does not limit the Special Counsel to investigating individuals and entities that are part of the Russian government.”

“Rather, the Special Counsel may investigate the Russian government’s interference ‘efforts,’ which involved non-governmental third parties,” the judge said. That’s not all. Mueller’s authority is quite broad and has been from the beginning:

The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confined by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:

  1. (i)  any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
  2. (ii)  any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
  3. (iii)  any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

(c) If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters [emphasis ours].

In any case, Friedrich is not the only judge to rule this way. Everyone who has challenged Mueller’s authority up to now has lost, though it is worth mentioning that both Concord and ex-Roger Stone aide Andrew Miller both have active appeals of rulings against them.

NYT: Trump tried to buy, bury decades of dirt from National Enquirer

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump sought to buy all the dirt on him collected by the tabloid National Enquirer and its parent company American Media Inc., according to a new report. Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen devised a plan to purchase potentially damaging stories about Trump from AMI, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing several of Trump’s associates. The plan was never finalized, according to the Times. Lawyers for Trump and Cohen declined to comment to the newspaper, as did AMI. The information gathered on Trump dating back to the 1980s includes older stories and notes about Trump’s marital woes, lawsuits and tips about alleged affairs, among other things, according to the Times. Last week, Jerry George, the former Los Angeles Bureau Chief for the National Enquirer, told CNN’s Erica Hill on “Erin Burnett OutFront” that American Media head David Pecker kept a safe in which he held “particularly sensitive story files,” including source agreements and contracts. The Associated Press first reported on the safe.

Last month, CNN published a secret tape of Cohen in September 2016 discussing with Trump a plan to buy the rights from AMI to Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier. AMI had bought the rights to McDougal’s story for $150,000 in August 2016 in a “catch and kill” tactic, in which a publication takes ownership of a story but doesn’t publish it.
In the recording, Cohen says, “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” likely a reference to Pecker. Cohen pleaded guilty last week to eight criminal counts, including tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations. The counts were tied to his work for Trump, including payments Cohen made or helped orchestrate that were designed to silence women who claimed affairs with the then-candidate.
In court, Cohen said, “I and the CEO of a media company, at the request of the candidate, worked together” to squelch stories, effectively implicating Trump himself. According to the court filing, Cohen and Pecker worked to suppress potentially damaging claims against candidate Trump.
Trump has repeatedly denied McDougal’s allegations, as well as a similar allegation of an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, and the White House has said he has done “nothing wrong” regarding the hush money payments.

Report: Trump Team Preparing Mueller Probe ‘Counter-Report’

Image: Report: Trump Team Preparing Mueller Probe 'Counter-Report'
Special counsel Robert Mueller (J. Scot

President Donald Trump’s legal team is putting together a “counter-report” in an effort to undermine the credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, The Daily Beast reported Thursday. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told the news outlet part of the report would examine if the “initiation of the investigation was . . . legitimate or not.” Giuliani said the “counter-report” has been in the works since late July, and Trump “knows it is part of our [legal] strategy, and he’s happy with it,” The Daily Beast reported. He also acknowledged the entire process could be derailed by developments in the Mueller investigation. “It may all be for naught, because they may subpoena [the president], and then we’d have to turn our attention to fighting the subpoena,” Giuliani said.Giuliani said the report will be in two sections.

  1. One will seek to question the legitimacy of the Mueller probe generally by alleging “possible conflicts” of interest by federal law enforcement authorities.
  2. The other section will respond to allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russian government agents to sway the 2016 election, and obstruction of justice allegations stemming from, among other things, the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the news outlet reported.

Giuliani told The Daily Beast the task is a challenge since they do not know what Mueller’s report will look like. “Since we have to guess what it is, [our report so far] is quite voluminous,” he said, adding that he’ll spend the Labor Day weekend “paring it down” and he was editing the document created by the “whole team.” “It’ll be our report, put out on . . . personal stationary, and it would be in response to their report,” the former New York City mayor told The Daily Beast, adding: “We may have to use it in court, or [send to] Congress.” He also told the news outlet everything in the report is already available to the public. “I don’t think there’s anything in it that isn’t publicly available in some form or another,” he said. “There is no [secret] grand jury material here . . .” Giuliani told The Daily Beast he expects a preliminary draft will be “in pretty good shape by next week.”

Labor Day gas prices hit 4-year high — and probably won’t drop much after the holiday

A customer pumps gasoline into his car at a service station in San Francisco.
Getty Images A customer pumps gasoline into his car at a service station in San Francisco.

The summer driving season will end much like it began, with American motorists paying the highest price at the gasoline pump in four years. Gas prices have barely budged this summer, with the national average for regular gasoline hovering around $2.85 a gallon since mid-June. That’s down slightly from a high of nearly $3 at the end of May, but it’s still about 43 cents a gallon more than drivers paid at this time last year. Analysts warn that Americans shouldn’t expect much relief beyond Labor Day “I’m expecting towards the latter half of September gasoline prices will come off 10 cents a gallon,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. “I think that they will be a little bit more elevated than in previous years.” Analyst say that’s largely due to looming U.S. sanctions on Iran, the world’s fifth biggest oil producer. The Trump administration is pressuring oil buyers to stop importing crude from Iran by November, right around the time gasoline costs usually fall. The prospect of losing the Iranian barrels is supporting the oil price, which accounts for about half of the cost of gasoline. To be sure, it’s not uncommon for Americans to pay as much or more for gasoline on Labor Day weekend as they paid on Memorial Day. What’s different this summer is just how little the cost has fluctuated. “It’s been a flatline,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service. “It’s been like watching grass grow in terms of watching the national numbers. We haven’t even seen much regional volatility.” Gasoline prices have swung just 13 cents from peak to trough between June and August, according to GasBuddy. That’s the smallest change in the nation average since the summer of 2010. The culprit behind the sleepy summer is a rangebound oil market, analysts say. U.S. crude oil has been stuck between about $65 and $75 a barrel over the last three months. Luckily for drivers, U.S. crude didn’t stick around $75 long enough to boost gas above $3 a gallon, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy. But it also hasn’t lingered at the bottom of the range long enough to send gasoline prices much lower. “Most stories that have pushed the price of oil up or down are counter-balanced within a few days or a week,” he said. “There hasn’t been a breakout either way.”

Oil market being kept afloat on headlines, says expert
Oil market being kept afloat on headlines, says expert 8:24 AM ET Tue, 28 Aug 2018 | 02:42
Looming U.S. sanctions on Iran and continued strong demand have put a floor under oil prices. Meanwhile, gains have been capped by rising output from the United States and a pledge by OPEC, Russia and other producers to pump more oil.

Trump tweets out early-morning attacks on CNN, books, baselessly claims NBC News ‘fudged’ his Comey interview

President Trump went on an early-morning Twitter tirade against his favorite media punching bags Thursday, first claiming that CNN’s “hatred and extreme bias” against him has “made them unable to function,” and suggesting that AT&T fire Jeff Zucker (“Little Jeff Z”) because “his ratings suck.” Trump then said NBC News was actually “the worst,” predicting that NBC News Chairman Andy Lack “is about to be fired (?) for incompetence” — the rumors are actually that he’s in trouble due to Matt Lauer’s sexual misconduct and other #MeToo scandals — and made a curious, apparently unsubstantiated claim that NBC News “fudged” the interview where Trump admitted on national TV that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.

Trump concluded by throwing “fake books” into the media bonfire and declaring that all media are the “Enemy of the People!” NBC News political director Chuck Todd seems to be subtweeting the president here, and suggesting you avert your eyes in embarrassment.

Certainly, taking the occasional break from the Twitter machine is good for everybody’s mental health. Peter Weber

Argentina’s Peso Plunges to Record Low

President Mauricio Macri announced request to speed up $50 billion IMF bailout, spooking investors
A man protests the policies of Argentine President Mauricio Macri outside a currency exchange office in Buenos Aires Wednesday, as the peso lost 7.5% against the dollar.
A man protests the policies of Argentine President Mauricio Macri outside a currency exchange office in Buenos Aires Wednesday, as the peso lost 7.5% against the dollar. Photo: Natacha

Argentina’s peso fell to a record low against the dollar Wednesday after President Mauricio Macri said that he has asked the International Monetary Fund to speed up delivery of a $50 billion bailout package.

The financing would allow the government to bolster public confidence and return to a growth path, Mr. Macri argued in a televised address. His announcement spooked investors, who pushed the currency to a fresh low against the dollar. The market is concerned that there might be something the government knows that they don’t know regarding their finances,” said Jorge Mariscal, emerging markets chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management. The Argentine peso lost 7.5% against the dollar Wednesday and has fallen nearly 50% over the past year as risk-averse investors flee developing countries with high external funding needs. Turkey and Argentina’s currencies have seen some of the most selling, on concerns that higher U.S. yields will pressure countries that have borrowed heavily in dollars in recent years.

“Argentina has performed worse than Turkey this year on the dollar [debt] side, which is astonishing when they’ve done everything that an orthodox economist would ask them to do,” said Jim Barrineau, head of emerging market debt at Schroders.

Argentina has used its foreign currency reserve to finance its deficit rather than to shore up the peso. The government has also raised interest rates to 45% to try to slow the currency’s fall and turned to the IMF for a loan large enough to meet three years of financing needs. The fall in the currency was spurred by the stigma liquidity facilities have carried since the last banking crisis, said Ed Al-Hussainy, a senior analyst with the global rates and currency team at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, which holds more Argentine hard currency debt than its benchmarks. “We knew they had obtained $50 billion over three years, we knew they were going to use it, but the moment they requested this little acceleration, the stigma attached to it suddenly triggered the selloff,” he said.  If inflation rises faster than wages, Moody’s said, Argentine citizens will struggle to make their debt payments. Nick Note: Do not let them shit you. If you got a retirement account with with a company or Fidelity Or Black Rock or any of the retirement pool operators you are screwed. They are chock full of WORTHLESS Argentinian debt.. And throw in worthless Venezuelan debt and to be sure your broke in your retirement chock full of soon to be shit Brazilian debt.

Trudeau: NAFTA deal possible by Friday, but only if good for Canada

Trudeau: NAFTA deal possible by Friday, but only if good for Canada
© Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that a deal to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may be possible by the United States’ Friday deadline, but that he’d rather leave the table than accept a subpar proposal. “We recognize that there is a possibility of getting there by Friday, but it is only a possibility, because it will hinge on whether or not there is ultimately a good deal for Canada,” Trudeau told reporters, according to Reuters.

“No NAFTA deal is better than a bad NAFTA deal,” he added.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland engaged in trade talks in Washington on Tuesday, after a trade agreement between the U.S. and Mexico was announced on Monday.Freeland’s spokesperson, Adam Austen, said the announcement was “encouraging.” However, the Financial Post reported that Freeland said earlier Wednesday, “When it comes to specific issues, we have a huge amount of work to do this week at the ministerial level and also the officials are really grinding through extensively.” President Trump spoke about the negotiations in similarly tempered tones on Tuesday. “We’ll see if Canada can be part of deal,” he said. If Canada does not sign on to the trade deal, the president threatened to impose tariffs on Canadian auto imports. “I think with Canada, frankly, the easiest thing we can do is to tariff their cars coming in,” Trump said. “It’s a tremendous amount of money and it’s a very simple negotiation. It could end in one day and we take in a lot of money the following day.” Trump vowed to renegotiate the 24-year-old trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. On Monday, he suggested that the parties might be close to a new framework after more than a year of negotiations.

Michael Cohen is resigned to going to prison to protect his family

New York (CNN)Michael Cohen’s stunning guilty plea last week ended months of speculation about the fate of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer. Cohen waits for his sentencing hearing set for December, a source familiar with his thinking says “resignation” would be a fitting word to describe the 52-year-old’s mindset — acceptance that he is headed to prison in order to protect his family. “He’s very resigned to doing the time. He’s resigned to the fact that he’s going to go to jail for some time,” the person said, adding that Cohen does not believe he will receive a presidential pardon from Trump. Cohen’s dramatic downfall — in which he pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations in the criminal investigation in New York — represented a staggering public acknowledgment of what some individuals close to Cohen say they’ve privately known for a while: It had become clear that he simply could not keep fighting. One friend of Cohen’s told CNN that over the course of the past few months, they saw Cohen’s outlook on his legal troubles shift. Earlier in the year, “he was very — ‘I’m going to fight this to the death.’ Very defiant,” the friend said. “But I think over a period of time, you get to realize the reality of this. What are you fighting for? And who are you fighting for?” . Prosecutors in New York threatened Trump’s ex-lawyer with numerous more counts that could have also implicated his wife, and also raised the possibility of his assets being seized, according to a separate source familiar with the events leading up to Cohen’s indictment. Trump initially came to Cohen’s defense when the FBI raided Cohen’s hotel room, home and office in April. “I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys. Good man. And it’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt,” he said. But Trump’s tone soon shifted, as he minimized his longtime employee’s work for him over the years and even predicted Cohen would never “flip.” Eventually, Cohen was led to believe that he had been “left on his own.” Cohen’s somber appearance at the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan last week marked a stark contrast from his and his lawyers’ defiant public statements earlier in the year. When news of hush agreements with women to protect Trump from damaging stories about alleged affairs first surfaced, Cohen insisted that he was acting on his own — a clear sign that he was set on protecting Trump — and that he was never reimbursed by the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization. But investigators confirmed that the Trump Organization had, in fact, paid Cohen back. And Cohen even went a step further, explicitly implicating his former boss. He said that it was “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” that he worked to keep information that could have harmed the candidate from becoming public during the 2016 campaign.

Cohen’s

Mexico-U.S. accords include Mexican auto export cap: sources

FILE PHOTO: A transport truck carries new Toyota trucks through an inspection station after clearing U.S. customs from Mexico at the border in Otay Mesa near San Diego, California, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The agreements struck between the United States and Mexico on trade would allow President Donald Trump to impose punitive “national security” tariffs of up to 25 percent on imports of Mexican-made cars, sport utility vehicles and auto parts above certain volumes, auto executives and other sources said. The United States and Mexico agreed on Monday to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pressuring Canada to accept new auto trade and dispute settlement rules to remain part of the three-way pact. A previously unreported side agreement between the two countries would allow the United States to pursue national security tariffs on annual Mexican car and SUV imports of over 2.4 million vehicles, a number that significantly exceeds last year’s total imports. The side deal would allow national security levies on auto parts imports above a value of $90 billion per year on the same grounds. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Wednesday the “side letter” protected Mexico’s auto industry and gave it scope to grow before facing any potential national security tariffs. The Trump administration in the coming weeks aims to announce the results of a probe into whether imports of autos and parts pose a national security risk. The study could be used to justify 25 percent U.S. tariffs on automotive imports from North America, Asia and Europe on the premise that protecting the U.S. auto industry is vital to national security under a Cold War-era trade law. Automakers are concerned that the agreement signals the United States might well use national security tariffs to win concessions from the European Union and Japan as well. They have said the tariffs could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and dramatically raise vehicle prices. A separate side agreement lays out a possible scenario in which the United States increases its normal “most-favored nation” tariffs on autos, currently 2.5 percent. A potential new, unspecified rate would be applied to vehicles that do not meet the existing or revamped NAFTA.

Duty-free auto parts exports from Mexico to the United States could be capped at $90 billion a year under the agreement, said Ann Wilson, senior vice president of government affairs at the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association. The figure exceeds current levels, but parts shipments above that quota could be subject to 232 tariffs, Wilson said.

Mexican pickup trucks that do not comply with regional content quotas already pay a 25 percent duty. It was not clear whether they could also be subject to an additional quota. Economy Minister Guajardo said imposing 232 tariffs would be “massively criticized” inside the United States, but that just in case, Mexico had protected its current U.S. export capacity with the “side letter” that also allowed room for growth.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the plant of General Motors in Silao, in Guanajuato state, Mexico, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

“On top of that (current export capacity) we put in an additional 40 percent of growth,” he told Mexican radio.

Moises Kalach, head of the international negotiating arm of Mexico’s CCE business lobby, said Mexico had a “fall-back plan” if the 232 tariff was imposed. “But there’s also the possibility that Mexico is exempted from the 232,” Kalach told Reuters.

It is not clear how the quotas would be counted or administered.

The deal also sets quotas for carmakers’ use of U.S.-made steel and aluminum, the sources said. Vehicle components would be subject to regional content quotas at different levels, depending on the type of part or system. Engines and transmissions, the highest-value systems in a vehicle, would have a 75 percent regional content quota, the sources said.

A United States Trade Representative spokeswoman declined to confirm or comment.

The tariff mechanism in the preliminary U.S.-Mexico accord would likely change little for Detroit automakers such as General Motors Co, which builds large Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks at a complex in Silao, Mexico.

However, Asian and German automakers, and automakers and suppliers that want to expand production in Mexico could be at a disadvantage, and be forced to source more production of both vehicles and engines in the United States.

The revised trade agreement is expected to take effect in 2020 and be phased in over five years, the people familiar with the proposal said.

WHAT IS NORTH AMERICAN-MADE?

A cap on Mexican vehicle exports to the United States would push automakers and suppliers to deal with a range of new challenges.

The rules would encourage efforts to certify parts as North American-compliant even if they include content from elsewhere. That could add hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for automakers over the next decade, industry officials said.

The new cap on total vehicle exports could spur a rush for companies to announce additional production capacity in Mexico in the coming months to try to “lock in” space under the cap before the agreement takes effect, auto industry officials said.

The new content rules and a new requirement that 40 to 45 percent of a vehicle be produced by workers earning $16 an hour or more, far higher than current Mexican wages, could lead automakers to try to raise vehicle prices.

The details of the auto trade agreement are critical to automakers and vehicle parts makers.

For example, the Trump administration said wages of U.S.-based engineers could be counted toward the regional content quota – benefiting the Detroit Three automakers and rivals that have established engineering operations in the United States.

Reporting by David Shepardson and David Lawder in Washington, Dave Graham and Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico City, and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Writing by Joseph White; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Matthew Lewis

Stunned beachgoers watch as ANOTHER boat full of African migrants washes up in Spain before dozens of young men rush on to shore to cheers

Holidaymakers watched a semi-inflatable carrying around 50 people, including at least 19 children, land on Barrosa Beach, some seven miles from Fontanilla.The migrants, seemingly all young men, dash past beach-goers on their towels as they try to make it off the sands before being caught by authorities. Landing: Video footage shows at least two dozen migrants disembark on the beach of Fontanilla, in Conil de la Frontera, southern Spain after arriving on a boat Some of them even wave to the people enjoying a day out on the beach, who are heard wising them luck, cheering them on and offering them water. The incident took place on the beach of Fontanilla, in Conil de la Frontera, in the southern Spanish province of Cadiz in the region of Andalusia.   According to local media, authorities detained those who had arrived on the boat, of which 13 were minors, shortly afterwards. The incident took place two days after another similar incident on a beach located just a few miles north of Fontanilla. The incident happened near a purpose-built residential and tourist resort called Sancti Petri which boasts shops, restaurants and several four and five-star hotels.  According to local police, some 25 of the migrants, all Moroccan citizens, had been intercepted – 19 of whom were minors. A spokesman for the force said the six adults would be taken to an adult migrant holding centre before being returned to their country of origin as part of an agreement with Morocco. Local media report that at least 500 migrants have landed on the Andalusian coast on 18 different boats since Friday.

Trump, without evidence, blames China for hacking Clinton emails

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with the President of FIFA Gianni Infantino in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter early on Wednesday China hacked the emails of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton but did not offer any evidence or further information. “Hillary Clinton’s Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China. Next move better be by the FBI & DOJ or, after all of their other missteps (Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA, Dirty Dossier etc.), their credibility will be forever gone!” he tweeted a little after midnight on Wednesday. Trump said in an earlier tweet on Tuesday night: “China hacked Hillary Clinton’s private Email Server. Are they sure it wasn’t Russia (just kidding!)? What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this? Actually, a very big story. Much classified information!” Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said such accusations were nothing new. “This isn’t the first time we’ve heard similar kinds of allegations,” Hua told a daily news briefing. “China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity. We firmly oppose and crack down on any forms of internet attacks and the stealing of secrets,” she added, without specifically mentioning Trump or Clinton in her answer. U.S. intelligence officials have said Russia orchestrated the hacking of Democratic officials to meddle with the 2016 presidential election. A U.S. federal grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in July on charges of hacking the computer networks of Clinton and the Democratic Party. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and whether the campaign of Republican candidate Trump colluded with Moscow. Russia denies meddling in the elections, while Trump has denied any collusion. Trump said in April 2017 China may have hacked the emails of Democratic officials to meddle with the 2016 presidential election. He also did not provide any evidence backing his allegation at that time. China has repeatedly denied any accusations of involvement in overseas hacking attacks. China and the United States, whose ties are often fraught, are also currently in the midst of an increasingly bitter trade war.

U.S. Congress skeptical of Trump’s Mexico trade deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s trade deal with Mexico could struggle to win approval from Congress unless Canada comes on board, lawmakers from both parties said on Tuesday, saying support from Democrats would be needed to pass a purely bilateral deal. Trump unveiled the Mexico deal on Monday and threatened to slap tariffs on Canadian-made cars if Canada did not join the revamp of the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has long criticized. If Trump, a Republican, tries to get the Senate to vote in favor of a bilateral deal as a replacement for NAFTA, he will face an uphill struggle to win passage, lawmakers said. Some lawmakers said only a trilateral pact would be eligible for fast-track, 51-vote Senate approval. A bilateral deal, on the other hand, would need 60 votes and that would require some support from Democrats, who likely would be reluctant to help Trump, they said. There are now 50 Republican-held seats in the 100-member Senate. To get fast-track Senate ratification, “the administration must also reach an agreement with Canada,” said Republican Senator Pat Toomey in a statement. “NAFTA was a tri-party agreement only made operative with legislation enacted by Congress,” said Toomey, a member of the committee that oversees trade policy. “Any change, such as NAFTA’s termination, would require additional legislation from Congress. Conversion into a bilateral agreement would not qualify for … ‘fast track’ procedures and would therefore require 60 votes in the Senate.” The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about fast-track treatment for the Mexico deal. Canada’s top trade negotiator arrived in Washington on Tuesday for talks with her Mexican and U.S. counterparts, in a bid to remain part of the trade pact. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said a bilateral deal would face “serious legal concerns,” while he also questioned a lack of details on the terms of the Mexico pact.

“I’m a little worried that this one is like North Korea. They have a nice announcement, but then we don’t see the details,” Schumer told reporters in a Capitol hallway. U.S. stock markets surged on Monday after Trump said he had reached an understanding with Mexico.

On Tuesday, stocks had given up some of their early gains by the closing bell. Senator Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the trade committee, said: “We know very few details right now. There are real questions about whether this is even enforceable … We are far from being done on this and the fact is you cannot really move this substantively without the Canadians.” In the House of Representatives, Democrat Bill Pascrell urged Republicans in a statement to convene a bipartisan House trade council to advise the White House.

Trump: Facebook, Twitter, Google are ‘treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful’

President Trump accuses Google of rigging search results

President Donald Trump doubled down on threats against Facebook, Twitter and Google Tuesday afternoon, saying the social platforms are “treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.” “Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people and I think that’s a very serious thing and it’s a very serious charge,” Trump told reporters after a meeting with the president of FIFA. “They better be careful because they can’t do that to people.” A Twitter spokesperson, when asked to respond to Trump’s comments, pointed to previous statements and congressional testimony denying any form of conservative bias on the platform. A spokesperson for Facebook did not immediately return request for comment. Trump earlier Tuesday accused Google of altering search results to prioritize negative coverage and left-leaning outlets and warned that the issue “will be addressed.” Trump said in a tweet that the tech giant’s search engine had “rigged” news story results to show mostly “bad” stories about him and other conservatives. “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media,” the president said. “In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out.” Trump added: “Illegal? 96% of … results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!” Around 11 a.m. ET, Trump deleted the original tweets and reposted practically identical language.

Markets may be signaling rising recession risk: Fed study

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A narrowing gap between short-term and long-term borrowing costs could be signaling heightened risk of a U.S. recession, researchers at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank said in a study published on Monday.The research relies on an in-depth analysis  of the gap between the yield on three-month and 10-year U.S. Treasury securities, a gap that like other measures of short-to-long-term rates has narrowed in recent months.

Several Fed officials have cited this flattening yield curve as a reason to stop raising interest rates, since historically each time it inverts, with short-term rates rising above long-term rates, a recession follows.

The study, published in the San Francisco Fed’s latest Economic Letter, bolsters that view. “In light of the evidence on its predictive power for recessions, the recent evolution of the yield curve suggests that recession risk might be rising,” wrote San Francisco Fed research advisers Michael Bauer and Thomas Mertens. The Fed is expected to continue raising rates for at least the next couple of quarters, though markets expect it to raise rates just once next year, while Fed officials expect to raise them three times.

Trump administration farm bailout to provide $6 billion in initial relief

Soybean farmer Raymond Schexnayder Jr. overlooks his farm outside Baton Rouge, in Erwinville, Louisiana, July 9, 2018. 
Aleksandra Michalska | Reuters Soybean farmer Raymond Schexnayder Jr. overlooks his farm outside Baton Rouge, in Erwinville, Louisiana, July 9, 2018.

With some U.S. farm products getting slammed by retaliatory tariffs, the Trump administration is prepared to start its emergency plan to agriculture starting right after Labor Day in a “three-pronged approach” that will initially include about $6 billion in aid. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its announcement that it is authorized to provide up to $12 billion in aid to the agricultural industry. On Monday, though, the department said initial aid will consist of about $4.7 billion in payments to agricultural producers of seven commodities, as well as federal government purchases of up to $1.2 billion in certain “commodities unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation.” A third part of the aid will consist of up to $200 million in spending to help develop foreign markets for agricultural products. Indiana rep. says farmers happy about Mexico trade agreement, but need deal with Canada and China    Soybean farmers stand to get the biggest share of nearly $4.7 billion in payments in the Market Facilitation Program, which also will provide payments to producers of corn, cotton, dairy, hog, grain sorghum, and wheat starting Sept. 4. The USDA first unveiled the trade mitigation package on July 24 but at the time provided few details. “We always knew that agriculture would be the tip of the spear if other nations decided to retaliate,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in a conference call with reporters Monday. “We also knew the economic pressure was already there for farmers, even without these unfair trade tariffs.” Soybeans have been hard hit by Chinese tariffs and stand to get up to $3.6 billion in assistance under the Market Facilitation Program. Another $290 million will go to pork, about $277 million for cotton and $156 million for grain sorghum, as well as $127 million for dairy, $119 million for wheat and $96 million for corn. According to Perdue, farmer payments the government will make under its relief plan “will be bifurcated so that we can monitor and factor in events,” such as trade breakthroughs like the U.S. announced Monday with Mexico. “An announcement about further payments will be made in the coming months, if warranted,” he added. Some of the aid from the Trump plan is coming through the authority of the Commodity Credit Corp., a federal agency dating back to the Great Depression. The Market Facilitation Program, which was established under the CCC, will determine the payment rate to farmers of a commodity covered by looking at “the severity of the trade disruption and the period of adjustment to new trade patterns, based on each producer’s actual production,” the USDA said.

McCain Takes Shots At Trump In Farewell Statement

john-mccain-082718-lt.jpg
A farewell statement from the late Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., was read by close friend and former campaign manager Rick Davis on Monday.

McCain’s statement discusses his rewarding life of public service as well as his love for America but also seems to take some parting shots at President Donald Trump.

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe,” McCain wrote.

He added, “We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.” McCain, one of the few Republican lawmakers vocally critical of Trump, passed away at aged 81 on Saturday after a prolonged battle with brain cancer. While tributes for the Vietnam War veteran poured in from world leaders and past U.S. Presidents, Trump preferred a brief condolence message on Twitter. Trump has been criticized for his reluctance to mention McCain’s military or political service or include any praise for the Republican lawmaker. In his farewell statement, McCain urged Americans, “Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”

 

 

US crude rises 15 cents, settling at $68.87, as trade worries, rising output cap gains

Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

\Oil prices ticked slightly higher on Monday, pausing after last week’s substantial gains as a committee monitoring a deal between OPEC and non-OPEC producers saw production increasing and a U.S.-China trade war also weighed on sentiment. International Brent crude oil futures rose 37 cents to $76.19 per barrel by 2:29 p.m. ET. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures ended Monday’s session 15 cents higher at $68.87 a barrel. Last week, WTI posted a 4.3 percent weekly gain while Brent marked a 5.6 percent weekly increase. Traders said prices pulled back after market intelligence firm Genscape reported that inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for WTI rose by about 764,800 barrels from Aug. 21 through Friday.Members of an OPEC and non-OPEC monitoring committee found producers cut their July output by 9 percent more than called for in their output reduction pact, two sources familiar with the matter said. This compared with a compliance level of 120 percent for June and 147 percent for May, meaning participants have been steadily increasing production. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers led by Russia agreed in June to return to 100 percent compliance with oil output cuts that began in January 2017. This follows months of underproduction by Venezuela and other producers which cut output by 160 percent of the agreed target.The committee groups representatives from Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Algeria, Venezuela and Oman. Prices have been buoyed in recent weeks by the view that the oil market will tighten when U.S. sanctions targeting OPEC member Iran’s oil exports kick in November. Iran has exported around 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil so far this year. Most analysts expect this figure to fall by at least 1 million bpd once sanctions kick in.

“While the Iranian sanctions issue certainly isn’t new news, suggestions out of the White House that waivers will be restricted appeared to augment last week’s price gains,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.

In a phone call to French President Emmanuel Macron, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Iran wanted the Europeans to give guarantees on banking channels and oil sales as well as in the field of insurance and transportation, according to the state-run Iranian news agency IRNA.Pressuring oil prices have been concerns that  an escalating U.S.-China trade war could slow economic growth and energy demand. China’s Unipec will resume purchases of U.S. crude in October after a two-month halt due to the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies, three sources with knowledge of the matter said. Hedge funds and other money managers cut their net long, or bullish, WTI futures and options positions in the week to August 21, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said on Friday. The speculator group cut their long positions by 15,723 contracts to 341,132 during the period. Investors also cut their bullish Brent crude net long positions by 11,985 contracts to 324,431 over the same period.

Powell sets Fed’s course with data-based judgment

FILE PHOTO: A cyclist passes the Federal Reserve building in Washington, DC, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. (Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has begun putting his stamp on the U.S. central bank as someone who will rely more on data-informed judgment and less on some of the models and theoretical values that have shaped the Fed’s course in recent years but that Powell has said can be false guides. In doing so he may be laying the groundwork for a longer-than-expected rate-increase cycle, as discussion intensifies among policymakers about what level of borrowing costs is appropriate in an economy that is nearly back to full health. In addition, the full stimulative effects of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and increased government spending may not yet have presented themselves. On the other hand, while the drag that many businesses fear could result from uncertain trade policy has not materialized, if it does it could force an earlier end to the Fed’s rate-hike cycle. Such two-way concerns are unfamiliar territory for a Fed that under Powell’s immediate predecessors had to focus mostly on just one kind of risk: too-low inflation and sub-par growth. Now, with unemployment at 3.9 percent – below what most economists believe is sustainable — and inflation near the Fed’s 2 percent goal, the economic terrain looks less fragile. In a keynote speech at the Kansas City Fed’s annual symposium here on Friday and in recent congressional testimony, Powell has laid out an approach he sees suitable to that new terrain. It relies on using judgment to balance risks on both sides, and he cautioned against relying too much on roughly estimated variables like the so-called neutral rate of interest. The neutral rate is a theoretical level that in a healthy economy would neither boost nor restrain investment and spending; it can move around over time.

Powell leaned heavily on the idea that policymakers would have to feel their way to their destination, citing incidents from Fed history in which reliance on technical estimation led the central bank astray, while reliance on intuition led to better outcomes.

“It’s an informed intuition,” said Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, who like other regional Fed officials talks with dozens of firms regularly to get a sense of what might show up in economic data in one or two months’ time. With a background in markets and law, that approach may play more to Powell’s strengths, while lessening the influence of technicians who have focused on issues like estimating neutral rates of interest and full employment. Those estimates are based on historical data and may not capture changes to the economy that are in motion but have not yet been seen in the flow of data — the sort of situation that led former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan to argue against rate increases in the late 1990s because he felt rising productivity was not fully seen in government statistics. “We’re getting to a place now where it’s less clear whether we should be worried about weakness in the economy or too much strength,” Bostic said on the sidelines of the symposium, attended by all his fellow Fed policymakers as well as central bank chiefs and economists from around the world. “On some level I think it’s good for us all to be talking about the fact that policy is much more bidirectional in its possibilities.” The recently released minutes from the Fed’s last meeting held an important clue as well, acknowledging that statements about policy in relation to an estimated neutral level “could convey a false sense of precision.” That could be even more of a dilemma at a time when fiscal stimulus and other developments might actually be shifting the neutral rate higher, as many policymakers are beginning to suspect. If that is the case, it would set the stage for the Fed to push rates higher than currently expected while arguing that monetary policy was not yet restricting the economy, but was rather appropriate for its strengths.

Trump says Mexico trade deal near; NAFTA hurdles seen easing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Saturday that the United States could reach a “big Trade Agreement” with Mexico soon as the incoming Mexican trade negotiator signaled possible solutions to NAFTA energy rules and a contentious U.S. “sunset clause” demand. Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that the United States’ “relationship with Mexico is getting closer by the hour. Some really good people within both the new and old government, and all working closely together….A big Trade Agreement with Mexico could be happening soon!” Jesus Seade, who will serve as chief negotiator for Mexico’s next government, said he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were now discussing a periodic review process that spare the North American Free Trade Agreement from automatic expiration unless new terms were agreed. Mexico and Canada have adamantly opposed the U.S. sunset demand that would kill the pact unless it is renegotiated every five years, a plan that business groups also say will stifle long-term investment decisions. “It’s going to come out. It’s no longer what the United States was putting first in any way,” Seade said of the sunset clause outside the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. Seade said he and Lighthizer last week began discussing a new approach to review the trade pact, that would have longer periods between reviews, providing more certainty for business investments. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office denied that Lighthizer had softened his position on the sunset clause, without further elaboration. The sunset issue is one of the biggest remaining obstacles to a NAFTA deal as negotiators race to try to land a new NAFTA agreement in principle by the end of August. The United States and Mexico have been holding bilateral talks aimed at resolving their differences before bringing Canada back to the talks. Seade said the issue of auto sector rules is “basically resolved,” although some aspects, including time frames, are still being discussed. Seade also said on Saturday that a “correct focus” on NAFTA’s energy chapter has already been substantially agreed. Since Mexico’s July 1 presidential election, the Mexico-U.S. talks have been complicated by divisions between the incoming and outgoing Mexican administrations over energy policy. The team of leftist Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has resisted enshrining the 2013-14 opening of the oil and gas sector enacted by outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto in the new NAFTA, people close to the talks say. Lopez Obrador opposed Pena Nieto’s energy reform, and the issue is divisive within his own camp. Business-friendly aides back greater outside investment in the industry, while his more nationalist allies want the oil to remain in Mexican hands. Asked about Trump’s tweet, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo acknowledged some progress, but told reporters in Washington before beginning another day of talks that the two countries are “not there yet.” “Nothing is done until everything is truly done,” he said. “Today will be an important day.” Trump prompted the NAFTA revamp more than a year ago, complaining the pact has benefited Mexico to the detriment of U.S. workers and manufacturing. He made renegotiating NAFTA one of his top campaign pledges.

John McCain: Vietnam veteran and six-term senator dies at 81

Media captionJohn McCain: US war hero, maverick and political titan

Senator John McCain, the Vietnam war hero turned senator and presidential candidate, has died aged 81. Mr McCain died on Saturday in Arizona surrounded by his family, a statement from his office said. He was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in July 2017 and had been undergoing medical treatment. His family announced on Friday that Mr McCain, who left Washington in December, had decided to cease treatment. His widow, Cindy, tweeted: “My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best.” Mr McCain’s daughter Meghan said the task of her lifetime would now be “to live up to his example, his expectations, and his love”.Following news of his death, wellwishers waving flags lined the street as a hearse brought Mr McCain’s body from his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, to a funeral home in Phoenix.  The six-term senator for Arizona and 2008 Republican presidential nominee was diagnosed after doctors discovered his tumour during surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye last July. His family said he would lie in state in Phoenix, Arizona, and in Washington DC before a funeral at the Washington National Cathedral and his burial in Annapolis, Maryland. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush are expected to give eulogies. In July last year, just after his diagnosis, he took part in a late-night Senate session and gave the deciding vote – with a thumbs-down gesture – against partially repealing the contentious Obamacare healthcare law. The move reportedly infuriated Mr Trump. Mr McCain also criticised President Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on illegal immigration and his attacks on the media.

Trump’s War on the Justice System Threatens to Erode Trust in the Law

Legal experts say President Trump is directly undermining processes that are the foundation of the nation’s rule of law.CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

 

WASHINGTON — It is a once-unimaginable scenario: Sometime soon in an American courtroom, a criminal defense lawyer may argue that the prosecution of an MS-13 gang member is a politically motivated “witch hunt” built around a witness who has “flipped” and taken what the lawyer calls a plea deal of dubious legality. He will be quoting the president of the United States. That is potentially the gravest danger of President Trump’s sustained verbal assault on the country’s justice system, legal experts say. In his attempt at self-defense amid the swirl of legal cases and investigations involving himself, his aides and his associates, Mr. Trump is directly undermining the people and processes that are the foundation of the nation’s administration of justice. The result is a president at war with the law. “You are dealing with a potentially indelible smearing of our law enforcement institutions,” said Neal K. Katyal, who was acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama. “If Trump’s views were actually accepted, there would be thousands of criminals who are out on the streets right now.” The president’s public judgments about the country’s top law enforcement agencies revolve largely around how their actions affect him personally — a vision that would recast the traditionally independent justice system as a guardian of the president and an attack dog against his adversaries. For more than a year, he has criticized the Justice Department, questioned the integrity of the prosecutors leading the Russia investigation, and mercilessly mocked Jeff Sessions, his own attorney general. Mr. Trump continued that pattern on Twitter on Saturday morning, seizing on disputed reports in the conservative news media that the F.B.I. had ignored “thousands of Crooked Hillary Emails” and vowing to get “to the bottom of all of this corruption.” “At some point I may have to get involved!” he warned. But this past week’s stunning legal developments — a conviction for his former campaign manager, a guilty plea by a longtime lawyer for him who implicated Mr. Trump himself in illegal acts, and immunity agreements for two of his closest business associates — appear to have broadened the president’s hostility toward the legal system. In the wake of those developments, the president assailed federal prosecutors for their attempts to “break” Paul Manafort, the former campaign chief who was convicted on eight felony counts, and the president’s lawyers hinted that he might eventually wipe away the case with a pardon. And he lashed out at Mr. Sessions for not taking “control of the Justice Department” and pursuing enemies like Hillary Clinton, prompting a rare rebuke from the attorney general. The most remarkable moment came when Mr. Trump attacked the very notion that prosecutors should try to “flip” witnesses by reaching plea agreements. In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” the president questioned that tool, which has long been considered lawful and essential for prosecutions. “I have had many friends involved in this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal.” Former prosecutors and defense lawyers said the president’s embrace of that notion — spread broadly by his bully pulpit and given a measure of validity by the office he holds — is likely to undermine trust in the justice system and weaken the government’s ability to win in court. “How long will it take before a federal criminal defendant claims in court in front of a jury that the president of the United States rejects the legitimacy of cooperating witnesses and so too should jurors?” said Christopher Hunter, a former F.B.I. agent and prosecutor. “If only one juror agrees, a dangerous criminal could walk free.” Mr. Trump’s often cynical view of the American legal system has been shaped by decades of courtroom clashes over his business decisions, his personal behavior and his aggressive pursuit of the presidency. As a young developer in New York, he battled the Justice Department’s claims that he had violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African-Americans. Later, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of financial reporting violations at his casinos. The legal system was also the venue for infuriating and embarrassing battles with his former wives. But it has also offered tools with which to bludgeon his business adversaries or — as he is accused of doing during the 2016 presidential campaign — to bury unflattering stories. As Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has investigated his actions for more than a year, the president has waged a relentless campaign to diminish the Justice Department and the F.B.I. in the eyes of the public. After Michael D. Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations that he said had been directed by Mr. Trump, the president falsely claimed that the violations were not even a crime. And he has criticized federal courts as they have blocked much of his agenda, including his efforts to wield executive authority on immigration, voting and the environment. George T. Conway III, a conservative Washington lawyer who is often critical of the president (and who is the husband of Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor), tweeted on Friday that “what everyone should want, and the country needs, is a ‘President’ capable of comprehending what it means to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’ Art. II, § 3.”

Oil rises as China demand resumes, signs that Iran supply curbed

FILE PHOTO: An oil pump jack of Canadian group Vermilion Energy is pictured in Parentis-en-Born, France, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices gained more than 1 percent on Friday, ending a run of weekly declines on signs that Iran sanctions may limit global supply and that a trade war may not curb China’s appetite for U.S. crude. Brent crude oil LCOc1 settled up $1.09 a barrel, or 1.5 percent, at $75.82 a barrel. U.S. crude CLc1 was up 89 cents, or 1.3 percent, at $68.72. U.S. crude rose more than 4 percent on the week, after seven consecutive declines, and Brent rose 5.3 percent after three weeks of falling prices. “Both crude markers are on track to end a steady run of weekly declines. This is largely due to a tightening fundamental outlook on the back of looming Iranian supply shortages,” said Stephen Brennock, analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates. Concerns that an escalating trade war between China and the U.S. could slow economic growth and weigh on crude purchases eased slightly after sources told Reuters that China’s Unipec will resume purchases of U.S. crude oil in October, after a two-month halt due to the fight. Worries that Mexico’s incoming administration would not strike a bilateral agreement over NAFTA with the U.S. also weighed on the market, traders said. A dispute over opening up the oil and gas sector is weighing on the talks, Bloomberg reported, citing two people familiar with negotiations. At the same time, concerns about global crude supply intensified with signs that U.S. sanctions on Iran are curbing shipments. The U.S. government reimposed sanctions on Iran this month after withdrawing from a 2015 international nuclear deal, which Washington saw as inadequate for curbing Tehran’s activities in the Middle East and denying it the means to make an atomic bomb. Tehran says it has no ambitions to make such a weapon. Iran is the third-biggest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, supplying around 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude and condensate to markets this year, equivalent to about 2.5 percent of global consumption. “Third-party reports indicate that Iranian tanker loadings are already down by around 700,000 bpd in the first half of August relative to July, which if it holds will exceed most expectations,” U.S. investment bank Jefferies said on Friday. “We expect that by Q4 the market will be dealing with either undersupply, dwindling spare capacity – or both,” it added. Energy consultancy FGE says it expects Iran’s crude and condensate exports to drop below 1 million bpd by mid-2019.

Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges From Manhattan D.A.

Michael D. Cohen leaving federal court in ManhattanonTuesday.CreditCreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.

A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said.

Both officials stressed that the office’s review of the matter is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed.

State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.

The Trump Organization recorded the reimbursement as a legal expense. But Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, said on Tuesday that he paid Ms. Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 campaign. Federal prosecutors have said the reimbursement payments were for sham legal invoices in connection with a nonexistent retainer agreement. Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges, did no legal work in connection with the matter, prosecutors said. “On its face, it certainly would be problematic,” said one of the officials familiar with the district attorney’s office review, noting that listing the reimbursement as a legal expense could be a felony under state law.Image

The attorney general, Barbara D. Underwood, in recent days sought a referral from the state Department of Taxation and Finance, which is needed to conduct such an inquiry and to prosecute any violations of state tax law it might uncover, the person said. Such requests are seldom denied. The state’s double jeopardy laws do not apply to tax crimes.

Manhattan prosecutors are focused on whether business records were falsified, one of the officials said. That could be charged as a low-level felony, or as a misdemeanor. It’s a misdemeanor for a person or company to make a false entry in a business record or cause one to be made, with intent to defraud. It becomes a felony if it is done to commit or conceal another crime. Court papers in the federal case against Mr. Cohen said he ultimately received $420,000 from the Trump Organization to reimburse him for his $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford. That is because the Trump Organization included money to cover his taxes on the $130,000, a bonus for him and reimbursement for other campaign expenses. The company, according to the court papers, accounted for the payment as legal expenses and Mr. Cohen issued phony monthly invoices for $35,000 “pursuant to retainer agreement.”

U.S. softens its demand for NAFTA ‘sunset clause’: Mexican official

FILE PHOTO: The flags of Canada Mexico and the U.S. are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference of NAFTA talks in Mexico City
FILE PHOTO: The flags of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, Mexico, March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

 By David Lawder and Sharay Angulo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has softened its contentious demand for a NAFTA “sunset clause,” Mexico’s incoming trade negotiator said on Saturday, potentially eliminating a key obstacle to reaching a deal next week to revamp the trade pact. A few hours earlier, President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States could reach a “big Trade Agreement” with Mexico imminently. Jesus Seade, designated chief negotiator of Mexico’s next government, said the new U.S. position would allow a periodic review of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but without an automatic expiration unless renegotiated every five years. “It’s going to come out. It’s no longer what the United States was putting first in any way,” Seade told reporters outside the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. The United States and Mexico have been holding bilateral talks aimed at resolving differences in the NAFTA renegotiation. Canada is also part of the agreement. Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that the United States’ “relationship with Mexico is getting closer by the hour. Some really good people within both the new and old government, and all working closely together….A big Trade Agreement with Mexico could be happening soon!” Asked about Trump’s tweet, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo acknowledged some progress, but told reporters in Washington before beginning another day of talks that the two countries are “not there yet.” “Nothing is done until everything is truly done,” he said. “Today will be an important day.” Trump prompted the NAFTA revamp more than a year ago, complaining the pact has benefited Mexico to the detriment of U.S. workers and manufacturing. He made renegotiating NAFTA one of his top campaign pledges. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the pact if it is not reworked to the advantage of the United States. The U.S.-Mexico talks for weeks focused on crafting new rules for the automotive industry, which Trump has put at the center of his drive to rework the 24-year-old deal he says has been a “disaster” for American workers. Seade said the issue of auto sector rules is “basically resolved,” although some aspects, including time frames, are still being discussed. Seade also said on Saturday that a “correct focus” on NAFTA’s energy chapter has already been substantially agreed. Since Mexico’s July 1 presidential election, the Mexico-U.S. talks have been complicated by divisions between the incoming and outgoing Mexican administrations over energy policy. The team of leftist Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has resisted enshrining the 2013-14 opening of the oil and gas sector enacted by outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto in the new NAFTA, people close to the talks say. Lopez Obrador opposed Pena Nieto’s energy reform, and the issue is divisive within his own camp. Business-friendly aides back greater outside investment in the industry, while his more nationalist allies want the oil to remain in Mexican hands.

Manafort tried to get the U.S. military kicked out of Central Asia to help Russia

The convicted felon pushed to get the U.S. evicted from its military base in Kyrgyzstan.

Paul Manafort’s been having a rough week. On Tuesday, he was convicted of eight separate counts of tax and bank fraud, facing potentially decades in prison. Then, on Wednesday, a Russian media report revealed that Manafort had spent time working with a now-sanctioned Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, to further Moscow’s interests in Central Asia — namely, by getting the U.S. booted from the final military base Washington had in the region.

— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) August 22, 2018Bank crisis

Continue reading “Manafort tried to get the U.S. military kicked out of Central Asia to help Russia”

Trump says Pompeo won’t go to North Korea, criticizes denuclearization progress

In this handout photograph provided by The Strait Times, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) with U.S. President Donald Trump (R) during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore.  (Photo by Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty Images)
In this handout photograph provided by The Strait Times, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) with U.S. President Donald Trump (R) during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (Photo by Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty Images)

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump on Friday nixed plans for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to travel to North Korea to hold a next round of denuclearization talks, citing insufficient progress on the issue. “I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved.” Trump canceled the trip just a day after Pompeo announced his plans to make his fourth visit to Pyongyang next week. There were no plans for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump on Friday also blamed the exchange of tariffs battle between the US and China for the lack of progress on North Korean denuclearization, something he has previously hinted at.”Because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place),” Trump in one of three tweets Friday afternoon on the issue. Despite the cancellation, Trump sent his “warmest regards and respect” to Kim and said he looks “forward to seeing him soon!”

No-deal Brexit will bring tangle of red tape, Britain warns companies

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Thursday told companies trading with the European Union they would face a tangle of red tape, possible border delays and more costly credit card payments if the government fails to negotiate an exit deal before Britain leaves the bloc. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said he remained confident the two sides would reach a deal, but set out in a series of 25 notes what could change without one. With little more than seven months to go until it leaves the EU on March 29, Britain has yet to reach an agreement with the bloc on the terms of its departure. Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for a “business-friendly” deal has failed to impress negotiators in Brussels and has been heavily criticised at home. “We have a duty, as a responsible government, to plan for every eventuality,” Raab said. “To do this, we need to have a sensible, responsible and realistic conversation about what a no deal situation really means in practice.” After more than 40 years in the EU, Britain is having to set out its plans for every aspect of life. Around 80 technical notices are expected over the coming weeks, with the first 25 covering everything from the movement of organs, blood and sperm to nuclear regulation and organic food. The guidelines make it clear that companies trading with Europe would face new customs and excise rules and require paperwork covering customs and safety declarations. If Britain left without a deal “the free circulation of goods between the UK and EU would cease,” the guidance said. Chris Goodfellow, who runs logistics group Lockerfreight, said his clients were asking if they needed more staff to handle customs. “My head is spinning and my clients are panicking,” he told Reuters. “My phone has not stopped.” “The companies that only deal with Europe don’t realise how much more work is involved.” Supporters of Brexit say there may be some short-term pain for the British economy but it will prosper in the long-term when cut free from the EU’s rules and regulations. A European Commission spokesman said it was clear that the withdrawal of the UK was going to lead to disruption “with a deal or without a deal. And that’s why everybody, in particular economic operators, needs to be prepared.” The government asked drugmakers to stockpile medicines for six weeks above normal operations – a target the industry said would be challenging – and called for medicines with short shelf-lives to be flown in to the country. The drugs sector is one of the most vulnerable because of uncertainty as to how medicines oversight will function.

S&P 500 and Nasdaq close at record highs as Netflix jumps

Stocks hit all-time highs — these experts break down what investors should do next
 

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite reached all-time highs on Friday as Netflix shares rose. The broader market also climbed after the top Federal Reserve official characterized the U.S. economy as “strong.” The S&P 500 rose 0.6 percent to close at 2,874.69, led by gains in materials and tech. Friday marked the S&P 500’s first record close since Jan. 26. The tech-heavy Nasdaq advanced 0.9 percent and closed at 7,945.98. Netflix rose 5.8 percent on Friday after analysts at SunTrust upgraded the stock, noting it will keep going higher because of its success overseas. The stock has had a strong week, gaining more than 10 percent this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 133.37 points to 25,790.35 as DowDuPont outperformed. Fed Chair Jerome Powell delivered a speech at the Jackson Hole Symposium in Wyoming, where leading central bankers met to discuss the future of monetary policy. Powell said he sees “further, gradual” rate hikes moving forward, noting the economy is “strong” and can handle tighter monetary policy. “The market wasn’t sure how hawkish he was going to be,” said Shawn Cruz, manager of trader strategy at TD Ameritrade. “I think the biggest takeaway from the speech is he doesn’t see inflation rising meaningfully above 2 percent, … so a gradual pace of rate hikes is still appropriate.”Fed will get much more cautious on rate path once we get to neutral, says economist   6 Hours Ago | 03:50 The dollar fell to trade 0.6 percent lower against a basket of currencies following Powell’s speech. The greenback’s fall helped boost gold and oil prices, which are both traded in dollars. “The dollar has gone up a bit recently; it’s been a pretty crowded trade,” said Aaron Hurd, senior portfolio manager of currency at State Street Global Advisors. “I think people have been looking for any reason to sell the dollar.” Sentiment was also boosted by strong earnings and solid economic data being reported earlier this week. Retailers Lowe’s and Target reported better-than-expected earnings this week, sending their shares up 9 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively. Target CEO Brian Cornell raved about the state of the economy after the company’s results were released, noting: “There’s no doubt that, like others, we’re currently benefiting from a very strong consumer environment — perhaps the strongest I’ve seen in my career.”

Allen Weisselberg, Longtime Trump Organization CFO, Is Granted Immunity in Cohen Probe

Weisselberg earlier this year was subpoenaed to testify before grand jury
Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg has been granted immunity by prosecutors.
Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg has been granted immunity by prosecutors. Photo: JB Miller/Trump Organization

Allen Weisselberg, President Trump’s longtime financial gatekeeper, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Michael Cohen in the criminal investigation into hush-money payments for two women during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Weisselberg was called to testify before a federal grand jury in the investigation earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal previously reported, citing people familiar with the investigation. The decision by prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office to grant immunity to Mr. Weisselberg escalates the pressure on Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Weisselberg has served for decades as executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. After Mr. Trump was elected, he handed control of his financial assets and business interests to his two adult sons and Mr. Weisselberg. Mr. Cohen on Tuesday pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges and told a federal judge that Mr. Trump had directed him during the 2016 campaign to buy the silence of two women who alleged affairs with Mr. Trump, a move that implicated the president in a federal crime. That was the first time Mr. Cohen admitted to coordinating with the president on the hush-money deals, which Mr. Trump denied. Federal prosecutors also granted immunity to another longtime Trump ally: David Pecker, the chief executive of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, which in August 2016 purchased the rights to a former Playboy Playmate’s story of an affair with Mr. Trump. In exchange for immunity, Mr. Pecker met with prosecutors and shared details about payments Mr. Cohen arranged, including Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the deals, according to people familiar with the matter. The Journal couldn’t determine whether Mr. Weisselberg told prosecutors that Mr. Trump had knowledge of the payments.

Trump recently sought his lawyers’ advice on possibility of pardoning Manafort, Giuliani says

President Trump has made many high-profile pardons, and is considering more. Here’s what his pardoning strategy says about his view of the legal system. (Video: Jenny Starrs

President Trump recently asked his lawyers for their advice on the possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort and other aides accused of crimes, his lawyer said Thursday. The subject of pardoning Manafort came as Trump’s former campaign chairman faced multiple charges of bank fraud and tax evasion in an Alexandria criminal case, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said in an interview. Trump’s lawyers counseled the president against the idea of pardoning anyone linked to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to Giuliani, saying Trump should at least wait until special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his probe. Giuliani said the president agreed and did not push the issue further. “He said yes,” Giuliani said. “He agreed with us.” Giuliani said Trump was seeking advice in the wake of a spate of pardons he granted earlier this summer, including for a woman whom Kim Kardashian had lobbied the White House to release. Giuliani said he and fellow personal attorney Jay Sekulow had advised waiting to see whether Mueller delivers a damning report that accuses the president of trying to block a federal probe of his campaign’s contacts with Russians. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that she “wasn’t aware” of any discussions of Trump pardoning Manafort and that the topic was “not something that’s been up for discussion.” A senior administration official said the president discussed the pros and cons of granting pardons to Manafort and others linked to a probe of his campaign “a few weeks ago.” Some experts have argued Trump could expose himself to more legal danger if he were to pardon aides who are witnesses in the Mueller probe, because Mueller is examining the president’s own conduct and whether he sought to obstruct justice. Trump has repeatedly decried the government’s treatment of Manafort — who a jury found guilty Tuesday on eight counts of tax- and bank-fraud charges. Manafort refused to cooperate with Mueller investigators seeking his information about the Trump campaign and instead took his chances at trial. On Tuesday, the president told reporters that Manafort was a “good man” and that he felt sorry for him. Trump has admiringly talked about how Manafort did not “flip” on him and was ebullient when Judge T.S. Ellis said that the prosecution only wanted to go after Manafort to get him. Asked about a pardon, one senior White House official said: “What does it accomplish? You pardon him, it doesn’t get rid of the Mueller probe, it causes you more headaches, he still has another trial, you have more Republicans coming after you.”

Jeff Sessions fires back at Trump: DOJ won’t ‘be improperly influenced’ by politics

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired back against President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying the Justice Department will not be “improperly influenced by political considerations.” Earlier, Trump attacked him on television, asking “what kind of a man is this?” “I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda,” Sessions said in the statement, which was posted on Twitter by Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores.

Trump and dump? After Cohen and Manafort headlines, the stock market remains a buy

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Perhaps surprisingly, President Trump’s legal woes haven’t triggered an avalanche of bearish headlines. In fact, recent headlines have been uncommonly balanced: CNBC: “It’s going to take a lot more for the stock market to start caring about Trump’s legal woes” Are Trump’s legal escapades really a non-issue for stocks? To find out, we will take a brief look at an admittedly non-scientific, but nevertheless insightful “indicator” we’ll call headline sentiment. It’s based on the notion that the media usually gets it wrong. It’s early November 2016, just before the election. By my estimation about 9 out of 10 media outlets are rather certain Hillary Clinton will be the next president. Newsweek even printed and shipped (and shortly thereafter recalled) a special edition magazine titled “Madam President.” In the unlikely event of a Trump win, pundits almost unanimously predicted a stock-market correction or crash.Event-based (or news-based) predictions are always flawed, because it requires two correct guesses:

1) The outcome of the event

2) The market’s reaction to the event

My set of indicators led me to the following conclusion (published in the Aug. 28, 2016, Profit Radar Report): “The three most likely interpretations are all bullish. The degree of bullishness varies, but more gains are ahead. The question is not if, but how much and for how long. Any weakness will be bought, perhaps even furiously.” Let’s also not forget that the S&P 500 SPX, -0.17% Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.30% Russell 2000 RUT, -0.32% and Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.13% “were supposed” to crash and burn:

— After quantitiative easing ended in 2014

— When oil prices fell 50% in 2014

— When the Federal Reserve let it be know that interest rates will be rising in 2015

The stock market was much more resilient than most expected. Why that was is discussed here Back to the original question: Will Trump’s legal escapades become an issue for stocks? Here are two points worth considering:

1) Headline sentiment is not nearly is bearish as it was during prior events. It would actually be more bullish for stocks if the media perpetuated a bearish outlook and continued building the wall of worry.

2) On the other hand, stock markets rarely top on big news events. Most big market tops come somewhat surprisingly and not necessarily suddenly.

Conclusion

Based on my unscientific media sentiment indicator, the sentiment surrounding the Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Trump trilogy is not bearish enough to be bullish (from a contrarian viewpoint). Nevertheless, some indicators and patterns project a sizeable rally ahead if the S&P 500 can get close (and stay) above 2,875 and the Dow Jones above 25,800. More details about why those levels are important and why they could trigger a massive rally is shown here.

National Enquirer boss and longtime Trump friend David Pecker gets federal immunity in Michael Cohen case

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, exits from federal court in New York, on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. 
Cohen prosecutors grant immunity to National Enquirer chairman: Dow Jones

The chairman of the company that publishes the National Enquirer was granted immunity by federal prosecutors as part of an investigation into President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, NBC News reported Thursday. The immunity deal was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair. Details of the agreement were not immediately known. But the Journal reported earlier Thursday that American Media Inc. Chairman David Pecker had given prosecutors details about the president’s knowledge of payments Cohen made to women alleging affairs with Trump. The immunity deal could hold significant consequences for Trump, as Pecker could have as much damaging information about the president as anyone in Trump’s orbit. He and Pecker have been friends since the 1990s, and have appear to remain so after Trump became president — the media mogul even visited the White House last year, according to The New York Times. Pecker has also reportedly used his media holdings to shield Trump when the president was a New York real estate developer and reality television star. Pecker’s publications have defended Trump as a presidential candidate, as well, including a reported effort during the 2016 election to stifle ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal’s allegations of an affair with Trump. Trump has been a public advocate for Pecker, too. In 2013, he tweeted several times urging Time Magazine to hire Pecker as its top executive. “Nobody could bring [the magazine] back like David!” Trump wrote in one of the tweets. Pecker was subpoenaed by federal investigators in April, as were his company and the Trump Organization. The Journal said the subpoenas were served at the same time the FBI raided Cohen’s office and residences, seizing electronics, recordings and thousands of documents.

In a courtroom statement, Cohen said, without mentioning the president by name, that Trump directed him to arrange the payments to two women “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”

The hush-money deals, which were both made in the run-up to the November 2016 presidential election, formed the foundation of the campaign finance crimes Cohen pleaded guilty to. Though they only named Cohen explicitly, the Justice Department said Tuesday that the “chairman” of “a media company that owns, among other things, a popular tabloid magazine” put Cohen in touch with one of the women, who in October 2016 was paid $130,000 in exchange for her silence about the alleged affair. That woman, porn star Stormy Daniels, is suing Trump and Cohen in California to void the hush-money agreement and speak freely about the alleged tryst. The other woman was McDougal, the former Playboy model paid $150,000 in August 2016 by AMI for exclusive rights to her own story about an alleged dalliance with Trump. In a practice known within the industry as “catch and kill,” the story was never published, allegedly to protect  Cohen had urged one of the publisher’s editors to buy — and bury — McDougal’s story, promising that the company would be reimbursed, prosecutors said. The White House has denied Trump had sex with the two women.

Dollar, bond yields fall as investors weigh Trump woes

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Key U.S. government debt yields slid to six-week lows on a flight to safety and the dollar slid further on Wednesday as investors weighed how a conviction and a guilty plea of former advisers will impact U.S. President Donald Trump. A gauge of global equities rose, lifted by higher energy prices and strong earnings from retailers, on day that Wall Street marked the longest U.S. bull market. That milestone came a day after the S&P 500 stock index set an all-time intraday high. Markets barely budged after the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting that ended Aug. 1.Futures traders priced in a slightly higher chance that the Fed will increase rates two more times this year. “They are just trying to gauge if there has been any shift in sentiment at the Fed, and it certainly doesn’t seem that way at the moment,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest rate strategist at TD Securities in New York. The White House pushed back forcefully against suggestions that a plea deal struck on Tuesday by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen implicated the president in a crime. Trump was not charged and Cohen’s plea deal does not mean the president has been implicated in anything, press secretary Sarah Sanders said at a White House briefing. Cohen pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Also on Tuesday, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight charges. “The potential for President Trump to be impeached didn’t change all that much, and as a result of that the market didn’t over react in this instance to that news,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston. Equity investors appeared less concerned about Trump as Wall Street marked what is widely considered a bull market that started in the midst of the global financial crisis a decade ago, which wiped out more than half of the U.S. stock market’s value. The benchmark S&P 500 index has more than quadrupled since the lows of March 2009. Wall Street was mixed, with Nasdaq trading higher but the S&P and Dow industrials lower on a slide in shares of industrials, consumer discretionary and staples.

Russia is still attacking the US and trying to help Trump

Microsoft stops Kremlin-based hackers 01:24

Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN and The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author. (CNN)Just as President Donald Trump was openly pondering the possibility of lifting sanctions against Russia, Microsoft revealed it has uncovered yet another Russian intelligence operation aimed at assaulting America’s democratic institutions and, it appears, at helping Trump. There is no indication that Russia is anything other than very pleased with the result of its 2016 election meddling efforts. Instead of lying low amid the political storm it triggered in the US, Moscow, it seems, is scaling up similar activities to influence the midterm vote in November. Russians targeted Senate and conservative think tanks, Microsoft says This time, however, there is an interesting twist: the hackers went after Republican think tanks, creating false websites made to look like those of the Hudson Institute and the International Republic Institute (IRI) — prominent conservative groups — in addition to a website used by staff in Congress. Putin, not surprisingly, wants to undercut his detractors. And this hacking plan — aimed at Trump critics — suggests that Putin wants to continue helping Trump. When Democrats challenge Trump, it feeds into his narrative; when Republicans do it, it threatens to shrink his already narrow base of support. The Hudson Institute may have come to Russian attention when, during an event there, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates described Russia as an aggressive force seeking to undermine democracy and divide Americans.Some Hudson Institute fellows were withering in their criticism of Trump’s summit with Putin, with one calling Trump’s behavior during and after the meeting “ludicrous and dishonest.” For its part, the IRI stands for everything Putin is trying to dismantle. Searching its website for “Putin” brings up a menu of articles decrying the Russian president’s repression at home and nefarious tactics abroad. IRI’s board members include, among others, one of Trump’s most effective critics, Republican Senator John McCain.  It is doubtful that Trump will acquiesce.Ahead of the November elections, which could decide the fate of the Trump presidency, Facebook found a new influence campaign that looked very much like the one that inflamed divisions among Americans two years ago

Russia is buying lots of gold to shield it from sanctions

Russia has been selling US government debt and buying gold. A lot of gold.

Official data show the Russian central bank increased its holdings of gold by nearly 29 tons in July, the largest monthly increase since November 2017. The central bank previously added 20 tons in May and 17 tons in June. Its total holdings of the precious metal have increased 37% since the start of 2016, and are now worth an estimated $76 billion. The gold purchases have coincided with a dramatic reduction in the central bank’s ownership of US government debt, which plummeted 84% between March and May to just $14.9 billion. Treasuries now make up only 17% of reserves at Russia’s central bank. Eugene Chausovsky, senior Eurasia analyst at the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor, said the gold purchases were designed to decrease Russia’s exposure to the dollar at a time when the relationship with the United States remains tense. Moscow may also be worried that sanctions could prevent it from selling US Treasuries in the future or stop Russian banks from using dollars to conduct transactions.”Russia has an interest in insulating its economy as much as possible from the US dollar in anticipation of stronger US sanctions,” Chausovsky said. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said earlier in August that Russia would continue to sell US debt in response to sanctions. “We have significantly reduced our investment in US assets,” Siluanov said. “In fact, the dollar, which is considered to be the international currency, becomes a risky tool for payments.While it did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, the central bank has previously said it was looking to diversify its portfolio. Russia has surged up the list of countries with the largest gold holdings, surpassing China earlier this year, according to the World Gold Council. The United States is by far the largest holder of gold with 9,000 tons. Economic pressure on Russia has increased since 2015, when western countries hit it with sanctions over its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. More sanctions were imposed this year after the United Kingdom linked the Kremlin to the attempted murder of a former Russian double agent. The United States has sanctioned several Russian individuals and companies and put tariffs on imports of Russian steel and aluminum. Analysts said that gold stockpiling suggests that Moscow is expecting even more pain. “It highlights the way in which fears about an escalation of sanctions on Russia have increased — and that relatively modest sanctions imposed can have large indirect impacts because institutions and investors begin to anticipate the next steps,” said William Jackson, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics. The ruble has slumped from 55 per dollar in February to as low as 70 per dollar last week. Russia’s central bank is rebuilding its foreign reserves following a currency crisis in 2014 and 2015, when it burned through almost $150 billion trying to defend the ruble. Its total reserves are now worth $458 billion, still $66 billion less than before the crisis.

Saudi Arabia has called off Aramco float, report suggests

Saudi Arabia is reported to have cancelled its plans to sell shares in state oil giant Aramco, which had been billed as the largest flotation ever. The group of financial advisers working on a plan to sell 5% of the company domestically and internationally has been disbanded, Reuters reports. The wire service quoted a source suggesting the decision was taken some time ago but is not being announced. Neither Saudi Aramco nor the Saudi Royal Court has commented on the story. Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, first proposed the share sale early in 2016 as part of his economic reform agenda, to bring western regulation and scrutiny to the company, as well as raising cash to reduce the country’s large budget deficit. At the time he predicted the sale would value Aramco at around $2 trillion (£1.55 tn). The plan was to float shares on both the local stock market in Riyadh, and one of the world’s leading international financial centres. Saudi Aramco ranks as the world’s largest oil and gas business. Forbes Magazine estimates it generates $1bn a day in revenues. Its businesses cover management of the world’s biggest oil fields as well as extensive refining and chemicals operations. With stakes this high, London, Hong Kong and New York competed fiercely to host the initial public offering (IPO). Donald Trump tweeted last year: : “Would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange. Important to the United States!” In London the Financial Conduct Authority changed its rules to make the listing easier, attracting criticism from MPs and from the Institute of Directors who said adapting regulations to accommodate Saudi Aramco could harm the UK’s reputation for good governance. No decision had been taken on where to list the shares. Reuters said it had spoken to four senior industry sources about the plans being scrapped. “The decision to call off the IPO was taken some time ago, but no-one can disclose this, so statements are gradually going that way – first delay then calling off,” Reuters quoted one as saying. The wire service said financial advisers who had been working on the listing were now focusing on the proposed acquisition of a “strategic stake” in local petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries, according to two of its sources. In late 2017 rumours first emerged that the flotation might be cancelled, and it was suggested that Aramco shares might instead be sold privately to the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds and institutional investors. Meanwhile there have been suggestions that some members of the Saudi royal family are concerned that a listing in New York may entail legal risks, citing US terrorism legislation that would permit US citizens to sue Saudi Arabia. Some observers have also questioned the high valuation for Aramco.

Cohen willing to tell Mueller about ‘conspiracy to collude’: lawyer

Michael Cohen is willing to speak with Special Counsel Robert Mueller about a “conspiracy to collude” with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, his lawyer said on Tuesday night. Cohen — who pleaded guilty earlier on Tuesday to helping President Trump pay hush money to two women — wants to tell Mueller that Trump knew of an infamous 2016 meeting at Trump Tower and the Russian hacking of Democratic institutions before they took place, Lanny Davis told MSNBC. “Mr. Cohen has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel and is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows,” Davis told the network. “Not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”

Last month a source told The Post that Cohen was present when Trump was informed by his son Donald Trump Jr. that Russians offered “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump claimed he “didn’t know anything about the meeting” because “nobody told me” about it. During the June 2016 meeting, Trump Jr. was joined by Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The four Russians in the room included a lawyer with Kremlin ties, a businessman who worked for an oligarch and a lobbyist. The Trump Tower meeting is being considered as evidence of the Trump campaign working along with Russians to defeat Clinton.

Paul Manafort found guilty in federal trial

Jurors have reached a verdict on eight counts in the trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief, Paul Manafort.

In a note to U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, the jurors said they had not reached a consensus on the 10 remaining counts in the bank fraud and tax crimes trial. Manafort, 69, faces another federal trial next month in Washington, D.C., which also stems from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Mueller’s prosecutors called 27 witnesses to testify against Manafort, and submitted more than 350 exhibits. Manafort’s defense team, in contrast, called no witnesses at the trial in Alexandria, Virginia, and introduced just 12 exhibits into evidence. Among the prosecution’s witnesses was Manafort’s former business associate, Rick Gates, who also had worked on the presidential campaign of Donald Trump in 2016. Gates pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy and making false statements. He has not yet been sentenced. The charges against Manafort and Gates were connected to their consulting work in Ukraine, and not to their work on the Trump campaign.

Dallas Fed president says three or four more rate hikes then ‘assess’ course ahead

Robert Kaplan
Hailey Lee | CNBC Robert KaplanThe Federal Reserve could be nearing the end of its rate-hiking cycle as headwinds build up to economic growth,
Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said Tuesday.

As the central bank continues to normalize policy, Kaplan said there likely are three or four more increases ahead for the Fed’s benchmark rate target until it gets to “neutral.” Thepolicymaking Federal Open Market Committee has indicated as many as six more hikes ahead. He said the neutral rate of interest, or one that is neither accommodative nor restrictive, is probably around 2.5 percent to 2.75 percent, compared with the 1.75 percent to 2 percent range where the Fed is currently holding its funds rate. From here, then, “it would take approximately three or four more federal funds rate increases of a quarter of a percent to get into the range of this estimated neutral level,” Kaplan said in an essay on conditions in both the Dallas district and the broader U.S. economy.

Trump: Fed should do what's good for the U.S., according to Reuters

 

“At this stage, I believe the Federal Reserve should be gradually raising the fed funds rate until we reach this neutral level,” he added. “At that point, I would be inclined to step back and assess the outlook for the economy and look at a range of other factors — including the levels and shape of the Treasury yield curve — before deciding what further actions, if any, might be appropriate.” Kaplan’s remarks come as the FOMC is about to release minutes Wednesday from its July 31-Aug. 1 meeting, during which the committee opted against raising rates. However, officials have indicated, and the market expects, that two more increases are likely on the way before the end of the year, followed by three more in 2019 and at least one more in 2020, taking the funds rate to 3.4 percent, well above where Kaplan sees it. Among his concerns are the yield curve, or the spread between rates on various government bonds. When short-term rates get higher than long-term rates, that has been a reliable recession indicator for the past 50 years. While some Fed officials have cautioned against reading too much into a possible inversion, Kaplan said it’s cause for concern. “The longer end of the curve is telling me that, while there is substantial global liquidity and a search for safe assets, expectations for future growth are sluggish — and this is consistent with an expectation that U.S. growth will trend back down to potential,” he wrote. “I do not discount the significance of an inverted yield curve — I believe it is worth paying attention to given the high historical correlation between inversions and recession.” Kaplan also expressed his concern about the current debt level. At $15.7 trillion, the amount of the national debt held by the public is more than 75 percent of GDP; more than 100 percent is generally considered a crisis level.While the tax cuts and additional spending over the past year have created “a fiscal tailwind,” that could “turn into a headwind if the U.S. takes steps to moderate its historically high expected path of debt growth,” he said.

S & P hits record high, equals longest-ever bull run

(Reuters) – The benchmark S&P 500 touched a record high on Tuesday and equaled its longest-ever bull-market run, as U.S. stocks rose on encouraging earnings reports and hopes that the United States and China could resolve their tariff dispute.

The S&P .SPX rose as much as 0.57 percent to a record high of 2,873.23 points, topping its previous record high of 2,872.87 on Jan. 26. The index’s bull-market run is now 3,452 days old and, on Wednesday, will mark the longest such streak in history, at least for some market watchers. Hopes that the United States and China could move closer to settling their trade differences helped the trade-sensitive S&P industrial sector .SPLRCI climb 0.76 percent. The S&P consumer discretionary index .SPLRCD rose 1.15 percent, the most among the 11 major S&P sectors, as TJX rose on strong results and Toll Brothers’ encouraging quarterly report boost shares of homebuilders. “Investors, overall seem more optimistic that the troubles with global trade may get resolved this week,” said Kate Warne, principal and investment strategist at Edward Jones in Des Peres, Missouri. “We’ve seen a continuation of strong earnings and signs of stronger economic growth and you would expect investors to be confident in this kind of an environment and expect stocks to rise.”

Dollar falls, emerging markets rally after Trump’s Fed attack

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Dollar note is seen in this June 22, 2017 illustration photo. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar weakened on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, while global equity markets rose as strong economic and earnings growth favored stocks in a relatively benign environment. Wall Street shares rose, following stock market gains worldwide, with the benchmark S&P 500 edging closer to an all-time high. Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Monday that he was “not thrilled” with the Fed under his appointee, Chairman Jerome Powell, for raising rates and that the U.S. central bank should do more to boost the economy. Trump also accused China and Europe of manipulating their currencies. The euro EUR= is down about 3.8 percent so far this year against the dollar, while the Chinese yuan CNY= has slipped 5.1 percent this year against the greenback. “It would appear that Mr. Trump would like to keep the U.S. dollar a little on the weak side in order to remain competitive,” said CMC Markets chief markets analyst David Madden. The dollar index .DXY, which tracks performance against a basket of six major currencies, fell 0.31 percent on Tuesday, and has slid almost 1.2 percent over the past four days, its worst such run since late March. The dollar’s weakness eased the pressure on many emerging markets, which have struggled in recent weeks as worries over Turkey precipitated a selloff in emerging market assets around the globe. Specialist trader Meric Greenbaum works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid Trump, who criticized the Fed when he was a candidate, said in the interview other countries benefited from their central banks’ moves during tough trade talks, but the United States was not getting support from the Fed. “During this period of time I should be given some help by the Fed. The other countries are accommodated,” Trump said

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former longtime personal attorney, reaches a plea deal

PHOTO: Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, exits the United States District Court Southern District of New York on May 30, 2018 in New York City.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, exits the United States District Court Southern District of New York on May 30, 2018 in New York City.more

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former longtime personal attorney, has tentatively reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, ABC News has learned. Add Donald Trump as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Donald Trump news, video, and analysis from ABC News. Given Cohen’s proximity to Trump during the past decade, including throughout his meteoric rise from mogul and reality television star to the White House, observers consider him one of most potent legal thorns to confront Trump’s presidency since he took office. “The guy who knows where all the bodies are buried,” said Seth Hettena, an author and veteran journalist who has chronicled Trump’s business career. The investigation into Cohen was referred to New York’s Southern District by special counsel Robert Mueller, and if Cohen agrees to cooperate, the information he provides could benefit the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But it remains unclear if he has committed to cooperate. Cohen’s relationship with Trump dates to the mid-2000’s after Cohen, who owned condominiums in multiple Trump buildings in New York, took Trump’s side in a legal dispute with the condo board at Trump World Tower on Manhattan’s East Side. Cohen eventually went to work for the Trump Organization, where he held the positions of executive vice president and special counsel to Donald J. Trump. “Michael Cohen has great insight into the real estate market,” Trump said of Cohen in a 2007 New York Post interview. “He has invested in my buildings because he likes to make money – and he does.” In addition to working inside the Trump Organization as a lawyer and problem solver, Cohen built a diverse portfolio of investments. At one point that included running 260 yellow cabs with a Ukrainian-born partner – a partnership that ended in 2012. He also invested millions in real estate, often turning a tidy profit. For instance, a building he bought in 2011 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for $2.1 million, sold three years later for $10 million in cash.The FBI raid on Cohen’s home and office in April gave the most significant indication his business dealings could become a legal problem for him. Then in May, Evgeny Friedman, 46, a Russian immigrant known as the “Taxi King,” struck a plea deal that included a commitment to assist federal prosecutors investigating Cohen’s business practices. “The government now has a strong inside witness who can assist in explaining many of Cohen’s business activities and potential fraud schemes, especially when it came to valuing the medallions for loan purposes,” Volkov said at the time. In a Tweet shortly after Friedman’s plea arrangement, Cohen sought to distance himself from Friedman. For more than a decade around the office in Trump Tower – and around New York – Cohen’s loyalty to Trump was unquestioned as he developed a reputation as Trump’s “pit bull.” “It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,” Cohen said in a 2011 interview with ABC News. “If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” Cohen’s dealings at the Trump family business covers a broad sweep of its global empire – including several projects that have caught the attention of federal investigators. Cohen played an integral role in early discussions about a possible Trump Tower in Moscow – negotiations that were going on during the early months of the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen has confirmed he attended a lunch meeting with a Ukrainian politician one week after Trump took office, where the two men discussed the potential for Cohen to share a Ukraine peace proposal with his contacts at the White House. “He could be extremely valuable,” said Matthew G. Olsen, a former federal prosecutor and ABC News contributor. “He was not just a personal lawyer but also was President Trump’s so-called fixer for a number of years. So he would have had access to lots of very personal information involving his business dealings.” Cohen’s name appeared repeatedly in the now infamous dossier of unverified allegations, which included salacious claims about Trump, prepared by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.

Trump Today: President calls Mueller’s team ‘thugs,’ and ‘national disgrace’

President Donald Trump on Monday attacked lawyers working for the special counsel, and also lashed out at Justice Department official Bruce Ohr as he hosted an event honoring immigration and customs agents.

‘NATIONAL DISGRACE’

On Twitter, the president called lawyers working for Robert Mueller “thugs,” and said the special counsel’s team was “a National Disgrace!” trying to influence the election. It was the latest escalation in Trump’s rhetoric against the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. His attack came after the New York Times reported over the weekend that White House lawyer Don McGahn had sat for 30 hours of interviews with Mueller’s team. Trump said McGahn participated at his instruction “Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone looking for trouble,” Trump tweeted.

From Alternative Facts to “Truth Isn’t Truth”

(Bloomberg) — “Truth isn’t truth,” Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday in discussing why having the president be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for the probe into election interference isn’t a good idea.

When two people, like Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, tell different versions of the same story, “it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth,” the former New York mayor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

That essentially gives a new twist to old rhetorical saws like “there are two sides to every story” and “he said/she said.” It also echoed the phrase “alternative facts” coined by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in 2017, to explain why Sean Spicer, then the press secretary, made false claims about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration.

Challenged by NBC correspondent Chuck Todd that “truth is truth,” Giuliani responded, “No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth.”

“Donald Trump says I didn’t talk about Flynn with Comey; Comey says you did talk about it,” he continued, referring to Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. “So tell me what the truth is.”Giuliani said Mueller is “desperate”’ to find something to charge Trump with, and that “I’m not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury.” The president’s legal team has spent months weighing up whether to allow Trump to be interviewed by the special counsel. If Mueller tries to issue a subpoena to Trump before the midterm elections in November, the president’s team will accuse him of trying to interfere because he could have acted sooner, Giuliani said. “Time for Mueller investigation to file report,” Giuliani said Saturday on Twitter. “We will release ours. Don’t interfere with election.” Giuliani, 74, also said that the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York, involving the then-candidate’s oldest son and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, was arranged to seek information on Trump’s rival, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton — but that the participants didn’t know the lawyer was Russian. Nick Note: of course truth is truth and a lie is a lie. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it does it make a noise. Of course it does… the most ignorant argument anyone ever made to me when i was in school… That was the day i decided to educate myself … Thank GOD

Cautious optimism for U.S.-China trade talks lifts shares

FILE PHOTO: People walk past an electronic board showing Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of global equity markets rose on Monday on hopes the U.S.-China trade dispute will cool at talks this week, while Turkey’s lira fell anew after cuts to the country’s credit ratings and shots were fired outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. Wall Street rose and broad-based gains in Europe and Asia lifted the MSCI’s all-country world index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks shares in 47 countries. The gauge has recouped last week’s losses sparked by the lira’s plunge, but not declines of the prior week when the Turkish currency began its fall. Mid-level U.S. and Chinese officials are expected to meet later this week in Washington to discuss their trade dispute. But it is unclear whether the talks will have any effect on the implementation of U.S. tariffs and retaliation by China.

“Traders are cautiously optimistic, but just because the meeting has been lined up doesn’t mean anything will come of it,” CMC Markets chief markets analyst David Madden said.

“Some traders view the (recent) weakness in the Chinese stock market and currency as a sign that Beijing will be more accommodating when it comes to negotiations,” he said.

Six days of public hearings on the proposed U.S. duties of up to 25 percent will start Monday in Washington as part of the U.S. administration’s efforts to pressure Beijing for sweeping changes to its trade and economic policies.

Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) was the biggest contributor to MSCI’s global stock gauge, which rose 0.35 percent, and it was the top gainer on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index .HSI, closing up 4.1 percent.

FILE PHOTO: A board displaying stock prices is adorned with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) logo in central Sydney, Australia, February 13, 2018. Picture taken February 13, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 closed up 0.57 percent and MSCI’s emerging markets index .MSCIEF gained 1.18 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 104.81 points, or 0.41 percent, to 25,774.13. The S&P 500 .SPX gained 7.78 points, or 0.27 percent, to 2,857.91 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 4.22 points, or 0.05 percent, to 7,820.55.

Turkey’s lira TRY=D3 fell to a session low of 6.2 against the dollar and was last down about 2.3 percent.

While the lira late last week clawed back sizable losses after touching all-time lows of just over 7 to $1 a week ago Monday, it has now declined about 26 percent so far in August.

Turkish sovereign dollar bonds fell across the curve on Monday and the cost of insuring exposure to Turkish debt rose after Moody’s and S&P Global lowered their sovereign credit ratings on Friday.

In addition, shots were fired at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, compounding U.S.-Turkish tensions as a dispute over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor simmered.

CENTRAL BANKS IN SPOTLIGHT

In a week light on economic data, investors are turning their attention to central banks.

0700.HKHong Kong Stock
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The Federal Reserve will release minutes from its August policy meeting on Wednesday, which will be scrutinized for new signs of whether four interest rate hikes are likely this year.The U.S. central bank is widely expected to raise rates a third time this year in September, though doubts remain over another hike in December.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is due to speak on Friday at the annual economic symposium in August in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“It’s really going to be all about the minutes and Powell at Jackson Hole on Friday,” said Thomas Simons, a money market economist at Jefferies in New York.

U.S. President Donald Trump complained to donors in New York’s Hamptons about Powell’s rate hikes, according to Bloomberg News, leading the dollar index to a session low.

(GRAPHIC: President Trump on the U.S. dollar –reut.rs/2nRy9V6)

Reuters Graphic

The index .DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, fell 0.16 percent to session lows after the media report, while the euro EUR= rose 0.2 percent to $1.146.

The Japanese yen JPY= strengthened 0.19 percent versus the greenback at 110.32 per dollar.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury 10-year notes US10YT=RR rose 12/32 in price to push yields down to 2.8280 percent, near a four-week low.

U.S. crude CLcv1 rose 47 cents to $66.38 per barrel and global benchmark Brent LCOcv1 56 cents to $72.39.

Donald Trump Complained About Fed Interest-Rate Increases at Fundraiser

Trump worried higher interest rates could cool off the economy

President Trump, speaking at a fundraising event on Friday, said he was unhappy with the Federal Reserve’s recent moves to raise interest rates, people in attendance said. Donald Trump Complained About Fed Interest-Rate Increases at Fundraiser

Trump worried higher interest rates could cool off the economy

President Trump, speaking at a fundraising event on Friday, said he was unhappy with the Federal Reserve’s recent moves to raise interest rates, people in attendance said.

China shifts to Iranian tankers to keep oil flowing amid US sanctions: Report

Tugboats dock the oil tanker "Daniel" carrying crude oil imported from Iran at the Port of Zhoushan in Zhoushan city, east China's Zhejiang province, 8 March 2018. 
Imaginechina | AP Images Tugboats dock the oil tanker “Daniel” carrying crude oil imported from Iran at the Port of Zhoushan in Zhoushan city, east China’s Zhejiang province, 8 March 2018.

Chinese buyers of Iranian oil are starting to shift their cargoes to vessels owned by National Iranian Tanker for nearly all of their imports to keep supply flowing amid the re-imposition of economic sanctions by the United States. The shift demonstrates that China, Iran’s biggest oil customer, wants to keep buying Iranian crude despite the sanctions, which were put back after the United States withdrew in May from a 2015 agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear program. The United States is trying to halt Iranian oil exports to force the country to negotiate a new nuclear agreement and to curb its influence in the Middle East. China has said it is opposed to any unilateral sanctions and has defended its commercial ties with Iran. The first round of sanctions, which included rules cutting off Iran and any businesses that trade with the country from the U.S. financial system, went into effect on Aug. 7. A ban on Iranian oil purchases will start in November. Insurers, which are mainly U.S. or European based, have already begun winding down their Iranian business to comply with the sanctions.

To safeguard their supplies, state oil trader Zhuhai Zhenrong and Sinopec Group, Asia’s biggest refiner, have activated a clause in its long-term supply agreements with National Iranian Oil that allows them to use NITC-operated tankers, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to speak publicly about commercial deals. The price for the oil under the long-term deals has been changed to a delivered ex-ship basis from the previous free-on-board terms, meaning that Iran will cover all the costs and risks of delivering the crude as well as handling the insurance, the sources said. “The shift started very recently, and it was almost a simultaneous call from both sides,” said one of the sources, a senior Beijing-based oil executive. In July, all 17 tankers chartered to carry oil from Iran to China are operated by NITC, according to shipping data on Thomson Reuters Eikon. In June, eight of 19 vessels chartered were Chinese operated. Last month, those tankers loaded about 23.8 million barrels of crude oil and condensate destined for China, or about 767,000 barrels per day. In June, the loadings were 19.8 million barrels, or 660,000 bpd. Iran used a similar system between 2012 and 2016 to circumvent Western-led sanctions which were effective in curtailing exports because of a lack of insurance for the shipments. It was not immediately clear how Iran would provide insurance for the Chinese oil purchases, worth some $1.5 billion a month. Insurance usually includes cover for the oil cargoes, third-party liability and pollution. With the new shipping arrangement, Iranian oil cargoes to China are expected to stay at recent levels through October, said the four sources with knowledge of the tanker changes.

James Comey: ‘Truth Exists and Truth Matters’

Image: James Comey: 'Truth Exists and Truth Matters'
Fired FBI Director James Comey (Alex Brandon/AP) By Brian Freeman

Former FBI Director James Comey sent out a tweet Sunday that “Truth exists and truth matters,” apparently in response to a statement by President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani earlier in the day that “truth isn’t truth.” Giuliani made his remarks during an interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press” when he sought to belittle special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe by saying “When you tell me that [Trump] should testify because he is going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, that’s silly, because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth.” When interviewer Chuck Todd shot back “Truth is truth,” Giuliani replied, “No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth.” In his tweet, Comey emphasized “Truth has always been the touchstone of our country’s justice system and political life. If we are untethered to truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law dissolves.” Others were also quick to slam Giuliani’s statement, with Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeting the reasoning of Trump’s attorney “is another step towards authoritarianism.” Lieu added “It also reminds us of Nixon’s defense that ‘when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.'”

Democrats’ Chances of Regaining House Are Improving. But It’s No Sure Bet.

Image: Democrats' Chances of Regaining House Are Improving. But It's No Sure Bet.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol July 23, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Democrats’ prospects for retaking control of the U.S. House have brightened during the past two months, although success in the November election is no sure bet, a CBS News election model released Sunday shows. If the election were held today, Democrats would win 222 seats in the House, up from 219 in June, according to CBS’s model, which is based on voter surveys in 57 competitive congressional districts. The estimate had a margin of error of plus or minus 11 seats. A party needs 218 seats to control the House, and Democrats would need to win at least 23 additional seats in the midterm elections to wrest power from Republicans. Voters surveyed said they view the 2018 election as especially important, perhaps suggesting an outsize turnout in November compared with other off-year elections. Seventy-six percent of respondents said they would definitely vote in the midterms. Women were even more likely to see 2018 as a pivotal year, according to CBS. Almost nine out of ten women polled said their 2018 vote will be at least as important as that in a presidential election, with one in five saying it’s more important. Most women said President Donald Trump will be a factor in their vote, with more expressing opposition to him than support, 39 percent to 30 percent, the poll found. Democratic and independent women were twice as likely as Republican women to say this year’s election is even more important than a presidential election. YouGov, an online polling company, conducted the survey of 4,989 registered voters on behalf of CBS from Aug. 10-16. The margin of error was plus or minus 1.8 percentage points © Copyright 2018 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Omarosa: Trump ‘Wants to Start a Race War in This Country’

Sunday on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation With Al Sharpton,” former White House staffer and “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault

Newman claimed President Donald Trump wanted to start a “race war.” Manigault Newman said, “Every single time he had some type of issue with the community, I was there. I was the person in the room that could take him to task on that. The one thing I realized once I was there was he was disingenuous to his commitment to diversity.” She added, “There is really no real commitment to diversity in the White House, and he’s unapologetic about it because he’s completely contradicted the commitment he made when he did that campaign of what do you have to lose? Well, clearly, we have to lose a voice, an advocate, someone who understands the issues and knows how to reach out to the community. We have a lot to lose. In fact, we’re losing right now because Donald Trump is disingenuous about his engagement and his outreach. And in fact, I believe he wants to start a race war in this country.” Sunday on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation With Al Sharpton,” former White House staffer and “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman claimed President Donald Trump wanted to start a “race war.” Manigault Newman said, “Every single time he had some type of issue with the community, I was there. I was the person in the room that could take him to task on that. The one thing I realized once I was there was he was disingenuous to his commitment to diversity.” She added, “There is really no real commitment to diversity in the White House, and he’s unapologetic about it because he’s completely contradicted the commitment he made when he did that campaign of what do you have to lose? Well, clearly, we have to lose a voice, an advocate, someone who understands the issues and knows how to reach out to the community. We have a lot to lose. In fact, we’re losing right now because Donald Trump is disingenuous about his engagement and his outreach. And in fact, I believe he wants to start a race war in this country.”

Greek bailout ends, but fears remain for eurozone debt

© Kostis Ntantamis / AFP | File phot

Greece officially emerges from its bailout program on Monday, after eight years of cutbacks enforced in return for massive loans and an economic collapse on the scale of the Great Depression.

The exit is a welcome milestone. But it offers little assurance that the 19-country euro currency union has left behind its problems with debt. The huge debt pile in Greece and an even bigger one in Italy will remain a lurking financial threat to Europe that could take a generation to defuse. Europe’s debt problems have repeatedly raised fears over the past decade of a break-up in the euro, a worst-case scenario that would cause severe economic damage in the region and shake world financial markets and trade. In Greece, successive governments had borrowed heavily for three decades to fund generous spending on jobs given to political supporters, while tolerating widespread tax evasion and covering up budget shortfalls. All that blew up mightily in October 2009, when Greece admitted its budget deficit was much bigger than previously reported. Shocked investors no longer would risk loaning Greece money at affordable rates, forcing the government to turn to rescue loans from the other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. The loans came with tough conditions: closing deficits, which led to aggressive tax increases and spending cuts; and a raft of reforms aimed at improving tax collection and the business climate in general. The economy, hit hard by spending cuts, shrank by a quarter.

Greek debt stands at €322 billion

All told, Greece now owes total debt of 322 billion euros ($366 billion), or over 180 percent of annual economic output. Of that, 256.6 billion euros is owed to eurozone creditors and 32.1 billion to the International Monetary Fund. In 2012, about 107 billion euros in debt was lopped off by inflicting losses on private bondholders. Monday is the day the third and last bailout program expires, meaning no more money is available. Greece will remain subject to quarterly visits by technical experts to make sure it is meeting agreed targets for public finances until the last bailout loan is repaid, in 2060. The other eurozone countries gave Greece enough cash to cover 22 months of financing needs and significantly eased its debt repayment terms. Greece needs to pass the quarterly reviews to activate that debt relief. But Greece will get no new reform requirements. Some experts say that the best way to help Greece would be for eurozone countries to write off a part of the loans altogether. But governments have balked at that. The bailouts were unpopular, particularly in Germany, and loan forgiveness would be a tough sell for leaders such German Chancellor Angela Merkel. George Pagoulatos, a professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business, says that in the end the country’s creditors may have to lower their expectations for how much Greece can save.pro Italy’s slow growth since joining the euro has meant that the eurozone’s third-largest member has failed to work down the huge debt burden it carried into the currency union when it joined as a founding member in 1999. It remains at an elevated 133.4 percent of GDP, the second highest after Greece. Officials associated with the coalition between the populist 5 Star Movement party and the anti-immigration League have made comments about leaving the euro and criticized the European Union’s rules limiting debt and deficits. That has raised fears of a new debt crisis.

Eurozone officials have set up ways to protect the currency union in a crisis. One is to have the European Central Bank offer to buy bonds of countries with excessive borrowing costs. But that requires signing up for a plan to reduce the public deficit, and that appears to be the last thing the current government would do. The most drastic alternative would be for Italy to leave the euro.

Guntram Wolff, director of the Bruegel research institute in Brussels, says Italy’s debt situation is different from Greece’s, in that most Italian bonds are in the hands of Italians. That means the governments’ debt payments stay at home to support spending and investment by Italians.

Panetta: Trump May Not Have Had the Authority to Revoke Brennan’s Security Clearance

 

19 Aug 2018196

Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” former CIA director Leon Panetta said that President Donald Trump might have overstepped his authority when he revoked former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance. Panetta said “The president obviously has power with regards to security clearances. But his power is also limited by an executive order that makes very clear that when it comes to the revocation of a security clearance that it has to be based on national security issues not the politics of somebody, not what that person has said, not how they dress, not how they look but based on national security issues. This president is now going after people, and the indication that I saw is that he’s going to provide these names to the press office to use this issue when it’s a bad news day so that it can cover that particular news story. I think that’s a real misuse of not only security clearances I think it’s a misuse of the office of the president.” He continued, “There is an executive order that is in place, it was signed by Bill Clinton, it was updated by President Bush, it was followed by President Obama, and this president has to abide by that executive order unless he’s prepared to change it. That executive order lays out a process for revoking security clearances. This president is not above the law. He’s required to follow that executive order.” He added, “I think there are questions raised as to whether or not this president has followed the executive order and whether or not he’s provided due process to those that are going to have their security clearances revoked. Yes, president of the United States has power. But that power is limited by the Constitution and by the checks and balances in our system. I think the president has to adhere to those kinds of requirements.”

Hayden: WH-Intel Community Relationship In Danger of Being ‘Permanently Broken’

Image: Hayden:  WH-Intel Community Relationship In Danger of Being 'Permanently Broken'
Former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.) (Alex Wong/Getty Images) By Cathy Burke | Sunday, 19 August 2018

The relationship between the White House and U.S. intelligence community is “dangerously close to being permanently broken,” former director of the National Security Agency and CIA retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden said Sunday. In remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Hayden decried the “whole tone, tenor and behavior of the administration.” Asked if President Donald Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community, including the revocation of the security clearance of ex-CIA chief John Brennan, has brought the relationship to the breaking point, Hayden was grim. “It’s dangerously close to being permanently broken, it is badly injured right now,” he said. “If we’re back in our old agencies, we’re trying to say to our workforce: ‘We have nothing to do with what John Brennan says on TV and we have nothing to do with what the president has done in response. We’ve got our basic lane, we’ve got to be blocking and tackling.'” “But that has to be harder and harder each day as the administration takes these kinds of actions.” “And frankly, although, John’s situation is a proximate cause for all of us signing letters and protesting, I think it’s kind of one additional straw that’s breaking the camel’s back,” he added. For his own part, Hayden said he wouldn’t mind if his clearance was also yanked. “If [Trump’s] not revoking my clearance gave the impression that I somehow moved my commentary to a direction more acceptable to the White House, I would find that very disappointing and frankly unacceptable.”

Trump compares Mueller probe to McCarthyism

(CNN)President Donald Trump on Sunday compared the special counsel investigation to McCarthyism, saying Robert Mueller made the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy “look like a baby.” “Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!,” Trump tweeted. NYT: White House counsel McGahn cooperated ‘extensively’ with special counsel probe  McCarthy led a Cold War-era inquisition of alleged Communists who he claimed had infiltrated American governmental institutions. The Wisconsin Republican’s assertions, famously voiced in a speech in 1950, contributed to the paranoia and fear known as “the Red Scare.” A special Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee investigated McCarthy’s initial claims about Communists infiltrating the State Department and found them to be “a fraud and a hoax.”  Upon becoming chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee’s subcommittee on investigations in 1953, McCarthy expanded his probes into alleged communist activity. In 1954, he began investigating the US Army. The three months of Army-McCarthy hearings shattered the senator’s image and led to his censure by the Senate. The President’s comparison between the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the trials of McCarthyism was one of a series of tweets that lashed out at the probe Sunday morning. Trump directed particular ire at a Saturday New York Times report that White House counsel Don McGahn has been cooperating extensively with the special counsel.Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA and National Security Agency, was asked about Trump’s comparison of Mueller to McCarthy on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“So, Joe McCarthy was a demagogue. And we haven’t heard a public syllable from Bob Mueller in more than a year,” Hayden said. “And I have got to add that McCarthy’s lawyer, Roy Cohn, became Donald Trump’s personal lawyer — lawyer and mentor for decades. I mean, the irony here is just amazing.
Cohn, who died in 1986, worked closely with Trump beginning in the 1970s. For more than a decade, Cohn represented Trump on construction deals and his lawsuit against the NFL.
The New York Times reported McGahn had participated in interviews spanning 30 hours over the last nine months. He provided “detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice,” including providing information that the Mueller team otherwise would not have learned about, the Times reported, citing a dozen current and former White House officials and other individuals briefed on the matter.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, special counsel on the Russian investigation.

“The Failing New York Times wrote a story that made it seem like the White House Councel [sic] had TURNED on the President, when in fact it is just the opposite – & the two Fake reporters knew this,” Trump tweeted. “This is why the Fake News Media has become the Enemy of the People. So bad for America!” He continued: “Some members of the media are very Angry at the Fake Story in the New York Times. They actually called to complain and apologize – a big step forward. From the day I announced, the Times has been Fake News, and with their disgusting new Board Member, it will only get worse!” Shortly after Trump’s criticism, the Times tweeted that it “stands behind the reporting of our Pulitzer-Prize winning reporters @nytmike and @maggieNYT.”

Erdogan vows Turkey will not be cowed by US

US President Donald Trump and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are at odds over the fate of an American pastor detained in Turkey
US President Donald Trump and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are at odds over the fate of an American pastor detained in Turkey (AFP Photo/Tatyana ZENKOVICH)

Ankara (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Saturday that his country would not be cowed by the United States, his latest broadside in the bitter feud between Ankara and Washington. The two NATO members are at odds over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor, which has triggered a trade row and sent the local currency the lira into a tailspin. “We will not surrender to those who present themselves as a strategic partner while at the same time trying to make us a strategic target,” Erdogan said at a congress of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).”Some people threaten us with economy, sanctions, foreign currency exchange rates, interest rates and inflation. We know your shenanigans and we will defy you.” At the end of congress, delegates unanimously re-elected Erdogan as head of the AKP, the state news agency Anadolu reported. Last week, US President Donald Trump said he had doubled the tariffs on aluminium and steel tariffs from Turkey, prompting Ankara to sharply hike tariffs on several US products. And Turkey on Friday threatened to respond in kind if Washington imposed further sanctions, while a court rejected another appeal to free pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held for almost two years on terror charges. The lira has nosedived against the dollar, dropping as much as 20 percent on one day last week. It sunk to a low of well over seven to the dollar earlier this week but was trading at just over six to the dollar on Friday — a loss of 40 percent since the start of the year. The collapse of the currency has been blamed both on the tensions with the United States and Erdogan’s increasing hold on Turkey’s economy and his refusal to allow the central bank to raise interest rates. Meanwhile, Erdogan told the AKP congress that Turkey would press on with and expand its cross-border military operations. Turkey sent troops into northern Syria two years ago to fight against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has received extensive backing from the US-led coalition in the battle agains the Islamic State group. But Turkey accuses the YPG of being the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a rebel group blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies. The Turkish army has also increased its strikes against PKK rear bases in the north of Iraq in the past few months.

White House counsel McGahn cooperated ‘extensively’ with special counsel probe

Washington (CNN)White House counsel Don McGahn has cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, participating in several interviews spanning 30 hours over the last nine months, The New York Times reported Saturday. McGahn has provided “detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice,” including providing information that the Mueller team otherwise would not have learned about, the Times reported, citing a dozen current and former White House officials and other individuals briefed on the matter. CNN has reported that McGahn was interviewed by Mueller’s team last last year. McGahn’s decision to cooperate was partly due to the fact that the President’s initial legal team had decided to fully cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, believing their client had nothing to hide and they could bring a quick end to the probe, the newspaper reported. But McGahn became concerned that the President planned to set him up to be held responsible for any potential illegal incidents of obstruction, the Times reported, citing to people close to him. So the White House counsel and his attorney came up with a strategy to cooperate as extensively as possible with the special counsel in order to prove that there was no wrongdoing by McGahn, the newspaper reported. The Times reported that McGahn has told investigators that he has not witnessed the President take any action that exceeds “his legal authorities.” The newspaper also reported that, according to a person with knowledge of the President’s thinking, Trump incorrectly thought that McGahn would act as a personal attorney would and solely defend the President’s interests in interactions with the special counsel team. But McGahn laid out how Trump “tried to ensure control of the investigation, giving investigators a mix of information both potentially damaging and favorable to the president,” the Times’ report said. In response to a request for comment from the Times, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “The president and Don have a great relationship” and Trump “appreciates all the hard work he’s done, particularly his help and expertise with the judges, and the Supreme Court” nominees. Shortly after the Times published its report on Saturday, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s lawyer, called on Mueller’s team to wrap up its investigation and file a report on its findings. “Time for Mueller investigation to file report,” Giuliani wrote on Twitter. “We will release ours. Don’t interfere with election like Comey.The President had nothing to do with Russians. He didn’t obstruct an investigation. 1.4 million documents and 32 witnesses no privilege raised.” Asked his view about the level of McGahn’s cooperation with Mueller’s team, CNN legal analyst Ross Garber told CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday, “It really is extraordinary.” “To give up those privileges so early, I was frankly surprised, and it appears it may come back to hurt the President and perhaps the presidency,” Garber added. Garber said later, “Let’s be clear: he (McGahn) is a witness. He went in and sat with prosecutors and the agents, and he provided information. The White House counsel is a witness. And probably a very important one.”

Mortgage rates tumble as housing starts to drag down the economy

Getty Images Street of brightly painted colonial style homes in Richmond, Va.

Rates for home loans tumbled in line with the broader bond market, even as the housing market’s woes threatened to become a headwind for the entire U.S. economy. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.53% during the Aug. 16 week, down six basis points, according to the weekly data from mortgage provider Freddie Mac. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.01%, down from 4.05%. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.87%, down three basis points.  Those rates don’t include fees associated with obtaining mortgage loans. Mortgage rates follow the path of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.22%  , which has tumbled over the past week as investors flocked to safe-haven assets in the wake of the Turkey currency crisis. Bond yields decline as prices rise. Lower rates are a boon for borrowers and should help jump-start housing activity. But there’s been so little to buy for so long that many would-be buyers are simply giving up. And that means the sluggish housing market is no longer just a story unto itself. Analysts now believe housing will drag down overall economic growth in the near term. In a research note out Thursday, Doug Duncan, chief economist for Fannie Mae, Freddie’s counterpart, explained: “Housing continues to drag on growth due to lackluster home-building activity, home sales, and brokers’ commissions.” The stagnant housing market may also be impacting the labor market. The percentage of job seekers relocating for new employment was at longtime lows earlier this year, said outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas on Thursday. Just over 10% of job seekers relocated for work in the first six months of 2018, compared with an average of 19% over the previous decade. The more Americans are on the move, the more local economies get a “halo effect” from home sales, according to Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions. As Blomquist puts it, higher home sales activity “bodes well for local real-estate agents, home improvement stores, moving companies and others.”

Dozens of intelligence officials slam Trump for revoking security clearances from his critics

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23:  Former Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John Brennan testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 23: Former Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John Brennan testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

About 75 members of the intelligence community are taking a public stance against President Trump’s unprecedented decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance. In the 48 hours following Trump’s announcement that he would strip Brennan’s clearance — which came after Brennan had repeatedly spoken out publicly against the president — 15 former senior intelligence officials from bipartisan presidential administrations signed onto an open letter condemning the move. They argued that the president’s decision is a transparent “attempt to stifle free speech.” The letter first went public on Thursday with 12 names, including former CIA Directors Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus, as well as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. It has since been updated to include three additional signatories.

Trump asks SEC to mull half-year corporate filings

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he has asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to study the impact of allowing companies to file reports with the financial regulator every six months instead of every quarter.  “Without any doubt that reduces the transparency for investors and they will be left in the dark for longer. Such a strategy is a great recipe to create the biggest loop hole in the financial system. Moreover, under such conditions, any blunder would create a serious threat not for the markets only but for the economy as well.” “We cannot compare the US markets with other markets because of the sheer size of it. From an investment perspective, you want to know on a regular basis what is going on with the company and this enables you to make more timely decisions.” “Delaying the reporting process to six months does make the stocks less sensitive because there is only limited information available. But when there is a surprise, it tends to bring a much bigger move for the stocks as compared to a situation where they report on a quarterly basis.” “Corporations have long complained about the costs of quarterly filing and that tends to make their attention very short term. So people say that if they get away from quarterly filings and got to somewhat longer filings, that would help companies have a longer-term perspective.

“Unfortunately, research shows that’s not exactly true. Most research suggests that companies that are well-managed and have a longer-term perspective do better anyway and are able to manage their quarterly reports. Furthermore, you give investors less information on what’s going on so there’s a risk of injecting volatility in your stock price because investors are not guided the right way. You’re more likely to surprise investors when you’re reporting just twice a year instead of quarterly.”

“Not happy with that at all … I believe that just because you have to report quarterly doesn’t mean you should have to act quarterly. If you can’t explain your process and your goals as a company and adequately say why the results came out the way they did and you feel compelled to play some sort of accounting games to make it seem like every quarter is better than the last, this is a stock I am not interested in owning.” “Shareholders deserve to have a report every quarter on how the company is doing.” “I don’t believe companies should act in the short-term, but I also don’t believe that just because you report quarterly means you are acting in the short term to make things come out nice. “There’s long been a push for less short-termism in running publicly traded companies and that’s where the debate begins. Do you run a company in a more efficient manner if you’re not thinking about having to talk about your results every 90 days?” “The difficulty in making better long-term decisions away from a quarterly reporting cycle certainly stands out as being beneficial, so we’ll see how it develops. It’s not something that can be done with an executive order, but it’s certainly a conversation that started years ago and one that is certainly getting some traction in the marketplace today.” “It’s a long-term issue that has been around certainly for years, and the whole argument coalesces around better corporate planning for the future, making better long term decisions if you’re not strapped with reporting our results every 90 days. There is credible possibility that you end up making short-term decisions more than long-term decisions because of the nature of your reporting cycle. I think there are studies that prove that that’s probably not a positive.”

.SPX
  • .SPX

“The other side of that argument would be that the ability to know how things are actually going at a company on a regular basis, you probably are disenfranchised especially as an individual versus an intuitional investors that probably has the ability to get access to management on a more frequent basis.” “He is not the first person to bring this up, It’s been talked about for at least a decade.” “I don’t think it’s a bad idea. What I think is the challenge is that it will be a hard to get people to change to do that, because investors and certainly shorter-term traders want that information. They want to know how companies are doing on a quarterly basis.” “In theory, it should probably lower market volatility, because the most volatile times of the year are when quarterly earnings start coming out. If you had that only twice the year instead of four times a year, overall market volatility would decline.” “The main thing is that this is a big, gigantic fundamental shift in the way business works in this country, in the way capital markets work. It would be like trying to turn around the Queen Mary in a swimming pool.”“This is not something he can change with an executive order.”

Maduro orders 96 percent devaluation in hyperinflation-stricken Venezuela

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to the media after a meeting for signing an agreement on guarantees for the vote at the National Electoral Council (CNE) headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela March 2, 2018.
Marco Bello | Reuters Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro talks to the media after a meeting for signing an agreement on guarantees for the vote at the National Electoral Council (CNE) headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela March 2, 2018.

Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro announced on Friday a single exchange rate pegged to his socialist governments petro cryptocurrency, effectively devaluing by 96 percent in a move economists said would fan hyperinflation in the chaotic country. In one of the biggest economic overhauls of Maduro’s five-year government, the former bus driver and union leader also said he would hike the minimum wage by over 3,000 percent, boost the corporate tax rate, and increase highly-subsidized gas prices in coming weeks. “I want the country to recover and I have the formula. Trust me,” Maduro said in a nighttime speech broadcast on state television. But economists expressed doubts that Venezuela’s cash-strapped government, which faces U.S. sanctions and has defaulted on its bondholders, would succeed. Venezuelans will see their meager salaries further eroded and companies will struggle with major increases to both taxes and the minimum wage, they said. Amid this aggressive devaluation and monetary expansions due to salaries and bonuses, we are expecting a much more aggressive stage of hyperinflation. All the more so in a context where the elimination of excessive money printing is not credible. The worst of all worlds, said Venezuelan economist Asdrubal Oliveros of consultancy Ecoanalitica. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that inflation in Venezuela would hit 1 million percent this year. After a decade-long oil bonanza that spawned a consumption boom in the OPEC member, many poor citizens are now reduced to scouring through garbage to find food as monthly salaries amount to a few U.S. dollars a month. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have emigrated by bus across South America in one of the region’s worst migration crises.

If turmoil spreads in Europe, expect heavy flows into U.S. stocks

The U.S. will be a safe haven — and besides, the American stock market is attractive
Bloomberg The euro symbol at an exhibition stand at the CeBIT 2018 tech fair in Hanover, Germany.

There’s been no shortage of crises. Trade wars and the collapse of the Turkish lira. One market’s crisis is another’s opportunity, and Europe’s shaky currency union could send U.S. stocks soaring … eventually. In a world of contagion, how could European currency turmoil possibly send U.S. stocks higher? And when might this happen? Imagine living in Europe right now. The Turkish lira just lost about 25% in a matter of days, Brexit continues to loom, but the biggest problem might be Italy. And, yes, your bank may or may not be invested in Turkey. Would you rather own euros or the dollar? Would you rather own European stocks denominated in euros, or dollar-based blue-chips? The smart European money is probably leaving the region, and it’s got to be going somewhere. U.S. stocks are probably overpriced, but when forced to pick a poison, the U.S. looks much less dangerous and is therefore more appealing. The chart below — along with some commentary — was published in my May 30 MarketWatch column.

The U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.48%  followed the green arrow and reached the upside target around 97. As the weekly bar chart shows, the center line of a nearly decade-long trend channel is just below 97.

While above 96, the dollar may continue higher, but there is a good chance that the U.S. dollar will drop back below 97 and retrace some of its recent gains. If the dollar retreats from the 96-97 range, the euro currency will catch a break and slow the migration of euros into the U.S. Regardless of whether the eurozone can postpone the seemingly inevitable (we’ve seen cans kicked down the road before), the S&P 500 Index SPX, +0.33% Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.43%   Nasdaq COMP, +0.13%  and Russell 2000 Index RUT, +0.43%  may not even need a euro crisis to soar higher. On July 17, the S&P 500 activated a chart pattern with massive bullish potential. The chart pattern, and what it takes to confirm or deny its potential run, is discussed here.

Moody’s downgrades Turkey to Ba3, assigns negative outlook

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Moody’s cut Turkey’s sovereign credit rating deeper into “junk” territory on Friday, citing a weakening of public institutions and the related reduction in the predictability of policy making in a country which is facing a currency crisis. People change money at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer“That weakening is exemplified by heightened concerns over the independence of the central bank, and by the lack of a clear and credible plan to address the underlying causes of the recent financial distress,” the agency said in a statement. Moody’s lowered the rating to Ba3 from Ba2 and changed its rating outlook to negative in a move which came on the heels of a downgrade by S&P. “The tighter financial conditions and weaker exchange rate, associated with high and rising external financing risks, are likely to fuel inflation further and undermine growth, and the risk of a balance of payments crisis continues to rise,” it said. The lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year, sparking a sell-off in emerging market currencies and weighing on global stocks. The crisis has been precipitated by investor alarm about President Tayyip Erdogan’s influence over monetary policy. The sell-off has been fueled by a deepening dispute between Turkey and the United States, with Washington imposing sanctions and vowing to continue to do so as it seeks the release of a U.S. pastor on trial in Turkey.

Trump backs CEOs, proposes easing corporate reporting rules

FILE PHOTO: The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hangs on the wall at SEC headquarters in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said meetings with corporate executives prompted him to ask the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to study letting public companies file financial reports every six months instead of every quarter.

Half-yearly reporting would mark a huge change in U.S. disclosure requirements and put them in line with European Union and United Kingdom rules. By tweeting that the switch would give companies more flexibility and reduce costs, Trump waded into a long-running debate on how often companies should report.

“I’d like to see twice, but we’re going to see,” Trump later told reporters when asked about his tweet. He said outgoing PepsiCo Inc ( Chief Executive Indra Nooyi had brought it up to him. “Many market participants, as well as the Business Roundtable which we are a part of, have been discussing how to better orient corporations to have a more long-term view,” Nooyi said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “My comments were made in that broader context, and included a suggestion to explore the harmonization of the European system and the U.S. system of financial reporting. In the end, all companies have to balance short-term and long-term performance.” Some investors on Friday said quarterly disclosures are essential for investment decisions and supported richer U.S. stock valuations, and that shares could become more volatile if companies report twice yearly. But executives and other investors said Trump’s argument made sense because it would cut costs of compiling and filing results and remove short-term distractions for those running companies.The SEC is an independent agency, and the president cannot force it to implement rule changes. Any move to scrap quarterly filings would have to be voted on by the SEC’s sitting commissioners, who are political appointees. “It’s cockamamie idea. For starters, what’s the difference between six and three months? … Either way we’re talking about a very short-term period,” Yardeni added.

Turkish firms and government face $3.8 billion bond crunch in Oct – SocGen

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, attends a funeral ceremony for police officer Hasim Usta who was killed in Saturday’s blasts, in Istanbul, Turkey, December 12, 2016.

LONDON (Reuters) – Turkey and its firms face repayments of nearly $3.8 billion (£2.99 billion) on foreign currency bonds in October as the country struggles with a plunging lira that has lost more than a third of its value since the start of the year. Emerging market (EM) investors have been worried about Turkey’s external debt burden and the ability of its firms and banks to repay after a boom in hard currency issuance to help finance a rapidly growing economy. For companies, the cost of servicing foreign debt has risen by a quarter in lira terms in the past two months alone. “Turkey’s external financing requirements are large,” Jason Daw at Societe General wrote in a note to clients. “It has the highest FX-denominated debt in EM and short-term external debt of $180 billion (£141.6 billion)and total external debt of $460 billion (£361.9 billion).” Calculations by Societe General show that Turkish firms will face $1.8 billion (£1.4 billion) of hard-currency denominated bonds maturing by the year-end while $1.25 billion of government bonds will come due. Additionally, a total of $2.3 billion (£1.81 billion) in interest must be paid. The heaviest month for repayments is October, when $3 billion (£2.36 billion) in principal and $762 million (£599.5 million) interest are due. “Principal and interest payments should be closely watched to year end – it is 25 percent more costly for the corporate sector to repay their obligations compared to June given FX depreciation,” Daw wrote. One mitigating factor may be that much of the short-term external debt was in instruments such as bank loans and trade credits, which could be smoother to restructure or roll over than attempting to do so on bond markets, Daw added. Data from LPC showed that about $7 billion (£5.5 billion) of loans are due to mature until the end of the year, with more than 90 percent of those being bank loans. A number of lenders such as Akbank, Turk Ekonomi Bankasi and Turk Eximbank are in the market attempting to refinance loans. However, international banks are unlikely to make any decisions before ratings agencies react, with many predicting the lending boom would grind to a sudden halt. “Foreign financiers, whether they exist as banks or bond investors, are re-assessing the outlook and related repayment prospects,” said Jurgen Odenius, economic counsellor at PGIM Fixed Income. “Western European banks from Spain and France are particularly exposed, with over half of the debt owed to them.” Shares in some of Europe’s major banks have been hammered over the last week as markets fret over their exposure to Turkey. Odenius also points to the fallout from Turkey’s financial system and the corporate sector being effectively short dollars, calculating that net foreign exchange liabilities (NFL) of the central bank and commercial banks combined amounted to $27 billion (£21.2 billion) at the end of June. “While that is undoubtedly a manageable figure, these liabilities only pertain to foreign lenders,” Odenius wrote in a note to clients. “Including the $147 billion in dollar deposits by resident households and firms, the ‘adjusted’ NFL spirals up to nearly $175 billion — an undoubtedly less manageable figure.” With President Tayyip Erdogan’s administration shunning orthodox monetary policy and highly reluctant to raise interest rates to contain inflation at over 15 percent, markets are also closely watching how the Turkish state goes about refinancing its debts. Erdogan’s government has adamantly rejected speculation that it may have to seek support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Qatar has pledged about $15 billion (£11.8 billion) but details have been scant. “Rather than sticking with the approach taken by numerous other countries – including Argentina earlier this year – by raising interest rates and seeking some form of IMF support, Turkey has shunned both in a very public manner,” wrote Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz“Unless it changes course, the government risks much wider damage – and not just in Turkey.”

Walmart posts biggest U.S. sales rise in a decade, shares soar

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Walmart Inc (WMT.N) posted its best quarterly U.S. sales growth in a decade and upped full-year sales and profit outlooks on Thursday, sending shares surging as a jump in online and grocery purchases showed it can hold its own against Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O). The world’s largest retailer is known for its sprawling stores, a factor that could have worked against it as shoppers migrate online. But Walmart is also the top U.S. grocer, providing a lure for customers to visit stores, where they may also make other impulse buys. Walmart has also overhauled its website and worked to use physical locations as distribution points for online orders of groceries and other goods, helping retain buyers who increasingly expect quick, cheap shipping. Consumers spent more on categories like grocery, apparel and seasonal merchandise in the second quarter, helping sales rebound after a slow start in April. Walmart has recorded four straight years of U.S. growth, unmatched by any other retailer. “We saw strong performance in fresh food,” U.S. Chief Executive Greg Foran said on an earnings conference call, praising sales in produce, meat and bakery. Grocery sales rose the most in nine years. Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce growth ticked higher than previous quarters, driven by a website redesign and continued expansion of online grocery offerings.Sales growth has come at some cost, however, with the company citing continued margin pressures driven by cutting prices, higher freight costs due to a shortage of truck drivers and e-commerce investments. E-commerce sales grew 40 percent in the quarter, up from 33 percent growth in the previous period, and the retailer said U.S. online sales are on track to rise 40 percent for the full year. Walmart now offers curbside pickup of online grocery orders in 1,800 U.S. stores, and the service is bringing in new customers, Biggs said. Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 4.5 percent, excluding fuel price fluctuations, higher than analyst forecasts of 2.38 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Total revenue increased 3.8 percent to $128 billion, beating estimates.

Big Oil is racing to pump all the oil out of Texas

Shale exec: US will surpass Russia in oil production

The oil industry is shelling out billions of dollars in a series of acquisitions in the Permian Basin, the hottest oilfield in the world.

The latest deal came on Tuesday when Diamondback Energy agreed to purchase shale producer Energen for $9.2 billion, forming one of the largest players in the Permian. Late last month, BP ( inked a $10.5 billion deal to buy oil assets in Texas. It was BP’s biggest acquisition in two decades and first major investment in the United States since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. And Concho Resources recently completed a $9.5 billion purchase of RSP Permian that created the largest shale producer in the Permian.

The rush of deals underscores how eager companies are to get a foothold in the region. Rapid technological advances have dramatically slashed the cost to frack in the Permian. Production is spiking so much that Texas is on track to surpass Iran and Iraq, both OPEC members. That would make Texas No. 3 in the world if it were a country. “It’s the most desired region in the United States, if not globally,” said Michael Tran, director of global energy strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

texas oil chart

Permian could rival legendary Saudi field

RBC estimates that Permian production will more than double over the next seven to 10 years, to about 6.5 million barrels per day. That’s more than the entire United States produced in early 2012. “From a price perspective, the Permian Basin is extremely attractive,” Tran said. “Nobody doubts the rock.” The Permian boasts unique geology that allows oil companies to drill more than one layer of the earth at the same time. Wells can be profitable below $40 a barrel. That’s well below today’s price of about $65 a barrel. And some executives believe the amount of Permian oil rivals Saudi Arabia’s legendary Ghawar Field, the world’s largest conventional oilfield.

permian basin chart

But major obstacles loom in the booming Permian Basin, at least in the short run. Because of hyper growth, the Permian is quickly running out of pipelines to move oil out of the region.

“The pipeline constraints are real, but they are transitory,” said Vincent Piazza, senior energy analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “The infrastructure has had a difficult time keeping up with the explosive growth.

More pipelines are coming, but they will take time. Clay Seigle, managing director of oil at research firm Genscape, warned of “significant challenges” for transporting oil out of the Permian until the second half of next year. At the same time, Permian producers are feeling sticker shock as prices spike for talent, supplies and services. Oil executives are betting they can maximize their chances of success by working together. The recent deals “signal a clear shift in the US shale industry towards consolidation as players seek operational and capital efficiencies,” analysts at research firm Rystad Energy wrote in a report on Wednesday.