North Korea summit: Pence warns Kim Jong-un not to ‘play’ Trump

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mike Pence made the comments in a Fox News interview broadcast on Monday night

US Vice-President Mike Pence has warned North Korea’s Kim Jong-un not to “play” President Donald Trump if they meet next month. Mr Pence said in a Fox News interview that such a move would be a “great mistake” by the North Korean leader. Mr Pence also said there was “no question” that Mr Trump could walk away from the 12 June summit. North Korea has threatened to pull out of the meeting after comments by US National Security Adviser John Bolton. The country reacted furiously when Mr Bolton suggested it would follow a “Libya model” of denuclearisation. Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi agreed with Western powers in 2003 to dismantle his programme in return for the lifting of sanctions. Eight years later he was killed at the hands of Western-backed rebels. North Korea is also angry at current US-South Korea military drills and has halted talks with the South in response. South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to meet Mr Trump in Washington on Tuesday to discuss plans for the summit. Mr Pence said that Mr Trump would be willing to walk away from the planned Singapore meeting. “I don’t think President Trump is thinking about public relations, he’s thinking about peace,” the vice-president said. The New York Times reported on Sunday that the US president is asking aides and advisers whether he should continue to go forward with the summit.Meanwhile, a group of journalists from the UK, US, Russia and China has flown in to North Korea from Beijing to cover the ceremony marking the dismantling of the country’s nuclear test site later this week. The exact timing for the ceremony at the Punggye-ri site has yet to be announced. After the latest nuclear test there in September, Chinese researchers reported a massive collapse which could threaten the stability of the surrounding mountains. Only media are attending the ceremony, not expert monitors, and the invitation to South Korean reporters was withdrawn amid the ongoing spat over the military drills.

Donald Trump says US reconsidering ZTE penalties as ‘favour’ to Xi Jinping

Trump said he would ‘envision’ a revised penalty for the company, including a requirement that it appoint a new board of directors and a ‘very large fine’ of perhaps US$1.3 billion

President Donald Trump said his administration is reconsidering penalties on Chinese telecommunications maker ZTE Corp. as a personal favour to the country’s president, Xi Jinping and may fine the company more than US$1 billion. “The president asked me to look into that,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. Asked about the company, he said there is no deal yet with China – but it was not clear whether he was speaking specifically about ZTE or about broader trade disputes. “You’re really hurting American companies also” by shutting down ZTE and the review is “a favour” to Xi, Trump said. He said he would “envision” a revised penalty for the company including a requirement that it appoint a new board of directors and a “very large fine” of perhaps US$1.3 billion. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier that the US did not mean to “put ZTE out of business” by penalising the company for violating US sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The US Commerce Department’s review of penalties against ZTE Corp. for the violations will bear in mind any threats to American security, Mnuchin said Tuesday during a hearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in Washington. “Anything that they consider will take into account the very important national security issues, and those will be addressed,” he said. The US ban on ZTE for breaching terms of a settlement over sanction-breaking sales to Iran and North Korea has become entwined in the trade dispute between the US and China.The countries announced at least a temporary trade truce and dropped their tariff threats on Saturday after setting up a framework for addressing trade imbalances. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called the company’s behaviour “egregious” when he announced the action April 16. Four amendments concerning ZTE have been proposed to a Defense Department bill in the House and may be granted votes this week. The Shenzhen, China-based company depends on US components, such as chips from Qualcomm Inc., to build its smartphones and networking gear. ZTE suspended all major operations because of the ban and is relying on its cash reserves for daily expenses, including salaries of its 75,000 employees. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday castigated the Trump administration’s plan to review penalties on ZTE, saying on the Senate floor that the action signals to China that “they can roll over us on issue after issue.” He added that on Friday he spoke directly to Trump for half an hour about the matter, and also to other administration officials. “The president and Secretary Mnuchin, what they are doing sends a dangerous signal to businesses around the world that the United States is willing to forgive sanction violations or reduce penalties,” Schumer said. “It emboldens foreign companies to play fast and loose with US sanctions when we should be putting the fear of God into these companies, especially one that was as brazen as ZTE.” China has frequently argued that the trade imbalance can be fixed by the US lifting strict export curbs on high-technology goods. One of China’s trade demands in talks with the US this month included removing a ban on selling integrated circuits to the Asian nation. “Export control items are absolutely not on the table for discussions,” said Mnuchin. “We would in no way look to loosen that.”

China says it will cut tariffs on some auto parts and vehicles

115547478YF006_986_Vehicles
Getty Images China’s Finance Ministry said that it will cut import tariffs on some vehicles to 15 percent, down from as much as 25 percent.

The announcement, which came Tuesday, also said that tariffs on automotive parts would fall to 6 percent. The cuts will be effective from July 1. The move signifies an attempt to open up the Chinese market to international players. Discussion of a potential automotive sector tariff cut surfaced in April, and was mentioned in a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that month. According to the Finance Ministry, the average tax on qualifying vehicles will now be 13.8 percent. The European automotive sector was trading up just over 0.7 percent Tuesday morning, with German parts maker Schaeffler leading the way.

U.S. lawmakers say they will try to block possible ZTE deal with China

FILE PHOTO – Visitors pass in front of the Chinese telecoms equipment group ZTE Corp booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Picture

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday they would try to stop President Donald Trump from easing penalties on Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp, saying the United States should not bow to pressure from Beijing to help the troubled firm as part of a possible trade deal. The reaction from Capitol Hill could complicate the Trump administration’s efforts to narrow a $335 billion annual trade gap with China, as Republicans and Democrats accused the president of bending to pressure from Beijing to ease up on a company that has admitted to violating sanctions on Iran. “The proposed solution is like a wet noodle,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer accused Trump of putting national security at risk for minor trade concessions and said possible remedies floated by the Trump administration, such as changes to the company’s board of directors, were inadequate. According to sources familiar with the discussions, the proposed deal would lift a seven-year ban that prevents U.S. chipmakers and other companies from selling components to ZTE, which makes smartphones and telecommunications networking gear. In return, China would eliminate tariffs on U.S. agriculture or agree to buy more farm products from the United States. The U.S. Commerce Department imposed the ban in April after it determined that ZTE had broken an agreement after it pleaded guilty to shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran.

The ban has threatened the viability of China’s second-largest telecoms maker by cutting off access to companies that supply 25 to 30 percent of its components. Suppliers include some of the biggest U.S. tech companies, including Alphabet Inc’s Google, which licenses its Android operating system to ZTE, and chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.

ZTE last week said that it had suspended its main operations.

The U.S. Department of Defense has also stopped selling ZTE’s mobile phones and modems in stores on its military bases, citing potential security risks. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers that the treatment of ZTE was not “a quid pro quo or anything else” related to trade and said national security concerns would be taken into consideration. “I can assure you that whatever changes or decisions that are made in Commerce will deal with the national security issues,” Mnuchin told a U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee. Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they were looking at ways they could block any possible changes. “We will begin working on veto-proof congressional action,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter. Lawmakers are considering several possible options and aim to act “soon,” said Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is weighing several possible changes to a defense-policy bill that would also keep up the pressure on ZTE. One proposal would block the sale of ZTE products and those of another Chinese company, Huawei, until national security officials certify they are safe. Another proposal would require the director of national intelligence to consider the security implications of any changes to the ZTE ban, while a third would require reports on quid pro quo offers between the U.S. and Chinese governments over any possible plan. Shares of ZTE’s major U.S. suppliers, which would be able to restart sales to ZTE if the Commerce Department’s ban on U.S. exports is lifted, rose after the news overnight. Optical component makers Acacia Communications shares led the pack with a 4.6 percent rise, and shares of Oclaro Inc shares were up 1.7 percent. Acacia received 30 percent of its total revenue in 2017 from ZTE and Oclaro received 18 percent from ZTE. Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu and Diane Bartz; writing by Andy Sullivan; editing by Chris Sanders and Jonathan Oatis

Al Green: Democrats Will Impeach Trump if We Retake the House

‘Every member of the House is accorded the opportunity to bring up impeachment’ May 22, 2018

If Americans give the House of Representatives back to the Democratic Party this November, one of first things that will happen is the impeachment of President Trump, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) said Tuesday. “There’s a good likelihood there will be articles of impeachment” brought against Trump, Rep. Green said. “Here is a point that I think is salient, and one that ought to be referenced. Every member of the House is accorded the opportunity to bring up impeachment. This is not something the Constitution has bestowed upon leadership. It’s something every member has the right and privilege of doing.” Rep. Green, who has been one of the most vocal proponents of impeaching Trump, made the comments during an appearance on CSPAN.

Here’s a transcript:

ECHEVARRIA: “If Democrats take back the House in November, what is the likelihood that Speaker Nancy Pelosi bring up an impeachment charge?”
GREEN: “I’ll let Speaker Pelosi address her actions. But here is a point that I think is salient and one that ought to be referenced. Every member of the House is accorded the opportunity to bring up impeachment. This is not something that the Constitution has bestowed upon leadership. It is something that every member has the right and privilege of doing. I am not sure that there will be members who are going to wait for someone else if that someone else, doesn’t matter who it is, is declining to do it. We can all do it. And I think there is a good likelihood there will be Articles of Impeachment.”
ECHEVARRIA: “Have you heard directly from the Minority Leader about these efforts of yours, specifically asking you to stop or hold back? Anything along that line?”
GREEN: “Well, I don’t think you have to ask me what I’ve heard. If you have read publications, it is intuitively obvious to perhaps even the most casual observer that she and I are in different places on this. I respect her position.”

‘World no longer accepts US deciding for them’, Iran’s Rouhani says

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani dismissed threats made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, saying the rest of the world no longer accepts Washington making decisions on their behalf.
© HO/Iranian Presidency/AFP | A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on May 8, 2018, shows President Hassan Rouhani standing near members of his government while giving a speech on Iranian TV in Tehran.

“Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?” Rouhani said in a statement carried by multiple Iranian news agencies. “The world today does not accept that the United States decides for the world. Countries have their independence,” he added. It was a pointed response to Pompeo’s speech earlier in the day, in which he threatened the “strongest sanctions in history” against Iran unless it capitulated to a series of 12 demands regarding its regional behaviour and missile programme. But Rouhani dismissed the administration of President Donald Trump as a “move 15 years backwards to the era of Bush junior and a repeat of the same statements as 2003”. “The era of such statements has evolved and the Iranian people have heard these statements hundreds of times, and no longer pays attention,” he added. European leaders have strongly condemned the US move to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions, seeing it as undermining regional security and a direct attack on their economic interests. Russia and China two other parties to the agreement have also criticised the US move and vowed to maintain trade with Iran. “The world does not accept the logic by which a gentleman who was head of the spy service… decides for others,” said Rouhani, referring to Pompeo’s recent job as head of the CIA.

China says it will cut tariffs on some auto parts and vehicles

115547478YF006_986_Vehicles

China’s Finance Ministry said that it will cut import tariffs on some vehicles to 15 percent, down from as much as 25 percent. The announcement, which came Tuesday, also said that tariffs on automotive parts would fall to 6 percent. The cuts will be effective from July 1. The move signifies an attempt to open up the Chinese market to international players. Discussion of a potential automotive sector tariff cut surfaced in April, and was mentioned in a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that month. According to the Finance Ministry, the average tax on qualifying vehicles will now be 13.8 percent. The European automotive sector was trading up just over 0.7 percent Tuesday morning, with German parts maker Schaeffler leading the way.

Trump on China: Barriers and tariffs to come down for first time

Trump on China: Barriers and tariffs to come down for first time
© Getty Images

President Trump on Monday said that barriers to trade with China will “come down,” adding that Beijing will buy agricultural products from American farmers as a result of trade talks. “On China, Barriers and Tariffs to come down for first time,” the president wrote on Twitter

“China has agreed to buy massive amounts of ADDITIONAL Farm/Agricultural Products – would be one of the best things to happen to our farmers in many years!” he said in a separate tweet.

 

U.S. officials have been participating in ongoing discussions about trade policies with their Chinese counterparts.  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that the United States had put its threat to enact tariffs on Chinese imports “on hold” for the time being.  Trump railed against China and its trade practices when he was running for president, but has since stressed a positive relationship with President Xi Jinping. He recently sparked criticism for saying he wanted to help a Chinese telecommunications firm get “back into business” after the Commerce Department prohibited U.S. companies from selling to ZTE, claiming it violated U.S. sanctions.

Trump presses China to be ‘strong & tight’ on border with North Korea

Trump presses China to be ‘strong & tight’ on border with North Korea
© iStock
President Trump on Monday urged China to keep a “strong & tight” hold on its border with North Korea until a deal is reached with Pyongyang over its nuclear program.  “China must continue to be strong & tight on the Border of North Korea until a deal is made,” the president wrote on Twitter.

“The word is that recently the Border has become much more porous and more has been filtering in. I want this to happen, and North Korea to be VERY successful, but only after signing!”

The tweet comes ahead of Trump’s June 12 summit in Singapore, where he is slated to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump previously tried to enlist China’s help in pressuring North Korea to come to the table for discussions. Kim, who met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for the first time last month, has already met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But Pyongyang last week suggested it could withdraw from the talks if the United States pursues “unilateral” nuclear disarmament from North Korea.

WSJ: Mueller Probe Now Looks Outside Russian Influence

Image: WSJ: Mueller Probe Now Looks Outside Russian Influence
Special Consel Robert Mueller (Andrew Burton/Getty Images) By Eric Mack

Special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election with a subpoena on work of Israeli businessman Joel Zamel’s private consulting firms and reported ties to the United Arab Emirates, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. “This is much ado about nothing,” Zamel’s attorney Marc Mukasey told the Journal. “. . . [Zamel] offered nothing to the Trump campaign, received nothing from the Trump campaign, delivered nothing to the Trump campaign, and was not solicited by, or asked to do anything for, the Trump campaign.” The work of Zamel’s companies Wikistrat and the Psy Group are of interest to the special counsel, and the reports of the investigation expanding outside of Russian influence are likely the cause of President Donald Trump’s pointed tweets Sunday afternoon.

President Trump added a demand the Justice Department look into the “political purposes” of Trump campaign investigations and who might have directed the efforts from the Obama administration.

Wikistrat is characterized as a crowdsourced analysis firm, while the Psy Group is “a secretive private intelligence firm with the motto ‘shape reality,'” according to the Journal. Along with George Nader, an adviser to the UAE crown prince, and U.S. defense contractor Erik Prince, Zamel reportedly met with Donald Trump Jr. before the 2016 presidential election. After the election, Nader reportedly made a $2 million payment to Zamel, according to the WSJ report. “Prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Eric Prince [sic], George Nader, and another individual who may be Joel Zamel,” Donald Jr. attorney Alan Futerfas wrote in a statement, per the Journal. “They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy . . . [Donald Jr.] was not interested and that was the end of it.”

Trump asking aides whether he should proceed with North Korea summit: report

President Trump has been asking his aides if he should move forward with the planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month over fears that he could be politically embarrassed, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Trump was surprised and angered by a recent announcement from North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator that North Korea would be unwilling to trade its nuclear weapons for economic aid, administration officials told the Times. On Saturday night, Trump called South Korean President Moon Jae-in to ask why North Korea’s public statements didn’t match the private assurances Kim had given Moon, the Times reported. The call took place three days before Moon and Trump are set to meet in Washington, D.C. Aides said they were concerned about the president’s understanding of North Korea’s nuclear program and what is needed to ensure denuclearization, the Times reported. Moon and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said Kim seemed highly knowledgeable about the details of the program.

According to the Times, aides are also concerned Trump signaled too strongly his willingness to meet with Kim and are afraid Kim, sensing Trump’s eagerness, might offer assurances with a short lifespan.

There is also more pressure on the president to come out of the summit with a strong deal following his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal. However, former aides told the Times that Trump has been resistant to receiving detailed briefings about the nuclear program. Last week, North Korea canceled a meeting with South Korea and warned they could cancel the summit meeting because of U.S. military drills. Until recently, administration officials had said they expected Kim to agree to denuclearization and a fast timetable for winding down the nuclear program, the Times reported.

Donald Trump ‘offered to ease ZTE sanctions to persuade China to help with North Korea summit’

An inside source said that ‘it doesn’t look like [North Korea] wants to denuclearise at all’ as US officials worry about June 12 Trump-Kim summit

The White House has been rattled by North Korea’s recent about-face in negotiations over its nuclear weapons programme, with US President Donald Trump calling South Korean President Moon Jae-in for his thoughts on the matter, an insider has revealed. Fearing that China has poisoned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un against him, Trump also attempted to extend an olive branch to President Xi Jinping by offering to ease sanctions on Chinese telecoms company ZTE, a second source said.  The moves come with just over three weeks to go before Trump is to meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 in a summit that Pyongyang has threatened to pull out of. Late on Saturday, Trump called Moon to ask why Pyongyang had shifted to a harder-line position, cancelling a meeting with South Korean officials and threatening to pull out of the June 12 talks, a senior US official with knowledge of the conversation said.

Ryanair CEO says some airlines will not ‘survive’ the winter due to elevated oil prices

Norwegian Air - and other airlines will go bust, says Ryanair CEO
Airlines could go bust due to higher oil prices, says Ryanair CEO
The chief of budget airline Ryanair said Monday he fully expects some of his European rivals to file for bankruptcy over the coming months. The Irish airline warned that elevated oil prices — and consequently fuel costs — would probably cause some of its regional peers to go bust in early 2019. A dramatic upswing in crude futures over the past 12 months has weighed on the industry, at a time when major airlines are being forced to adapt to a much more competitive marketplace. “Clearly $80 a barrel oil is going to bring casualties in Europe this winter,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Monday. “Oil is going to be a driver but I think it will be a driver of change to the competition landscape in Europe. Some of those airlines who couldn’t make money when oil was at $40 a barrel last year, I don’t think will survive this winter if oil remains up at these elevated levels,” he added. Brent crude futures traded near multi-year highs at $79.16 a barrel on Monday morning, up 0.8 percent, while WTI stood at $71.81 a barrel, 0.7 percent higher. The Irish airline reported a record annual profit Monday, despite concerns over a previous rostering mess-up that triggered a dispute with pilots. Yet, O’Leary said he was “pessimistic” over the company’s growth prospects in the near-term amid higher fuel costs and no fare growth. Europe’s largest low-cost carrier posted a record 1.45 billion euros ($1.7 billion) profit after tax in its financial year ending March 31. That constituted a 10 percent rise year-on-year, narrowly beating analyst expectations.
Ulrich Baumgarten | Getty Images

However, Ryanair said returns were likely to dip slightly over the coming financial year. The group forecast profit after tax of between 1.25 billion and 1.35 billion euros over the next 12 months, lower than analyst forecasts. The downbeat tone was in stark contrast to Europe’s second-biggest low-cost airline, easyJet, which said last week that it anticipated profits would rise more than 30 percent this year as it benefits from robust travel demand and the collapse of some smaller rivals.

Venezuela’s Maduro wins second term despite charges of sham election

Low turnout, as many opponents boycotted election
Reuters Electoral workers wait for voters Sunday at a polling station during the presidential election in Maracaibo, Venezuela.

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Nicolás Maduro won a second six-year term, extending the rule of his predecessor’s radical leftist movement, in an election the opposition boycotted and the U.S. and other countries said would prove to be a sham. Even before the ballots were counted, opposition candidate Henri Falcón cried foul, calling for a new vote this year. Despite an opposition boycott that translated into near-empty voting stations in parts of the country on Sunday, the state electoral board allied with Maduro said less than half of the electorate voted, with 5.8 million people casting ballots for the president as opposed to 1.8 million for his main challenger, Falcón, a leftist former governor and ex-soldier. Falcón had broken with other opposition leaders who called for a boycott. Maduro, a former bus driver who received his formative political training in Communist Cuba, has led the oil-rich country through its worst economic crisis in history. Venezuelans tell pollsters they are starving, hyperinflation is expected to hit 13,000%, the health-care system is collapsing, and as many as 5,000 people are fleeing the country daily. “I will carry out an economic revolution that will shake the entire world,” Maduro said at his closing campaign rally on Thursday. “I’ll do it whatever the cost, however long it takes. I will dedicate my life to changing the economy of the country.”

Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia collusion probe will wrap up by September 1, says Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani said that the investigation is expected to end by September 1 to avoid affecting the US midterm elections

US President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said that Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 election campaign colluded with Russia will end by September 1. Giuliani told The New York Times on Sunday that the office of Robert Mueller – the special counsel who is leading the investigation – had shared the timeline some two weeks ago. Trump, who has repeatedly described the investigation as a “witch hunt,” views it as a stain on his presidency and wants it over – an end Giuliani apparently sought to further through his comments on the probe’s conclusion. “You don’t want another repeat of the 2016 election where you get contrary reports at the end and you don’t know how it affected the election,” he told the Times, referring to the investigation’s possible impact on midterm elections in November.

Former FBI director James Comey – fired by Trump last year – announced that the bureau would reopen an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private email server just 11 days before the 2016 presidential vote, a move that may have helped cost her the election. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and an assortment of campaign aides have all been caught in Mueller’s investigation, variously pleading guilty, cutting a plea deal or fighting the case in court. But a year after the probe began, the big questions remain unanswered: Did Trump’s campaign collude with the Kremlin to skew the 2016 election? What did the president know and when did he know it? Did he obstruct justice?  Can a sitting president be indicted?

Mnuchin declares US-China trade war ‘on hold’ as talks progress

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) is seen as he and a U.S. delegation for trade talks with China arrive at a hotel in Beijing, China May 3, 2018.
Jason Lee | Reuters Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) is seen as he and a U.S. delegation for trade talks with China arrive at a hotel in Beijing, China May 3, 2018.
The United States and China have agreed to drop their tariff threats on billions of dollars worth of each country’s goods while they work on a wider trade agreement, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday. “We are putting the trade war on hold. Right now we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework,” Mnuchin said in a television interview on “Fox News Sunday” in reference to the tentative measures on reducing the trade deficit that the two nations discussed this week. On Saturday, Beijing and Washington said they would keep talking about measures under which China would import more energy and agricultural commodities from the United States to close the $335 billion annual U.S. goods and services trade deficit with China. Nick Note: In other words no sanctions against China on steel and aluminum…. another bullshit deal up in smoke. its all about the headline and nothing more.

Roger Stone says Trump may not run in 2020, pledges to line up challenger to Pence-Haley ticket

101317 Correll Roger Stone intermediary pic
Roger Stone suggested President Trump may ultimately decide not to run for re-election (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone pledged to have someone lined up to challenge Vice President Mike Pence should he run for president in 2020. During an interview Friday with Big League Politics, a right-wing news website, Stone suggested that President Trump may not ultimately run for re-election if his first term is adequately successful and denounced the possibility of a 2020 ticket with Pence and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. “I guarantee you I will have a candidate challenge Mike Pence,” said while speaking on the “Howley Reports” show.  Asked what he thinks about Haley, Stone grimaced and alleged that she “loves war” that isn’t in the interest of the U.S. On the prospect of a Pence-Haley ticket, Stone exclaimed, “Bring it on!” The New York Times recently reported that Trump has been alarmed by the rising diplomatic star of Haley and even grown suspicious of her political ambitions. “Republicans close to the White House whisper about the prospect of an alliance between Ms. Haley and Vice President Mike Pence,” the Times reported in April, pointing to a possible run as a ticket in 2020. Though Trump has already begun campaigning for re-election — he has already chosen a 2020 slogan: “Keep America Great!” — Stone cast doubt on it being a sure thing. “I don’t think that it is a foregone conclusion that the president will definitely run,” Stone said. “If at the end of the next three years the economy is very strong, he has built the wall, sealed our borders, he’s reformed our immigration policies, he has redone these trade agreements so that they are beneficial to the United States, that he has got a peace agreement in Korea — I could see him saying, ‘You know what? I don’t need this anymore. I made America great again. I have kept my promises to the American people. I’m heading off to the golf course.'”

U.S. Led Coalition Hits ISIS in Iraq, Syria With 66 Strikes in Past Week

A F-18 takes off from the deck of the USS Harry S. Truman; the carrier strike group has conducted air operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve / Getty Image

The Department of Defense announced that a U.S.-led coalition completed 66 strikes against the Islamic State between May 11-17. Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and its partners stuck ISIS caves, campsites, training camps, bomb factories, and other targets in Iraq during five of the past seven days. No strikes were carried out in Iraq on Sunday or Thursday.

In Syria – where despite the coalition’s progress, ISIS has been able to gain a foothold in parts of the country – strikes occurred every day of the week. Forces targeted and destroyed an ISIS command-and-control center, several vehicles, weapons storage facilities, supply routes, bomb factories, communications buildings, and several fighting positions.

The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials noted. U.S. aircraft worked with the air assets of several other countries in the joint effort to “destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria.” The strikes may also have been carried out by rocket-propelled artillery or ground-based tactical artillery. The coalition defines a strike as “one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.”

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

While officials have noted work still remains in the fight to destroy ISIS, the terrorist group has lost significant ground in Iraq and Syria. The push against ISIS has resulted in the restoration of freedom of religion and renewed construction in the region. As a result, there are “encouraging signs” life is returning to normal for civilians in Iraq and Syria, according to a JTF spokesman last month. Nick Note: Did i not hear President Bullshiiter announce US forces were pulling out. I guess his handlers decided otherwise……….Wonder how long he will last. Will it be an indictment, Impeachment, A heart attack in the middle of the night or something far more sinister?????

China agrees to import more from U.S., no sign of $200 billion figure

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China has agreed to significantly increase its purchases of U.S. goods and services, the two countries said on Saturday, but made no mention of a $200 billion target the White House had touted earlier. Beijing and Washington agreed they would keep talking about measures under which China would import more energy and agricultural commodities from the United States to close the$335 billion annual U.S. goods and services trade deficit with China.

A joint statement issued at the conclusion of intensive trade talks in Washington did not indicate whether the two countries would delay or drop their tariff threats on billions of dollars worth of each country’s goods, which has sparked fears of a wider trade war and roiled financial markets.

“There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States’ trade deficit in goods with China,” the joint statement said. “To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services.” President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion on Chinese goods to combat what his administration says is Beijing’s misappropriation of U.S. intellectual property through joint venture requirements and other policies that force technology transfers. Beijing denies such coercion and has threatened equal retaliation, including tariffs on some of its largest U.S. imports – among them aircraft, soybeans and autos. A report by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency described the statement from the two governments as “vowing not to launch a trade war against each other.” While the statement said the two sides would engage at high levels and “seek to resolve their economic and trade concerns in a proactive manner,” it made no mention of tariffs.It said there was consensus between Washington and Beijing on the need to create “favourable conditions to increase trade” in manufactured goods and services. This could be a reference to China’s previous pledges to open up more economic sectors to services.A commentary published by Xinhua on Sunday declared the statement a “good example of win-win”, noting that it would help America reduce its trade deficit by increasing exports to China and allow China to diversify and raise the quality of its imports. It also argued that China has always resisted any “unreasonable demands” by the United States, never compromising or accepting restrictive conditions.The commentary added that a resolution to the trade dispute will be complicated, difficult and take a long time.

Europe, China, Russia discussing new deal for Iran: newspaper

 

FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi//File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) – Diplomats from Europe, China and Russia are discussing a new accord to offer Iran financial aid to curb its ballistic missile development and meddling in the region, in the hope of salvaging its 2015 nuclear deal, a German newspaper reported on Sunday. The officials will meet in Vienna in the coming week under the leadership of senior European Union diplomat Helga Schmid to discuss next steps after the May 8 decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to pull out of a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper said, citing senior EU sources. Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China would participate in the meeting, but the United States would not, it said. It was not immediately clear if Iran – which has resisted calls to curb its ballistic missile program in the past – would take part. Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most Western sanctions. One of the main complaints of the Trump administration was that the accord did not cover Iran’s missile program or its support for armed groups in the Middle East which the West considers terrorists.

Concluding a new agreement that would maintain the nuclear provisions and curb ballistic missile development efforts and Tehran’s activities in the region could help convince Trump to lift sanctions against Iran, the paper said.

“We have to get away from the name ‘Vienna nuclear agreement’ and add in a few additional elements. Only that will convince President Trump to agree and lift sanctions again,” the paper quoted a senior EU diplomat as saying. The EU’s energy chief sought to reassure Iran on Saturday that the 28-member bloc remained committed to salvaging the nuclear deal, and strengthening trade with Tehran. Officials from the EU, Germany and other countries that remain committed to the deal have said it would disastrous if EU efforts fail to preserve it. Iran has struggled to achieve financial benefits from the deal, partly because remaining unilateral U.S. sanctions over its missile program deterred major Western investors from doing business with Tehran. The officials are looking for a new approach given an understanding that it would be difficult for European firms to work around new U.S. sanctions, the newspaper reported. It said the new deal could include billions of dollars of financial aid for Iran, in line with an EU deal that provided billions in aid to Turkey for taking in millions of migrants and closing its borders, which helped end a 2015 migrant crisis. Iran and European powers have made a good start in talks over how to salvage the 2015 deal but much depends on what happens in the next few weeks, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said last week.

Trump’s confrontational trade stance is just boomeranging back to imperil U.S.

Tension is just reinforcing macro flows that lead to wider U.S. trade deficit
Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s bellicose trade disputes are just exacerbating the macroeconomic forces that lead to a larger trade deficit, according to Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at S&P Global Ratings Services. With the recent tax cut and rising budget deficit, the U.S. is relying more on foreign money flows to pay our bills. With the increased uncertainty from trade disputes, even more money will flow into the haven of U.S. assets. With so much money pouring in from overseas, the U.S. capital account is forced into surplus. And given that the capital account and current account must balance out, the U.S. inevitably runs a trade deficit, she said in a note to clients on Friday. Targeted tariffs might narrow a bilateral balance with China, but that won’t necessarily fix the boarder trade deficit, she said. A surge of foreign investors could cause an inverted yield curve as low-term Treasury rates push lower at the same time the Fed is raising rates at the short end. Some Fed officials are worried that an inverted yield curve is a precursor of a recession. So the Fed may have to slow its rate hikes, Bovino said. There is also the opposite risk — that the trade tensions upset U.S. relations with key partners just when the U.S. economy needs foreign capital to fund its spending spree. If demand from abroad for U.S Treasuries weakens just as our fiscal and trade deficits widen, the U.S. could see long-term interest rates jump and a tightening of credit conditions, thus slowing down the growth rate “or worse, cutting the U.S. expansion short,” she said.

Tesla needs to raise $10.5 billion in capital to keep going through 2020: Goldman Sachs

Goldman is sticking with a sell rating on Tesla shares as it expects the electric-car maker to struggle to meet production targets
Reuters

Tesla Inc. will need about $10.5 billion in fresh capital through 2020 to keep operating and meet its own targets, Goldman Sachs analysts said Thursday. That’s the sum needed from external capital raises and debt refinancing for the electric-car maker to fund its current operations and finance new product spend and capacity additions, Goldman analysts led by David Tamberrino wrote in a Thursday note. Goldman is assuming that Tesla TSLA, -2.71%  will go ahead with a plan to launch a new vehicle manufacturing plant and gigafactory in China. “We believe this level of capital transactions may be funded through multiple avenues, including new bond issuance (secured and/or unsecured), convertible notes, and equity,” the analyst wrote. “We see several options available to the company to refinance maturing debt and raise incremental funds, which should allow Tesla to fund its growth targets.” Still, issuing more debt may weigh on the company’s credit profile, while issuing equity or convertibles would dilute the current shareholders, said the note. “Our preference is to express long views via the front-end convertible credit — and we continue to express a bearish view on the equity,” said Tamberrino. Tesla said in its most recent earnings that it does not intend to raise capital this year, and, on a controversial earnings call, Chief Executive Elon Musk said he does not “want” to raise capital. But numerous parties, including credit-rating agency Moody’s Investors Service, have said the company will inevitably need to tap the markets as it continues to struggle to meet production goals for its Model 3 mass-market sedan. Goldman said it is sticking with its sell rating on Tesla shares, as it expects the company to continue to be challenged by its manufacturing process and to be free-cash-flow negative through 2020. If Tesla hits its production targets with the Model 3, its mass-market vehicle, and it is able to “sustainably” produce 10,000 of the sedans a week in 2020 as well as move forward with its other expansion plans, its would still need about $5 billion in debt (refinancing and growth), the note said. Tesla’s high-yield bonds, the 5.300% notes that mature in 2025, were last quoted on Thursday at 87.125 cents on the dollar to yield 7.646%, according to MarketAxess, or at a yield spread of 456 basis points over Treasurys, 1 basis point wider on the day.

U.S. Wants to Restart Nuclear Talks With Iran, but Hasn’t Budged on Demands

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this month at the State Department in Washington.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will outline a new strategy on Monday for constraining Iran, centered around a demand that the United States’ European allies have already rejected: that Tehran enter negotiations in a new deal that would permanently ban Iran from any substantive manufacturing of nuclear fuel and, in turn, forever cut off a pathway to building a bomb. Mr. Pompeo is expected to call for broadening the number of countries engaging in the talks, perhaps hoping to pick up help from other nations, like Japan and Arab states, that were not involved in negotiating the 2015 deal with Iran that President Trump pulled out of about 10 days ago. But the negotiating strategy of the United States’ new chief diplomat is unlikely to be embraced by major

European powers, who opposed Mr. Trump’s move and are talking now about how to nullify the effects of threatened United States sanctions on European firms that do business with Iran.

The core of the opposition has been from the European Union, whose leader of the heads of government, Donald Tusk, issued a stinging Twitter post this week about Mr. Trump. “With friends like that who needs enemies,” Mr. Tusk tweeted. “We realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.” But Mr. Pompeo has calculated that for all of Europe’s bluster, Mr. Trump’s sanctions threat — which would ban any company that does substantial business in Iran from doing business with the United States — will ultimately work. Total, the French oil giant, announced this week it is canceling planned contracts in Iran, and the top executives of other multinational companies have said, some publicly and others privately, that they have no choice. Iran is a relatively small customer, and the United States is its largest. Mr. Pompeo’s plan calls for a new negotiation that will embrace stronger and longer nuclear limitations, restrictions on missile tests and exports, and limits on Iranian activity to support terrorist groups or the government in Syria. Officials say they are also trying to figure out how to enforce limits — or sanctions — on Tehran’s cyberactivity, fearing that the Iranian response to the United States will come not in the nuclear arena, but in attacks on banks and financial institutions.

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Venezuelans Ahead of Presidential Election

Diosdado Cabello, right, with President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. The United States imposed sanctions against Mr. Cabello on Friday.CreditMiraflores Palace, via Reuters

CARACAS, Venezuela — Just two days before presidential elections in Venezuela, the Trump administration on Friday announced sanctions against a powerful governing party politician, accusing him of drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering and embezzling government money. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in Washington said that it had placed the politician, Diosdado Cabello, a top Socialist Party figure, on a list of sanctioned individuals, freezing his assets in the United States and barring Americans from doing business with him. Mr. Cabello, 55, has long been considered the second-most powerful man in the country, after President Nicolás Maduro, who is running for re-election on Sunday. The Treasury Department said that it was also imposing sanctions on Mr. Cabello’s brother, José David Cabello, 49, who runs the government agency in charge of customs and taxation, and Diosdado Cabello’s wife, Marleny Josefina Contreras Hernández, 57, the minister of tourism. Also named in the announcement was Rafael Alfredo Sarria, 52, who the Treasury Department said acted as a frontman for Mr. Cabello, channeling illicit money through real estate and businesses in Florida. The timing of the announcement, so close to the Venezuelan election, could energize Mr. Maduro’s voting base. Mr. Maduro routinely accuses the United States of seeking to overthrow his government and says that Venezuela’s extreme economic problems — with a drastic contraction in economic production and the world’s highest inflation — are the result of an “economic war” being waged against the country by Washington. In the face of increasingly authoritarian actions by Mr. Maduro and his government, the United States has said that it will not recognize the election results. The Trump administration has been steadily adding to the number of Venezuelan government figures against whom sanctions have been imposed. Mr. Cabello, a former governor and legislator who was close to Mr. Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, is seen as wielding significant power behind the scenes, but his star may have faded recently as Mr. Maduro seeks to diminish his potential rivals within the government and the Socialist Party. Mr. Maduro created a new party, called We Are Venezuela, to act as his main political vehicle ahead of the election, displacing the Socialist Party that Mr. Cabello largely controls. The Treasury Department released an unusually detailed statement about the sanctions, which read like a criminal indictment, although it did not say whether any indictments had been handed down for those named in Friday’s action. The statement accused Mr. Cabello of running drugs through the Dominican Republic to Europe and also through a Venezuelan airport — and it said that he split some of his drug profits with Mr. Maduro. It also accused Mr. Cabello of embezzling government money, smuggling minerals and laundering profits through Panama and Russia. The Treasury Department said that Mr. Cabello and his brother extorted money from companies doing business in Venezuela, by threatening them with large fines resulting from tax audits.

Mexico presidential frontrunner vows to hit back at Trump tweets

Leftist politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the front runner in Mexico's July 1 presidential election
Leftist politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the front runner in Mexico’s July 1 presidential election (AFP Photo/ALFREDO ESTRELLA)

Mexico City (AFP) – The fiery leftist leading the race for Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, vowed Friday to hit back at US President Donald Trump if he insults Mexico on Twitter. “If he makes an offensive tweet, I’m going to take responsibility for answering him,” said Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor who has a double-digit lead in most opinion polls heading into the July 1 election.

“I think (Trump) is going to understand he has to get himself under control, that he can’t go around offending the Mexican people. We don’t want confrontations with him, but we are going to ask him to respect us,” he said at a campaign rally in the town of Huajuapan, in the southern state of Oaxaca.

Trump has regularly attacked Mexico on Twitter since launching his presidential campaign in 2015 by referring to Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, and vowing to build a wall on the border. Mexico’s current President Enrique Pena Nieto has rarely answered his counterpart’s Twitter outbursts, and his foreign ministry regularly insists Mexico will not discuss diplomatic matters on social media. Lopez Obrador promised a change in strategy if he wins the election. The candidate, who is making his third bid at the presidency, is only an occasional tweeter — though he has increased his use of social media during his campaign. In April he tweeted to the US president that he wanted to sell him Mexico’s presidential plane, a plush Boeing Dreamliner purchased by the previous government of which he is fond of saying, “Not even Trump has a plane like that!” Lopez Obrador, widely known by his initials, “AMLO,” is a divisive figure in Mexico. But he has ridden discontent with Pena Nieto’s government to a firm lead over the second-place candidate, Ricardo Anaya of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), and ruling-party candidate Jose Antonio Meade, a distant third.

Maduro seeks second term in isolated, ruined Venezuela

Caracas (AFP) – Shrugging aside his country’s economic ruin and growing international isolation, Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro seeks a second six-year term in controversial elections Sunday that are being boycotted by the opposition.

The US moved to further isolate his government on Friday, just two days before the polls, by slapping sanctions on Maduro’s powerful deputy and socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello.

“We are imposing costs on figures like Diosdado Cabello who exploit their official positions to engage in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of state funds, and other corrupt activities,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It was a fresh blow to Maduro, whose ebullient campaign meetings have done little to disguise a lack of enthusiasm in the oil-rich but cash-poor South American country, where the result is widely seen as a foregone conclusion. He held his final rally on Bolivar Avenue in downtown Caracas on Thursday, enlisting former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona to fire-up the crowd. Applauded by Maduro and his supporters, Maradona declared himself a Maduro “soldier,” waved a Venezuelan flag and punched the air as he danced to loud reggaeton music on the stage. “Trust me, if you give me your vote and give us victory, I swear I will lead great economic changes and drive an economic revolution that will shake the world,” pledged Maduro.

The 55-year-old former bus driver wore a green shirt with the image of his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez, emblazoned on the sleeve.

Maduro is the clear favorite, despite trailing in opinion polls to his main rival Henri Falcon, and a low approval rating among Venezuelans fed up with hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, rising crime and broken water, power and transportation networks. Opinion polls show Falcon leading with 30 percent of voter intentions, compared to Maduro’s 20 percent. An evangelical candidate, Javier Bertucci, has 14 percent. However, “low enthusiasm will likely reduce voter turnout and enable Maduro to control the outcome without major social backlash,” said analyst Risa Grais-Targow of Eurasia Group. But despite Maduro’s rhetoric and the world’s largest oil reserves, the country faces ruin, with the IMF citing a drop of 45.0 percent in GDP since Maduro took over in 2013. The crippled oil industry lacks investment and its assets are increasingly prey to debt settlements as the country defaults. And worse, the US threatens an oil embargo on top of sanctions that have hit Venezuela’s efforts to renegotiate its debt. “The most likely scenario is greater international isolation and economic deterioration,” said Diego Moya-Ocampos of IHS Markit analysts. “The key factors will be the economy and the army,” said analyst Michael Shifter. “The country is a powder keg and something could provoke unrest that would be difficult to contain.”

Trump urged Postal Service to double package rates for Amazon: Washington Post

 FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is pictured inside the company’s office in Bengaluru, India, April 20, 2018. Picture taken April 20, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has personally pushed the postmaster general to double the rates the U.S. Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other companies to ship packages, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing three unnamed sources.Postmaster General Megan Brennan resisted Trump’s suggestion in private conversations in 2017 and 2018, telling him that package delivery rates are set by contract and reviewed by an independent commission, and that the arrangements have helped the financially challenged Postal Service, the sources told the newspaper. Trump has claimed without evidence that deliveries for Amazon were costing the service money. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment and a spokesperson for the Postal Service could not be immediately reached.

Chipmaker stocks slammed by Applied Materials outlook

Applied Materials/Digiman Studio

Applied Materials Inc. led semiconductor-related stocks lower Friday as the chipmaker materials supplier’s outlook indicated a possible slowing in the recently hot sector. Applied Materials AMAT, -7.32%  shares fell 7.8% to $49.78, after hitting an intraday low of $48.53, as analysts were split on target price moves after the company’s sales outlook was lighter than Wall Street expected. In comparison, the PHLX Semiconductor Index SOX, -1.01%  is down 1.1% and the S&P 500 Index is down 0.3%. Shares of Applied Materials are down 2.3% for the year, compared with a 7.8% gain in the SOX index and a 1.5% gain in the S&P 500. For the week, Applied Materials shares are down 9%, the SOX index is flat, and the S&P 500 SPX, -0.20%  is down 0.5%. Late Thursday, Applied Materials estimated adjusted earnings of $1.13 to $1.21 a share for its fiscal third quarter on revenue of $4.33 billion to $4.53 billion, while analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected earnings of $1.16 a share on revenue of $4.53 billion. Of the 27 analysts that cover Applied Materials, 21 have overweight or buy ratings and six have hold ratings, according to FactSet data. Following earnings, 17 analysts commented on the stock with six lowering their price targets and three raising them. Instinet analyst Romit Shah, who has a buy rating, lowered his price target to $65 from $70 based on Applied Materials’s expected decline in OLED display revenue in fiscal 2019, while Stifel analyst Patrick Ho, who also has a buy rating, raised his price target to $75 from $70 even as the stock tanked. Ho said “the company’s makeup and profile is what differentiates Applied from all of its peers” and that any potential pullback represented a buying opportunity. Applied Materials’s light guidance comes on the heels of strong results from other chipmakers like Nvidia Corp. NVDA, -0.34%  and Intel Corp. INTC, -1.87%  this earnings season. Other notable decliners on Friday included Entegris Inc. ENTG, -6.38% KLA-Tencor Corp. KLAC, -2.83% Lam Research Corp. LRCX, -3.55% and Micron Technology Inc. MU, -2.36%   “The overall PC market sales are turning weaker than expected in the traditional low season of the second quarter of 2018 despite stable gaming and business PC demand, due mainly to sluggish buying sentiment for consumer PCs and the abrupt waning in demand for crypto mining devices starting in April,” said Oppenheimer analyst Rick Schafer in a note. Not all chipmakers were down Friday, however, a few outliers traded higher.

Trump offers ‘protections’ if Kim surrenders nukes

President Trump  sought to reassure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after Kim’s government threatened to pull out of the upcoming nuclear summit with the United States. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he is “willing to do a lot” to offer Kim “protections” if the North Korean leader agrees to surrender his nuclear weapons.

“He will get protections that are very strong,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with NATO’s secretary-general. “The best thing he could do is make a deal.”

Trump’s comments show he is eager to address North Korea’s concerns so the summit can take place.  Nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang is the president’s top foreign policy priority, so it would be major blow to Trump if the talks with Kim fell through. The president said preparations for the meeting are moving ahead “as if nothing happened,” adding the U.S. has not heard official word from the North Koreans about any intention to pull out.  “Our people are literally dealing with them right now in terms of making arrangements, so that’s a lot different than what you read, but oftentimes what you read, if it’s not fake news, is true,” he said. North Korea threw the June 12 summit into doubt on Wednesday when it said it may not show up if the U.S. continues to demand “unilateral” nuclear disarmament.  Kim has been reluctant to denuclearize because he believes his arsenal is critical to his ability to maintain power. North Korean officials blasted national security adviser John Bolton this week for saying the U.S. is seeking a “Libya model” with North Korea.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was forced from power in 2011 with the help of NATO forces just eight years after striking a deal with the U.S. to give up his nuclear weapons. He was captured and killed that same year.

Trump said the agreement he is seeking with North Korea is not like the one the Bush administration made with Gadhafi in 2003, comments that are at odds with Bolton. Under the Libyan deal, Gadhafi surrendered his nuclear and chemical weapons stockpiles in exchange for sanctions relief.  “The Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all when we are thinking of North Korea,” Trump said. “In Libya we decimated that country. That country was decimated. There was no deal to keep Gadhafi. The Libyan model that was mentioned was a much different deal.” Trump indicated nuclear-related sanctions would remain in full effect if the talks with North Korea fall through, but said that a deal would allow Kim to continue “running his country” and allow it to become “very rich.”

They’re out to FRAME me says Trump

Trump claims  ‘at least one FBI representative’ spying on him in 2016 but Giuliani admits ‘we don’t know’ if it’s true
Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said on CNN that there's no evidence the FBI or Justice Department planted a mole in Trumpworld surign the 2016 race
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said on CNN that there’s no evidence the FBI or Justice Department planted a mole in Trumps world durign the 2016 race

President Donald Trump on Friday poured gasoline on an already roaring political bonfire, suggesting he believes the FBI planted ‘at least one’ spy in his campaign in order to derail his White Houe aspirations by ginning up a phony reason to criminally investigate him.  ‘Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,’ Trump tweeted. ‘It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!’ The president raised the ante after his attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, admitted on CNN that there’s no proof the Obama administration had a mole inside the Trump campaign during the president’s 2016 run.  Trump had minutes earlier touted a televised claim that his Democratic predecessor’s Justice Department tried to use a spy to ‘frame’ him.  ‘First of all, I don’t know for sure – nor does the president – if there really was one,” Giuliani said. ‘For a long time we’ve been told that there was some kind of infiltration. At one time the president thought it was a wiretap. … but we’ve never been notified that he was on a tap or an intercept.’

The president cited 'reports' that the FBI implanted spies in his campaign 'for political purposes' but provided no evidence

The president cited ‘reports’ that the FBI implanted spies in his campaign ‘for political purposes’ but provided no evidence

Earlier he had promoted the view of a Fox Business Channel anchor who said the Justice Department was 'out to frame' him

 Earlier he had promoted the view of a Fox Business Channel anchor who said the Justice Department was ‘out to frame’ him Trump began his Friday online by tweeting that the rumors, if true, amount to ‘really bad stuff.’ He cited Fox Business Network host David Asman, who claimed Thursday that the Obama Justice Department ‘put a spy in the Trump campaign,’ suggesting that ‘by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit.’ Giuliani, though, would only say that he and his fellow attorneys have been ‘told that … off the record’ by ‘people who knew a little about the investigation.’ But the president’s legal advisers ‘don’t know if they’re right or not,’ he conceded.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo compared the brewing tumult with the media free-for-all Trump himself created 14 months ago when he claimed the Obama administration had been monitoring his campaign team’s communications in 2016.

Mueller’s office files unredacted memo outlining scope of Russia probe: filing

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office notified a federal court in Virginia on Thursday it had filed under seal an unredacted memorandum that is expected to shed light on the scope of his wide-ranging probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The filing, made as part of Mueller’s criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was requested by the judge, who told prosecutors earlier this month he wanted to see an unredacted copy of an August 2017 memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein which fleshed out Mueller’s investigative mandate.In a court hearing two weeks ago in the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge T.S. Ellis told Mueller’s office to turn over a copy of the memo under seal to him by this Friday so he could review it before deciding whether or not to dismiss the charges against Manafort. Manafort is facing two indictments by Mueller in Virginia and Washington that charge him with an array of crimes, from conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent, to bank and tax fraud. He has sought to have both cases dismissed on the grounds that Mueller has exceeded his authority, and that Rosenstein granted the special counsel too much power when he was appointed exactly one year ago on Thursday.  The federal judge overseeing the Washington case earlier this week refused to dismiss the charges, saying Mueller has not overstepped his authority by prosecuting Manafort. Ellis, however, insisted on seeing an unredacted copy of Rosenstein’s Aug. 2, 2017 memo before he can make a decision.

Trump’s bonfire of the treaties sweeps towards the WTO

 

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a signed memorandum on intellectual property tariffs on high-tech goods from China, at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has the World Trade Organization in a chokehold, and the United States has made clear what he wants: no more judicial rulings that interpret WTO rules to Washington’s disadvantage. Trump has effectively engineered a crisis in the WTO’s system of settling global disputes by vetoing all appointments of judges to its appeals chamber. True to the president’s style, his ambassador to the Geneva-fbased body, Dennis Shea, is unapologetic about shrinking the supreme court of world trade to a size where it will struggle to function. “The United States is not content to be complacent about this institution,” Shea told fellow WTO ambassadors this month. “And the leadership that the United States will bring to the WTO in the coming months and years will consequently involve a good deal of straight talk and a willingness to be disruptive, where necessary, in the interest of contributing to a stronger, more effective, and more politically sustainable organization.” Trump has proved willing to risk a global trade war in combating any treaties and practices he regards as unfairly disadvantaging U.S. companies and workers, imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports globally because of overproduction blamed on China. Since its creation in 1995, governments have gone to the WTO for adjudication on international trade disputes. Although rulings can be appealed, decisions made judges sitting on its Appellate Body are final, and ultimately sanctions can be used against transgressors. The rules are far from perfect or complete, and the failure to update them after decades of negotiating stalemate has obliged WTO judges to interpret them for a changing world. This has incurred Trump’s wrath. “We lose the cases, we don’t have the judges,” he said in February, describing the WTO as “a catastrophe”. Trade experts dispute this, saying all countries that go to the WTO have a broadly similar rate of winning and losing. While one U.S. judge sits on the Appellate Body, most of the WTO’s 164 members have no representative there, the experts note.Trump’s veto is reducing what is supposed to be the seven-strong Appellate Body as members’ terms expire. By September four seats will be vacant, leaving three judges, the number required to hear each appeal. If one judge needs to recuse themselves for any legal reason, the system will break down.  Since 1995, the WTO has handled more than 500 disputes and its membership has expanded to cover around 95 percent of world trade, which has more than tripled to around $18 trillion per year in goods alone.

Brent crude oil tops $80 a barrel as market grows more concerned about Iran sanctions

Middle East tensions weigh on oil markets
Middle East tensions weigh on oil markets
 

Brent crude oil on Thursday topped $80 a barrel for the first time since November 2014, as the market grew concerned that the Trump administration’s effort to sanction Iran’s crude exports could be more successful than originally thought. Brent, the international benchmark for oil prices, hit a session high of $80.50 a barrel on Thursday, its strongest level since Nov. 24, 2018.  U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude rose 16 cents to $71.65 a barrel. WTI earlier hit a high going back to Nov. 28, 2014 at $72.30 a barrel. President Donald Trump announced last week he would withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and restore wide-ranging sanctions on Iran. His administration is gave companies 90 to 180 days to wind down current business with Iran subject to sanctions. The market is becoming convinced that Trump will be able to disrupt crude exports after his administration slapped sanctions on the head of Iran’s central bank earlier this week, said John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital .

Commodities tomorrow:
IEA thinks oil tipping point coming soon

“That showed that he’s not kidding around. It’s very much a forward-leaning, aggressive strategy against Iran,” he said. A debate had raged in the market over the effectiveness of the sanctions, largely because China and key U.S. allies in Europe still support the nuclear deal. While some analysts said sanctions could wipe 1 million barrels per day of Iranian crude off the market, others said the impact would be limited to fewer than 500,000 barrels a day. The Trump administration ultimately took a tougher stance than many expected, restoring all sanctions that were in place prior to their suspension in 2016. The European Union is exploring ways to protect the continent’s companies, but the market is losing faith that Washington will issue sanctions waivers to the shippers, insurers and financial institutions necessary to bring Iranian oil to buyers, according to Kilduff. “It’s not clear right now, but it’s becoming clearer that they will have a problem and oil will be coming off the market,” he said. France’s Total on Wednesday warned it might abandon a multibillion-dollar gas project in Iran if it could not secure a waiver from U.S. sanctions, casting further doubt on European-led efforts to salvage the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, concerns are mounting over falling output in Venezuela after ConocoPhillips moved to seize the assets of Venezuelan state oil giant PDVSA. “The screws are really tightening on Venezuela,” Dan Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit, told CNBC on Wednesday. Nick Bit: Don’t be fooled Trump will water down the sanctions like he always does

Cambridge Analytica shared data with Russia: whistleblower

AFP / Mandel NGAN Cambridge Analytica former employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee on interference with the 2016 US election

Political consulting group Cambridge Analytica used Russian researchers and shared data with companies linked to Russian intelligence, a whistleblower told a congressional hearing on interference in the 2016 US election Wednesday. Christopher Wylie, who leaked information on the British-based firm’s hijacking of data on millions of Facebook users, told a Senate panel he believes Russian intelligence services had access to data harvested by the consultancy. Wylie told the panel that Russian-American researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who created an application to harvest Facebook user profile data, was working at the same time on Russian-funded projects, including “behavioral research.” “This means that in addition to Facebook data being accessed in Russia, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that CA may have been an intelligence target of Russian security services…(and) that Russian security services may have been notified of the existence of CA’s Facebook data,” Wylie said in his written testimony. Wylie added that Cambridge Analytica “used Russian researchers to gather its data, (and) openly shared information on ‘rumor campaigns’ and ‘attitudinal inoculation'” with companies and executives linked to the Russian intelligence agency FSB. The hearing is part of a broad inquiry on both sides of the Atlantic over the misuse of Facebook data by the consulting firm working on Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Facebook has accused Cambridge Analytica of misappropriating its user data by violating terms of the data agreement with Kogan, the academic researcher whose app was downloaded by some 270,000 Facebook users and also “scraped” data from an estimated 87 million. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the FBI and Justice are investigating Cambridge Analytica for potential criminal violations Wylie told the panel that “the ethos of the firm was ‘anything goes'” for its political campaigns, including “attempting to divert health ministry funds in a struggling African country to support a politician’s re-election campaign.” He told senators that one of the goals of firm was to discourage or suppress voter turnout, especially of black voters, and that this was a focus of Trump ally Steve Bannon. “You could request voter suppression,” Wylie said in response to a question about tactics used in political campaigns. He added that he was aware of “black ops” at the company, “which I understood to include using hackers to break into computer systems to acquire ‘kompromat’ or other intelligence for its clients.” He said that one of the tactics used to interfere with voter participation included “weaponizing fear.” “In one country, CA produced videos intended to suppress turnout by showing voters sadistic images of victims being burned alive, undergoing forced amputations with machetes and having their throats cut in a ditch,” he said. “These videos also conveyed Islamophobic messages. It was created with a clear intent to intimidate certain communities, catalyze religious hatred, portray Muslims as terrorists and deny

North Korea threat to cancel U.S. summit calculated to hide nukes, intel officials say

A man watches a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. North Korea's breaking off a high-level meeting with South Korea and threatening to scrap next month's historic summit with President Trump over allied military drills is seen as a move by Kim to gain leverage and establish that he's entering the crucial nuclear negotiations from a position of strength. Washington and Seoul, which have no intentions to overpay for whatever Kim brings to the table, say international sanctions forced Kim into talks after a flurry of weapons tests. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A man watches a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. North ..

North Korea’s abrupt threat this week to pull out of the upcoming summit with President Trump was highly calculated, according to intelligence officials who say Pyongyang wanted to harden its negotiating position against a quick “Libya-style” surrender of its nuclear programs sought by the Trump White House and buy time to hide its nuclear weapons. While U.S. officials say they believe Pyongyang’s threat — conveyed so far only via state-controlled media — was also driven by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s need to show his domestic audience he won’t “roll over” to Mr. Trump, the development raised fresh questions about the scope of Pyongyang’s nuclear operations and Mr. Kim’s willingness to abandon them. While great uncertainty swirls around the extent of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure, U.S. officials and private analysts say Pyongyang’s history of dragging out talks and inking agreements they have no intention of implementing is well known. “The North Koreans have this belief they can somehow outsmart the U.S.,” said Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who is close with the Trump administration and has past experience negotiating with Pyongyang.

“They may be attempting to sanitize their facilities right now while also trying to buy more time for that,” he said.

In a move that took both Washington and Seoul by surprise, Pyongyang has seized on joint U.S.-South Korean military now underway as the justification to cancel a planned meeting of North and South Korean officials, raise questions about the proposed June 12 Kim-Trump summit in Singapore, and to hurl invective at the U.S. government — and new National Security Adviser John Bolton by name — for suggesting the North’s complete denuclearization must happen quickly. The problem, from North Korea’s perspective: Gadhafi’s nuclear weapons-less regime was toppled in a NATO-backed revolt ignited by the 2011 Arab Spring, and the dictator himself was hunted down and shot by rebel forces. Following a series of tests that sent U.S.-North Korean tensions soaring in Mr. Trump’s first year in office, U.S. intelligence agencies now believe that Pyongyang has succeeded in developing a nuclear bomb small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, and possibly is close to having a nuclear-tipped ICBM that could reach the U.S. homeland. North Korea in recent public statements has talked about “progressive and synchronous” steps with the U.S. on a path to full denuclearization, raising the prospect of a lengthy prospect and one in which U.S. concessions — including reducing the U.S. troop presence in South Korea and security guarantees for the North — would be required to keep the peace process going.

 

Trump ‘flip-flops’ so much over China and trade it’s hard to pick stocks, economist says

Turkey to cut special consumption tax to offset fuel price rise

 

President Donald Trump “flip-flops” so much on his stance over trade and tariffs with China that it’s difficult to know what stocks to buy and avoid, an economist told CNBC ahead of the next round of Sino-U.S. trade talks aimed at averting a trade war.

“The president has an uncanny habit of saying ‘yeah, yeah we’ll punish you’ and then ‘no, no we won’t,” Andrew Freris, chief executive of economic and financial advisory firm Ecognosis Advisory, told CNBC Thursday.

“So it’s very difficult to buy and sell anything when the flip-flops are so prominent,” Freris added, although he suggested avoiding tech stocks, which could be the worst hit if a trade war and tariffs between China and the U.S. are followed-through. “I’d prefer to look at the overall macro (picture) and the pricing of stocks rather than anything else,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a welcoming ceremony November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China.
Pool | Getty Images Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a welcoming ceremony November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China

Freris’ comments come as the U.S. and China are set to start another round of trade talks on Thursday. The atmosphere could be a little frosty given a war of words and threats over trade tariffs in recent weeks. Trump has criticized what he sees as unfair trade practices and threatened to impose up to $150 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods. China said it would retaliate by putting tariffs on a long list of key American exports, ranging from soy beans to orange juice and cranberries. Freris, an economist and strategist formerly in the investment banking sector, said China would not lose in a potential trade war. “In the case of China, China was never an export-driven economy and China is not an export-driven economy, I will never tire of repeating that,” he told CNBC’s Capital Connection. “So even if a lot of exports disappear it will have a tiny affect on its GDP (gross domestic product) growth. It will affect individual companies, of course, and it will affect some of the regions, but taking China macro-economically — if the Americans think that barking loud enough that’s going to scare them, they won’t.” On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are leading the U.S. delegation in discussions with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. White House trade and manufacturing advisor Peter Navarro, a vocal critic of China trade policies, appears to have been sidelined for the visit. China’s Commerce Ministry said it did not want to see an escalation to the trade dispute, Reuters reported Thursday, and added that it hoped the U.S. would take action as soon as possible on the case of Chinese technology company ZTE and resolve it in a fair manner, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters at a regular briefing. Ahead of this week’s talks, Trump said Sunday that he would help ZTE “get back into business, fast” after a U.S. ban hit the company hard, but following criticism that his views on ZTE contradicted his broader stance towards China-U.S. trade, he appeared to row back on that, tweeting on Wednesday that, “Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal.”

Trump will seek full funding soon for his border wall

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks while participating in a tour of U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California. U.S., March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he would soon push for full funding of his promised wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, which could spark budget battles in a Congress fractured over his immigration policy.U.S.   “Now we’re going for the full funding for the wall, and we’re going to try and get that as soon as possible,” Trump said at a roundtable with California municipal leaders who favor his goal of making the U.S. border impervious to illegal immigration.

 Last month Trump threatened to shut down the federal government in September if Congress did not provide more funding for his wall. If that happens, it would mark the second time in one year the U.S. government was shuttered over immigration, with an impasse leading to a brief shutdown in January.

Center and right-wing lawmakers from Trump’s Republican party are split on legislation that would protect young illegal immigrants from deportation, torn over how far it should go to clamp down on legal and illegal immigration. At the roundtable Trump voiced hostility for the country’s southern neighbor, Mexico, which is partnering with the United States and Canada in an unprecedented bid to host the World Cup in all three countries. It is also a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump would like to renegotiate or end. “Mexico does nothing for us,” he said. “Mexico talks but they do nothing for us, especially at the border. They certainly don’t help us much on trade.”

Giuliani: Mueller’s team told Trump’s lawyers they can’t indict a president

Giuliani says Trump's new legal team has not held lengthy prep for Mueller interview

(CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has informed President Donald Trump’s attorneys that they have concluded that they cannot indict a sitting president, according to the President’s lawyer.

“All they get to do is write a report,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN. “They can’t indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us.” Nick Note: Not quite right! BUT they sure as shit can force him to testify before a grand jury AND they can take any evidence of crimesssss to the House who can impeach him… after the fall elections where the democrats will have a majority
That conclusion is likely based on longstanding Justice Department guidelines. It is not about any assessment of the evidence Mueller’s team has compiled. A lack of an indictment would not necessarily mean the President is in the clear. Mueller could issue a report making referrals or recommendations to the House of Representatives. The inability to indict a sitting president has been the position of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department since the Nixon administration and reaffirmed in the Clinton administration, but it has never been tested in court. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein publicly discussed the issue earlier this month at an event held by the Freedom Forum Institute. He was asked if a sitting president can be indicted.
“I’m not going to answer this in the context of any current matters, so you shouldn’t draw any inference about it,” Rosenstein said. “But the Department of Justice has in the past, when the issue arose, has opined that a sitting President cannot be indicted. There’s been a lot of speculation in the media about this, I just don’t have anything more to say about it.” Rosenstein oversees the special counsel probe.
Giuliani tells CNN the special counsel’s team has decided that “they have to follow the Justice Department rules.” “The Justice Department memos going back to before Nixon say that you cannot indict a sitting president, you have to impeach him. Now there was a little time in which there was some dispute about that, but they acknowledged to us orally that they understand that they can’t violate the Justice Department rules,” Giuliani said. “We think it’s bigger than that. We think it’s a constitutional rule, but I don’t think you’re ever going to confront that because nobody’s ever going to indict a sitting president. So, what does that leave them with? That leaves them with writing a report,” said Giuliani. It would then be up to the House of Representatives to decide what to do about with the special counsel’s report — and whether to pursue articles of impeachment.
Giuliani also said that he is using the one-year anniversary of the Mueller probe, which is Thursday, to push the special counsel to disclose how much money is being spent, and to actively begin negotiating with Trump’s legal team over any Trump interview Mueller is seeking.
“Do you really need an interview?” Giuliani said he wants Mueller’s team to answer.
“You’ve got all the facts. You’ve got all the documents. You’ve got all the explanations. We’re happy to tell you they’re not going to change.”

As Italy Seeks to Form a Government, Leaked Documents Stir Anxiety

The leader of the League party, Matteo Salvini, addressing the news media after meeting with President Sergio Mattarella in Rome on Monday. CreditAlessandro Di Meo/ANSA, via Associated Press

ROME — Talks between two anti-establishment parties to form a new Italian government seemed to be regaining momentum on Wednesday, even as financial markets were spooked by leaked documents that suggested the two sides shared a desire to radically change Italy’s relationship with the European Union. The leaders of the Five Star Movement and the anti-immigrant League party dismissed the leaked document Tuesday night as “old.” But the draft, which was on the negotiating table as of Monday morning, was apparently not “old” enough to avoid raising jitters. On Wednesday, investors shed Italian assets, and shares trading on the Milan stock market slipped. Current or not, the document, obtained by Huffington Post Italy, brought into focus concerns among European leaders and financial markets about what a government run by the two parties could mean for Italy and the European Union as a whole. In a series of joint statements, the two parties tried to distance themselves from the positions in the document, but in doing so only seemed to further betray their real ambitions for what they called “a rethink” of Italy’s relationship to the European Union and the common currency of most of its members, the euro. In a joint statement Tuesday night, they protested that the proposals in the leaked document had been “radically changed” in subsequent meetings. “For example, on the euro, the parties have already decided not to put in discussion the single currency,” it said.But an hour and a half later, Five Star, led by Luigi Di Maio, 31, and the League, led by Matteo Salvini, 45, released another joint statement clarifying — or perhaps muddying — their position on the eurozone.

That statement said they preferred to return to the arrangement before the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, which created the framework and fiscal rules for the euro — a time when the Italian lira was the coin of the realm.

“The structure of European economic governance, based on the dominance of the market, and the respect for rules that are stringent and unfounded from a social and economic point of view, requires a rethink with our European partners,” they said. “The spirit must be to return to the pre-Maastricht setting.” Nick Note:  Bottom line the Euro is doomed so is the Union. Why? Because when you control currency value you can screw your creditor at will by devaluing…..

Japan economy shrinks after two years of growth, dealing a blow to prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Abe has launched a pro-spending policy blitz called ‘Abenomics’ since he took office in late 2012, combining ultra-loose monetary policy and fiscal stimulus

Japan’s economy slid into reverse for the first time in two years at the beginning of the year, hit by sluggish consumption and a winter cold snap, but analysts predicted the world’s third-largest economy would quickly rebound.The economy contracted by 0.2 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the January-March period, compared with growth of 0.1 per cent at the end of 2017, the Cabinet Office said on Wednesday. This brought to an end a series of eight consecutive quarters of growth, a winning streak not seen since the heady days of the “miracle” boom of the 1980s when the Japanese economy ruled the world. The data will come as a blow for the vaunted “Abenomics” policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is already under pressure over a series of scandals. But experts said they expected a pause in the growth trend rather than a prolonged downswing. “There were one-off special factors in the January-March period, ranging from stock market sell-offs to higher vegetable prices due to bad weather,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin. The yen also strengthened against other major currencies on safe-haven buying, clouding the prospects for Japanese exporters. “There are worries about some emerging economy markets but the global economy as a whole is likely to continue its recovery for some more time. [Japan’s] GDP will likely come back to positive growth in April-June,” Minami said. The economy was stalled by stagnant private consumption, which was flat in the January to March period after an uptick of 0.2 per cent in the final quarter of last year. Private residential investment also plunged another 2.1 per cent after a 2.7 per cent fall in the previous quarter. And exports of goods and services slowed, rising 0.6 per cent compared to an increase of 2.2 per cent in the previous three months. But despite the broad-based slowdown, Minami said the economy would remain solid. “If you look at the Bank of Japan’s ‘Tankan’ survey released in April, business confidence was unshaken, with corporate investment plans remaining solid,” he said. The key survey by the central bank last month showed confidence among Japan’s biggest manufacturers had slipped after five quarters of rises but the headline index still remained close to the highest level in over a decade.

 SMBC Nikko Securities chief market economist Yoshimasa Maruyama warned that private consumption was weak even when the special factors were taken into consideration. Consumers will keep purse strings tight “unless the pace of wage increases shows a clear acceleration”, he said in a commentary published ahead of the data release. Consumer spending has remained stubbornly lacklustre, with companies staying stingy on wage hikes despite healthy profits. Stock market traders appeared to be disappointed by the data with the main Nikkei stock index closing down 0.44 per cent.

Justice Department and F.B.I. Are Investigating Cambridge Analytica

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The London offices of Cambridge Analytica in March.
The now-defunct political data firm has faced intense scrutiny since it was revealed to have harvested information from tens of millions of Facebook profiles.CreditDaniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct political data firm, and have sought to question former employees and banks that handled its business, according to an American official and other people familiar with the inquiry.Prosecutors have questioned potential witnesses in recent weeks, telling them that there is an open investigation into Cambridge Analytica — which worked on President Trump’s election and other Republican campaigns in 2016 — and “associated U.S. persons.” But the prosecutors provided few other details, and the inquiry appears to be in its early stages, with investigators seeking an overview of the company and its business practices. The investigation compounds the woes of a firm that has come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the United States and Britain since The New York Times and Observer in London reported in March that it had harvested private data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles, and that it may have violated American election laws. This month, Cambridge Analytica announced that it would shut down and declare bankruptcy, saying that negative press and cascading federal and state investigations had driven away customers and made it impossible for the firm to remain in business.The company, whose principal owner is the wealthy Republican donor Robert Mercer, offered tools that it claimed could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. Its so-called psychographic modeling techniques, which were built in part with the data harvested from Facebook, underpinned Cambridge’s work for the Trump campaign in 2016. The federal investigation in the United States appears to focus on the company’s financial dealings — investigators have reached out to the company’s banks, for instance — and how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources, according to the American official, who was briefed on the inquiry, and other people familiar with it. “I can confirm that I’ve been contacted by the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice, and answered preliminary questions,” Mr. Wylie said in a brief interview. “We plan to meet again to provide substantive answers to the investigators.”

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Federal prosecutors traveled to London this month to interview Christopher Wylie, a former employee and a fierce critic of Cambridge Analytica.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

It was not clear whether the investigation is tied to the inquiry being led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, who is examining whether Mr. Trump or any of his associates aided Russia’s effort to interfere in the presidential election. Prosecutors from Mr. Mueller’s team questioned at least two Cambridge executives last December in Washington, according to one company official. The employee, who asked to remain anonymous to describe confidential internal matters, added that the inquiry appeared to be perfunctory. There have been no other concrete signs from Mr. Mueller’s team that Cambridge is a focus of their efforts. The Justice Department’s investigation is running parallel to a separate investigation by the National Crime Agency of Britain. There, investigators are examining a range of allegations, including whether Cambridge Analytica employees sought to bribe foreign officials, destroyed evidence, hacked computers and violated Britain’s Data Protection Act.“There is an international investigation being coordinated by the National Crime Agency in Britain, and I intend to be as helpful and cooperative as I can,” he said Also in 2014, a contractor for the new firm used quiz apps and other programs to gather private profile information from as many as 87 million Facebook users, data former Cambridge employees said provided the critical basis for the new company’s voter profiles. The Times also reported in March that the company had sent personnel from Canada and Europe to work on various campaigns in the 2014 midterm elections and in 2016 campaigns, raising questions about Cambridge’s compliance with federal election law, which limits the involvement of noncitizens in election campaigns. One new firm, a British holding company called Emerdata, was formed in part to bring in new investors, according to a former employee. Emerdata’s directors, according to public records, came to include Johnson Ko Chun Shun, a Hong Kong financier and business partner of Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater

Qatari investor confirms he was at Trump Tower meetings

Qatari investor confirms he was at Trump Tower meetings
© UPI Photo Qatari investor Ahmed Al-Rumaihi has confirmed that he attended multiple meeting in Trump Tower in December 2016, including at least one with Michael Cohen.

Al-Rumaihi told CNN through a spokesperson that he attended the meetings for face time with Trump transition officials but noted he did not meet with former national security adviser Michael Flynn. “Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on December 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Investments, an internal division of QIA, to accompany the Qatari delegation that was meeting with Trump transition officials on that date,” the spokesperson told CNN. “He did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn, and his involvement in the meetings on that date was limited.” Al-Rumaihi’s acknowledgment that he was at Trump Tower meetings came after adult-film star Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti questioned why Al-Rumaihi was “meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?”

Avenatti’s posted screenshots of a Trump Tower lobby video feed from Dec. 12, 2016, where Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney who is currently under criminal investigation, and Al-Rumaihi appear to be entering and leaving Trump Tower.

The spokesperson for Al-Rumaihi’s did not say who was in the meetings Al-Rumaihi attended or what they involved, but, according to a person familiar with the Qatari delegation meetings at Trump Tower that spoke with CNN, Cohen “popped in” during one. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Cohen to extricate herself from a $130,000 nondisclosure agreement they signed just weeks before the 2016 election. She is also suing both Cohen and Trump for defamation.  The same corporation that Cohen set up to make his payment to Daniels apparently received payments from companies and individuals seeking access to and insight on the Trump administration. The FBI raided Cohen’s office and residence last month after receiving a referral from special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. On Tuesday, CNN reported that Cohen lied in 2017 about the Trump Organization having no relationship with Russia even though he later admitted he had pursued a business deal for the organization in Russia during the 2016 election.

Market Volatility Spurs ETF Outflows

Europe-domiciled exchange traded funds run by dominant player iShares endured hefty outflows of more than €4 billion in March and April

Euro bank notes

An outpouring of money from exchange-traded funds could be a sign that investors are turning away from passives strategies as volatility returns to global stock markets.

Europe-domiciled exchange traded funds run by BlackRock’s iShares endured hefty outflows of more than €4 billion in March and April, according to data from Morningstar Direct.

As the dominant ETF player globally, iShares has traditionally been at the top of the inflows list – investors poured €8.5 billion into its products in the first two months of the year alone. Over the past 12 months, the provider has recording inflows of almost €30 billion. But it’s been rock-bottom for the past couple of months. Flows into ETFs have taken a dip over the past two months. After €20 billion of inflows through January and February, ETFs in total saw just €1.8 billion invested in the past two months, according to data from Morningstar Direct. Many of iShares’ closest rivals have also experienced a tapering in demand. Lyxor, for example, has seen a sharp turn in sentiment, recording inflows of €720 million in February and, just two months later, some €378 million of outflows in April. Vanguard inflows halved in that time to €860 million. iShares says the flows reflect an overall risk-off sentiment in markets, adding that flows highlight the maturing of the European ETF market, “as investors increasingly use our ETFs at the core of their portfolios, and to efficiently adjust their positioning”. “We also saw outflows from large European equity products, which was a reversal of the inflows we saw in Q4 2017 through to the beginning of 2018.” In May, for the first time in its history, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s monthly fund manager survey asked global professional investors about their allocations to ETFs. Just over half (53%) of respondents said they use passive instruments, including ETFs, in their strategies. Around 80% of managers surveyed said their allocation to ETFs is less than 40% of their assets under management. The weighted average investor AUM allocated to ETFs is 20%, which BAML says is well above the average 11% allocation of its private clients.

Mexico says NAFTA deal unlikely this week, signing possible this year

FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo speaks to the media during a news conference at Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City, Mexico May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s economy minister said on Tuesday that he saw diminishing chances for a new North American Free Trade Agreement ahead of a May 17 deadline to present a deal that could be signed by the current U.S. Congress. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that the Republican-controlled Congress would need to be notified of a new NAFTA deal by Thursday to give lawmakers a chance of approving it before a newly elected Congress takes over in January. “It is not easy, we do not think we will have it by Thursday,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told broadcaster Televisa. “We will keep negotiating, and in the moment that we have a good negotiation, we can close the deal … independent of which Congress (the current or new) that will vote on it,” he said. Negotiators from the United States, Mexico and Canada have been in intense talks since last month to try to reach a deal before upcoming U.S. congressional elections. Mexico’s presidential vote on July 1 also complicates talks. Uncertainty over the future of NAFTA and the election has put pressure on the Mexican peso, Guajardo said. Mexico’s peso sank to its weakest level in over a year on Tuesday and the country’s benchmark stock index fell about 1 percent to its lowest since early April.“There are different moments to close the negotiation,” Guajardo said. “It could be before the Mexican election on July 1, it could be just after.”  Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is leading polls to win the presidential race, and his pick for economy minister, Graciela Marquez, said last month his administration would be willing to accept a NAFTA deal struck before the election. If that is not possible, she said it would be better to complete the negotiation after the next government takes office at the start of December. Guajardo said the next government’s team would need to be involved in any talks after July 1. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday discussed the possibility of bringing NAFTA talks to a “prompt conclusion.” Guajardo said negotiators were getting close to reaching a deal on rules for the auto sector under NAFTA.However, talks still faced the hurdles of U.S. demands for a sunset clause that would allow NAFTA to expire if it is not renegotiated every five years, and the elimination of settlement panels for trade disputes.  More flexibility was needed for a deal, Guajardo said. Kenneth Smith, the chief Mexican negotiator at the talks, said that for Mexico there were no deadlines in the revamp. “Mexico’s position since the start of the negotiation has been that we’re not going to sacrifice the quality of the deal to conclude quickly,” he told local radio. Irrespective of the May 17 date mentioned by Ryan, there was still time to ratify a new NAFTA this year, Smith added. “There’s no question the possibility exists, we’re interested and I think the United States and Canada share this view,” he said, speaking to broadcaster Enfoque Noticias. Hanging over the talks has been a threat by the Trump administration to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on its trade partners. Mexico and Canada have been spared so far, although the latest exemption for them will run out at the end of May. Smith noted that Mexico ran a deficit with the United States in trade in both metals and that his government would retaliate with equivalent measures against the United States “immediately” if tariffs or quotas were imposed.

North Korea threatens to cancel Trump-Kim summit over South Korea-US military drills

Dictator Kim Jong-un was set to meet with U.S President Donald Trump on June 12 in Singapore but the meeting is now reportedly at risk

Kim Jong-un with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the DMZ (Image: EPA)

North Korea has reportedly threatened to cancel the much anticipated Trump-Kim summit over the South Korea-US military drills. According to South Korean news agency, Yonhap News, North Korea said has said it is canceling high-level talks planned for later in the day. “The North’s Korean Central News Agency said the Max Thunder drills between the South Korean and US air forces are a rehearsal for invasion of the North and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties,” the site reports. “The high-level talks were meant to take place on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss follow-up measures to the two Korean leaders’ summit last month. Kim Jong-un was set to meet with Donald Trump on June 12 in Singapore. A historic meeting meeting Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently took place at the DMZ, with Kim becoming the first North Korean leader to cross over into the South in 65 years. Moon briefly crossed over into the North while holding Kim’s hand. Last week North Korea announced on state media it will dismantle its nuclear test site just weeks ahead of the summit.The rogue nation will start to take the facility apart on May 23, with international media watching. The country’s central news agency said the dismantlement of the nuclear test ground would involve collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances and removing all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts. Journalists from other countries, including the United States and South Korea, will be invited to cover the event. The nuclear site that will be dismantled is located in Pukyung, and the area around Pumyeong nuclear test site will also be closed. Last month, five nuclear test blasts in Pyongyang, under Mount Mantap, tore open a hole in the mountain which then collapsed upon itself. Researchers also found that breakdown created a “chimney” which could allow radioactive fallout from the blast zone below to rise into the air. Now, U.S. intelligence showed North Koreans had already started pulling cables from the tunnels at their nuclear test site. This week three Americans held prisoner by the communist country were released and flown back to the USA. The choice of Singapore as the site of the first-ever meeting of a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader was as much because it was within reasonable flight time and distance from Pyongyang as because of the island state’s political neutrality, a South Korean presidential official told reporters. But experts say the process could take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to USA Today. Olli Heinonen, an arms control expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a national security think-tank, said: “This would be the biggest undertaking by the international community when it comes to denuclearization or disarmament.”

Wall Street drops on concerns over U.S.-China trade woes, rising inflation

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermi

Reuters) – U.S. stocks slipped on Tuesday after the latest retail sales data indicated rising inflation and pushed up Treasury yields, while trade worries lingered with no signs of progress in U.S.-China talks. The United States and China are still “very far apart” on resolving trade frictions, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said, as a second round of high-level talks were set to begin in Washington. Adding to the trade woes, Mexico’s economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo said he does not expect to meet a deadline this Thursday to reach a new North American Free Trade Agreement that could be presented to the U.S. Congress. U.S. retail sales increased a moderate 0.3 percent in April, compared with an upwardly revised 0.8 percent surge in March, as rising gasoline prices weighed on discretionary spending, the Commerce Department said.However, the rise in core retail sales, which excluded automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, showed consumer spending appeared on track to accelerate after slowing sharply in the first quarter.  Following the data, benchmark U.S. Treasury yield hit 3.037 percent, a key breakout level, before gaining further to 3.058 percent, its highest since July 2011. “When yields pop like they did this morning, that was unsettling and that came on top of the big run that markets just had,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist for Robert W. Baird & Co in Sarasota, Florida. “Even from an overbought situation, the markets were a touch vulnerable and perhaps these rate rises was enough to trigger that.” losses were broad based with ten of the 11 major S&P sectors in the red. The S&P financial .SPSY was the only sector posting a slight gain of 0.1 percent. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.02-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.18-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq..

one-third of American working-age men could be displaced by robots

Jobs that don’t require advanced education will be replaced by automation, displacing low-wage, low-skilled workers.
Courtesy Everett Collection Robots could be big job killers in the future, some experts contend.

One third of able-bodied American men between 25 and 54 could be out of job by 2050, contends the author of “The Future of Work: Robots, AI and Automation.”

“We’re already at 12% of prime-aged men without jobs,” said Darrell West, vice president of the Brookings Institution think tank, at a forum in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

That number has grown steadily over the past 60 years, but it could triple in the next 30 years because of new technology such as artificial intelligence and automation. It could be even worse for some parts of the population, West argued. The rate for unemployment of young male African Americans, for instance, is likely to reach 50% by 2050. “That, my friends, is a catastrophe,” West said. A lot of things can be done to avert such a problem and rethinking education is one of them, West said. “Schools need to change their curriculum so that students have the skills needed in the 21st century economy.” Molly Kinder, senior adviser at progressive think tank New America, said the current state of manufacturing tells a story that will be seen see across many occupations. Jobs that don’t require advanced education will be replaced by automation, displacing low-wage, low-skilled workers. Public policymakers need to make education, especially in technology, for low-skill workers a priority to combat the potential for soaring unemployment rates, she said. Many are already hurt by the technology shift. Some 6% of all adults say they lost a job or had their pay or hours reduced because of automation, according to a Pew Research study published in October. And 65% of adults believe most stores will be fully automated in 20 years and require little human interaction. Digital devices are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.” Yet what executives might see as a good business move is a source of fear and uncertainty for others. The prospect of being replaced by automation is troubling for a number of young members of the workforce.

About 37% of millennials are at high risk of having their job replaced by artificial intelligence or automation, says a study published by Gallup in June.

Among those, one-third are struggling with workplace anxiety, worry about being laid off or their jobs being outsourced. According to Gallup, many companies successfully manage employees’ fears through future readiness audits. One manufacturing company teaches its employees statistics and coding skills as well as how to incorporate data and analytics into their everyday life. This helps to prepare employees for an artificial intelligence driven future, Gallup said. But, on a nationwide scale, the policies are not in place to help workers adjust to these changes, according to Kinder. And that future may arrive much quicker than most members of the workforce think. According to that same Gallup poll, 59% of executives believe that data science and analytical skills will be essential communication skills within their companies in five years.

China’s night-owl retail investors leverage up to dominate oil futures trade

FILE PHOTO: A company logo of Shanghai Futures Exchange is displayed at a booth during LME Week Asia in Hong Kong, China June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – As 9 pm approaches every weekday night in China, a small army of individual investors from around the country log onto trading apps on their mobile phones and laptops. Wall Street may be about to open but these night owls are interested in trading something much closer to home – the new Shanghai crude oil futures contracts <0#ISC:> that were launched in late March. Armed with risky loans from online firms or digging into their own savings, they threaten to play an outsized role in the new market, which has got off to a roaring start. It is not for the fainthearted – one contract of 1,000 barrels costs about 476,000 yuan ($75,160) and traders are required to place a deposit – as much as 500,000 yuan – before they are allowed to trade. On average, volume between 9 pm and midnight accounts for almost 60 percent of daily turnover, equivalent to about 22 million barrels of oil worth more than 10 billion yuan. And executives of online lending platforms, managers at major brokerages, and traders interviewed by Reuters all said that most of the orders in that period come from retail investors – and a lot of it involves borrowed money. Their dominance is a reflection of the interest among China’s burgeoning middle class for investments in the country’s vast commodities market – many of the crude oil traders also dabble in other commodities such as iron ore and steel. This is especially the case after the authorities in recent years succeeded in damping down speculative activity in stocks and in real estate. It is also a sign of the kind of mania that is high-risk not only for the individual investors – who can quickly lose a lot of money borrowed on margin – but also for the long-term prospects of China’s oil futures market. The retail investors can exaggerate price swings – they tend to close out positions every day, for example, to avoid holding costs – and the market could lose liquidity quickly if a sell-off prompts a sudden outflow of their money. Liquidity, measured by open interest, hit 15,000 lots, equivalent to 15 million barrels, last Thursday, a record and almost double levels at the start of May after Washington withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and renewed sanctions on the oil exporter. That does suggest a pick up in interest from institutional investors in recent days.

UK consumer spending continues to fall in April – Visa

 

Shoppers browse in an Aldi store in London, Britain, February 15, 2018

LONDON (Reuters) – British consumers tightened their belts further last month, figures from payment card company Visa showed on Monday, adding to signs that the economy is struggling to recover from a weak first quarter. Visa said inflation-adjusted spending on its credit and debit cards in April was 2 percent lower than last year – the same decline as in March and one of the steepest declines of the past five years. Looking at the three months to April, the fall in spending gathered pace, dropping by 1.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis compared with the previous three months. In March, spending fell by 1.3 percent on a similar basis.“Low confidence levels amongst shoppers and the gloomy outlook for the UK economy are likely to have contributed to this continued caution,” Visa’s chief commercial officer, Mark Antipof, said. Discretionary spending on furniture, electrical appliances and recreation was worst hit, Visa said. Last week the Bank of England said a first-quarter slowdown in economic growth to just 0.1 percent was probably a blip caused by unusually icy weather. But it did highlight weaker consumer spending and a softer housing market as possible warning signs of more persistent sluggishness. Visa said the weak consumer spending was surprising given inflation was beginning to slow and wage growth was edging up.“Retailers will be pinning their hopes on further improvements in household finances and warmer weather leading to a more upbeat few months heading into summer,” Antipof said.  Visa says its cards account for a third of British spending. The data is adjusted for changes in Visa’s market share, a long-term decline in cash usage, and to strip out transactions that do not count as consumer spending. Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce

Bolton: Iran’s Economy ‘Quite Shaky,’ So Effect of Sanctions ‘Could Be Dramatic’

National Security Adviser John Bolton (Photo: Screen grab/CNN)

(CNSNews.com) – Regime change in Iran is “not the policy of the administration,” National Security Adviser John Bolton told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons,” he said. But on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Bolton noted that getting out of the Iran nuclear deal will result in the reimposition of American sanctions on Iran: “And I think what we’ve seen is that Iran’s economic condition is really quite shaky, so that the effect here could be dramatic,” Bolton told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Tapper noted that Bolton repeatedly pushed for regime change in Iran before he became national security adviser. “I know that is not the current position of the United States government. But are you behind the scenes pushing for it to become the position of the United States government, regime change?” Tapper asked Bolton. Bolton replied that he has “written and said a lot of things over the years when I was a complete free agent. I certainly stand by what I said at the time. But — but those were my opinions then.
“The circumstance I’m in now is that I’m the national security adviser to the president. I’m not the national security decision-maker. He makes the decisions, and the advice I give him is between us.”
Meanwhile, CBS’s “Face the Nation” started on Sunday with a report from foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer in Tehran. Host Margaret Brennan asked Palmer how Iranian citizens are reacting to the U.S. pulling out of the nuclear deal:
“Well, the hard-liners hit the streets after President Trump’s decision, with the old cries of ‘Death to America,'” Palmer responded. “But they and everybody else are actually much more angry with their own government. They’re fed up, because they haven’t had salary increases. There are no jobs. There’s corruption. And, most of all, they say the Iranian government can offer nothing but a bleak future. “I have never heard people so angry here. At the moment, the government is keeping a lid on little protests that have been springing up everywhere, but it’s anyone’s guess how long they can maintain stability,” Palmer concluded.

Trump Extends Lifeline to Sanctioned Tech Company ZTE

Trump says in tweet he is working with Chinese president to keep struggling company in business

Trump in a tweet Sunday said he is working with Chinese President Xi to keep ZTE in business.
Photo: johannes eisele/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

President Donald Trump said he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to keep ZTE Corp. in business, throwing an extraordinary lifeline to the Chinese telecommunication giant that has been laid low by U.S. moves to cut off its suppliers.

The surprise intervention comes less than a month after ZTE was hit with an order banning U.S. companies from selling components to the Chinese business. The U.S. Commerce Department directed companies to stop exporting to ZTE in mid-April, saying the Chinese firm violated the terms of a settlement resolving evasion of U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Trump said in a tweet that he is working with Mr. Xi to get ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost.” He said the Commerce Department has been instructed to “get it done!” Mr. Trump’s comments about the company and concern about Chinese jobs come as the U.S. and China are locked in high-stakes negotiations over trade and intellectual property. Both countries are threatening to slap tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of the other’s products. Mr. Trump has regularly blamed China for U.S. job losses and Beijing’s policies for the U.S. trade deficit, making his shift in tone notable.U.S. concerns about ZTE go beyond its evasion of sanctions. For years, the U.S. has accused equipment made by Shenzhen-based ZTE and its larger crosstown rival Huawei Technologies Co. of being a national security threat, an accusation that both companies have denied.  The U.S. has largely blocked both companies from selling telecommunications gear in the U.S., and the Pentagon recently pulled mobile phones made by both competitors from stores on U.S. military bases. ZTE continues to sell phones in the U.S. through a number of retail channels, including through Best Buy Co. stores and through AT&T Inc. stores and its website, representatives from both companies said last week. Phones made by Huawei, the world’s No. 3 handset maker, are more difficult to find in the U.S. The company was set to launch a high-end handset earlier this year with AT&T but the U.S. carrier pulled out of the deal at the last minute without explaining why. Nodding to security concerns, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, responded on Twitter to the president’s remarks: “Our intelligence agencies have warned that ZTE technology and phones pose a major cybersecurity threat.” He chided Mr. Trump: “You should care more about our national security than Chinese jobs.”

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) tweeted in response to Mr. Trump: “How about helping some American companies first?”

Late Sunday, amid confusion about the meaning of Mr. Trump’s comments, the White House issued a statement saying that the ZTE matter would be decided independently by the Commerce Department.“The administration is in contact with China on this issue, among others in the bilateral relationship,” a White House spokeswoman said. She said that Mr. Trump expects Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to “exercise his independent judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations, to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts.”  said it had ceased major business operations.The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that in its efforts to have the ban stayed, ZTE has told U.S. authorities that process and human-resource errors, not a plan of systematic deception, were responsible for the lapses in fully complying with its 2017 settlement, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company also believes that the ban is a disproportionate penalty, this person said.

Federal Tax Cuts Leave States in a Bind

Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered outside Cipriani at 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan on December 2, 2017.
Erik McGregor | Pacific Press | LightRocket | Getty Images Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered outside Cipriani at 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan on December 2, 2017.

The federal tax overhaul cut taxes for millions of American families and businesses. But the law also had an unintended effect: raising the state-tax bite in nearly every state that has an income tax. Now, governors and state legislators are contending with how to adjust their own tax codes to shield their residents from paying more or, in some cases, whether to apply any of the unexpected revenue windfall to other priorities instead. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Trump signed into law in December, did not directly affect state budgets. It cut federal tax rates, but also made other changes that mean more income will be subject to taxation. Because most states use federal definitions of income and have not adjusted their own rates, the federal changes will have big consequences for both state budgets and taxpayers. 

“Residents of the majority of states would experience an unlegislated tax increase,” said Jared Walczak, an analyst with the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Apart from the nine states with no broad-based income tax, nearly every state will face a similar decision. Almost all of the states base their tax codes in some way on federal definitions of income, before applying their own adjustments and deductions and setting their own tax rates. The federal tax overhaul, which eliminated or capped several deductions and exemptions, effectively broadened what counts as income for some families. Previously, for example, a married couple with three children earning $70,000 might have been taxed on only about $36,000 of that income, according to the Tax Policy Center, a research group. The tax law, however, eliminated the so-called personal exemption and made other changes, which could increase this family’s taxable income to about $46,000. The changes leave families owing tax on a larger share of their income, without the reduced rates or new credits to soften the blow. A handful of states have already taken action, in some cases using the extra revenue from the federal law as lubrication for deal-making. Colorado, for example, took advantage of its estimated $200 million in extra revenue to pass a budget that included extra funding for roads, public education and school security. Idaho, on the other hand, moved quickly to return the revenue windfall to residents through tax cuts. In California, the legislature has not even tried to pass a conformity bill, choosing instead to focus on developing workarounds for the federal law’s cap on state and local tax deductions, which would hit California residents especially hard. Several factors are complicating the issue for states. Congress passed its tax overhaul late in the year and with minimal debate, giving states relatively little time to assess the effects and plan a response. Even now, the full impact on state budgets is not clear, meaning legislatures are deciding how to take advantage of a revenue stream that could fall short of estimates. In addition, most of the changes to the individual tax code expire after several years, further muddling states’ plans. Moreover, the tax debate is hitting as state budgets are strained by rising health care and pension costs, among other factors. Those strains could worsen in coming years if the federal government cuts back funding — perhaps because of deficits caused, in part, by the tax law itself.

Thousands of people in Sweden get microchip implants for a new way of life

Small implants were first used in 2015 in Sweden and since then people have become active in

It’s the size of a grain of rice but could hold the key to many aspects of your life.A tiny microchip inserted under the skin can replace the need to carry keys, credit cards and train tickets. That might sound like an Orwellian nightmare to some but in Sweden it is a welcome reality for a growing number who favour convenience over concerns of potential personal data violations. The small implants were first used in 2015 in Sweden – initially confidentially – and several other countries. Swedes have gone on to be very active in microchipping, with scant debate about issues surrounding its use, in a country keen on new technology and where the sharing of personal information is held up as a sign of a transparent society. In the past year, the chip has turned into a kind of electronic handbag. Sweden’s SJ national railway company has won over some 130 users to its microchip reservation service in a year.

Conductors scan passengers’ hands after they book tickets online and register them on their chip. Sweden has a track record on the sharing of personal information, which may have helped ease the microchip’s acceptance among the Nordic country’s 10 million-strong population.

Citizens have long accepted the sharing of their personal details, registered by the social security system, with other administrative bodies, while people can find out each others’ salaries through a quick phone call to the tax authority. The implants use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, also used in credit cards, and are “passive”, which means they hold data that can be read by other devices but cannot read information themselves. Although still small, they have the capacity to hold train tickets, entry pass codes as well as access certain vending machines and printers, promoters say. “At the moment, the data collected and shared by implants is small, but it’s likely that this will increase,” the researcher said.. “In Sweden, people are very comfortable with technology and I would say there is less resistance to new technology here than in most other places,” Libberton said. Nick Note: Talk about the mark of the beast where people canot buy, sell or trade without it. Dangerous stuff!!

North Korea says that it will dismantle its nuclear test site this month

Screenshot of Mount Mantap, the location of North Korea’s nuclear test sit Image: Google Maps

North Korea’s official news agency has reported that the country has scheduled the demolition of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site ahead of talks with the United States next month. Reuters reports that official Korean Central New Agency says that the site will be decommissioned between May 23rd and 25th, which would include “collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances,” and shutting down all of its observation and security facilities. The announcement comes ahead of scheduled talks between US President Donald Trump and DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12th. State media says that foreign journalists will be invited to witness the decommissioning.  When North Korea tested a nuclear device on September 3rd, 2017, the explosion sent vibrations shuddering through the Earth. About 45 minutes later, a ringing phone in Vienna, Austria, woke seismologist Ezekiel Jonathan just as the sun was beginning to rise. In April, North Korea said that it would pause its nuclear program, although experts weren’t convinced that it was a significant move: the country had halted its missile testing program between 1999 and 2006, and had shuttered and restarted the plant used to produce plutonium. Experts also noted that it’s possible that Kim Jong-Un could be pleased with success of the program, meaning that no further testing is needed. Others noted that the declaration made for good propaganda in advance of the upcoming talks. The country conducted six nuclear tests between 2006 and September 2017, and claimed that final test was a hydrogen bomb. That blast was the largest conducted by the country, and was so powerful that it dropped Mount Mantap by about a foot and a half and pushed it 12 feet sideways. Given the power of that blast, it’s entirely possible that that test could have rendered the test site useless, meaning that it’s possible that the country isn’t giving up anything by publicly dismantling it.  Nick Note: Its amazing are people that stupid? Lets see if we can suss this out. You dig a mine shaft under a mountain. And you then put at the bottom of that shaft a thermal nuclear weapon. You blow up the mountain. Its collapsing and highly radioactive. Then you tell President Einstein hell yes we will “dismantle”  the implode mountain that is now a radiation death zone and about to collapse releasing a radioactive dust cloud.. And said President call that progress to HA HA HA nuclear Dismantlement. Trump does not care as long as he get the press coverage and a peace prize from that plastic explosive company.. Holy Shit! hello the sight has been destroyed their is nothing left and nothing to dismantle. Maybe they can roll up some of the test sensor  cable that was not melted…… .I know maybe he can partner with Trump JR. And build a golf course on the radioactive ruble.

Bloomberg warns of ‘endless barrage of lies’ in politics

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned Saturday that the worst threat facing the country isn’t terrorism or communism – it’s “an epidemic of dishonesty.” The billionaire – who has called President Trump a “con” and a “dangerous demagogue” – cautioned that “an endless barrage of lies” and “alternate realities” in national politics endanger U.S. democracy. The comments came during a commencement speech at Rice University in Texas “This is bigger than any one person. It’s bigger than any one party,” Bloomberg told The Associated Press in an interview before the speech, refusing to comment on Trump’s own relationship with the truth. The 76-year-old businessman recalled the myth about the first U.S. president in which a young George Washington, caught cutting down a cherry tree, said he could not tell a lie. “How did we go from a president who could not tell a lie to politicians who cannot tell the truth?” Bloomberg asked Rice grads, calling out both Democrats and Republicans without naming specific pols. The wealthy exec, who flirted with a 2016 presidential run, told graduates and their families in Houston that when elected officials talk as if they’re above the truth, they’ll act like they’re above the law. “The greatest threat to American democracy isn’t communism, jihadism or any other external force or foreign power,” he said. “It’s our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power.”

Conoco authorized to seize $636 million in Venezuela PDVSA assets

WILLEMSTAD Reuters – – A Curacao court has authorized ConocoPhillips (COP.N) to seize about $636 million in assets belonging to Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA due to the 2007 nationalization of the U.S. oil major’s projects in Venezuela.A general view shows the Isla refinery in Willemstad on the island of Curacao, April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares  The legal action was the latest in the Caribbean to enforce a $2 billion arbitration award by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) over the nationalization.

The court decision, first reported by Caribbean media outlet Antilliaans Dagblad on Saturday, says Curacao can attach “oil or oil products on ships and on bank deposits.”

Conoco and PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision, which was seen by Reuters and dated May 4. Conoco earlier this month moved to temporarily seize PDVSA’s assets on Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and St. Eustatius. That threw Venezuela’s oil export chain into a tailspin just as Venezuela’s crude production has crumbled to a more than 30-year low due to underinvestment, theft, a brain drain and mismanagement. Reuters reported on Friday that PDVSA was preparing to shut down the 335,000 barrel-per-day Isla refinery it operates in Curacao amid threats by Conoco to seize cargoes sent to resupply the facility. PDVSA is also seeking ways to sidestep legal orders to hand over assets. The Venezuelan firm has transferred custody over the fuel produced at the Isla refinery to the Curacao government, the owner of the facility, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. PDVSA transferred ownership of crude to be refined at Isla to its U.S. unit, Citgo Petroleum, one of the sources said. For the time being, PDVSA has suspended all oil storage and shipping from its Caribbean facilities and concentrated most shipping in its main crude terminal of Jose, which is suffering from a backlog.

Report: DHS Secretary Nielsen ‘Implored’ Not to Quit by John Kelly As Illegal Immigration Skyrockets

In a cabinet meeting attended by advisers Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Larry Kudlow, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump blasted Nielsen for failing to secure the southern border, the Washington Post reports:

Trump lashed out at his Cabinet, and Nielsen in particular, when told that the number of people arrested for illegally crossing the Mexico border topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. The blowup lasted more than 30 minutes, according to a person with knowledge of what transpired, as Trump’s face reddened and he raised his voice, saying Nielsen needed to “close down” the border. [Emphasis added]

“Why don’t you have solutions? How is this still happening?” he said, adding later, “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.” [Emphasis added]

Indeed, border crossings have continued to soar under Nielsen’s direction at DHS. For example, as Breitbart Texas reported, border crossings in March approached Obama-era levels of illegal immigration at the border. Last month, border crossings continued to increase, with nearly 40,000 illegal aliens crossing the border. The increase in border crossings, coupled with a caravan of Central Americans which stormed the southern border, has reportedly created tensions between Nielsen and Trump. As Breitbart News reported, Nielsen allegedly almost quit after being blamed for not securing the border, though DHS officials say the claim is untrue. A separate report, however, by Fox News’s John Robert, reveals that Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly had to call Nielsen following the meeting to ask her not to quit.

While Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have taken tough approaches to illegal immigration and the caravan, Nielsen in her most recent testimony before Congress begged asylum-seekers to use the ports of entry to enter the U.S. legally, a move that experts say was a “colossal mistake.” “If you are fleeing and you have a need to come to the United States, please come to the ports of entry. You — you — you know, we will process your claim there,” Nielsen said. But if you come across the border illegally, you’ve — you’ve broken the law and we have to prosecute. It’s the only way to keep our border — to have a border.”  Nielsen formerly worked for President George W. Bush, when thousands of illegal aliens were allowed to enter the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina to take coveted blue-collar jobs. Nielsen also previously authored a report promoting mass immigration as a win for big business.

Iran nuclear deal: Europe strives to keep agreement

Image copyright AFP Image caption Iranians have been demonstrating against the US decision

A flurry of diplomatic activity is under way to rescue the Iran nuclear deal after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from it and bring back sanctions against Tehran. German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with President Putin of Russia, and UK PM Theresa May has talked to Mr Trump. French ministers have been loudest in their complaints that major European businesses will be hit hard as US sanctions are re-imposed. Mr Trump says the deal is “horrible”. Among his concerns are that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme are due to expire and the deal does not address Iran’s ballistic missile programme or its regional influence. On Tuesday Mr Trump honoured an election pledge to scrap US participation in the 2015 accord. Sanctions will be re-imposed in two stages in August and November. Under the agreement Iran undertook to curb nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions. The deal, negotiated by the US, three European Union powers, Russia and China, was designed to prevent Iran developing atomic weapons – something it has always denied trying to do. The agreement is still seen by the non-US signatories as the best way of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, though they concede it is not perfect. The Europeans also stand to lose billions of dollars of business when US sanctions return.A deal by the European plane-manufacturer, Airbus, to sell nearly 100 planes to Iran is now in danger. Some parts used in the planes are made in the US.  Big French firms such as energy giant Total and car-makers Renault and Peugeot also have investments in Iran. Both France and Germany have seen a sharp rise in exports to Iran since sanctions were lifted in 2016. France has condemned the re-imposition of sanctions as “unacceptable”. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Europe had to defend its “economic sovereignty”.

“Do we want to be vassals deferring with a curtsy and a bow to decisions made by the US?” he asked.

Mr Le Maire called on the European Commission to look into possible retaliatory measures. But both Mr Le Maire and his German opposite number, Olaf Scholz, are also speaking to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to seek exemptions for European companies. Mrs May spoke on the phone to Mr Trump to tell him that Europe remained “firmly committed” to the deal, according to Downing Street. Both leaders agreed on the need for talks on how sanctions would affect foreign companies trading with Iran. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken with Mrs Merkel and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the deal, the Kremlin said. Keeping it alive “is something we need to discuss with Iran,” Mrs Merkel has said. She said scrapping the accord unilaterally damaged trust in the world order. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is to visit China, Russia and Brussels, starting on Saturday.

Trump Assails High Drug Prices, Avoids Direct Hit on Industry

Image: Trump Assails High Drug Prices, Avoids Direct Hit on Industry
President Donald Trump speaks during an event about prescription drug prices with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on May
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday blasted drugmakers and healthcare “middlemen” for making prescription medicines unaffordable for Americans, but healthcare stocks rose as his administration avoided aggressive direct measures to cut prices.Trump made the remarks at the White House Rose Garden in a speech to introduce what he called “the most sweeping action in history” to lower drug prices. The effort comes as a growing number of Americans struggle with the cost of their medications, and cite healthcare concerns as a top priority for Washington ahead of congressional elections in November.

Trump said his administration would take aim at the “middlemen” in the drug industry who became “very, very rich,” an apparent reference to health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). He also said the pharmaceutical industry is making an “absolute fortune” at the expense of American taxpayers.”Everyone involved in the broken system – the drugmakers, insurance companies, distributors, pharmacy benefit managers, and many others – contribute to the problem,” Trump said. Trump campaigned on lowering prescription drug prices ahead of the 2016 presidential election, even accusing drugmakers of “getting away with murder.” Healthcare investors had braced for months for more direct attempts to regulate U.S. prices that would cut into industry profits. But Trump has since abandoned ideas to lower drug costs he supported during the campaign, including allowing the government’s Medicare plan for older Americans to negotiate prices directly with drugmakers, and enabling U.S. consumers to import lower-cost medicines from other countries. On Friday, Trump’s senior health officials outlined more modest policy proposals to introduce more competition among drugmakers and pass on savings to consumers. Critics said the policies pointed to the influence the pharmaceutical industry wields with the administration.

“I think very expensive champagne will be popping in drug company boardrooms across the country tonight,” said Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings.

Senator Ron Wyden, also a Democrat, said the proposals “amount to asking drug companies nicely to lower their prices with zero accountability.” Shares of major drugmakers, insurers and PBMs rose after the speech. The S&P 500 healthcare index, a broad gauge of large healthcare stocks, closed up 1.5 percent, its biggest single-day percentage gain in a month. “The plan was a lot less aggressive than investors expected,” wrote Alex Arfaei, analyst at BMO Capital Markets. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration would evaluate requiring drugmakers to include the list prices they set on medicines in their advertising. Drugmakers argue that list prices do not reflect actual cost after discounts and rebates.

 “There’s not a big proposal here that is going to make a huge difference. There are a bunch of smaller technical changes,” said Sam Richardson, Associate Professor of Economics at Boston College.

Regarding forcing other countries to pay more for drugs, Richardson said: “We don’t really have the policy levers to get that to happen.”

Rudy Giuliani says Trump “denied” AT&T-Time Warner merger

President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani told HuffPost Friday that Mr. Trump “denied the merger” between AT&T and Time Warner, which contracits the White House and the Department of Justice earlier statements that the president was not involved. Giuliani’s comments come after it was revealed AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, Bob Quinn, was involved in agreeing to pay Cohen a reported $600,000 for what the company called “insights” into the Trump administration’s positions on telecom regulation, tax reform and other issues. “Whatever lobbying was done didn’t reach the president,” Giuliani told HuffPost. “He did drain the swamp … The president denied the merger. They didn’t get the result they wanted.” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said Friday that hiring Cohen was a “big mistake.”  Mr. Trump vowed during the 2016 campaign to stop the merger, but Mr. Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway told CBS News last year the White House isn’t involved in the Justice Department’s antitrust review of the merger. An official in the agency’s antitrust division also said the White House was not directed it on how to proceed on the transaction. The Department of Justice in November sued to stop AT&T’s proposed $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, saying the merger would harm competition, lessen innovation and result in higher costs for consumers.  Giuliani wasn’t part of Mr. Trump’s team at the time, so it’s unclear how he would know if there was any involvement by Mr. Trump.  Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted Friday that this was “major news” if Giuliani “didn’t misspeak.”

Giuliani gave two other interviews on Friday. Giuliani told The Associated Press on Friday that any preparation with Mr. Trump for a possible interview with federal investigators would likely be delayed until after the June 12 summit in Singapore because “I wouldn’t want to take his concentration off something far, far more important.”  Giuliani said the question of the interview would be resolved by May 17, the one-year anniversary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment, but “several things delayed us, with the primary one being the whole situation with North Korea.” “The president has been very busy,” Giuliani said. “It really would be pretty close to impossible to spend the amount of time on it we would need.”   Giuliani also suggested to the AP that special counsel Mueller’s team indicated it would not attempt to indict Mr. Trump.

Why would Kim Jong-un trust Trump now he’s ripped up Iran’s nuclear deal?

Pushing Tehran into Beijing’s embrace seems like another example of the Donald “Making China Great Again”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang. Photo: AP

An isolated “rogue regime” with a horrendous human rights record destabilises the region, supports terrorism and embarks on a dangerous nuclear programme. The world community bands together to impose crippling economic sanctions. The regime finally relents and agrees to halt its nuclear ambitions in exchange for foreign investment, trade and recognition.If that sounds like the ideal scenario for corralling North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, it is.And if you are looking for a successful template somewhere in the world, yes, there is one: Iran, which in 2015 agreed to suspend its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. The Iran nuclear agreement could have provided the road map for the US to strike a deal to end the conflict on the Korean peninsula, just before Donald Trump is set to meet Kim Jong-un in the first ever face-to-face summit between the leaders of America and North Korea The trouble is that Trump, making good on a campaign pledge, just ripped up the road map, and now he’s driving blind, in the dark and seemingly without a compass, over the objections of America’s European allies as well as Russia and China. He has tossed out the only working model for what a North Korea deal might look like. At the most basic level, Trump first wanted to abrogate the Iran deal because it was the top foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, and this president has shown, if nothing else, that he is determined to uproot and dismantle all things associated with Barack Obama. From health care to environmental regulations to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, if Obama backed it, it has to be bad. Thus, the Iran deal was not just flawed; it was “horrible”, “rotten” and “the worst deal in history”. Second, the hawks who have now seized control of the American foreign policy establishment, backed by Israel’s pro-war Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have long hated the Iran deal because it mandated only a 10- to 15-year moratorium on Iran’s nuclear research and uranium enrichment. According to this view, Iran was only biding its time and rebuilding its economy while waiting patiently before it achieves a nuclear breakout in the next decade. Others, mostly on the conservative right, condemned the deal because it only dealt with Iran’s nuclear programme, ignoring questions about Tehran’s support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, its ballistic missiles, its meddling in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, and its near-pathological hostility toward Israel and the West (with “death to America” a refrain at every Iranian rally). And finally, pro-war fringe figures such as John Bolton, the new national security adviser who has rarely seen a country he didn’t want to bomb, have one ultimate goal in mind – regime change. In this dystopian, Boltonesque world view, any deal with Iran is a bad deal because America’s long-term endgame should be toppling the mullahs by force; spare the talks and start revving up the B-52s.

 

 

Negotiators fail to reach NAFTA deal, Trump launches new attack

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks to reporters after talks with senior U.S. legislators on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., May 10, 2018. REUTERS/David Ljunggren

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior American, Canadian and Mexican officials on Friday ended a week of talks without a deal to modernize NAFTA, agreeing instead to resume negotiations soon, ahead of a deadline next week issued by U.S House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.

The failure to secure a quick deal underscores uncertainty over the North American Free Trade Agreement, which U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said “has been a horrible, horrible disaster for this country.”

Trump, who blames the 1994 pact for U.S. manufacturing job losses to lower-cost Mexico, often threatens to walk away unless the other two member countries agree to major changes. After meeting for barely half an hour on Friday, the top Mexican and Canadian politicians involved in the talks to update the agreement made it clear that big differences remained.Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said officials would continue working in Washington while ministers returned home for consultations.  “We plan to meet again as needed, which I think will be soon. … The negotiation will take as long as it takes to get a good deal,” she told reporters after the meeting. Pressure to reach a deal increased this week after Speaker Ryan said he needed to be notified of a new NAFTA by May 17 to give the current Congress a chance of passing it.  U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said he wants a deal in place soon to avoid potential political problems stemming from Mexico’s July 1 presidential vote and U.S. midterm congressional elections in November. In a statement, Lighthizer said the United States was ready to continue working with Mexico and Canada but made no mention of a deadline. Friday’s talks were the first involving all three of the top officials in the NAFTA negotiations – Freeland, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Lighthizer – since the latest round started on Monday.Mexico has not agreed to a U.S. proposal to boost North American content for autos made in the NAFTA region, one of the main sticking points. Guajardo said his team tried hard during the week to bridge the gap.  “We’re not going to sacrifice the quality of an agreement because of pressure of time,” he said. Financial markets are nervous about the damage a U.S. withdrawal could inflict on the highly integrated North American economy. Canada’s central bank governor and other policymakers complain that uncertainty over the pact is hitting business investment. Guajardo, who wants to reach an agreement on all the principal aspects of a modernized NAFTA before sealing a new deal, says plenty of other issues were outstanding. Drafting new rules of origin governing what percentage of a car needs to be sourced from the NAFTA region to avoid tariffs has been at the center of the talks. It forms a key plank of the Trump administration’s aim to boost jobs and investment in the United States. Officials and industry sources say the three sides have been gradually narrowing their differences on autos. However, several other major issues are still unresolved, including U.S. demands for a sunset clause that would allow NAFTA to expire if it is not renegotiated every five years, and elimination of settlement panels for trade disputes.

Trump breaks key populist campaign promise to negotiate Medicare drug prices

“If we have to bid out pharmaceuticals, we’re bidding them out. We’re going to save billions and billions and billions of dollars.”

 

On the campaign trail, candidate Trump promised to save hundreds of billions of dollars standing up to the pharmaceutical industry, and said he’d “negotiate like crazy” to bring down Medicare prescription drug prices. Allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies for better prices has long been a goal for progressives, and when voters heard Trump stray from the Republican party orthodoxy, railing against Big Pharma as he asked for their support, many likely thought his promises would mean something different in Washington, D.C. if he were elected president. Sadly, they were wrong The people who elected Trump expect him to come through. Ahead of the Friday speech announcing the plan, senior administration officials told reporters that “we are not calling for Medicare negotiation in the way that Democrats have called for,” instead characterizing Trump’s plan as outlining “important changes that will dramatically improve the way negotiation takes place inside the Medicare program.”

EXCLUSIVE: Special counsel probing donations with foreign connections to Trump inauguration

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has questioned several witnesses about millions of dollars in donations to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee last year, including questions about donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News. Those interviewed included longtime Trump friend and confidant Thomas Barrack, who oversaw the fundraising effort, as well as individuals familiar with the massive inaugural fund, according to sources with direct knowledge. Barrack, a real estate investor, has long been described as a Trump “whisperer” whose close friendship with the president landed him a prime appearance during the GOP convention the night Trump accepted his party’s nomination. The billionaire runs a fund with hundreds of millions in real estate and private equity holdings in the Middle East. Barrack oversaw the largest inaugural fundraising effort in U.S. history, bringing in $107 million – more than double what President Barack Obama raised for his first swearing-in festivities. According to a source who has sat with the Mueller team for interviews in recent weeks, the special counsel is examining donors who have either business or personal connections in Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Several donors with those ties contributed large sums to the non-profit fundraising entity – gifts that topped out at $1 million dollars, according to public records. Special counsel investigators have also asked witnesses about specific inauguration donors, including American businessmen Leonard Blavatnik, and Andrew Intrater, according to sources familiar with the Mueller sessions. Blavatnik is a billionaire with dual U.S. and British citizenship who has extensive business ties in Russia. Blavatnik gave $1 million to the inaugural fund through his company, Access Industries, according to FEC records. Companies are prohibited from giving donations to political candidates, however, donations to inaugural committees are not considered donations to candidates. Intrater, an American relative and business associate of Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, runs a U.S. company with deep ties to Vekselberg’s Russia-based global conglomerate, Renova Group. Renova was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. Intrater serves as the CEO of Columbus Nova, an investment company based in New York. FEC records show Intrater made a $250,000 donation to the Trump inauguration committee in early January 2017. Following the donation, he and Vekselberg attended Trump’s inauguration, according to published reports. Also in 2017, Intrater made two more donations to the Trump orbit including a $35,000 to Trump Victory, the joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and Republican party, plus a separate $29,600 donation directly to the Republican National Committee, according to FEC records.

Exclusive: AT&T CEO says Cohen payments ‘big mistake,’ chief lobbyist retiring

 

FILE PHOTO: Chief Executive Officer of AT&T Randall Stephenson arrives at a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., U.S. April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barri

(Reuters) – Hiring President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was a “big mistake,” AT&T Inc Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in an employee memo, reviewed by Reuters, that went out Friday morning. AT&T’s head lobbyist, Bob Quinn, who oversaw the hiring of Cohen, is retiring, according to the memo.AT&T said on Tuesday it had hired Essential Consultants LLC, a company used by Cohen, to advise it on working with the new administration in early 2017, around the time of Trump’s inauguration. The disclosure of AT&T’s relationship with Cohen has turned into a major embarrassment for the telecommunications company as it awaits a U.S. judge’s June 12 decision on whether it can go through with an $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc. U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York City, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid The deal, which was announced in October 2016, was quickly denounced by Trump, who has been sharply critical of CNN, a unit of Time Warner. “To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate,” Stephenson wrote in the memo. “But the fact is our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment.” AT&T did not hire Cohen to lobby on behalf of the company, according to the memo. The one-year contract at $50,000 per month, from January through December 2017, was limited to consulting and advisory services, according to the memo. AT&T never asked Cohen to set up meetings for the company with anyone in the Trump administration, and he did not offer to do so, according to the memo. AT&T’s board of directors does not hold Stephenson responsible for the lack of vetting, according to a source familiar with the situation. The AT&T payments were revealed by Michael Avenatti, adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, who also said a company owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and other corporations paid Essential Consultants for certain services. Essential Consultants paid $130,000 to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, days before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement that barred her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. He denies any encounter took place.

Spoiled Relations: U.S. Goods Stuck at China Ports as Tensions Heat Up

Fruits are at risk of rotting, while Ford vehicles may now need to be disassembled for Chinese customs officials

Fresh sweet cherries pictured in Washington, D.C.
Fresh sweet cherries pictured in Washington, D.C. Photo: Zuma Press

Ford cars and California fruits are among the goods piling up at Chinese ports, the result of increased inspections that business groups say is China’s way of reminding the U.S. how important its market is to American exporters. Navel oranges, lemons and cherries from California, along with American apples, have been sitting at Chinese wharves for longer than normal as Chinese inspectors spend more time inspecting the fruits for pests and decays, U.S. trade groups said. Ford Motor Co. vehicles are likewise being subjected to unusually rigorous checks at the port, people familiar with the matter said. Pork is also coming under more frequent inspections, U.S. officials say, as U.S.-China trade tensions show no signs of easing.The Chinese “are trying to identify industries or sectors that could put pressure on the administration to change its posture,” said Joel Nelsen, president of trade association California Citrus Mutual. He said inspectors are opening and sifting through most of the 900 cartons of citrus fruit in each shipping container.  William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said China appears to be following a tried-and-true playbook.“China basically speaks with one voice on trade. It’s not that difficult for the (Communist) party to send out an order and it will happen very quickly—and for the most part, systematically and consistently,” Mr. Zarit said. Last year, amid tensions about South Korea’s deployment of a U.S.-built missile-defense system, China stopped sending tour groups to the country and sales of Hyundai Motor Co. cars in China plummeted. China at one time imposed curbs on imports of Philippine bananas over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea. China’s General Administration of Customs didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said he wasn’t aware of any effort to restrict U.S. imports. “In principle,” Mr. Geng said Thursday, “China carries out relevant inspection and quarantine work in accordance with laws and regulations following a scientific and unbiased method.” Fruit is an easy target in a trade dispute as its passage through customs can easily be delayed on health and safety grounds, an official at a southern Chinese port said. China’s customs agency said Monday it would start strengthening quarantine inspections on U.S. apples and timber after claiming to have found pests in some recent shipments. Before last week, U.S. cherries could pass through such quarantine inspections in a matter of hours, said Keith Hu, director of international operations at Northwest Cherry Growers in Washington state. Mr. Nelsen, of California Citrus Mutual, said oranges and lemons would typically take a couple of days to clear the reviews. Now the process is, in some cases, taking five to seven days.

Cohen, touting his access to President Trump, convinced companies to pay millions

Trump warns Iran: ‘Don’t restart your nuclear weapons program’

“I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. I would advise them very strongly. If they do, there will be very severe consequence,” Trump said.
US President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while addressing a joint news conference with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US,

US President Donald Trump warned Iran on Wednesday there will be severe consequences if it restarts its nuclear weapons program. In a conversation with reporters in Washington before a cabinet meeting, Trump said he believes Tehran will eventually renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal with the six world powers.

“I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. I would advise them very strongly. If they do, there will be very severe consequence,” he said.
The president spoke one day after he announced America’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and the reimposition of US sanctions on Tehran.  “Iran will come back and say, ‘We don’t want to negotiate.’ And of course, they’re going to say that. And if I were in their position, I’d say that, too, for the first couple of months, ‘We’re not going to negotiate,’” Trump said. “But they’ll negotiate, or something will happen. And hopefully that won’t be the case,” he said. The sanctions the US will place on Iran are the strongest it has ever issued against any country, Trump said. These sanctions are “going into effect very shortly. They’re mostly constituted and drawn already.” This is “a deal to hurt the world and, certainly, Israel. You saw Benjamin Netanyahu get up yesterday and talk so favorably about what we did,” he said. “We’re going to make either a really good deal for the world, or we’re not going to make a deal at all,” Trump said. US National Security Adviser John Bolton told CBS News the hope is that the sanctions will be so crippling that Tehran will be forced to give up its ballistic missiles program. The Islamic Republic has increased spending on its ballistic missile program, which is not covered by the deal, Bolton said. It needs these missiles for a nuclear weapons program, he added. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blasted the US on Wednesday, charging that it is untrustworthy and that it had been a mistake for his country to enter into the 2015 agreement.
“From day one, I said several times that the United States is not to be trusted. I said it publicly and privately. I said if you want to sign an agreement, first make sure that necessary guarantees are made,” Khamenei said. “What happened is a foul play on the part of the United States, and it does not surprise us,” he said during a speech he gave in Tehran. An English translation of his speech was published on his webpage. The issue, he said, is not Iran’s nuclear weapons program but rather the persistent American animosity toward his country.

THE EU-3 COUNTRIES – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – hope they can sway Iran to remain in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Under the terms of the JCPOA, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an agreement from the six world powers that they would lift their economic sanctions. Russia and China are also signatories to the deal and, like the EU-3, have no interest in ending it.

Michael Avenatti claims Michael Cohen received payments from firm controlled by Russian oligarch

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels, claims to have evidence of a series of payments made to a bank account in Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s name – including from a company linked to a Russian oligarch and two major corporations, AT&T and Novartis. CBS News has not been able to verify the allegations by Avenatti. Michael Cohen did not respond to CBS News’ requests for comment.  The New York Times said in a report Tuesday night that its own review of unspecified financial records “confirmed much of what was in Mr. Avenatti’s report.”  The Associated Press said financial documents it reviewed “appeared to back up Avenatti’s report.”Avenatti, who has been aggressively pursuing Cohen and President Trump, laid out the claims in a 7-page memo Tuesday evening.  Cohen established a corporation called Essential Consultants LLC in October 2016, just weeks before the presidential election, according to Avenatti. Essential Consultants then opened a bank account at First Republic Bank. It was from this account that a $130,000 payment to a representative of Stormy Daniels was made, according to Avenatti. The question Avenatti claims to answer is where that and other money ultimately came from. He points to a series of alleged payments, including  $500,000 from an American investment firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was made a target of U.S. sanctions last month.  According to a statement given to The Washington Post, the investment firm, Columbus Nova, said it retained Cohen as a consultant “regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures.” But it said Vekselberg was not involved with hiring or paying Cohen. Columbus Nova is affiliated with the Renova Group, which is controlled by Vekselberg. Vekselberg and the Renova Group issued a statement to CBS News early Wednesday saying, “Neither Victor Vekselberg nor Renova Group has ever had any contractual relationship with Mr. Cohen or Essential Consultants. As to relationship between Columbus Nova and Mr. Cohen, you have to ask Mr. Andy Intrater, because Columbus Nova is a company owned and managed by him.” Intrater is Vekselberg’s cousin, according to the Reuters news agency. Avenatti also listed other payments: $399,920 from Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company; $150,000 from Korea Aerospace Industries; and $187,500 from Elliott Broidy, a former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. According to Avenatti, AT&T paid Cohen’s company a total of $200,000 over a series of four payments of $50,000, dating from 2017 to early this year, though AT&T did not confirm the figure.  In a statement Tuesday, AT&T said it had paid Cohen’s company, Essential Consulting, “to provide insights into understanding the new administration.”   In the statement, AT&T said: “Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration. They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017.” AT&T announced a bid to acquire Time Warner in October 2016, a deal that Mr. Trump was quick to speak out against. The Department of Justice filed suit to block the merger in November 2017 – a ruling is due this June.  It’s unclear where Avenatti got these documents. Noah Shachtman, executive editor of The Daily Beast, said he had confirmed the payments. Shachtman told CBSN his source wondered aloud to him, “How the f did Michael Avenatti find out about this?” Schachtman said he believed this would be a “big question.”

Jubeir: Saudi Arabia will seek nuclear weapon if Iran does

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made the statement during his interview with CNN. (Al Arabiya) AFP

Asked whether Riyadh would “build a bomb itself” if Tehran seizes on Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran deal to resume a nuclear weapons program, Jubeir said: “If Iran acquires nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same.” Saudi Arabia has long said it would match any Iranian weapons development, but Jubeir’s renewed vow came after US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of an accord designed to prevent Tehran’s alleged quest for the bomb. And it came amid growing tension over Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been firing rockets across the border. Riyadh, which is part of a regional coalition that intervened in Yemen’s civil war to fight the Houthis, accuses Iran of supplying the militia with ballistic missiles. “These missiles are Iranian manufactured and delivered to the Huthis. Such behavior is unacceptable. It violates UN Resolutions with regards to ballistic missiles. And the Iranians must be held accountable for this,” Jubeir told CNN. “We will find the right way and at the right time to respond to this,” he warned. “We are trying to avoid at all costs direct military action with Iran, but Iran’s behavior such as this cannot continue. This amounts to a declaration of war.”

Louisiana to warn thousands of elderly, disabled they may lose Medicaid

Louisiana to warn thousands of elderly, disabled they may lose Medicaid
© Getty Images

Louisiana is reportedly set to tell tens of thousands of elderly and disabled residents this week that they may lose Medicaid benefits in the coming months. The state Health Department is preparing to notify 37,000 people that due to state budget cuts eliminating four Medicaid programs, they could lose their health-care coverage, including beds in nursing homes. Louisiana’s chief budget officer, Jay Dardenne, told The New Orleans Times-Picayune that officials “tried to delay this as long as we possibly can.” “We can’t just afford to bury our heads in the sand,” Dardenne said. The state Senate has not yet voted on a budget, and there are other measures that could delay the cuts, including intervention from the federal government, according to the paper, but the state is required to send out the notices in advance. The proposed cuts, pushed by GOP House leaders, could result in most of the state’s nursing homes closing, eliminating thousands of jobs. The notifications themselves may also be financially detrimental to nursing homes, industry leaders told the Times-Picayune. And notifying residents of the proposed cuts will cost the state $50,000. Jim Tucker, a former Republican state lawmaker who runs a nursing home company, said that the notifications may cause some nursing home residents to die from the stress. “If those notices go out, they will kill people,” he said.

Goldman joins the ‘cash is king’ bandwagon amid market uncertainty

Goldman upgrades cash to overweight on a short-term basis
Getty Images

Count Goldman Sachs among the major Wall Street firms that are warming up to cash amid of period of heavy uncertainty for both stocks and bonds. The investment bank upgraded the asset class to overweight on a short-term basis of three months; over the coming 12 months, on the other hand, it neither recommends buying nor selling the asset. The higher view toward cash is a move to reduce risk, wrote Christian Mueller-Glissmann, an equity strategist at Goldman Sachs. “Despite volatility settling from its highs year-to-date, conviction levels are low near-term as the growth/inflation mix has worsened and policy uncertainty remains elevated,” the note read. “Bonds have been under pressure in the U.S., while equities remain stuck in a ‘fat and flat’ range.” Goldman isn’t the first major Wall Street institution to take a more bullish view on cash, which is seen as offering little in the way of risk or rewards. In January, Morgan Stanley’s Wealth Management’s Global Investment Committee said it was “focusing more on cash as a critical asset class for 2018,” citing “this backdrop of an increasingly pricey U.S. equity market, and extremely rich credit market and rising global rates.” In 2017, Vanguard wrote that its outlook “for global stocks and bonds remains the most guarded it has been in ten years.” Both stocks and bonds have been struggling in 2018. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.75%  is down 8.8% from an all-time high hit in January, while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.97%  is off by 7.2% from its own record. Both have been in their longest stretch in correction territory since the financial crisis. Separately, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury Note TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.85%  has risen from 2.38% at the start of the year to 2.98% currently, and it broke above 3% last month for the first time in about four years. Yields, which move inversely to prices, are expected to continue rising as the Federal Reserve repeatedly boosts interest rates over the coming year. That is a dynamic that could result in investors dumping government bonds—pushing rates higher—in anticipation of richer coupons in the future. Goldman is bearish on fixed-income assets, giving bonds an underweight rating, the equivalent of a sell, and writing that they represent “less good hedges” against market declines in the current environment. The bank’s upgraded outlook on cash largely reflects short-term policy uncertainty, including on trade and the coming midterm elections; it retains an overweight rating on equities. “We still see bear market risk as low as growth levels are healthy and recession risk remains low,” it wrote, adding that “near-term return potential is somewhat limited.” A greater cash allocation “should help lower portfolio risk,” wrote Mueller-Glissmann. The Goldman analyst said cash was “more attractive on a relative basis” than bonds.

N. Korea’s Kim meets China’s president ahead of Trump summit

 

BEIJING (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a northern Chinese port city and pledged his continuing commitment to denuclearization ahead of his expected summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, state media said Tuesday. The meeting Monday and Tuesday in Dalian is the second between Xi and Kim in recent weeks, following Kim’s March visit to Beijing — his first since taking power six years ago. In comments carried Tuesday night by Chinese state media, neither leader was quoted as directly referring to either the planned Trump meeting or Kim’s summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in late last month. However, state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as saying China “supports North Korea to stick to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and supports North Korea and the U.S. in solving the peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation.” Trump tweeted Tuesday that he planned to speak with Xi later in the day to discuss trade and North Korea, where he said “relationships and trust are building.”Kim was quoted as telling Xi that North Korea remains committed to denuclearization and has no need to possess nuclear weapons if a “relevant party” drops its “hostile policy and security threats” against it, a clear reference to the United States.

“I hope to build mutual trust with the U.S. through dialogue,” Kim was quoted as saying. A political resolution of tensions on the peninsula and denuclearization should proceed in stages, with all sides moving in concert, he said. The Trump administration has demanded that North Korea immediately commit to denuclearization. The Kim-Xi meeting was the top news story in North Korea, with its most famous television announcer, Ri Chun Hui, again called out of her semi-retirement to report the event, underscoring its importance. Ri, wearing a traditional Korean-style dress, often smiled as she reported the news. The report, which lasted about 20 minutes, did not show any photos or video of the visit. Kim was accompanied by his younger sister, who has taken on an increasingly public role as the North Korean leader has tried to present a “softer” face to the outside world. North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said there was a “deep exchange of opinions” between Kim and Xi on the changes around the Korean Peninsula that are “drawing the world’s eyes and ears.” The recent South Korean summit and the potential U.S. talks have received more attention internationally, but China’s role as an economic lifeline for North Korea makes the talks between Xi and Kim all the more crucial. Kim needs to make sure that whatever negotiations he has with Trump align to some degree with Beijing’s positions, which could certainly complicate his task ahead. China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Xi hosted a welcome banquet for Kim on Monday and the two leaders strolled along the coastline at a government guesthouse and had lunch together on Tuesday. “At a crucial time when the regional situation is developing rapidly, Kim said he came to China again to meet with (Xi) and inform him of the situation,” Xinhua said.

Argentina seeks IMF financing to stabilise economy

Argentina opened talks with the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday to seek a financial aid package, 17 years after the country defaulted on its debt and 12 years after cutting ties with the fund.
© Eitan Abramovich, AFP | Argentina’s Minister of the Treasury Nicolas Dujovne speaks during a press conference at the Ministry’s headquarters in Buenos Aires, on May 8, 2018.

As a bout of market turbulence rocks Argentina’s economy, President Mauricio Macri announced that “as a preventative measure, I have decided to begin discussions with the International Monetary Fund for them to grant us a line of credit.  As #Argentina’s peso falls to new lows of 23,5 pesos/US$, president Macri delivers dramatic televised speech announcing opening of talks with the IMF for a new credit line. IMF chief Christine Lagarde said talks will begin soon on ways to shore up Argentina’s economy. She welcomed Macri’s statement, saying that “discussions have been initiated on how we can work together to strengthen the Argentine economy and these will be pursued in short order.” After the country’s currency fell four percent compared to the US dollar, Macri said in a televised speech he had held his first conversation with Lagarde but did not say how big a line of credit Argentina is seeking. “We are pursuing the only path open to us to emerge from stagnation, seeking to avoid a great economic crisis that will set us back and hurt everyone,” he said. Economy Minister Nicolas Dujovne told reporters it was too soon to talk about the details and conditions “but we have agreed that the IMF will offer financial support to Argentina.” Macri justified the decision to go to the IMF, saying that while the economy had enjoyed favorable conditions during the first two years of his presidency, conditions have changed. “We are among the countries of the world that are most dependent on foreign financing, a product of the enormous public spending we inherited and are putting in order,” he said. IMF financing would strengthen his “program of growth and development, giving us greater backing to confront this new global scenario and avoid a crisis like those we have had in our history.” After taking office in December 2015, Macri floated the Argentine peso, ending the strict controls in place under the government of Cristina Kirchner. But the strengthening of the US dollar in recent days has impacted the peso more than other currencies: it dropped 4.61 percent to 23.41 to the dollar in opening trading Tuesday, and strengthened slightly after Macri’s speech at 23.06.

Argentina’s Central Bank on Friday raised its key interest rate to 40 percent after the peso plummeted in value earlier in the week.

Although the bank’s actions appeared to have stabilized the currency on Monday, the peso fell sharply again on Tuesday, prompting a sell-off on the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange.Macri’s government last week lowered its target for the fiscal deficit to 2.7 percent of GDP from 3.2 percent.

The Latest: Australia and Japan still support Iran deal

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear deal (all times local): Add Australia and Japan to the nations expressing continued support for the multinational nuclear deal with Iran even though the U.S. is pulling out of it. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Wednesday that he regrets President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark pact. Turnbull is urging all parties involved in the pact to show restraint.In Japan, the Foreign Ministry says Japan continues to support the deal and that it “hopes for a continued constructive response from the nations involved.” World powers involved in the agreement have expressed regret amid concern the move by Trump will undermine efforts to stop the spread of atomic weapons.President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. will pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, dealing a profound blow to U.S. allies and potentially deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage. Saudi Arabia says it “supports and welcomes” President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a nuclear agreement reached between Iran and world powers and reimpose sanctions on Iran. Saudi Arabia had tepidly supported the 2015 deal  signed by the Obama administration, but held strong reservations about it. Saudi Arabia and Iran are rivals locked in proxy wars for regional supremacy.

CBO forecasts largest-ever monthly surplus as record tax receipts pour in

April’s budget surplus will set a record, the CBO says, but President Trump’s tax law is expected to widen the deficit for the full fiscal year.
Reuters

Record tax receipts will lead to the largest-ever monthly budget surplus for the federal government, congressional analysts said in a new report, as Americans hand over more money to Washington. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the April surplus will total $218 billion, breaking the prior record of nearly $190 billion notched in April 2001. Greater-than-expected tax receipts drove the surplus, CBO said, noting the record $515 billion in receipts for the month was as much as $40 billion more than the agency estimated about a month ago. The agency chalked up the difference to greater payments of individual income taxes in April, when tax returns and certain taxpayers’ quarterly estimated payments are due. The reasons for higher payments were twofold, CBO said.“Those payments were mostly related to economic activity in 2017 and may reflect stronger-than-expected income growth for that year. Part of the strength in receipts also may reflect larger-than-anticipated payments for economic activity in 2018,” the agency said. The prior record for receipts was $472 billion in April 2015. The tax cut enacted by President Donald Trump last year was expected to result in a boost in workers’ take-home pay. The CBO said withheld taxes rose in April since wages and salaries were higher — but the share of wages withheld for taxes was lower thanks to the new tax law. The expected April surplus, meanwhile, isn’t keeping the U.S. from running a wider budget deficit for the fiscal year to date. For the first seven months of the budget year, the shortfall totals $382 billion, or $37 billion more than the same period a year ago, CBO estimates. The CBO recently estimated the full-year deficit would be $804 billion, and that trillion-dollar deficits would return in 2020.

Trump announces US will exit nuclear accord with Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. will pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, declaring he’s making the world safer but dealing a profound blow to allies and deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage. “The United States does not make empty threats,” he said in a televised address from the White House Diplomatic Room. Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.” He added that the United States “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction.” Trump’s decision means Iran’s government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what’s left of the deal. Iran has offered conflicting statements about what it may do — and the answer may depend on exactly how Trump exits the agreement. One official briefed on the decision said Trump would move to reimpose all sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 deal, not just the ones facing an immediate deadline. As administration officials briefed congressional leaders about Trump’s plans Tuesday, they emphasized that just as with a major Asia trade deal and the Paris climate pact that Trump has abandoned, he remains open to renegotiating a better deal, one person briefed on the talks said. Hours before the announcement, European countries met to underline their support for the agreement. Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany met in Brussels with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Abbas Araghchi. Under the most likely scenario, Trump would allow sanctions on Iran’s central bank — intended to target oil exports — to kick back in, rather than waiving them once again on Saturday, the next deadline for renewal, said individuals briefed on Trump’s deliberations. Then the administration would give those who are doing business with Iran a six-month period to wind down  For the Europeans, Trump’s withdrawal constitutes dispiriting proof that trying to appease him is futile. Although the U.S. and Europeans made progress on ballistic missiles and inspections, there were disagreements over extending the life of the deal and how to trigger additional penalties if Iran were found violating the new restrictions, U.S. officials and European diplomats have said. The Europeans agreed to yet more concessions in the final days of negotiating ahead of Trump’s decision, the officials added.

Amazon could be the next black swan for the market

Why Amazon could be the next black swan for the market

 

Amazon appears untouchable. It’s rallied 37 percent this year, outperforming the market nearly fourfold. And a stunning quarter, reported last month, prompted nearly two dozen firms to up their price targets on the e-commerce giant; a handful of those newly minted price targets place the company north of the $1 trillion threshold.But at this juncture, I suspect a black swan has taken flight. Just consider the stock’s presence in so many passive vehicles. Amazon is a top holding in over 140 exchange-traded funds. A liquidity event for Amazon shares — perhaps triggered by issues related to the Trump administration’s ordered review of the company’s impact on the U.S. Postal Service — would create uncontrollable selling, in our view. Zooming in further, around 40 ETFs hold Amazon within the top 5 percent. Look out below: This is a colossal failure of common sense. Investors have been stuffing themselves on a Thanksgiving feast full of technology stocks. Today, tech sector equities comprise nearly 30 percent of all large-cap mutual fund portfolios; this is an accident waiting to happen. This represents the largest “overweight” relative to traditional benchmarks, relative to other large-cap sectors, in two decades. This represents, too, nothing more than a passive overdose on big tech, setting up large downside risk. This development causes me to hearken back a decade. Of course, who could possibly forget the great gorging on the financial sector heading into the crisis? Leading into 2007, banks and insurance companies comprised nearly 24 percent of the S&P 500. Today, the tech sector’s large market weighing puts it up near 26 percent of the market’s total capitalization.

95,745,000: Record Number Not in Labor Force as Boomers Retire

A growing number of retirees is pushing up the number of Americans counted as “not in the labor force.”

(CNSNews.com) – The number of employed Americans has broken eight records since President Trump took office, but on the not-so-sunny side, the number of Americans not in the labor force also keeps increasing, breaking six records since Trump took office in January 2017. Nick Bit: DAH!! less people in the work force means as a percent of a smaller labour  pool your unemployed rate goes down…. DAH!!!! so where is the real freeging improvement………The US has now become a reality TV show. With Donald Trump the producer and chief… how do you think that will end up? Last month, a record 95,745,000 Americans were counted as “not in the labor force,” meaning they are not employed and are not seeking a job, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statics. “This category includes retired persons, students, those taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work,” BLS said. With record numbers of people not in the labor force, the labor force participation rate has remained stubbornly low in recent years. In April, only 62.8 percent of the non-institutionalized, civilian population over the age of 16 was either working or actively looking for work. This compares with an all-time high of 67.3 percent in the first four months of 2000. In a March 2018 report, the Congressional Budget Office noted that a lower labor force participation rate is associated with lower gross domestic product and lower tax revenues. It is also associated with larger federal outlays, because people who are not in the labor force are more likely to enroll in federal benefit programs, including Social Security. This past January, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the labor force participation rate will continue to decline over the next 30 years from the current 62.8 percent to 61.0 percent in 2027 and to 59.2 percent in 2047. According to that report, “The continued retirement of the baby-boom generation is the most important factor driving down the overall participation rate.” The first Baby Boomers — people born between 1946 and 1964 — turned 65 in 2011. CBO has identified three factors pushing down the participation rate, — First, younger workers who are replacing Baby Boomers in the labor force tend to participate in the labor force at lower rates. — Second, the share of people receiving disability insurance benefits is generally projected to continue increasing, and people who receive such benefits are less likely to participate in the labor force. — Third, the marriage rate is projected to continue declining, especially among men, and unmarried men tend to participate in the labor force at lower rates than married men. Nick Bit: America is building the worlds largest social dependent welfare state. Like it or not the commies won. If your in the minority working for a living be prepared to be taxed to death…. You have been warned!

Buffett and Munger bashes bitcoin as thriving on mystique, favours stocks

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Billionaire investor Warren Buffett on Monday said buyers of bitcoin, which he has characterized as “rat poison squared,” thrive on the hope they’ll find other people who will pay more for it ( Nick Bit:like every stock trader) Likening bitcoin demand to the tulip bulb mania in 17th century Holland, Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, said the mystique behind the cryptocurrency has caused its price to surge. “If you don’t understand it, you get much more excited,” Buffett said on CNBC television. “People like to speculate, they like to gamble.”He said investors now are much better off owning U.S. stocks, whose prices are elevated but not in a “bubble,” and it would take a “nanosecond” for him to choose stocks over 10- or 30-year U.S. government bonds now yielding around 3 percent. Charlie Munger, Buffett’s longtime business partner and a Berkshire vice chairman, is also no bitcoin fan, describing it as “worthless artificial gold.” He likened it to Oscar Wilde’s definition of fox hunting, calling it “the pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable.”  Nick Bit: I call bit coin bankers worse nightmare. Especially who’s desks specialize  trading in artificial and often time worthless money like:  gold,  Chili peso, Argentine Peso (cashing as we speak). The reason why i like Bitcoin s because its digital artificial gold. I know how to trade gold and i know how to trade bit coin. And i have traded the shit out of gold, silver platinum palladium and many currencies that ended up worthless: Mexican peso. Brazilian Real,  Russian Rubel, Riel Cambodia, Guarani Paraguay, Guinean Franc, Rupia Indonesia, Rial Iran, Dong Vietnam. and as we speak i see the Argentian Peso wipe out again shorting all the way. Why is not Charlie corking off on these wipeouts “rat poison” for far far far more money then the swings in Bit coin.  Maybe because the bankers insiders have something to fear about digital rat poison that is going to wipe out Visa, Mater card, American express, Western Union and maybe Pay Pal if they don’t wise up fast…….  Full Disclosure one of the largest issuers of visa and master card cards and debt is Wells scum bag rob your costumers Fargo and Charlie and Warren are their biggest shareholders.

Kellyanne Conway denies White House credibility crisis

Washington (CNN)Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, denied Sunday that the White House has a credibility crisis and said Trump learned about a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels after the fact. “No, I don’t,” Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked by anchor Jake Tapper if regular falsehoods and lies from Trump had eroded the White House’s credibility. She also defended Trump’s statement on Air Force One in April that he was unaware of a payment by his attorney Michael Cohen to Daniels for her discretion about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump by saying the President was unaware of the arrangement at the time it occurred. “When the President said ‘no’ on Air Force One, he was talking about he didn’t know when the payment occurred,” Conway said. “So he’s saying he didn’t know about it when the payment occurred. He found out about it after the fact.” Conway said she was unaware of any other payments similar to the one made in the Daniels matter, but acknowledged that she had less knowledge of any potential arrangements than former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani, who was recently hired Trump’s attorney, said in a separate interview Sunday that he did not know if Cohen paid other women to keep quiet. “They did not cross my desk as campaign manager,” Conway said of other potential payments. “And I would also tell you that I’m happy to answer these questions, but I have limited visibility into what Mayor Giuliani is talking about.” She added that when she was Trump’s campaign manager, she “was not made aware” of the Daniels matter either. Conway said repeatedly that Trump was not lying when he said he did not know about Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels. Asked about Trump’s statement on Air Force One that he did not know where Cohen got the money to pay Daniels, Conway referred to Trump’s tweets Thursday. Trump denied in the tweets that any campaign money was used to reimburse Cohen and said he was paid via retainer. The payment has prompted complaints to the Justice Department and Federal Election Commission over potential violations of campaign finance law. Conway also stressed that Trump has denied Daniels’ allegations of an affair between the two, and said she accepted his denial.

“Yes, he’s denied it,” Conway said. “So I have no reason to believe otherwise.”

No credibility crisis

Trump’s campaign and presidency have been marked by his regular assertion of demonstrably untrue statements as fact. A recent tally by The Washington Post found the President has made more than 3,000 false or misleading claims since he took office. Pressed repeatedly on this point, Conway spoke about Trump’s work on a range of issues, such as the economy, North Korea and the opioid crisis, and denied the White House was facing a credibility crisis. She also said the Post had found that then-President Barack Obama told “some whoppers” during his time in office. Asked about a tweet from Trump on Wednesday blaming Obama for failing to secure the release of three hostages from North Korea, despite two of the hostages being taken during the Trump administration, Conway dismissed the question.
“You’re focusing on the tweet, and we’re focused on the hostages,” Conway said.

Oil prices are indicating a worst-case scenario on Iran nuclear deal, economist says

Iran: U.S. will regret pulling out of 2015 deal
World will watch Iran’s response if nuke deal ends

As the world awaits U.S. President Donald Trump’s verdict on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, climbing oil prices show that investors are expecting the worst. Energy markets are indicating that the U.S. is likely to pull out of the accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran, according to Dubai’s largest bank, Emirates NBD. The deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for it curbing its nuclear program. Trump has referred to the agreement as the “worst deal ever,” and he must decide by May 12 whether to reimpose sanctions or to grant the country a waiver. “Anything that’s slightly less than that — by which I mean he may delay his decision, or he may not impose the same amount of sanctions previously — I think markets would react favorably to that, given that markets are currently pricing in probably the worst-case scenario,” Tim Fox, head of research and chief economist at Emirates NBD, told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.” U.S. sanctions on Iran could slash global oil supplies by 800,000 barrels per day, according to a report by Emirates NBD. Iran is one of the world’s biggest crude producers — when it’s allowed to sell it. Fears of such a supply cut, coming at a time when major oil countries have already reduced production on their own, have caused oil prices to climb above $70 per barrel for the first time since November 2014. But renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran may have a wider implication than oil supply and oil prices, given Tehran’s growing influence in the Middle East and its role in regional crises such as Syria and Yemen, noted Fox. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also warned that the U.S. would regret its decision to exit the deal. “I think the region clearly will be concerned by that development in terms of anxiety about reactions — about how Iran would respond to that decision” by the United States, Fox said, adding that Iran’s involvement in certain parts of the Middle East would increase political risks in the region. “The political risks certainly remain significant for countries like Lebanon and Syria and neighboring countries of those as well,” he added. Iran and armed groups that it funds are active combatants in Iraq and Syria. One of those groups allied with Iran, Hezbollah, is seen picking up legislative seats in Lebanese elections that took place Sunday.

Dollar marches to 4-month high as oil rally points to higher inflation

Dollar index rises to highest since late December
Getty Images

The dollar continued to rise on Monday, trading at a more than four-month high as investors gauged what last week’s job data and recent oil price rally could mean for Federal Reserve monetary policy. A trio of Fed speakers on the docket Monday will be watched for any hints of the future rate path.The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.11%  gained 0.2% to 92.739, reaching its highest level since late December. The benchmark last week rose 0.2%, logging a fourth straight weekly advance. The euro EURUSD, -0.2424%  fell to $1.1931 from $1.1963 late Friday in New York, while the pound GBPUSD, +0.2660%  was flat around $1.3533. The yen USDJPY, -0.01%  also declined, with the buck buying ¥109.32 compared with ¥109.12 on Friday. The dollar advanced as traders digested Friday’s U.S. jobs report that delivered a disappointing number on new jobs added to the economy, but beat forecasts on the unemployment rate. The joblessness rate fell to 3.9%, the lowest since late 2000, sparking speculation the labor market soon will become so tight that wages will rise at a faster pace. That would likely fuel higher inflation and add pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates more aggressively. Traders became more convinced President Donald Trump will abandon the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions on the country. That would limit Iran’s oil exports and tighten global supply, which would likely lead to a rise in oil prices. As energy is a big part of headline consumer prices, a continued surge in crude prices could further lift U.S. inflation. “Higher domestic inflation would be just what the Fed needs in order to tilt towards 3 additional rate increases in 2018. Furthermore, the tighter labor market conditions — as seen on Friday’s data — are also expected to push wage growth higher in the medium term. Higher energy prices and stronger wage growth is almost an ‘one-way road’ to higher inflation which would leave no option to the Fed other than raising rates more aggressively — which explains why the greenback stays on an upwards trajectory,” he added.

U.S. oil cracks $70, dollar heads towards 2018 high

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices jumped to their highest since late 2014 on Monday on a deepening economic crisis in Venezuela and worries that the Unites States could re-impose sanctions on Iran, while stocks firmed and the dollar rose towards its 2018 peak. With trade thinned by a holiday closure in London, European shares opened higher, boosted by energy stocks as well as encouraging earnings updates. Heavyweight Nestle also gained after the Swiss-based food firm agreed a tie-up with Starbucks. Most Asian markets also rose after Friday’s tame reading on U.S. wage growth lessened chances of a pick-up in the pace of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. Gains were capped by Sino-U.S. trade tensions. U.S. crude oil prices rose 70 cents, or 1 percent, pushing above $70 a barrel for the first time since November 2014 as the crisis in OPEC member state Venezuela threatened to further crimp its production and exports.

Also driving oil prices higher was the May 12 deadline set by U.S. President Donald Trump for Europeans to “fix” the deal with Iran over its nuclear program. If they do not, Trump has said he would refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief for the oil-producing Islamic Republic.

 

Nick Bit: If the US issues sanction they will go it alone. Meaning its another publicity stunt like steal get the headline and then let it quietly fade.

US Senator John McCain, who is battling brain cancer, does not want Donald Trump at his funeral

John McCain has been fighting an aggressive form of brain cancer for more than a year

Senator John McCain, 81 and battling brain cancer, has made clear he does not want US President Donald Trump to attend his funeral.McCain, a Vietnam war vet and respected senator from Arizona who has had a turbulent relationship with Trump, instead wants Vice-President Mike Pence to represent the White House, The New York Times and NBC News said, quoting people close to McCain.  McCain is also using a new book and documentary to express regret about not having selected former Senator Joseph Lieberman as his running mate in 2008 against Barack Obama and instead going with populist Sarah Palin, The Times said. McCain has been fighting an aggressive form of brain cancer for more than a year. He is currently back in Arizona, recovering from surgery for an intestinal infection. McCain and Trump have had a rough relationship, particularly during the 2016 presidential primary, when Trump said McCain – a POW for years in Vietnam – was not really a war hero because he was captured. Last summer Trump slammed McCain for a “no” vote that helped doom a key bill to repeal Obamacare – the health care reforms passed into law under president Barack Obama.

Warren Buffett: I was wrong on Google and Amazon, Jeff Bezos achieved a business ‘miracle’

Warren Buffett says he made mistakes by not investing in two dominant technology companies, Alphabet and Amazon.
Warren Buffett
David A. Grogan | CNBC

“I made the wrong decisions on Google and Amazon,” he said at the Berkshire Hathaway 2018 annual shareholder meeting on Saturday. “We’ve looked at it. I made the mistake in not being able to come to a conclusion where I really felt that at the present prices that the prospects were far better than the prices indicated.” It took Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to tell him to stop using Altavista as a search engine and use Google instead, he said. And he should have been more aware because Berkshire subsidiary Geico was paying Google “a lot of money” at the time of its initial public offering.The Oracle of Omaha also admitted he underestimated Amazon’s ability to disrupt retail and cloud computing at the same time with such a rapid pace.  “I had very very very high opinion of Jeff’s [Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon] ability when I first him, and I underestimated him,” he added. “I’ve watched Amazon from the start. I think what Jeff Bezos has done is something close to a miracle … The problem is when I think something will be a miracle, I tend not to bet on it. It would have been far better obviously if I had some insights into certain businesses.”

Billions on the line for firms as Trump weighs Iran pullout

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — From airplanes to oilfields, billions of dollars are on the line for international corporations as President Donald Trump weighs whether to pull America out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Regardless of where they are headquartered, virtually all multinational corporations do business or banking in the U.S., meaning any return to pre-deal sanctions could torpedo deals made after the 2015 agreement came into force. That threat alone has been enough to scare risk-averse firms, like Boeing Co., into slow-walking deals agreed to months ago. A complete pullout by the U.S. would wreak further havoc and likely frighten off those considering making the plunge. “I absolutely think those on the fence will not jump in,” said Richard Nephew, a former sanctions expert at the U.S. State Department who worked on the nuclear deal and now is at New York’s Columbia University. “The only ones who will, will be those who see tremendous monetary benefit and no U.S. risk.” The 2015 Iran nuclear deal lifted crippling economic sanctions that had locked Iran out of international banking and the global oil trade. In return, Tehran limited its enrichment of uranium, reconfigured a heavy-water reactor so it couldn’t produce plutonium and reduced its uranium stockpile and supply of centrifuges. For Western businesses, the deal meant access to Iran’s largely untapped market of 80 million people. Most prominently, airplane manufacturers rushed in to replace the country’s dangerously dilapidated civilian fleet. Nuclear deal co-signers Britain, France and Germany, which have urged Trump to preserve the deal, may seek exemptions to protect their companies if the U.S. snaps back sanctions, said Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow studying Iran at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “This should include a series of exemptions and carve-outs for European companies already involved in strategic areas of trade and investment with Iran, with the priority being to limit the immediate shock to Iranian oil exports,” she wrote Wednesday. Nick Bit: This is a publicity stunt. No matter what Trump does the rest of the world right or wrong has no stomach for sanctions. The US will have to go it  alone. Lets face facts Iran and N.Korea have joined the nuclear tipped rocket club. Their is no turning back. That ship has set sail.

U.S. Probes Cohen Over Cash He Built Up During Campaign

Trump’s lawyer took out lines of credit to secure access to as much as $774,000 as race heated up

Michael Cohen, longtime personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, leaving the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last month.
Michael Cohen, longtime personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, leaving the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last month. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images ByMichael Rothfeld,Rebecca Davis O’Brien,Mark Maremont andJoe Palazzolo

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, gained access to as much as $774,000 through two financial transactions during the 2016 presidential campaign as he sought to fix problems for his boss, public records show.Those transactions could factor into a broad investigation of Mr. Cohen’s business affairs being conducted by Manhattan federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who are examining whether Mr. Cohen violated any laws in his efforts to raise cash and conceal negative information about Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. Those include transactions tied to his credit line and his ownership of real estate and taxi medallions, the people said. In February 2016, as Mr. Trump’s fortunes as a presidential candidate rose, Mr. Cohen nearly doubled the amount he could use on a bank credit line tied to his Manhattan apartment, increasing his ability to borrow by $245,000, according to real-estate records.

Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answering questions in September 2016 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, as Mr. Cohen stands by.
Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answering questions in September 2016 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, as Mr. Cohen stands by. Photo: jonathan ernst/Reuters
 Three months earlier, he gained potential access to another $529,000, through a new mortgage that he and his wife cosigned on a condominium owned by her parents at Trump World Tower, a Trump building in New York, separate real-estate records show.

Mr. Cohen and his lead attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment. Mr. Cohen, who has described himself as Mr. Trump’s fixer, has said he used his home-equity line of credit to make a $130,000 payment to former adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford—known professionally as Stormy Daniels—in exchange for her agreeing less than two weeks before the presidential election to stay silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said this week that Mr. Cohen resolved other problems similarly for Mr. Trump, although he didn’t specify what they were or the source of funds that were used. As part of a broad effort to determine how Mr. Cohen got access to cash and what he did with it, federal prosecutors and the FBI are examining whether Mr. Cohen committed bank fraud by making false statements inflating the value of his assets to obtain loans or by misstating the intended purpose of the loans, these people said. Investigators also are examining whether he violated federal election law by making unreported campaign contributions exceeding the federal limit of $5,400 to Mr. Trump in that election cycle, as well as possible other crimes stemming from his payments to cover up problems, the people said. Prosecutors will want to document “every penny” flowing through Mr. Cohen’s accounts during the presidential campaign, said Alex Little, a former federal prosecutor in Washington who is now a defense lawyer and has no firsthand knowledge of the Cohen investigation. A search warrant obtained by federal investigators for an April 9 raid of Mr. Cohen’s home, hotel room and law office authorized seizure of documents related to Ms. Clifford and the $130,000 payment in October 2016; a former Playboy model paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer publisher in an August 2016 deal preventing her from discussing an alleged affair with Mr. Trump; and Mr. Cohen’s taxi medallions, the people familiar with the matter said.

Mueller Team Questions Trump Friend Tom Barrack

Image: Mueller Team Questions Trump Friend Tom Barrack
Tom Barrack, former Deputy Interior Undersecretary in the Reagan administration, delivers a speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016.(John Moore/Getty Images)

Investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller have interviewed one of President Donald Trump’s closest friends and confidants, California real estate investor Tom Barrack, the Associated Press has learned. Barrack was interviewed as part of the federal investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.The specific topics covered in questions from Mueller’s team were not immediately clear. One of the people who spoke to AP said the questioning focused entirely on two officials from Trump’s campaign who have been indicted by Mueller: Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s onetime deputy, Rick Gates. Gates agreed to plead guilty to federal conspiracy and false-statement charges in February and began cooperating with investigators. A second person with knowledge of the Barrack interview said the questioning was broader, including financial matters about the campaign, the transition and Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Barrack has rare access and insight into Trump going back decades, since their days developing real estate. Barrack played an integral role in the 2016 campaign as a top fundraiser at a time when many other Republicans were shunning the upstart candidate. Barrack later directed Trump’s inauguration.Barrack, a wealthy real estate investor with close ties to several Mideast leaders, met Trump in 1988 when he negotiated the sale of The Plaza Hotel in New York to Trump. Barrack’s publicist in 2016 described the men as having since “solidified a lifelong friendship between themselves and their families.” Barrack employed Gates last year, wrapping up operations on the Presidential Inaugural Committee, before Gates was charged by Mueller.  Barrack spoke glowingly of Trump in a CNBC interview in early 2016. “He’s one of the kindest, and actually most humble, friends that I’ve had,” Barrack said. “I have so much respect for him because at this point in his career, wandering into the milieu was not easy, and he’s changed the dialogue of the debate.” Barrack also was among the featured speakers at the Republican convention where Trump formally received the nomination. Days after Trump’s victory in November 2016, Barrack told CBS’ “This Morning” that Trump was like an ultimate fighter during the campaign who used “whatever tools necessary to convey a really disruptive message.” Barrack said America would see “a softer, kinder” Trump now that Trump had won the presidencyMueller’s investigators have interviewed dozens of witnesses in the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. They have also secured the cooperation of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. But few witnesses have as much insight into the president’s lengthy business career and all facets of his campaign and administration as Barrack.

Glencore Scraps Planned Sale of $9 Billion Stake in Russian Oil Company

A sale of the stake to CEFC China Energy Co. would have strengthened energy ties between Moscow and Beijing

Glencore PLC Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg is seen arriving at the firm’s annual meeting in Switzerland on May 2; Glencore and investment partners have scrapped the planned sale of a $9 billion stake in Russian state oil company PAO Rosneft to a Chinese private energy-trading company whose leader is missing.
Glencore PLC Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg is seen arriving at the firm’s annual meeting in Switzerland on May 2;
Glencore and investment partners have scrapped the planned sale of a $9 billion stake in Russian state oil company PAO Rosneft to a Chinese private energy-trading company whose leader is missing.
Mining giant Glencore GLNCY -0.77% PLC and Qatar said they have scrapped plans to sell a roughly $9 billion stake in Russian state oil company PAO Rosneft to a once-high-flying Chinese firm now embroiled in investigations by Beijing In a statement late Friday, Glencore and Qatar said they were terminating an agreement, reached in September, to sell most of their roughly one-fifth stake in Rosneft to CEFC China Energy Co. The deal was intended to provide CEFC with just over 14% of Rosneft and would have strengthened energy ties between Moscow and Beijing. The agreement with the Chinese buyer was the latest in a series of moves undertaken by Glencore, the state-owned Qatar Investment Authority and the Kremlin over the stake. In late 2016, as low oil prices pressured Russian finances, Moscow agreed to sell a 19.5% stake to Glencore and the Gulf emirate’s investment fund for about $11.3 billion. The exact terms of that complex deal were never straightforward. It gave Glencore an actual equity stake in Rosneft of only about 0.5%, and Qatar just under 5%. The rest of the deal was financed by Russian banks and Italy’s Intesa SanpaoloSpA , which had planned to spread its risk by syndicating the loan to other banks

The partners then struck a deal to unload their holdings with private energy-trading company CEFC, which appeared at the time to be a fast-growing investor with global ambitions and Beijing backing. CEFC, founded in 2002 and based in Shanghai, has been expanding internationally in recent years. Earlier this year, though, whatever official support CEFC enjoyed appeared to be crumbling. In March, The Wall Street Journal reported Ye Jianming, the company’s leader, was under investigation in China. Mr. Ye, who made his early fortune as an oil man, was seen to have close ties to China’s military and intelligence. Mr. Ye’s whereabouts are unknown. Since his disappearance, banks have called in credit lines, and CEFC has sought to raise money in China. CEFC has been unable to complete some of its biggest plans, including a major expansion in the Czech Republic, the purchase of around 20% of New York financial-services firm Cowen Group Inc. and the purchase of a Portuguese insurer. CEFC couldn’t immediately be reached.All that put the fate of a sale of the Rosneft stake in doubt. Late Friday, Glencore said it and the Qatar fund had terminated their deal with CEFC and dissolved their own partnership agreement. Glencore said the two would subsequently each hold their respective equity stakes in Rosneft separately.  A subsidiary of the Qatar fund would take ownership of roughly 14% of Rosneft, giving the fund an overall 18.93% stake in Rosneft. Glencore, meanwhile, will exit with 0.57%. Exact financial terms between the partners and the banks involved weren’t disclosed. Glencore said it would receive 3.7 billion euros, or $4.43 billon, in the transaction. A person familiar with the matter said the cash would be used to pay back debt that helped finance the original deal. It was unclear whether Glencore Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg would remain on Rosneft’s board. Representatives for Qatar couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. —Scott Patterson in London contributed to this article.

Warren Buffett: Cybersecurity risk ‘is uncharted territory. It’s going to get worse, not better’

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
Lacy O’Toole | CNBC Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Warren Buffett believes cybersecurity incidents will rise, and with it the potential to significantly harm the insurance industry. “Cyber is uncharted territory. It’s going to get worse, not better,” he said at the Berkshire Hathaway 2018 Annual Shareholders Meeting Saturday. “There’s a very material risk which didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago and will be much more intense as the years go along.”

matejmo | iStock | Getty Images

Buffett said he doesn’t want much underwriting exposure to cybersecurity threats for Berkshire’s insurance businesses. He noted the company has a “pretty good idea” on how to properly assess the probabilities for earthquakes in California and hurricanes in Florida, but not with computer hacking threats. The investor expressed skepticism that any insurance company can assess the risk for cybersecurity events. “We don’t want to be a pioneer on this … I think anybody that tells you now they think they know in some actuarial way either what [the] general experience is like in the future, or what the worst case can be, is kidding themselves,” he added.

Buffett Accounting ‘Nightmare’ Fuels First Loss in Nine Years

Warren Buffett has warned about the “nightmare” tied to new accounting-rule changes. Now it’s beginning.
Attendees walk past a photograph of Warren Buffett during a shareholders shopping day ahead of the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha.  By Katherine Chiglinsky

 

The rules, which require Berkshire to report unrealized gains or losses in equity investments in net income, helped fuel a $1.14 billion loss at Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in the first quarter, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company said Saturday in a statement. That marked the company’s first net loss since 2009.

The “requirement will produce some truly wild and capricious swings in our GAAP bottom line,” Buffett said in his annual letter to shareholders released in February. The accounting change “will severely distort Berkshire’s net income figures and very often mislead commentators and investors.” Buffett has said operating results are a better barometer of company performance, in part because Berkshire’s more than $170 billion stock portfolio can fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Operating profit, which doesn’t include those changes, jumped 49 percent to $5.29 billion during the first quarter as insurance underwriting swung to a profit after a difficult 2017. A 16 percent jump in revenue at auto insurer Geico helped the company turn an underwriting profit, according to a regulatory filing. Geico was helped by rate increases that pushed premiums higher. The railroad business also posted a gain in profit due to increased revenues per car as fuel prices rose. Berkshire’s cash pile fell to $109 billion at the end of March from the record $116 billion at year-end, the first decline in two years. Buffett has said that deploying that cash into new, large acquisitions is key to increasing earnings over time. The first quarter’s drop was driven in part by spending more than $12 billion on more Apple Inc. shares. The company reported the value of Apple its stake at $40.7 billion as of March 31, a jump from $28.2 billion at the end of 2017. Buffett said in a CNBC interview that aired Friday that his company bought an additional 75 million shares of the technology company in the first quarter.

Berkshire said the fair value of its investment in Kraft Heinz Co. dropped by more than $5 billion to $20.3 billion in the quarter, as shares slipped almost 20 percent.

During the weekend, Buffett also showcases the businesses that Berkshire owns, including Geico and BNSF Railway Co. Berkshire’s railroad, utilities and energy businesses reported a 31 percent increase in profit during the first quarter.

 

Fidelity Fires 200 Over Alleged Misuse of Reimbursements

Image: WSJ: Fidelity Fires 200 Over Alleged Misuse of Reimbursements

 Fidelity Investments has fired or allowed more than 200 employees to resign over alleged misuse of workplace-benefit programs, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

A company audit of computer-buying and physical-fitness benefit programs over the last year found misuse in offices across the country.

A person familiar with the situation confirmed to Reuters that some Fidelity employees had misused the company’s reimbursement benefits but did not say how many employees were involved.Fidelity reviewed the alleged violations, and terminated the employees it found to have misused the benefits, the person added.  The company reimbursed staff for as much as 20 percent of the cost of computers and related equipment and in some cases, employees collected the company’s reimbursement for equipments that they canceled after purchase, according to the person.”And with regard to the computer issue, there was no customer involvement and no customer impact. However, in the very small percentage of instances where we identify misconduct, we take appropriate action,” Fidelity said in an emailed statement to Reuters. Nick Bit: Now if this is what they did internally let your brain ponder what they did with boomers “high yield” HA HA HA HA AH accounts. Most people have no idea in the world what their retirement dollars are invested it… Talk about crying time!

Argentina raises interest rates to 40%

Argentina’s central bank has raised interest rates for the third time in eight days as the country’s currency, the peso, continues to fall sharply.  On Friday, the bank hiked rates to 40% from 33.25%, a day after they were raised from 30.25%. A week ago, they were raised from 27.25%. The rises are aimed at supporting the peso, which has lost a quarter of its value over the past year. Analysts say the crisis is escalating and looks set to continue. Argentina is in the middle of a pro-market economic reform programme under President Mauricio Macri, who is seeking to reverse years of protectionism and high government spending under his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Inflation, a perennial problem in Argentina, was at 25% in 2017, the highest rate in Latin America except for Venezuela. This year, the central bank has set an inflation target of 15% and has said it will continue to act to enforce it. Despite the twin rate rises, the peso, which was fixed by law at parity with the US dollar before Argentina’s economic meltdown in 2001-02, is now trading at about 22 to the dollar. “This crisis looks set to continue unless the government steps in to reassure investors that it will take more aggressive steps to fix Argentina’s economic vulnerabilities,” said Edward Glossop, Latin America economist at Capital Economics. “Risks to the peso have been brewing for a while – large twin budget and current account deficits, a heavy dollar debt burden, entrenched high inflation and an overvalued currency.

“The real surprise is how quickly and suddenly things seem to be escalating.”

Mr Glossop said “a sizeable fiscal tightening” was planned for 2018, but it might now need to be larger and prompter. “Unless or until that happens, the peso is likely to remain under pressure, and there remains a real risk of a messy economic adjustment.” Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri is a controversial figure in a country that is still strongly divided ideologically.  But among international investors he is unanimously praised. Since coming to office, he moved swiftly to end capital controls and re-establish trust in economic data coming from Argentina. However, he is not winning a crucial battle in the country – the one against inflation. Markets are taking notice and there has been a sell-off of the peso. The opposition wants to stop Macri from removing subsidies in controlled prices, such as energy and utility tariffs, which may bring more inflation in the short term but could help bring it down from above 20% now to about 5% by 2020. Friday was a day for emergency measures – a massive hike to 40% in interest rates and a commitment to bring down government spending.  Investors still believe Macri has a sound plan to recover Argentina, but they are not convinced he can see it through. Nick Note: this is just the start of the BICKS, TICKS and DICKS wipeout. Won’t that be fun… Here comes te mighty dolar to save the day!

Trump salutes 2nd Amendment, urges NRA members to vote GOP

DALLAS (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday linked the sanctity of the Second Amendment to his party’s prospects in the 2018 midterm elections, telling supporters at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention that “we’ve got to get Republicans elected.” Trump struck a tough tone months after he briefly strayed from the NRA’s message in the days after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. He vowed that the Second Amendment will “never ever be under siege as long as I am your president.” Trump’s speech in Dallas was his fourth consecutive appearance at the NRA’s annual convention. His gun comments were folded into a campaign-style speech, which touched on the Russia probe, the 2016 campaign, illegal immigration and his efforts in North Korea and Iran. Trump said Democrats want to “outlaw guns” and said if the nation takes that step, it might as well ban all vans and trucks because they are the new weapons for “maniac terrorists.” The speech came as the issue of gun violence has taken on new urgency after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Student survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead, are now leading a massive national gun control movement. They too are looking to the midterm elections for action. Though Trump embraced the Second Amendment right to bear arms before Friday’s speech, he had temporarily strayed from the strong anti-gun control message in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. While the shooting has not led to major changes from the White House or the Republican-led Congress, it did — at least briefly — prompt Trump to declare that he would stand up to the powerful gun lobby. He later backpedaled on that tough talk. Trump said some people had advised him that attending might be controversial, but added: “You know what I said? ‘Bye-bye, gotta get on the plane.’

Trump throws Giuliani under the bus

“Virtually everything that’s been said has been said incorrectly.”

On the heels of Rudy Giuliani’s string of disastrous interviews with cable and print outlets, President Trump sought to do some damage control, and in the process threw his new attorney under the bus. During two brief question-and-answer sessions with reporters on Friday morning, Trump didn’t try to explain the disconnect between Giuliani’s claim that Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for a hush payment made just before the 2016 election to a woman who says she had an affair with Trump, and Trump’s own previous denial that he knew anything about the payment. Instead, Trump repeatedly asserted that Giuliani simply didn’t know what he was talking about.“He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight,” Trump said while leaving the White House on his way to the NRA convention in Texas. “Virtually everything that’s been said has been said incorrectly.”  Later, while boarding Air Force One, Trump was asked why he’s changed his story about the Daniels payment. He lashed out at a reporter for asking the question — “I didn’t change any story. I’m telling you this country is growing so fast and to be bringing up that kind of crap and witch hunt all the time…that’s all you want to talk about” — before again suggesting that Giuliani is ignorant of the facts. “When Rudy made the statement, he had just started and wasn’t totally familiar with everything. And Rudy, we love Rudy, he is a special guy. What he really understands is this is a witch hunt,” Trump said. Giuliani claims to be better informed than Trump. In a phone interview with NBC, he said there are documents proving that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment, which may have violated federal law.“I don’t think the president realized he paid him [Cohen] back for that specific thing until we [his legal team] made him aware of the paperwork,” Giuliani said.  Giuliani told NBC that the president responded to the news by saying, “‘Oh my goodness, I guess that’s what it was for.’”

When asked how many payments Trump had made, Giuliani told NBC News the president started paying Cohen back in January 2017 and that altogether there were “about 12 installments of $35,000 each.”

The money, totaling an estimated $420,000, also covered other expenses and fees for Cohen, Giuliani said, but he was unable to provide details.

While Trump is now trying to dismiss Giuliani’s explanation of the Daniels payment, Giuliani told The Washington Post that Trump was “very pleased” with his first interview as the president’s attorney on Hannity. “He felt that somebody finally stood up and defended him, particularly with how this investigation is going,” Giuliani said.

Poll: Trump support among union members has fallen 15 points

Poll: Trump support among union members has fallen 15 points
President Trump’s support among America’s union workers has dropped 15 points in just a year, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday.

The president enjoyed an all-time high of more than 60 percent support among union workers in the same poll last March, an unusually strong number for a Republican. But his support among the demographic has dropped steadily nearly every month since then, Reuters reports, despite his pursuit of trade tariffs that labor unions have traditionally supported. Trump’s support among union workers now sits at 47 percent, down from its all-time high of 62 percent, according to the poll. April numbers have not yet been released. A graph released by Reuters notes that Trump tended to win union supporters in areas of the country such as the southwest and the Carolinas where union workers make up a smaller percentage of the overall workforce. Democrats are working hard to win back union voters, a voting bloc that has typically been a stronghold for them, ahead of the 2018 congressional midterms. Party strategists are hoping to avoid a repeat of 2016, which saw many union workers flipping from supporting President Obama just four years earlier to supporting Trump. “There was a collapse of union support,” said former AFL-CIO political director Steve Rosenthal. Clinton won 8 percent more of the union vote than did her opponent, a victory that was still a significant double-digit drop in support from unions’ support for Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, won a 30-point advantage among union households in 1992 during his successful run for president. The Reuters/Ipsos poll contacts 902 – 1,558 union members every month, and carries a margin of error of 3-4 percentage points for union member questions.

Citi: U.S. To Become World’s Top Oil Exporter

Oil storage

As global oil markets shift their attention from U.S. shale oil production back to a resurgent Saudi Arabia and Russia and geopolitical concerns bearing down on oil prices, Citigroup said last Wednesday that the U.S. is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia next year as the world’s largest exporter of crude and oil products. The U.S. exported a record 8.3 million barrels per day (bpd) last week of crude oil and petroleum products, the government also said Wednesday. Top crude oil exporter Saudi Arabia’s, for its part, exported 9.3 million bpd in January, while Russia exported 7.4 million bpd, the bank added. However, it should also be noted that the Citi projection is for both crude and finished (refined) petroleum products, not only crude oil. Saudi Arabia remains the world’s largest exporter of crude, though since January amid the OPEC/non-OPEC production cut agreement that figure has fallen. On April 10, the Saudi oil minister said that the kingdom planned to keep its crude oil shipments in May below 7 million bpd for the 12th consecutive month. Saudi Arabia has also trimmed its oil production more than 100 percent of the output cuts it agreed to under the January 2017 production deal. In March, Saudi crude production was at 9.91 million bpd, below the deal’s output target of 10.058 million bpd. Russia, however, also part of the global oil protection cut agreement, increased its crude oil production by 0.2 percent to 10.97 million bpd in March, compared to the previous month and an 11-month high.  Though Citi has projected that the U.S. could bypass Saudi Arabia in the export of crude and petroleum products, U.S. crude oil exports have been relatively low compared to other major oil producers since the Obama Administration lifted the ban of American crude oil exports in 2015. Nonetheless, U.S. crude exports are poised for an upward trajectory. On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said the U.S. crude exports last week increased by 582,000 bpd to 2.331 bpd, an all-time high. The reason for the spike in exports also comes from the price divergence (arbitrage) between London-traded, global benchmark Brent crude and NYMEX, U.S.-benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude prices. As the spread between the two benchmarks widens, WTI trades at a significant cost advantage against Brent as well as other crude benchmarks. The WTI discount is a boon for refineries, particularly in Asia, that need the light sweet crude which yields higher priced refined petroleum products. Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as China’s top crude oil supplier in 2017. Saudi Arabia remained the second largest supplier to China in Q1 this year, although its exports were down 5.7 percent from a year ago. U.S. crude is also finding more buyers in Europe due to the Brent/WTI arbitrage. Market sources have estimated U.S. exports to Europe would average 800,000 bpd between mid-May and mid-June, including 25 million barrels in May overall. One source, according to a report in Hellenic Shipping News, said that of the 25 million barrels expected to land in May, 15 million barrels had already been placed with end-users.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 164,000 in April, vs 192,000 jobs expected

The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in April, an 18-year low, even as nonfarm payrolls rose by just 164,000, according to a report Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected payroll growth of 192,000 and the jobless rate to drop by one-tenth of a percent to 4.0 percent. The official jobs tally showed an increase from an upwardly revised 135,000 in March. . “Net-net this was a little bit softer than people were expecting. This goes into a lot of the other data that we’ve been seeing, … a little bit of a soft patch.”

The closely watched average hourly earnings number rose by 4 cents, equating to a 2.6 percent annualized gain, a bit off the pace from the previous month and a shade less than expected. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.1 hours.

 

A more encompassing measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time positions for economic reasons fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest since July 2001. Unemployment for blacks fell to a fresh record-low of 6.6 percent, down 0.3 percent.

 

The drop in the unemployment rate came amid another decline in the labor force participation rate to 62.8 percent, the lowest since January. The number of people counted as out of the labor force swelled by 410,000 to 95.74 million.

 

Professional and business services created the most new jobs, with 54,000, while manufacturing and health care added 24,000 apiece. Mining saw 8,000 new jobs. Services jobs overall led the way, with 119,000 new positions. Leisure and hospitality increased by 18,000.  The lack of wage pressure likely will be the one takeaway for Federal Reserve officials. Central bankers are on a pace to continue raising rates, but the lack of inflation could augur for a more patient pace than some in the market anticipate.

Special counsel Robert Mueller focusing sharply on links between Trump confidant Roger Stone and former campaign official Rick Gates, sources say

Roger Stone
Getty Images Roger Stone

Special counsel Robert Mueller is focusing intensely on alleged interactions between former top Trump campaign official Rick Gates and political operative Roger Stone, one of President Donald Trump’s closest confidants, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter. Stone, a longtime advisor to Trump, is apparently one of the top subjects of the Mueller investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, sources told CNBC on condition of anonymity. The questions have been largely about what was discussed at meetings, including dinners, between Stone and Gates, before and during the campaign, said the sources, who have knowledge of the substance of the recent interviews. In February, Gates pleaded guilty to two counts stemming from the Russia investigation, and he is cooperating with Mueller’s probe. The new developments indicate that Mueller’s team is interested in Stone beyond his interactions with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange during the campaign. An attorney for Stone, Robert Buschel, did not deny the relationship between his client and Gates, but sought to downplay its importance. “Roger Stone did not have any substantive or meaningful interaction with Rick Gates during or leading up to the 2016 campaign,” Buschel told CNBC in a statement. An attorney for Gates declined to comment. The special counsel’s office declined to comment. The link between Gates and Stone goes back to their work at what had been one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington, D.C., which was founded by Stone along with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The special counsel’s probe has yielded two indictments against Manafort, who is accused of several crimes, including bank fraud and conspiracy against the United States. Gates joined the firm as an intern more three decades ago, and it is unclear how much work he did with Stone at the time.The firm, called Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, was known for its work to help improve the image of controversial politicians, including Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Russian-aligned former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.  Gates joined the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016 and became Manafort’s deputy. It was there where he became close to many of Trump’s close confidants. He remained with the campaign even after Manafort’s ouster. Gates then worked on Trump’s inaugural committee and co-founded the pro-Trump nonprofit group America First Policies. In March, Gates was pulled into the Mueller inquiry when the special counsel’s office filed a motion that claimed the former campaign aide had contact with a former agent of the Russian intelligence service in 2016. This came after Gates pleaded guilty to lying and conspiring against the United States, which could lead to possibly six years in prison. A sentencing date has yet to be announced. For Stone, this is another potential hurdle in an ongoing investigation that continues to focus on him, amongst others. Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign advisor, also said he was asked about Stone’s involvement with Wikileaks during his interview before Mueller’s grand jury in March. “Roger is certainly a subject,” Nunberg said. “The fact that Roger hasn’t been called in and the special counsel continues to ask questions about Roger’s possible activities during the election shows that at the very least he’s a subject.” Stone allegedly met with Assange, the Wikileaks founder, in August 2016. In an email leaked to The Wall Street Journal, Stone said, “I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite.” Stone has denied that he has met with the Wikileaks founder and said the email was in jest. During the 2016 campaign, Wikileaks published emails allegedly stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s servers by a Russia-linked hacker known as “Guccifer 2.0.”

Elon Musk acted like a jerk, and Tesla stock paid the price

Opinion: Tesla CEO’s performance on earnings call was bizarre and contentious, but it’s investors who are paying
Bloomberg News/Landov
”If people are concerned about volatility, they should definitely not buy our stock,” Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said Wednesday.

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk held a long, odd earnings conference call Wednesday in which he insulted analysts, the media, federal regulators and people who died behind the wheel of his cars, and then told anyone concerned about volatility not to invest in his company. Tesla on Wednesday disclosed the largest quarterly loss in the history of a company known far and wide for losing vast sums of money, with a net loss of almost $785 million. The numbers still managed to beat expectations that have been repeatedly lowered for more than a year, which led Musk to take a victory lap on Twitter after losing more than three quarters of a billion dollars in three months.

It only got weirder from there. In his conference-call introduction, Musk confused per-week and per-day production figures, described a “super complicated” robot Tesla designed and built before realizing it could not perform its unnecessary function, then mentioned offhandedly that he planned to restructure the company this month — a disclosure he never revisited to provide more information.

When the question-and-answer session started, Musk turned vitriolic, and not even his fellow executives were safe. After Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja referred to Tesla as “best in class” for batteries while responding to an analyst query, he was interrupted by Musk. “The best. It is not a class,” Musk interjected. “Yes, we’re the best. Sorry,” Ahuja replied. “The best in a class of one,” Musk made sure to point out. Soon, Musk turned his ire toward the financial analysts who were asking the questions. When Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi attempted to ask about capital-expenditure spending and the money needed, Musk cut him off by yelling “Next!” When RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak then asked how many people with Model 3 reservations were actually taking delivery of their cars, Musk declined to answer any more “boring,” “dry” questions.

“You’re killing me,” he said.

Instead, Musk turned to Galileo Russell, a YouTuber whom Musk allowed to ask a question after an online campaign to appear on the earnings call. Instead of a single question, however, Musk allowed Russell to ask roughly a dozen questions, few with much relation to the quarter in question or near-term Tesla performance. Russell instead focused on long-term goals, leading to an entertaining interview that Musk used to air his ire.

U.S. investigators wiretapped phone lines of Trump lawyer: NBC

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal investigators wiretapped the phone lines of U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen before the raid on his offices, hotel room and home, NBC News reported on Thursday, citing sources familiar with the legal proceedings.The raids occurred in April as part of a federal criminal investigation in New York partly over a payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who has alleged an affair with Trump a decade ago. Trump called her claims “false and extortionist” in a tweet on Thursday. The New York investigation is an offshoot of the ongoing probe by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. Both Russia and Trump deny any wrongdoing.It was not immediately clear when the warrant for surveillance was obtained or what evidence the Federal Bureau of Investigation had to support its request. Trump fumes over release of Mueller questionsRudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City turned Trump’s personal attorney, told the Washington Post that the wiretaps were “not appropriate,” according to a Twitter post by the Post reporter. Giuliani did not immediately return a call for comment from Reuters.A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, which is handling the Cohen investigation, declined to comment. Cohen and a lawyer for him all did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fox’s Napolitano says Giuliani claim ‘unworthy of belief’

Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Thursday that it is “unworthy of belief” that President Trump reimbursed his personal attorney Michael Cohen and didn’t know the money was being used to silence adult-film star Stormy Daniels about an alleged 2006 affair with Trump. “If Rudy [Giuliani] wants the public to believe that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen $130,000 and didn’t know what it was for, didn’t know that it was going to silence Stormy Daniels, that is unworthy of belief,” said Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge. He described Trump as a “man who knows where every one of his nickels has gone.” Giuliani, the former New York City mayor now serving on the president’s legal team, told Fox’s Sean Hannity in an interview on Wednesday night that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels. In doing so, Giuliani contradicted what the president has stated before about not knowing about the payment from Cohen to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Giuliani, 73, joined Trump’s legal team in April and once was a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He attempted to clarify his remarks on Hannity’s program around the payment to Cohen and where it came from in another interview on Fox News on Thursday morning.   “It wasn’t for the campaign. It was to save not so much their marriage as much as their reputation,” Giuliani said. “He didn’t know the details of this until we knew the details of this, which was a couple weeks ago,” he later added. “Maybe not even a couple — maybe 10 days ago. Remember when this came up — October 2016. I was with him day in and day out then. I can’t remember the details of what happened and this was — I know, $135,000 — I don’t want to demean anyone but $135,000 seems like a lot of money … it’s not when you’re putting $100 million into your campaign. It isn’t pocket change but it’s pretty close to it at the end.”
When pressed why Cohen paid Daniels any money at all, Giuliani said Cohen made the allegations go away, which was his job.   “Imagine if that came out of Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton?” Giuliani asked.

Iran’s foreign minister says no renegotiating nuclear deal

Iran’s foreign minister says no renegotiating nuclear deal

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister took to YouTube on Thursday to criticize President Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw from the nuclear deal, saying Iran will not “renegotiate or add onto” the atomic accord. Mohammad Javad Zarif’s video, which was also posted to Trump’s favorite social media platform, Twitter, appeared to be taking his message to the masses after earlier speaking to news outlets across the United States to defend the deal. It comes as Trump has signaled he will withdraw from the agreement by May 12 if it is not renegotiated and changed. Those changes have included proposals to limit Iran’s ballistic missile program, which Tehran says it has as a defensive deterrent. The five-minute video shows Zarif behind his desk, delivering his message on the deal. He offers background first about the deal before laying into Trump and criticizing Europe for offering “the United States more concessions from our pocket.” “On 11 occasions since, the U.N. nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran has implemented all of its obligations,” Zarif, who studied in the U.S., says in American-accented English. “In contrast, the U.S. has consistently violated the agreement, especially by bullying others from doing business with Iran.” Zarif adds: “Let me make it absolutely clear once and for all: We will neither outsource our security nor will we renegotiate or add onto a deal we have already implemented in good faith.” The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium and number of spinning centrifuges, as well as hand over its stockpile of uranium and reconfigure a heavy-water reactor so it couldn’t produce plutonium. In exchange, Iran regained access to the global banking system and could sell its oil again on the world market. While directly criticizing the U.S. and Europe, Zarif did appear to leave some wiggle room for possible negotiations, however.“It is Iran, and not the West, that has serious grievances and much to demand,” Zarif says. Nick Note: this is a discussion we should have had ten year ago. Iran has the bomb and has the medium range rockets. And nothing short of a full scale invasion is going to change that fact. Reality is this will be another Trump publicity stunt and achieve nothing. the world will not not impose new sanctions on Iran. which means the Iranian oil will continue its gusher!

President Trump’s trade shakeup hasn’t delivered the ‘better deal’ he promised

Donald Trump
Carlos Barria | Reuters Donald Trump

President Donald Trump is shaking up trade policy just as he promised, with one exception: the part about the “better deal” for the American economy. Trump has launched, but not landed, various trade initiatives: withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, protective tariffs on steel and aluminum, confrontation with China and renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The details remain unresolved, and they may well produce discrete benefits for some U.S. businesses and workers. But for the economy overall – including big swaths of Trump country – trade policy veterans of past Republican administrations say the challenge now is limiting damage in the form of disrupted supply chains, higher prices and lost jobs. Trump alienated allies such as Canada and the European Union by threatening to apply tariffs on steel and aluminum to them as well as China. That creates double-barreled problems for U.S. business. With Trump this week deferring decisions on the scope of tariffs, and the EU and China threatening retaliation, uncertainty hangs over business purchasing and investment decisions. China has already imposed new tariffs on American sorghum, a blow to farmers in Kansas, and threatened similar steps against soybeans and other agricultural products that would hit Trump-friendly voters elsewhere in the Midwest. Whatever the administration decides, recent history points toward net negative economic efforts. Analyses of steel tariffs imposed by Bush found they created fewer jobs in steel production than they destroyed through higher prices for steel-consuming industries. The Trump administration wields the possibility of tariffs on Canada and Mexico as leverage to achieve U.S. goals in a renegotiated NAFTA. As the president warns of scrapping the existing deal, representatives of all sides report rising prospects that they’ll reach a new one. “Trump created a crisis for NAFTA in order to appeal to his protectionist constituencies,” said Robert Zoellick, Bush’s U.S. trade representative. “The priorities of his rewrite, if Canada and Mexico agree, are supposed to restrict North American trade and investment, not boost our competitiveness with the world.” The U.S. to exit a new NAFTA after five years. While that appeals to a president who built a reality television career around the words “you’re fired,” it undercuts the predictability corporations need for long-term planning. “The climate it creates stops investment,” said Carla Hills, trade representative under President George H.W. Bush. “We look like we no longer have reliability.” Trump’s strategy for pursuing a new NAFTA adds another danger. The administration has discussed scuttling the existing agreement at the same time it submits a new one to Congress. The idea would be pressuring reluctant lawmakers to vote yes. But that poses the risk of calamitous economic disruption if a White House with limited success on Capitol Hill fails to gather and accurately count the necessary votes.

Giuliani: Trump repaid Cohen $130K for payment to porn sta

Giuliani says Trump repaid $130,000 his lawyer spent to quiet porn star

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump reimbursed his personal lawyer for $130,000 in hush money paid to a porn actress days before the 2016 presidential election, a Trump attorney said Wednesday, appearing to contradict the president’s past claims that he didn’t know the source of the money. During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the money to repay Michael Cohen had been “funneled … through the law firm and the president repaid it.” Asked if Trump knew about the arrangement, Giuliani said: “He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”

The comments appear to contradict statements made by Trump several weeks ago, when he said he didn’t know about the payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the presidential election.

Guiliani’s revelation seemed aimed at reducing the president’s legal exposure. But outside experts said it raised a number of questions, including whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure.

Asked aboard Air Force One last month whether he knew about the payment, Trump said flatly: “No.” Trump also said he didn’t know why Cohen had made the payment or where he got the money.

In a phone interview with “Fox and Friends” last week, however, Trump appeared to muddy the waters, saying that Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.” Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and ex-U.S. attorney who joined Trump’s legal team last month, said the president had repaid Cohen over several months, indicating the payments continued through at least the presidential transition, if not into his presidency. He also said the payment “is going to turn out to be perfectly legal” because “that money was not campaign money.” No debt to Cohen is listed on Trump’s personal financial disclosure form, which was certified on June 16, 2017. Giuliani also described the payment to Daniels as “a very regular thing for lawyers to do.” Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, called the comment “a stunning revelation.” “Mr. Trump evidently has participated in a felony and there must be serious consequences for his conduct and his lies and deception to the American people,” he said. Andrew Herman, an attorney specializing in campaign finance law at Miller & Chevalier, said Giuliani’s argument that this was a private payment unrelated to the campaign appears to be “pretty far-fetched” given the timing – weeks before the election while Trump was under fire for his behavior with women and for an “Access Hollywood” tape in which he spoke of groping women without their consent.

Trump loses another lawyer — Ty Cobb leaving, reportedly being replaced by Clinton impeachment attorney Emmet Flood

Emmet Flood, to replace White House lawyer Ty Cobb
White House lawyer Ty Cobb to depart this month   President Donald Trump plans to hire a lawyer who represented President Bill Clinton during his impeachment, Emmet Flood, to replace White House lawyer Ty Cobb for the ongoing probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Cobb’s departure and Flood’s anticipated arrival is just the latest shuffling of Trump’s legal team to deal with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. “For several weeks Ty Cobb has been discussing his retirement and last week he let Chief of Staff Kelly know he would retire at the end of this month,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a prepared statement on Wednesday. Sanders’ statement did not mention Flood, the Washington lawyer who two months ago was said to be in discussions with Trump about joining his legal team for Mueller’s probe.Mueller’s inquiry, which is eyeing possible collusion by Trump  als with Russians, is a constant source of irritation to Trump. The president has angrily denied that any collusion occurred and has lashed out at his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department and the FBI because of the probe. Another lawyer, John Dowd, quit his legal team in late March. About a month later, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, joined the team. The Times said Cobb has said he plans on remaining at the White House for the next several weeks to assist Flood in his new role. The article notes that Flood’s hiring by Trump has not been finalized, and that the president has in the past reversed decisions on hiring and firing people after they were reported.

Flood and Cobb had no immediate comment when contacted by CNBC. Flood is a partner at the law firm of Williams & Connolly. He was part of a team that represented Clinton during the 1999 impeachment, which ended with Clinton’s acquittal in the Senate. Flood’s bio page at his law firm also notes that he was the lead lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office under President George W. Bush for responding to hundreds of Congressional investigations. Flood also represented Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, in a civil lawsuit filed by Valerie Plame, a CIA employee whose status at the agency had been leaked. When the Times first reported in March that Trump was talking to Flood about becoming one of his attorneys, Trump angrily denied such a move.

Rosenstein: ‘We Strongly Support Appropriate Congressional Oversight,’ But DOJ Will Not Be ‘Extorted’

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Law Day. (Photo: Screen capture/C-SPAN)

(CNSNews.com) – In a Q-and-A session at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — the man overseeing the secret Robert Mueller investigation — was asked how the Justice Department balances the need for confidential investigations with congressional requests for information about those investigations.

“Funny you should ask that question,” Rosenstein replied. He said the Justice Department supports “appropriate” oversight but will not be “extorted.”

The oversight question is timely, given reports that conservative Republicans have drafted articles of impeachment against Rosenstein following disputes over document requests relating to the ongoing Russia investigation and the Clinton email investigation. “You know, we in the (Justice) Department and the Executive branch — we strongly support appropriate congressional oversight,” Rosenstein said. “Oversight is — is very important, and it’s one of our obligations to comply, to the extent that we can.” Rosenstein raised what he called an “interesting historical point,” saying, “There’s actually not a constitutional basis for oversight. That’s something that’s been viewed as sort of an implied power, and has developed over the years.” He noted that there have been conflicts between the Executive and Legislative branches regarding oversight throughout history: “You know, I’ve been in the department for almost 30 years. Going back hundreds of years, these conflicts have arisen,” Rosenstein said. “And what we’ve been told — in the few instances when this has actually been litigated, the courts have said that the branches have a responsibility to try to compromise, a responsibility to get along. And there have been repeated articulations over the years about what the principles of — sort of where the lines are, you know, where it’s not appropriate to conduct congressional oversight.” Rosenstein noted that he, as deputy attorney general, has a responsibility to “defend the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice. If we were to just open our doors to allow Congress to come and rummage through the files, that would be a serious infringement on the separation of powers. And it might resolve a dispute today, but it would have negative repercussions in the long run, and we have a responsibility to defend the institution.”
But I can tell you that there have been people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time. And I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.
We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law. And any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.

Mueller still mulling Trump campaign collusion with Russians

 

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump angrily insisted again Tuesday that there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russians in the 2016 election, but special counsel Robert S. Mueller III apparently isn’t convinced. After speaking with prosecutors on Mueller’s team, Trump’s lawyers prepared a list of nearly four dozen questions the prosecutors had that could be posed during a potential interview with the president, according to sources with knowledge of the process who declined to speak publicly.

Roughly one in four questions focused on what the president knew about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the campaign.

“During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?” reads one inquiry on the list. The New York Times first disclosed the list and a source confirmed its authenticity to the Los Angeles Times. It’s unclear if Mueller has changed or expanded his areas of inquiry, which were detailed more than a month ago. Since then, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was the target of raids by FBI agents pursuing a separate criminal investigation in Manhattan. It’s not known if Trump is still open to sitting down for an interview with the special counsel’s office, something he previously pledged to do. Trump last month hired Rudolph Giuliani, a longtime political ally and former mayor of New York City, to help negotiate with Mueller. The president also ramped up his criticism of the Russia investigation. Trump blasted the disclosure of the questions in a tweet Tuesday morning, calling it “so disgraceful.” He added, “you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!” Trump also falsely claimed the list contained “no questions on Collusion” even though a number of inquiries probed issues related to connections between Trump or his aides and Russians. Generally the questions referred to episodes that have been public knowledge for months. The list contained no new allegations of meetings, conversations or contacts.

One question — “When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?” — references the June 2016 gathering that Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, hosted with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who was said to have incriminating information on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, also attended the meeting, which was revealed last year. Trump Jr. later claimed no incriminating information was provided. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee suggested Friday that the president may know more about the meeting than he has let on. As Trump Jr. was setting up the meeting, he conducted a call with a blocked number, according to phone records.

 

Cohen has said he and Sater, a Russian-born businessman in New York who previously worked with the Trump Organization, pitched a luxury building in Moscow during the campaign, but the idea was abandoned in January 2016. Prosecutors may have hinted there’s more evidence against Manafort, who already is fighting nearly two dozen charges of money laundering, tax evasion and bank fraud in two federal indictments. “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?” the question asks. Manafort is not charged with any crimes related to his work on the Trump campaign although prosecutors have suggested in court filings that he has ties to Russian intelligence. He has denied any such ties or any conspiracy with Russia. Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, said Trump could still face legal jeopardy. “The president has been building an obstruction case against himself, tweet by tweet,” he said.

Mueller raised possibility of presidential subpoena in meeting with Trump’s legal team

President Trump, seen walking out to the Rose Garden at the White House on Tuesday, has repeatedly decried the investigation as a “witch hunt.”

WASHINGTON – In a tense meeting in early March with the special counsel, President Donald Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. But Special Counsel Robert Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter. Mueller’s warning – the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team – spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer. “This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.” The flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump’s attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel’s request for an interview, a dispute that ultimately led to Dowd’s resignation. In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked, according to three of the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. The New York Times first reported the existence of the list. The questions focus on events during the Trump campaign, transition and presidency that have long known to be under scrutiny, including the president’s reasons for firing then-FBI Director James Comey and the pressure he put on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. Trump’s remade legal team is now led by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who told The Washington Post on Tuesday that he views Mueller as the utmost professional, but is still reviewing documents and considering conditions he might set before deciding whether to recommend that Trump agree to an interview. Paul Rosenzweig, who worked as a senior counsel on independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation during the Clinton administration, predicted that the president would face a long interview if the special counsel hewed to the list Sekulow compiled. “This isn’t a list of 49 questions. It’s 49 topics,” Rosenzweig said. “Each of these topics results in dozens of questions. To be honest, that list is a two-day interview. You don’t get through it in an hour or two.”

For his part, Trump fumed when he saw the breadth of the questions that emerged out of the talks with Mueller’s team, according to two White House officials.

The president and several advisers now plan to point to the list as evidence that Mueller has strayed beyond his mandate and is overreaching, they said. “He wants to hammer that,” according to a person who spoke to him Monday. “Mueller is in Kenny Starr territory now,” said another Trump adviser, referring to how the controversial independent counsel investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s real estate deals in Arkansas ended up probing the president’s lies about a sexual relationship with a White House intern. Trump’s anger over the Cohen raids spilled into nearly every conversation in the days that followed and continues to be a sore point for the president. One confidant said Trump seems to “talk about it 20 times a day.” Other associates said they often stand silent, in person or on the phone, as he vents about the Cohen matter, knowing that there is little they can say. Should Mueller seek to compel Trump’s testimony using a subpoena, a legal battle could ensue that could delay the investigation and force the issue into the courts, potentially to the Supreme Court. Judges have generally held that the president is not above the law and can be subjected to normal legal processes –  “The opposite argument is that no man is above the law, and if it’s a lawful investigation, then he must respond,” Rosenzweig said.

Companies to return a record $1 trillion to investors this year in form of buybacks and dividends, estimates S&P

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images Publicly traded companies in the U.S. could do something they have never done before.

Through the end of April, S&P 500 companies are on track to give back a record $1 trillion to investors through dividend increases and stock buybacks, according to data compiled by Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Given the environment, availability of cash, increased income expectations, and the ‘desire’ of companies to show shareholder return, the return to a double-digit actual cash payment gain (year-over-year) seems feasible, along with the first trillion-dollar year of dividends and buybacks for the S&P 500,” wrote Silverblatt in a note Monday. In the note, he pointed out that 169 S&P 500 members hiked their dividends in the first four months of the year, while no company in the index cut its dividend. That’s “an event not seen since at least 2003 (when my records begin),” Silverblatt said. He also said, citing initial reports, that buybacks “produced an outrageous 72% gain due to a few significant issue level increases, but even excluding those buybacks they are up between 25% and 42% depending on the exclusions.” The strong shareholder returns follow the slashing of the U.S. corporate tax rate. Late last year, President Donald Trump signed a bill that cut the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. But despite the tax cut and the strong shareholder returns expected by Silverblatt, the S&P 500 is down more than 1 percent for 2018, signalling investors may need all the returns they can get.

Trump doc says Trump bodyguard, lawyer ‘raided’ his office, took medical files

Dr. Harold Bornstein said he felt “raped” after White House aide Keith Schiller and lawyer Alan Garten showed up unannounced and took Trump’s files.

Dr. Harold Bornstein in his office.
Dr. Harold Bornstein in his office.NBC News. by Anna R. Schecter

In February 2017, a top White House aide who was Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard, along with the top lawyer at the Trump Organization and a third man, showed up at the office of Trump’s New York doctor without notice and took all the president’s medical records. The incident, which Dr. Harold Bornstein described as a “raid,” took place two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he had prescribed a hair growth medicine for the president for years. In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt “raped, frightened and sad” when Keith Schiller and another “large man” came to his office to collect the president’s records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump’s bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House. “They must have been here for 25 or 30 minutes. It created a lot of chaos,” Bornstein said, who described the incident as frightening. A framed 8×10 photo of Bornstein and Trump that had been hanging on the wall in the waiting room now lies flat under a stack of papers on the top shelf of Bornstein’s bookshelf. Bornstein said the men asked him to take it off the wall. Bornstein said he was not given a form authorizing the release of the records and signed by the president —known as a HIPAA release — which is a violation of patient privacy law. A person familiar with the matter said there was a letter to Bornstein from then-White House doctor Ronny Jackson, but didn’t know if there was a release form attached. Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken. Bornstein said he is speaking out now after seeing reports that Ronny Jackson, who has allegedly been called “the candy man” for loosely prescribing pain medications as White House doctor, will not return to his post after being considered to run the Veterans Administration “This is like a celebration for me,” he said. Jackson has denied improperly prescribing drugs. Bornstein, 70, had been Trump’s personal doctor for more than 35 years.

During Trump’s presidential campaign, Bornstein wrote a letter declaring “unequivocally” that Trump would be the healthiest president in history. He called Trump’s health “astonishingly excellent.” The Trump campaign released the letter in December 2015.

Bornstein told NBC News in 2016 that he wrote the note in just five minutes while a limo sent by the candidate waited outside his office. Asked how he could justify saying Trump would be the healthiest president ever, Bornstein said, “I like that sentence to be quite honest with you and all the rest of them are either sick or dead.”

US April auto sales show lackluster start to spring

Getty Images A Ford dealership in Detroit. Major automakers on Tuesday posted lower new vehicle sales in April as consumer demand continued to weaken following a lengthy boom for the industry.

Auto sales have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride this year, with a weak performance in February followed by a jump in sales for some automakers in March. Ford Motor posted a 4.7-percent decline in sales, with retail sales to consumers down 2.6 percent. The No. 2 U.S. automaker said sales of its popular pickup trucks were up 0.9 percent, but SUV and passenger car sales were down 4.6 percent and 15 percent respectively. For years, U.S. consumers have been shifting away from traditional passenger cars in favor of larger and more comfortable pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers. But the number of new models vying for a share of that market is growing faster than demand, threatening the fat profits automakers have enjoyed. “That is a very competitive part of the market … with so many new entries,” Ford’s U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve said of the SUV segment on a conference call with analysts and reporters.

Last year, U.S. auto sales fell 2 percent after hitting a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016. Sales are expected to fall further in 2018 as higher interest rates push up monthly car payments. Also, millions of nearly new vehicles will return to the market this year after coming off lease, providing a lower-cost alternative for consumers.

“We believe the industry continues to operate at a very healthy level,” Ford’s LaNeve said. “With a plateauing market, you are going to get some bumpiness.” Nissan Motor’s sales hit quite a bump, plunging 28 percent in April. The Japanese automaker’s passenger cars dropped nearly 35 percent and SUV and truck sales were down 23.1 percent. Even sales of the company’s popular SUV crossover model Rogue were down almost 15 percent. No. 1 U.S. automaker General Motors announced last month that it would no longer report monthly sales and instead will just post sales on a quarterly basis. But industry estimates showed the company posting a monthly decline for April of anywhere up to 8 percent.  Toyota posted a 4.7 percent decline in sales for April, with a 1.5 percent increase in SUV and pickup truck sales offset by a 12.7 percent drop in passenger car sales. Sales of the company’s recently revamped flagship Camry sedan were down 5 percent.

Gibson guitar maker files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

An employee buffing an unfinished electric guitar inside a Gibson factory.

Joby Sessions | Guitarist Magazine | Getty Images An employee buffing an unfinished electric guitar inside a Gibson factory.

The company that makes Gibson guitars and Baldwin pianos filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early Tuesday amid what it called a “devastating” financial fall. Nashville, Tenn.-based Gibson Brands requested court protection from its creditors, saying it had support from many of them for a deal that would allow the company to survive. Founded in 1894, the company said it planned to continue designing, building and selling musical instruments and equipment, including other brands such as Wurlitzer, Dobro, Epiphone, KRK and Cerwin Vega. But the company said it would kill its Gibson Innovations unit, which makes Philips-branded headphones, speakers and other electronic accessories. Known for providing instruments to stars such as Elvis Presley, BB King, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend and Lenny Kravitz, Gibson sells more than 170,000 guitars annually in more than 80 countries, according to a court filing. The company claims market share of more than 40 percent in electric guitars above $2,000. But sales have declined significantly, and cost-cutting efforts haven’t been enough to stop the bleeding. In recent months, lenders required accelerated repayment as the company’s business deteriorated. “Over the past 12 months, we have made substantial strides through an operational restructuring,” Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said in a statement, adding that Gibson will “refocus on our core business” of musical instruments, which “we believe will assure the company’s long-term stability and financial health.” The company has long trumpeted its made-in-America guitars. Gibsons are manufactured in Nashville, Memphis and Bozeman, Mt. Gibson’s musical instruments business has more than 875 workers.

Impeachment looms large in White House midterm plans

 

President Trump wants to step up efforts to protect Republican control of the House in hopes of avoiding an impeachment debate and congressional investigations if Democrats seize the chamber, according to GOP sources. “It is super important to the White House and really the whole White House is very focused on it,” said a source familiar with strategy talks about protecting the House majority. “The president is expected to dial up efforts in this regard during and after the August recess,” the source added. While Democratic leaders in the House are playing any talk of impeachment very carefully, the idea of impeaching Trump has strong support within the party’s liberal base. Trump told a rally of supporters in Michigan over the weekend that the looming threat of impeachment is a driving reason to protect the House.

“We have to keep the House because if we listen to Maxine Waters, she’s going around saying ‘We will impeach him,’ ” Trump said Saturday.

Democrats would need to gain 23 seats to win back the House majority, a number that seems within range. The Cook Political Report categorizes eight GOP held seats as likely or leaning toward Democrats, and 22 more as toss-ups. “It’s clear the message has been, ‘We don’t want to want to have to fool with impeachment proceedings with the final two years of his first term, you better do something,” the strategist said, requesting anonymity to discuss party deliberations. “Our No. 1 priority is keeping the House. We have to win the House,” RNC political director Juston Johnson told the Associated Press. Republicans have a narrow 51-49 edge in the Senate, but face a playing field that has Democrats defending 26 seats compared to just eight for Republicans. Many of the Democratic seats are also in states that Trump won by double-digits, which gives the Senate GOP real hope of increasing its majority even if the House majority flips. McConnell warned Trump at a private dinner last month that he should focus more on the battle for control of the Senate, according to The New York Times. McConnell argued that the future of the Senate GOP majority depended largely on Trump. “There are a lot of operatives who are concerned that we’re chasing the impossible in terms of defending the House. Instead of ensuring you lock down one you may lose both,” said one GOP official who thinks the president’s time and fundraising ability is better used on Senate races. Forty-seven House Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have announced their retirements since Trump came to office. While some of them have been replaced by GOP successors in special elections, many of the seats will be vulnerable to Democratic takeover in November.

Mueller has long list of questions for Trump

Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to query President Trump about his ties to Russia among a host of other subjects.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to query President Trump about his ties to Russia among a host of other subjects. Photo: James Berglie / Zuma Press 2011
Photo: James Berglie / Zuma Press 2011

WASHINGTON — Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference, has at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump to learn more about his ties to Russia and determine whether he obstructed the inquiry itself, according to a list of the questions obtained by the New York Times. The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the FBI director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger Stone, a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.

The questions provide the most detailed look yet inside Mueller’s investigation, which has been shrouded in secrecy since he was appointed nearly a year ago. The majority relate to possible obstruction of justice, demonstrating how an investigation into Russia’s election meddling grew to include an examination of the president’s conduct in office. Among them are queries on any discussions Trump had about his attempts to fire Mueller himself and what the president knew about possible pardon offers to Flynn.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury in Washington to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

“What efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?” Mueller planned to ask, according to questions read by the special counsel investigators to the president’s lawyers, who compiled them into a list. That document was provided to the Times by a person outside Trump’s legal team.

A few questions reveal that Mueller is still investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. In one of the more tantalizing inquiries, Mueller asks what Trump knew about campaign aides, including former chairman Paul Manafort, seeking assistance from Moscow: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?” No such outreach has been revealed publicly. Nick bit” Impeached i tell you he will be impeached. He is dirty, dumb and a blow hard…… Bullshit is not going to save his ass this time!!

Benefit of Trump tax cuts overshadowed by technology and misplaced policies: Milken conference speakers

Milken Institute’s 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The windfall gains from the tax cuts passed by the U.S. Congress in December have brought back “animal spirits” that encourage risk-taking throughout corporate America, according to some of the participants at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in California on Monday.  “Tax reform in the United States has led to, frankly, a number of companies flush with cash and looking for their opportunity to use their balance sheets to affect significant change in their market places as exhibited by two of the big mergers in telecom and energy announced” in the last 24 hours, Robert Smith, founder and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, said at a panel discussion.apidly changing technology is providing challenges for many U.S. businesses and may be driving populist political policies which are undermining the business confidence generated by the U.S. tax cuts, conference speakers said. Jim McCaughan, chief executive officer at Principal Global Investors, said

technological advances are resulting in poor job prospects for some of the world’s population, but politicians are in denial about this and are mistakenly blaming immigration and free trade.

As result, the onus is on business leaders to re-train workers, he said.People “feel angry in part because the reason for their displacement and the lack of good job prospects isn’t the foreigner, the trade, the immigrant, it’s actually technology. And that is why re-skilling is so important”, he said.

One example of the uncertainty created for U.S. business by misplaced policies is President Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The exemptions from the tariffs for some countries expire on Tuesday, but it was still not clear on Monday which U.S. allies would get their exemptions renewed.

The uncertainty resulting from technological changes is also making it hard for chief executives to plan ahead, Vista’s Smith added.Another concern for businesses is rising U.S. interest rates.

Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners, warned that Trump’s tax cuts could trigger more interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. “We are coming in the United States to a point where the stimulus and fiscal policy put in place in Washington is colliding with monetary policy.”

Minerd said: “Volatility is going to pick up.” Nick Bit: Don’t let them shit you, For 200 years technology has changes man kinds job description over and over again. They have never retrained their employees. REALITY is it costs to muck and you got a retread. They ALWAYS throw the older workers out and hire younger, cheaper and trained for the new jobs young ones.

Netanyahu: Iran had secret ‘Project Amad’ to design, produce and test warheads

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018.
Amir Cohen | Reuters Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministryof Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday revealed a cache of files he claims were obtained from Iran and prove Tehran ran a secret program to build nuclear weapons. Iranian leaders have long said their nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. But Netanyahu on Monday revealed tens of thousands of pages of documents, which he said were copied from a “highly secret location” in Iran and detailed an effort to build nuclear arms. He said the evidence provided “new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years from the international community in its secret atomic archive.” His remarks come less than two weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump must decide whether to continue suspending sanctions against Iran, or restore the penalties on one of the world’s biggest oil producers. The Obama administration negotiated the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K. The accord lifted a series of sanctions against Iran in exchange for Tehran accepting limits on its nuclear program and allowing international investigators access to its facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the signatories to the agreement have repeatedly confirmed that Iran is complying with the deal as it is written. But the Trump administration and foreign policy hawks have long argued that the accord itself is flawed. Last year, the White House announced a major policy shift aimed at working with U.S. lawmakers and European partners to toughen the nuclear deal. In January, Trump waived sanctions against Iran, but said he would not suspend them when the next deadline arrived on May 12 unless the United States and Europe had agreed on a path forward.

Inflation hits Fed’s 2% target, PCE shows, in prelude to faster rise in U.S. interest rates

 

Getty Images Americans increased spending in March for the first time since the end of 2017, but rising inflation could be a problem.

The numbers: A key inflation gauge rose to 12-month rate of 2%, hitting the Federal Reserve’s target for the first time in a year and potentially signaling a faster increase in U.S. interest rates. The PCE index, the Fed’s preferred inflation barometer, rose to 2% year over year from a 1.7% pace in February. The 12-month increase in the more closely followed core rate of inflation was close behind, rising to 1.9% in March from 1.6% in the prior month. That’s the biggest yearly gain in the core rate since April 2012. The PCE index was unchanged in March, the government said Monday. The core rate rose 0.2%. The inflation figures are included in the government’s monthly report on consumer spending. Outlays rose 0.4% last month to mark the first advance since the end of 2017. Incomes climbed 0.3% in March. Both figures were in line with Wall Street expectations. Inflation has been increasing steadily for months owing to the rising cost of oil, higher home prices, the tightest labor market in decades and a strong U.S. and global economy. Prices pressures aren’t likely to ease up much, either. The savings rate dropped to 3.1% from 3.3%. The U.S. economy is growing soundly nearly nine years into an economic expansion, but it was inevitable that such a long period of growth would eventually trigger higher inflation. Inflation is still quite low by historical standards, but the Fed might be inclined to raise U.S. interest rates more aggressively to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. If so, Treasury rates are expected to rise and stocks could take a hit. Higher rates tend to draw money out of equities and into bonds

Gold eases for session and heads for April loss in shadow of firming dollar

Reuters

Gold slumped to start the week and headed for a roughly 0.9% April drop, retreating as the dollar index looked set to close out its best month in more than a year. The yellow metal’s drop comes even as closely tracked Treasury yields pulled back slightly from the 3% line in Monday trading. Nonyielding gold had lost some demand in favor of riskier assets. Early Monday, June gold GCM8, -0.64% fell $8.50, or 0.6%, at $1,314.90 an ounce. The contract did end higher Friday, at $1,323.40 an ounce, bouncing off its lowest closing level since March 20. June gold notched a 1.1% drop for last week. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.36% was up 0.3% at 91.84. Its moves can influence appetite for dollar-priced commodities, including the yellow metal, to investors using other currencies. The index is on track for a 1.8% April gain, according to FactSet Data. That would be the strongest showing since February 2017, when it also rose 1.8%. Still, gold’s back-and-forth has been restricted to a narrow trading range so far this year. “The dollar strength is not having a lasting impact on the technicals of gold and coming into this week, there is little expectation that the range of support band $1,300/$1,310 will be broken,” said Richard Perry, analyst at Hantec. “During 2018, there has not been a closing session within or below $1,300/$1,310 as time and again the corrections have been bought into.” Investors also have been tracking the 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.50%  , which last week climbed above 3% for the first time since 2014, but then slipped back under that psychologically important level. A jump for that benchmark rate tends to peel money away from riskier assets such as equities. Economic reports Monday include a look at personal income and spending, the April release on the Chicago area’s business conditions and a March report on pending home sales. On the Federal Reserve front, no speeches are scheduled. The central bank’s policy makers are slated to start a two-day meeting on Tuesday, and they are expected on Wednesday to leave interest rates on hold and signal no change to a tightening path of two more rate hikes in 2018. However, that’s a course of action that some market participants believe is too slow to keep up with mounting inflation risks. The jobs report for April, set to be released next Friday, could keep market action limited in the days leading up to the release. In addition, the prospect of a trade war between the U.S. and China is one of those worries, so traders are likely to watch U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s visit to China this week for high-level trade talks.

Trump says he relishes enthusiasm, ‘love’ at Michigan rally

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump took aim at familiar political targets and added a few fresh ones during a campaign-style rally in Michigan, an Upper Midwest state that was crucial in sending him to the White House.

Trump has been urging voters to support Republicans for Congress as a way of advancing his agenda. In the Saturday night rally in Washington Township, he repeatedly cited Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan as one of the Democrats who needed to be voted out.

After saying Stabenow was standing in the way of protecting U.S. borders and had voted against tax cuts, Trump said: “And you people just keep putting her back again and again and again. It’s your fault.”

Earlier Saturday, Trump tweeted criticism of Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana over his role in the failed nomination of White House doctor Ronny Jackson to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling for Tester to resign or at least not be re-elected this fall.

In Michigan, Trump railed against the allegations Tester aired against Jackson and suggested that he could take a similar tack against the senator.

“I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said ’em, he’d never be elected again,” Trump said without elaborating.

As he has at similar events, Trump promoted top agenda items that energize conservatives: appointing conservative judges, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending sanctuary cities and protecting tax cuts approved by the Republican-led Congress. He also took credit for the warming relations between North and South Korea, telling his audience, “We’ll see how it goes.”

“Great evening last night,” the president tweeted early Sunday. “The enthusiasm, knowledge and love in that room was unreal. To the many thousands of people who couldn’t get in, I cherish you … and will be back!”

Trump chose a friendly venue for his rally, which not coincidentally came the same night as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He skipped the dinner last year.

“While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust…the so-called comedian really ‘bombed,'” Trump tweeted.

That barb was directed at Michelle Wolf, who provided the after-dinner entertainment for the White House press corps and their guests, and whose performance was surprisingly racy. After one crass joke drew groans from the audience, Wolf laughed and said, “Yeah, shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.”

Before the Michigan rally, Trump had said in a fundraising pitch that he had come up with something better than being stuck in a room “with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me.” He said he would rather spend the evening “with my favorite deplorables.”

During the 2016 campaign, Clinton drew laughs when she told supporters at a private fundraiser that half of Trump supporters could be lumped into a “basket of deplorables” – denouncing them as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”

Clinton later did a partial rollback, said she had been “grossly generalistic” and regretted saying the label fit “half” of Trump’s supporters. But she didn’t back down from the general sentiment.

Trump soon had the video running in his campaign ads, and his supporters wore the “deplorable” label as a badge of honor.

Trump, in his remarks at the rally, repeatedly weaved back into immigration and his support for a border wall. He accused Democrats of not wanting to secure the border and keep violent criminals out of the country.

“Debbie Stabenow is one of the leaders for weak borders and letting people in. I don’t know how she gets away with it,” Trump said. “A vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime. It’s very simple. It’s also a vote for much higher taxes.”

A spokeswoman for Stabenow hit back Sunday against Trump.

“Michigan families are tired of political attacks,” spokeswoman Miranda Margowsky said. “Instead they want results, and that’s exactly what Senator Stabenow has done.”

Trump warns his impeachment could follow if Democrats take back Congress

“We gotta fight like hell, and we gotta win the House and we gotta win the Senate.”

 

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally on April 28, 2018 in Washington Michigan. CREDIT: Scott Olson/Getty Images Addy Baird Apr 29, 2018, 10:53 am

President Trump is concerned he will face impeachment if Republicans lose their House majority, he said Saturday night at a rally in Michigan. “We have to keep the House,” he said. “Because if you listen to Maxine Waters, she goes around saying, ‘We will impeach him! We will impeach him,’” he said, referring to the Democratic congresswoman from California. “Then people said, ‘He hasn’t done anything wrong,’…’Oh, that doesn’t matter, we will impeach the president.’”Trump noted that the party in the White House usually loses seats during the midterms and called for Republicans not to get comfortable. “We cannot be complacent — we gotta go out and we gotta fight like hell and we gotta win the House and we gotta win the Senate,” he said. Waters, whom Trump singled out, has repeatedly called for Trump to resign or be impeached. Most recently, last Tuesday, she was asked at the Time 100 gala if she had any advice for Trump. “Please resign so that I won’t have to keep up this fight of your having to be impeached because I don’t think you deserve to be there,” she said. “Just get out.”

On Monday on MSNBC, Waters said she often hears from people around the country saying they support impeachment. “Everywhere I go, people are talking about, ‘Why can’t y’all get rid of him? Why can’t you impeach him?’” Waters said. “They say all of these things and I’m not just talking about my district — whether I’m on the airplane, I’m walking down the street in New York, wherever I am — I’m hearing it.” And Waters is onto something: A poll released last Thursday found that if Democrats take back the House, more than 70 percent of Democratic voters want them to take steps to begin impeachment proceedings.But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been less keen to call for impeachment, saying she believes it would harm Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, and calling the push for impeachment a “gift” for Republicans.  “I don’t think we should be talking about impeachment. I’ve been very clear right from the start,” Pelosi said Thursday during a press conference. “On the political side, I think it’s a gift to the Republicans. We want to talk about what they’re doing to undermine working families in our country and what we are doing to increase their payrolls and lower their costs. Pelosi added that she doesn’t see the upcoming midterms as a referendum on the White House. “It’s about our addressing the needs of the American people, and we cannot take our eye off that ball,” she said, adding that impeachment proceedings should, if they happen, be bipartisan.“Impeachment is a very serious matter,” she said. “I don’t think we have the information to go to that place, and I would discourage any discussion of impeachment.”With the midterm elections six months away, Democrats currently hold about a nine point lead over Republicans on the generic ballot.

Trump Sharpens Aim at Democrats Facing Election

Image: Trump Sharpens Aim at Democrats Facing Election
(Getty) Sunday, 29 April 2018 07:05 AM

President Donald Trump took aim at familiar political targets and added a few fresh ones during a campaign-style rally in Michigan, an Upper Midwest state that gave him a surprising victory in the 2016 election. Trump has been urging voters to support Republicans for Congress as a way of advancing his agenda. In his rally in Washington Township Saturday night, he repeatedly pointed to Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan as one of the Democrats who needed to be voted out. After saying Stabenow was standing in the way of protecting U.S. borders and had voted against tax cuts, Trump said: “And you people just keep putting her back again and again and again. It’s your fault.”Earlier Saturday Trump tweeted criticism of Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana over his role in the failed nomination of White House doctor Ronny Jackson to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling for Tester to resign or at least not be re-elected this fall.  In his rally remarks, Trump railed against the allegations Tester aired against Jackson and suggested that he could take a similar tack against the senator. “I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said ’em, he’d never be elected again,” Trump said without elaborating. As he has at similar events, Trump promoted top agenda items that energize grassroots conservatives — appointing conservative judges, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending “sanctuary cities” and protecting tax cuts approved by the Republican-led Congress. He also took credit for the warming relations between North and South Korea, telling his audience “we’ll see how it goes.”Trump chose a friendly venue for his rally, which not coincidentally came the same night as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He skipped the dinner last year, too, and attending a rally in which he took time to attack the news media and assure his audience — as he did in Washington Township, about 40 miles north of Detroit — that he’d rather be with them.  Ahead of the rally Trump said in a fundraising pitch that he had come up with something better than being stuck in a room “with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me.” He said he would rather spend the evening “with my favorite deplorables.”Trump repeatedly weaved back into immigration and his support for a border wall throughout the speech. “If we don’t get border security, we’re going to have no choice, we’ll close down the country,” Trump said.He accused Democrats of not wanting to secure the border and keep violent criminals out of the country.  “Debbie Stabenow is one of the leaders for weak borders and letting people in. I don’t know how she gets away with it,” Trump said. “A vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime. It’s very simple. It’s also a vote for much higher taxes.” Macomb County, the site of Trump’s rally, is among the predominantly white counties known as a base for “Reagan Democrats” — blue-collar voters who abandoned the Democratic Party for Ronald Reagan, but who can be intriguingly movable.

Will Cohen Flip? Tenuous Finances May Provide Crucial Clues

Barbara Jones Appointed to Review Cohen’s Seized Materials

In the two weeks since federal agents seized the files of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and fixer, a question has hovered: Will Cohen cooperate with investigators? His decision could depend in part on whether he can readily shoulder the enormous legal fees required to fight a federal probe of this magnitude. At first blush, Cohen looks like a pretty rich man. He drives a white Rolls Royce, sports a $50,000 watch and owns a fair amount of Manhattan real estate. But just as his loyalty to Trump is coming under scrutiny, a more tenuous financial picture is emerging. A taxi business he and his wife built is deeply in debt and losing money daily, his commercial real estate is throwing off only modest income, and his legal and consulting work is on hold while he remains under investigation.

The owners of 32 New York City taxi licenses — known as medallions — he and his wife, Laura, took out at least 16 loans based on their once-soaring value, liens show. With the rise of Uber and Lyft, the price of a medallion has fallen from more than $1 million to around $163,000 in the past four years. Income from the taxi business has plummeted, and millions of dollars of the Cohens’ loans went under water. Their bank said in a November public filing that it had loans out to three taxi borrowers, and all were at high risk of default. Unpaid taxes and fines have piled up at the Cohen taxi companies, triggering a suspension of about half of the medallions, city records show, squeezing cash flow.

Whatever monthly income the cabs once produced almost certainly fell well short of the debt payments owed to Sterling National Bank, their Montebello, New York-based lender. Sterling has foreclosed on operators in similar situations and sued them but appears to be taking a less-confrontational approach with the Cohens. On Tuesday, the bank agreed to new loans for their companies and to Cohen personally, public filings show. Sterling declined to comment.The taxi business isn’t the only part of Cohen’s empire that’s suffering. The law firm Squire Patton Boggs said it ended its “strategic alliance” with Cohen after law enforcement raided his offices, and the rest of his legal work could decline for the same reason. Cohen, 51, makes others’ ugly problems disappear, a practice that was previously lucrative. Essential Consultants LLC, a company affiliated with Cohen, was paid $250,000 after he negotiated a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model on behalf of Republican National Committee official Elliott Broidy, according to a Wall Street Journal report.  Cohen has said in court that he had only three legal clients during the past year: Broidy, Trump and talk-show host Sean Hannity. He gave seven others “strategic advice and business consulting.” Last month Cohen said he borrowed from his home-equity credit line to make a $130,000 payment in October 2016 to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film star who says she had sex with Trump.

In a Thursday morning appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Trump distanced himself from Cohen, saying he did only “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of Trump’s legal work, but it included representation “on this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

Cohen is under investigation for bank fraud and violating campaign-finance law. But his decade at Trump’s side as his lawyer and enforcer could yield information he might trade to investigators looking into the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.

Still, if he chooses to defend himself, Cohen does have assets. Companies he signs for own two investment properties purchased in 2015. The larger one, with 92 units on New York’s Upper East Side, is 38 percent owned by Cohen’s companies. The businesses also appear to be the sole owner of a downtown building with 20 units. Together they likely generate less than $1 million in annual net income for Cohen’s companies after accounting for partner interests, expenses and financing costs, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Debt against the buildings is low, meaning that Cohen could tap them for cash. Last October, the Cohens sold a unit at Trump World Tower, near the United Nations, for $3.3 million. Cohen has been a savvy property investor. He previously owned four buildings in need of repairs in Lower Manhattan, rehabilitated them and sold them for $32 million in 2014, more than doubling his initial investment. Richard Guarino, a partner at Friedman-Roth Realty, has worked with Cohen on a handful of deals, including the purchase of his Upper East Side building. As a real estate investor, Cohen is “cautious, methodical, smart and, I think, conservative,” Guarino says.

Continue reading “Will Cohen Flip? Tenuous Finances May Provide Crucial Clues”

Trump threatens govt. shutdown in September if no funding for wall

WASHINGTON, Michigan (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald on Saturday threatened to shut down the federal government in September if Congress did not provide more funding to build a wall on the border with Mexico.U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a Make America Great Again Rally in Washington, Michigan April 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts “That wall has started, we have 1.6 billion (dollars),” Trump said at a  campaign rally in Washington, Michigan. “We come up again on September 28th and if we don’t get border security we will have no choice, we will close down the country because we need border security.”Trump made a similar threat in March to push for changes in immigration law that he says would prevent criminals from entering the country. The government briefly shut down in January over immigration.

A $1.3 trillion spending bill, which Trump signed last month, will keep the government funded only  through the end of September.
A government shutdown ahead of the November mid-elections is unlikely to be supported by his fellow Republicans who are keen to keep control of the U.S. Congress. Trump cited the hundreds of Central American migrants traveling in a “caravan” as one of the reasons for strong border security.

“Watch the caravan, watch how sad and terrible it is, including for those people and the crime that they inflict on themselves and that others inflict on them,” said Trump. “It’s a horrible dangerous journey for them and they come up because they know once they can get here they can walk right into our country.” Migrants, who include women and children, have said they fled their homes in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras because of death threats from gangs, the murder of family members or political persecution. Nick Bit: See trump thought he was elected like Putin to be dictator and chief. He cannot comprehend we are a nation ruled by law. And their is a Congress that gets a say on how money is spent. And despite the Republican majority he has not been able to get the 100 billion to build a wall that they will jump over, fly over and tunnel underneath…  But after all Trump is DE man!!!!

Asylum-seekers in Mexico snub warnings of stern US response

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — U.S. immigration lawyers are telling Central Americans in a caravan of asylum-seekers that traveled through Mexico to the border with San Diego that they face possible separation from their children and detention for many months. They say they want to prepare them for the worst possible outcome. “We are the bearers of horrible news,” Los Angeles lawyer Nora Phillips said during a break from legal workshops for the migrants at three Tijuana locations where about 20 lawyers gave free information and advice. “That’s what good attorneys are for.”  The Central Americans, many traveling as families, on Sunday will test the Trump administration’s tough rhetoric criticizing the caravan when the migrants begin seeking asylum by turning themselves in to border inspectors at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, the nation’s busiest. President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet have been tracking the caravan, calling it a threat to the U.S. since it started March 25 in the Mexican city of Tapachula, near the Guatemala border. They have promised a stern, swift response.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the caravan “a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system,” pledging to send more immigration judges to the border to resolve cases if needed. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said asylum claims will be resolved “efficiently and expeditiously” but said the asylum-seekers should seek it in the first safe country they reach, including Mexico.  Any asylum seekers making false claims to U.S. authorities could be prosecuted as could anyone who assists or coaches immigrants on making false claims, Nielsen said. Administration officials and their allies claim asylum fraud is growing and that many who seek it are coached on how to do so.

Trump dismissed warnings from GOP leaders that party could lose house: report

President Trump has privately dismissed concerns from top Republican lawmakers over the GOP’s performance headed into the 2018 midterms later this year, according to a New York Times report. During a dinner with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and White House legislative director Marc Short, Trump listened to McConnell fret about the GOP’s one-seat majority in the Senate while Short claimed that the GOP’s House majority was threatened, according to the Times.“That’s not going to happen,” Trump said multiple times during the meal, the Times reports, referring to the possibility of the GOP losing its lower chamber majority. Some Trump supporters, including Eric Beach, a strategist at the pro-Trump America First PAC, told the Times that Trump is rightfully skeptical of election plans laid out by McConnell and retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). “He doesn’t think that’s how you win elections because that’s not how he won his election,” Beach tells the Times. “He knows and understands that the core issues of today are illegal immigration — including building the wall — and trade inequity.”

Trump’s rosy outlook for the midterms comes despite reported increasing worry from GOP members that the Republicans’ majority in both houses of Congress is in jeopardy and a series of polls indicating Americans’ rising support for Democrats to retake both chambers.

A Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll released Friday found Democrats with a double-digit lead on generic House and Senate ballots heading into November. Democrats also hold a 9-point advantage — 43 percent to 34 percent — when voters were asked whether they support a Democratic or Republican candidate in their district. “Democrats have a significant edge in the midterms as Republicans in Congress have no coherent leadership and a constituency lower than Trump’s,” said Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll Co-Director Mark Penn in the poll’s summar

 

German business leaders fear U.S. tariffs after Merkel-Trump talks

BERLIN (Reuters) – German business leaders voiced disappointment on Saturday over the outcome of talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump, saying they feared he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.U.S. President Donald Trump and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder  The United States imposed import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March, but it provided a temporary exemption until May 1 for the European Union. Trump will decide then whether to make the exemption permanent.

“I regret the fact that the chancellor’s visit to Washington produced no palpable progress on the contentious issues between Germany and the United States,” said Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI industry body.

Merkel and Trump aired differences over trade and NATO on Friday at a White House meeting where they tried to put on a show of warmth and friendship.During a joint news conference, Trump lamented his country’s trade deficit with the EU. Merkel said any decision on whether to exempt the bloc from tariffs permanently was now in the president’s hand.  “The threatened tariffs remain a major burden on transatlantic relations,” added Kempf. French President Emmanuel Macron also pressed Trump on trade during a three-day state visit in the same week as Merkel’s quick trip. Neither leader appeared to have made progress convincing Trump to make the exemptions permanent. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the EU will be exempted from the unfair U.S. tariffs,” said Volker Treier of the DIHK industry and commerce chambers.

Stocks Showing A Lack Of Direction On Mixed Earnings

wallstreet-013013_27apr18.jpg

Stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading session on Friday. The major averages have spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line. Currently, the major averages are posting modest losses on the day. The Dow is down 72.46 points or 0.3 percent at 24,249.88, the Nasdaq is down 14.19 points or 0.2 percent at 7,104.49 and the S&P 500 is down 2.69 points or 0.1 percent at 2,664.25. The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders are digesting a mixed batch of earnings news from several big-name companies. While tech giants Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), and Intel (INTC) reported better than expected quarterly results, energy giant ExxonMobil (XOM) reported first quarter earnings that came in below analyst estimates. Concerns about the outlook for interest rates may also be keeping traders on the sidelines following the release of a Commerce Department reporting showing stronger than expected economic growth in the first quarter. The report showed GDP growth slowed to 2.3 percent in the first quarter from 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter, although the decrease was far below economist estimates for 3.4 percent growth. A separate report from the University of Michigan showed consumer sentiment in the deteriorated by less than initially estimated in the month of April.The report said the consumer sentiment index for April was upwardly revised to 98.8 from the preliminary reading of 97.8

Steel stocks have shown a substantial move to the downside, dragging the NYSE Arca Steel Index down by 2.5 percent. The index is pulling back off its best closing level in well over a month. U.S. Steel (X) is leading the sector lower after reporting better than expected first quarter earnings but providing disappointing guidance for the current quarter. Energy stocks are also seeing some weakness in mid-day trading, as the price of crude oil for June delivery is falling $0.32 to $67.87 a barrel.

Apple is in a correction, and one market watcher sees possible bear market ahead

Apple is trading in correction territory just days before it’s set to release earnings. One market watcher sees the possibility of another 10 percent drop ahead. “We would have a hold on this. We could see potential 5 to 10 percent additional downside,” Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors, told CNBC. Apple sits 11 percent below a 52-week high set in mid-March, putting its losses at more than the 10 percent drop marking a correction. Another 10 percent decline would put its shares down more than 20 percent from that March high and tip them into a bear market.”The uncertainties are regarding China and the demand of iPhone sales within China,” said Morganlander. “People in China are not actually wanting to buy these high-end phones. So, gross margins as well as operating margin vulnerability there in the short run.” China accounts for nearly one-fifth of Apple’s total revenue. Sales in the region have contracted in the past two years after double-digit growth from 2012 to 2015. Sales in Apple’s software and services segment are forecast to pick up speed in coming quarters. Segment sales are expected to rise 19 percent in its March-ended second quarter and 16 percent for the full fiscal year. The charts don’t look good for Apple performance in the short term, according to Mark Newton, technical analyst at Newton Advisors.”Apple likely continues its string of underperformance. The relative strength really started to flatten out last November,” Newton told “Trading Nation” on Thursday. “The stock right now is up against its upper area of channel resistance going back over the last few years.”

Apple shares stalled out at $180 after hitting their one-year intraday high in mid-March and have since scaled back to levels not seen since November, Newton said. “At current levels it’s tough to see a lot of incremental upside in the stock,” he said. “It’s been going sideways really for four months and it’s really begun to underperform the broader Nasdaq and really a lot of technology.”

Apple’s stock has dropped more than 4 percent since the beginning of the year, trailing the Nasdaq’s and XLK technology ETF’s roughly 3 percent rise. “Until that shows signs of improving, I’d be a buyer on pullbacks right near $130 and really a seller up near $180,” Newton said. “I think it’s going to continue to trade really neutral and range bound for the time being.” A decline to $130 would represent a nearly 20 percent drop from current levels. Its shares are currently 11 percent from $180. Nick Note: I believe high Tech is headed for another wreck! its a bubble. the world is nt looking for a $1000 smart phone and China made phones are better and much cheaper. Wehave a trade for that!

FBI Says it Warned White House About Rob Porter in March ’17

Image: FBI Says it Warned White House About Rob Porter in March '17
Rob Porter (AP)

The FBI first flagged “derogatory information” about Rob Porter, one of President Donald Trump’s closest aides, to the White House counsel’s office in March 2017, according to a new timeline provided by the FBI to Congress and publicly released Thursday. The timeline raises new questions about the White House’s handling of spousal abuse allegations against Porter, the former staff secretary. The administration has offered several contradictory accounts of who knew what and when about the allegations.Porter was forced to resign in February after the allegations by his ex-wives were made public by the Daily Mail. He has denied them.  According to the timeline, outlined in a letter to the House Oversight Committee earlier this month, the FBI provided a “partial report” about Porter to White House counsel Don McGahn on March 3, 2017. That report included “derogatory information” about Porter, but the letter does not specify exactly what it said. A White House official suggested Thursday that McGahn had not read it.The FBI says that it then submitted a completed background investigation to the White House personnel security division in July. A month later, the FBI said, it received a request for additional information from the personal security office, including requests to re-interview Porter, his ex-wives and his girlfriend at the time. The FBI submitted that report, which it says “contained additional derogatory information,” in November.The White House has said Porter told McGahn after his second interview that there were allegations of emotional and verbal abuse against him but that he did not disclose allegations of physical assault.  The FBI also provided additional information to the office, after it had closed the investigation, in February 2018. White House officials have long insisted that they were not aware of the specific allegations against Porter until they were published, along with photographs, in the Daily Mail. The episode prompted changes in how the White House handles security clearances, and a number of staffers’ clearances were downgraded as a result.The White House official noted Thursday that a memorandum released by chief of staff John Kelly in the scandal’s aftermath included a new requirement that derogatory information uncovered during background checks now be provided in-person, directly to the appropriate person.  The official, who was not authorized to discuss specifics about Porter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said that was not the case in 2017.

Russian from Trump Tower meeting: ‘I am a lawyer, and I am an informant’

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others at Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential race, appears to have greater ties to the Russian government than she previously admitted. The New York Times reports that Veselnitskaya in at least one instance worked for Russia’s chief legal office against the U.S. Justice Department in a fraud case targeting a top Russian firm with government connections. And in an interview set to be broadcast Friday on “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” and on MSNBC’s “On Assignment with Richard Engel,” Veselnitskaya calls herself an “informant” for the Russian government, an admission that goes further than her previous claims of just being a private attorney. “I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she says in the NBC interview. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.” The admission also comes despite testimony Veselnitskaya submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, in which she claimed no connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. “I operate independently of any governmental bodies,” she wrote in November. “I have no relationship with Mr. Chaika, his representatives and his institutions other than those related to my professional functions as a lawyer.” Veselnitskaya was referring to Yuri Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general, for whom on Friday she admitted to being a regular source of information. Friday’s reports raises new questions about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting attended by Trump Jr., Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and now senior adviser, and whether that meeting had connections to Russia’s government that were previously unknown. It was previously reported that Rob Goldstone, a British music producer who set up the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya, told Trump Jr. that the information the lawyer could provide was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. replied to Goldstone in one email.

PPG Will Cut 1,100 Jobs Amid Growing Material Costs

Costs are rising for the raw materials it uses to make paints and coatings
 

The Pittsburgh-based company also said it would book a pretax charge of as much as $85 million in the second quarter related to severance and other cash costs.
The Pittsburgh-based company also said it would book a pretax charge of as much as $85 million in the second quarter related to severance and other cash costs. Photo: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg News By Andrew Tangel

PPG Industries Inc. PPG +0.29% said it would cut 1,100 jobs in part to offset rising costs for the raw materials it uses to make paints and coatings. The Pittsburgh-based company also said it would book a pretax charge of as much as $85 million in the second quarter related to severance and other cash costs. PPG said it was trimming its costs as a result of “sustained, elevated raw material inflation.” A PPG spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. It wasn’t clear how much of the workforce reduction would involve layoffs, in what locations and when.PPG said the restructuring would be substantially complete by the second quarter of 2019.  Earlier this month, PPG reported $3.8 billion in revenue in the first quarter, up 9% from a year ago. Profit of $353 million, or $1.40 a share, was up from $334 million, or $1.29, the prior year. At the time executives said they were paying more for materials including titanium dioxide, a compound used in paint. Nick Note: I don’t get it… With the great great great tax breaks and JOBS JOBS JOBS legislation corporation were suppose to save so much money they would hire MORE people.  Increase the pay of American workers and pay out bonuses. (it is amazing to be people are stupid enough to believe that SHIT!)I know i heard this over and over and over again. It goes lke this.. The 10% at most saving on taxes US companies with a foreign presence would rush to close those Mexico, China and India factories and bring the jobs “Home”.  Shit amazing leave a $5.00 labor market come back to het welcoming arms of the GREAT GREAT GREAT US worker the best in the world and pay $50.00 a hour in total costs. Well to my simple mind the math does not work. AND i guess it does not work for anyone else because this Kudlow Laughing curve is going to throw the US economy into a depression. With the national debt soaring by 2 trillion dollars this year alone. And the deficit soaring by three trillion dollars because of lost corporate tax revenue…….. If people can’t see this they deserve to stand in a bread line and sell their ass for a potato.

Dollar index on track for best week since November 2016

British pound falls to 2-month low
Getty Images

The U.S. dollar rallied against most of its major rivals on Friday, putting it on track for its best weekly performance since late November 2016. The dollar was helped by a stumble by the British pound, after U.K. growth figures widely undershot analysts’ forecasts, while the euro remained on the back foot after the European Central Bank struck a relatively cautious tone at its meeting on Thursday.The U.S. dollar continued its recent uptrend, which was initially inspired by rising Treasury, but also got a boost from supportive economic data in the U.S. and disappointing data elsewhere. First quarter U.S. GDP grew 2.3%. Meanwhile, the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.84% has pulled back from the psychologically important 3% mark, last trading to yield 2.973%. Sterling was the worst performer among major currencies on Friday, after official data showed the U.K. economy grew at its slowest pace in more than five years in the first quarter of 2018. The data dampen the case for an interest-rate increase from the Bank of England when it next meets in May. The Office for National Statistics said Friday that gross domestic product in the U.K. expanded by 0.1% in the first quarter. Economists had expected a reading of 0.3% in the preliminary report. It was a visible slowdown from the fourth quarter of 2017, when GDP grew 0.4%. Meanwhile, the euro added to losses from Thursday that came after the ECB’s policy meeting. The central bank kept policy unchanged, but gave no new guidance on interest rates or its bond-buying program. “We believe the trapped dollar is about to break out to the strong side. The balance between positive cyclical drivers and structural and political headwinds is leaning increasingly toward the former,” David Bloom, global head of FX strategy at HSBC, said in a note. “The Fed looks likely to match its ‘dots,’ once again confounding the market’s more dovish stance. In contrast, other central banks across the G-10 face challenges to begin or extend their tightening process,” he added.

Deutsche Bank likely to axe 1,000 U.S. investment bank jobs: source

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) is expected to cut around 1,000 jobs or 10 percent of its workforce in the United States, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, as the German lender scales back its global investment banking ambitions.  The bank has already axed 400 U.S.-based employees this week – of which around three quarters worked in its trading business and the rest in corporate finance, according to a second source who is a senior U.S.-based Deutsche Bank official. “I can tell you that the people who make money here will continue to get paid and be supported, because Deutsche Bank needs the revenue,” the banker said. “The challenge now is to keep our people.”Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity. On Thursday, the bank announced that it would make “significant” cuts at its investment bank, scaling back its corporate finance operations in the United States and Asia, U.S. government bond trading, and equities.  It did not provide specific numbers or a time frame. “We do not see increased fluctuation in the core areas of the bank,” the bank said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Friday. “Europe is the region in which we want to expand our market position. Here we want to grow and gain market share. Especially in Europe, we are the first choice for many investment bankers.” Credit ratings agency Standard & Poors, which had placed the bank on “credit watch” after retail banking specialist Christian Sewing abruptly replaced John Cryan as CEO earlier this month, said late on Thursday that the bank’s new direction “lacks the specificity that we need to assess the credibility of this adjusted approach.” Deutsche Bank’s investment banking unit has been losing market share in recent years. In Europe so far this year, the bank has a 4 percent market share in investment banking fees, down from 6 percent of the market in 2013, according to ThomsonReuters data. Its ranking fell from second to sixth place.  In the United States during that same period, Deutsche’s share of fees dropped to 3.3 percent from 4.9 percent. It ranks ninth, behind all the Wall Street power houses but also European rivals such as Barclays (BARC.L) and Credit Suisse (CSGN.S).

Charter plummets 15% on big subscriber losses, drags cable stocks down

 Charter plunges on poor quarterly subscriber numbers  

Shares of Charter Communications tumbled 15 percent on Friday after the company reported a bigger-than-expected loss of video subscribers for the previous quarter.  The company reported a loss of 122,000 video subscribers for the first quarter. Analysts polled by StreetAccount expected a loss of 43,000. Charter also added 331,000 internet subscribers, less than a forecast of 370,000 additions. “The changes in the video business are significant and hard to predict, but there’s video growth capable inside of our asset base,” CEO Tom Rutledge said during a conference call. Charter’s sharp losses dragged shares of other cable companies lower. Comcast’s stock fell 2.2 percent, while shares of Altice USA dropped 9.2 percent. Cable companies have been under pressure in recent years as consumers shift away from traditional cable services to over-the-top options like Netflix and Hulu, for example.

Exxon first quarter profit misses estimates on refining, chemical woes

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi/File Photo

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, posted a lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Friday as weakness in its chemical and refining operations offset a boost from higher crude prices  It was the second consecutive quarter of weakness in Exxon units that make gasoline, plastics and related products. Exxon blamed weak margins for the income drop in those segments. The company posted net income of $4.7 billion, or $1.09 per share, compared to $4.01 billion, or 95 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.Profit jumped more than 50 percent in the company’s upstream division, which pumps oil and natural gas, thanks largely to rising commodity prices.

In the downstream refining unit, though, profit fell 12 percent, and in the chemical unit, profit dropped 14 percent. Production fell 6 percent to 3.9 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d).

Exxon said earlier this month it resumed production at the Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas (LNG) project a fortnight ahead of schedule after it was shut down in the wake of a deadly earthquake in February. The shutdown cut quarterly earnings by $80 million and production by about 25,000 boe/d, Exxon said. The company has struggled in the past 16 months to unwind some of the biggest bets taken by former Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, who left to become U.S. secretary of state in early 2017 before being fired by President Donald Trump last month. Exxon has recorded billions of dollars in writedowns amid falling production since Tillerson left, and successor CEO Darren Woods has moved quickly to try to repair operations. Woods laid out a bold plan last month to double annual earnings by 2025 through heavier investments in U.S. shale, Guyana and several LNG projects around the world.

North and South Korea vow to end war, pursue denuclearization

Reuters South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju and Moon’s wife Kim Jung-sook attend a farewell ceremony at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018.

GOYANG, South Korea—The leaders of North and South Korea agreed to pursue a peace agreement in historic talks on Friday, but steered clear of specifics on the question of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, leaving uncertainties about the regime’s willingness to cede ground on its arsenal ahead of a meeting between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. After an 8½-hour meeting in the demilitarized zone that was heavy on shows of amity between Kim and Moon Jae-in, his South Korean counterpart, both men agreed to take steps to dial down tensions and start talks with the U.S., and perhaps China, aimed at declaring within the year a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended in an armistice that has held, despite some skirmishes, for 65 years. The joint statement, called the Panmunjom Declaration, also calls for restarting reunions of families separated by the Korean War, and the establishment of an inter-Korean liaison office on the northern side. As part of the pact, Moon will travel to Pyongyang in the fall for a summit meeting. In one surreal moment in a day replete with symbolism, Kim and Moon abandoned their aides and strolled side by side to a park bench on a footbridge, where they conversed for more than half an hour—as cameras captured the moment for a rapt South Korean audience.

APNewsBreak: Cohen loaned millions to Ukraine-born cab mogul

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, whose business dealings are being investigated by the FBI, and his father-in-law have lent $26 million in recent years to a taxi mogul who is shifting into the legalized marijuana industry, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Semyon “Sam” Shtayner, a longtime business associate of Michael Cohen’s father-in-law, created Nevada-based Cannaboss LLC the day before the 2016 election. A few months later, he took a majority position in a company that is provisionally licensed to cultivate medicinal marijuana and produce edibles, the records show. “He personally manages over 500 taxi medallions, but he is looking to transition from the medallion business to the cannibas (sic),” according to the personal narrative Shtayner submitted last October to city officials in Henderson, Nevada, that was obtained by the AP under the state’s public records law. It’s not clear whether Shtayner used any of the loans – $6 million of which have come directly from Cohen since 2014 – to finance his grow operation. Earlier this month, FBI agents searched Cohen’s hotel, office and home seeking banking records, as well as records related to his dealings in the taxi industry, people familiar with the probe told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation. Public records show the Ukraine-born Shtayner, 63, his wife and companies they control have used their properties in Chicago and Sunny Isles, Florida, as collateral for the loans from Cohen and his father-in-law, Fima Shusterman. The value of medallions – the physical plates affixed to cabs that owners are required to display – have dropped precipitously in recent years from highs of over $1 million apiece in New York just a few years ago to nearly half those amounts today.The subsequent drop has left many taxi medallion owners overleveraged. One former Cohen business partner, who managed Cohen’s taxis for years, is accused in a lawsuit by creditors of hiding his assets in financial disclosures to his bank – including a luxury apartment in a Trump skyscraper. Another former cab manager of Cohen’s has declared bankruptcy and is facing criminal charges from state prosecutors in New York, who accuse him of pocketing nearly $5 million in taxes. The business relationship among Cohen, Shusterman and Shtayner stretches back years. Property records in New York show that Shtayner and Shusterman were among the investors in an upper Manhattan taxi garage and auto repair shop in the 1990s. Cohen has been involved in the New York City yellow cab industry since the 1990s. He has a fleet of 22 cabs in Chicago and, along with his wife and father-in-law, has owned some 30 medallions in New York after initially going into business with his father-in-law, records show.

800,000 people are about to flee New York and California because of taxes, say economists

800,000 people will leave New York and California over the next three years due to the new tax bill, conservative economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore said in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

New York City skyline with plane.
Tim Clayton | Corbis | Getty Images

Conservative economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore are predicting a new mass exodus of wealth from New York and California because of the new tax law.  In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal headlined “So Long, California. Sayonara, New York,” Laffer and Moore (who have both advised President Donald Trump) say the new tax bill will cause a net 800,000 people to move out of California and New York over the next three years.
The tax changes limit the deduction of state and local taxes to $10,000, so many high-earning taxpayers in high-tax states will actually face a tax increase under the new tax code. Laffer and Moore say that the effective income-tax rate (what people actually pay) for high earners in California will jump from 8.5 percent to 13 percent. Wealthy Manhattanites would face a similar increase, they say. Those who make $10 million or more will see a potential tax hike of 50 percent or more, according to their analysis. Those hikes, they say, will cause an exodus of residents to move to lower or no-income tax states. “In years to come, millions of people, thousands of businesses and tens of billions of dollars of net income will flee high-tax blue states for low-tax red states,” they said. They say 800,000 people will move from California and New York over the next three years. Connecticut, New Jersey and Minnesota will lose a combined 500,000 people over the same period. Moore and Laffer say that 3.5 million Americans on net have moved from the highest-tax states to the lowest-tax ones. They add that high earners are the ones who have cost the states the most by leaving.
High-profile emigres like David Tepper leaving New Jersey for Florida give outsized publicity to the moves.

rump begins distancing himself from Cohen after FBI raid

President Trump has admitted for the first time that his personal lawyer Michael Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” despite previously denying that he knew about the payment Cohen made to the porn star. “Michael would represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said Thursday during a half-hour phone interview with “Fox & Friends. Trump has previously said he had no idea that Cohen paid $130,000 in hush money to Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about an alleged affair they had in 2006. When pressed by reporters aboard Air Force One last month on whether he had knowledge of the payment, Trump responded “No” and then deferred all queries to Cohen. “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” he said at the time. “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.” Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, took to Twitter to gloat following Trump’s admission. “Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen previously represented to the American people that Mr. Cohen acted on his own and Mr. Trump knew nothing about the agreement with my client, the $130k payment, etc. As I predicted, that has now been shown to be completely false. #basta,” Avenatti tweeted.  Earlier this month, the feds raided Cohen’s office and hotel room, seizing documents related to a number of topics, including the payment he made to Daniels on behalf of Trump. Daniels has filed a lawsuit against Trump over their alleged affair, and it emerged this week that Cohen will assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the case. During the “Fox & Friends” interview, Trump drew space between himself and Cohen, saying his longtime lawyer only dealt with a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of Trump’s legal work. “Michael is a good person,” Trump said. “This doesn’t have to do with me,” he added of the federal investigation into Cohen. “Michael is a businessman. He also practices law, but I would say the big thing is his business and they’re [the feds] looking at something that has to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business.” The commander-in-chief noted that he “has many attorneys … sadly, I have so many attorneys, you wouldn’t even believe it.” “From what I understand, [the feds are] looking at his businesses, and I hope he’s in great shape,” the president said. “I’m not involved, and I’ve been told I’m not involved.

EX-CIA chief Mike Pompeo confirmed as secretary of state

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Pompeo secretly met the North Korea leader in Pyongyang earlier this month

The US Senate has confirmed former CIA director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, ending a tough confirmation battle. Mr Pompeo had been accused by Democrats of being a war hawk and harbouring anti-Muslim and homophobic views. The Senate voted 57-42 to approve him as America’s top diplomat, the second of the Trump presidency. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, was sacked last month by the president via Twitter.  Some of those Democrats – including North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – come from states that President Donald Trump won in 2016. The approval comes in time for Mr Pompeo – a former hardline conservative congressman from Kansas – to lead a US delegation to Nato foreign minister talks in Brussels this weekend. Before he was confirmed, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker described him as the “perfect person to come in at this time and lead” talks with North Korea. Over the Easter holiday he travelled to Pyongyang, where he met Mr Kim. On Tuesday, Mr Trump described the North Korean ruler as “very honourable”, after months of deriding him as “Little Rocket Man”. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also congratulated Mr Pompeo following the confirmation vote.

Bill Cosby found guilty of sexual assault in retrial

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Bill Cosby, 80, faces a lengthy prison term

US comedian Bill Cosby has been found guilty of three counts of sexual assault, each of which carries a potential 10 years in prison. The actor, 80, has been on trial for drugging and assaulting ex-basketball player Andrea Constand in 2004. Cosby, the first major black actor on primetime TV, will remain out of jail until he is sentenced, the judge ruled. He unleashed an expletive-filled rant after the verdict, as prosecutors argued he should be denied bail. It was the second time the actor had stood trial for the allegations, after an earlier jury failed to reach a verdict in June 2017. At the start of the retrial in Pennsylvania it was revealed that Cosby had paid Ms Constand almost $3.4m (£2.4m) in a civil settlement in 2006. Cosby is best known for starring in the 1980s TV series The Cosby Show. Around 60 women over five decades have publicly accused the Emmy award-winning actor of being a sexual predator. But statute of limitation laws mean that only one charge has been brought to trial.Some of his accusers were present in court, and cried as the guilty verdict was returned.Cosby’s lawyer insisted “the fight is not over”, adding that he believes Cosby is innocent.

 

James Comey on Trump’s assertion that releasing memos was illegal: ‘I think he’s just making stuff up’

Washington (CNN)James Comey defended releasing his memos detailing his conversations with President Donald Trump Wednesday in a CNN town hall, adding that he doesn’t believe he broke the law. “I don’t, but that won’t surprise you,” he said when asked whether there’s any credence to Trump’s claim that Comey releasing the memos broke the law. “I don’t,” Comey added. “In fact, I think he’s just making stuff up.” The live town hall hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday comes amid the former FBI director’s media blitz to promote his new book and a series of high-profile clashes with Trump. “The details matter because the facts matter, and should matter even to the President,” Comey explained, adding that he had chosen to classify some memos but not all of them. “Some of those memos I decided should be classified. Four others, I wrote them and was highly confident they should not be classified. Those four I kept a copy at the FBI and a copy at my personal safe at home.” Comey confirmed CNN’s reporting last week that he had shared the memos with additional close associates, outside of the FBI — telling Cooper that he had shared the memos with his legal team after he was fired. “After I was fired, I put together a legal team of three people,” Comey said. “One of whom was professor Dan Richman at Columbia University. After I had asked him to give this information to the media, I separately gave my legal team four memos, which were unclassified.” Some close associates of Comey have been questioned by the inspector general’s office about precisely which memo or memos they saw and when Comey shared them, sources told CNN. The event took place less than a week after the Justice Department provided Congress with memos Comey wrote documenting his interactions with Trump. The President seized on the release of information to attack Comey, claiming that the memos were classified and belong to the government.’It’s always significant when someone lies to you’ CNN reported shortly before Trump took office that top intelligence officials, including Comey, presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him. BuzzFeed News published the full, unverified dossier that included the infamous claim that Russian authorities had evidence of Trump watching prostitutes urinate in a hotel suite. There is no indication that such a tape exists, and Trump has denied it. Cooper asked Comey, “Since then, flight records, social media posts, congressional testimony, also photographs prove that he actually did spend the night in Moscow. Do you think it’s significant that the President lied to you twice?” “It’s always significant when someone lies to you, especially about something you’re not asking about. It tends to reflect a consciousness of guilt,” Comey said. “I don’t know what was in his head. I don’t know whether he was intentionally misstating a fact to me.

Deutsche Bank plans ‘significant’ job cuts after sharp drop in profits

New Deutsche Bank chief executive says he has the right strate
  • Deutsche Bank posted first-quarter net profits of 120 million euros ($146 million) Thursday, a 79 percent fall from last year’s figure.
  • The bank announced plans to significantly reduce its workforce through the rest of 2018, particularly in its corporate and investment bank and infrastructure functions.
  • The Frankfurt-based lender has been under scrutiny from shareholders for posting three consecutive years of losses, including a 497 million euro loss for 2017.
 

Deutsche Bank posted first-quarter net profits of 120 million euros ($146 million) Thursday, a 79 percent fall from last year’s figure. The bank announced plans to significantly reduce its workforce through the rest of 2018, particularly in its corporate and investment bank and infrastructure functions. It also aims to scale back operations in bond sales and equities trading, particularly in the United States and Asia.

The net profit number was significantly lower than a Reuters poll prediction of 376 million euros. The Frankfurt-based lender has been under scrutiny from shareholders for posting three consecutive years of losses, including a 497 million euro loss for 2017.

Revenues for the quarter were down by 5 percent on the prior year period at 7 billion euros, pressured by the appreciation of the euro against the dollar and lower corporate and investment bank revenues, which fell 13 percent year-on-year to 3.8 billion euros. Revenues for all businesses were lower year-on-year.Here are the key first-quarter metrics:

  • First-quarter net profits of 120 million euros ($146 million), a 79 percent fall from last year’s figure.
  • Revenues for the quarter down 5 percent on the prior year period at 7 billion euros.
  • Corporate and investment bank revenues fell 13 percent year-on-year to 3.8 billion euros. Revenues for all businesses were lower year-on-year.
  • Asset Management revenues down 10 percent year-on-year; Private & Commercial Bank down 2 percent.
  • Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio was 13.4 percent at the end of the first quarter, versus 14.0 percent at the end of 2017.

Christian Sewing, the bank’s recently-appointed chief executive officer, stressed the need to adjust its strategy in several areas of the business. He described Deutsche as being “on a good track” with its asset management business and private & commercial bank, but said in a statement that “we need to substantially improve profitability in both.” “There is no time to lose as the current returns for our shareholders are not acceptable,” Sewing said. Sewing is the lender’s fourth chief executive in six years.

Senate panel approves bill to protect special counsel

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation on Thursday to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. In a 14-7 vote, the panel approved the bipartisan proposal that deeply divided Republicans on the committee.  With every committee Democrat backing the legislation, only one Republican was needed to secure passage. In the end, four Republicans voted for the bill: Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.). Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ben Sasse (Neb.), John Kennedy (La.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) opposed it. The vote marks the first time Congress has advanced legislation to formally protect Mueller from being fired by President Trump, who has railed against him in public and reportedly talked in private of dismissing him. It would give a special counsel an “expedited review” of their firing. If a court determines that it wasn’t for “good cause,” the special counsel would be reinstated. The committee also added new reporting requirements into the bill, including notification when a special counsel is appointed or removed and requiring a report be given to Congress after an investigation wraps up; that report would detail the investigation’s findings and prosecution decisions. Feinstein praised Grassley on Thursday for making the “necessary compromises.”  “We have a piece of legislation that I believe will stand the test of time and will also stand the test of scrutiny,” she said. The legislation now heads to the full Senate, where it faces entrenched opposition from key Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor, that’s my responsibility as the majority leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell told Fox News earlier this month. The bill doesn’t have the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate, and has even less of a chance to pass the more conservative House. It also would be unlikely to win the two-thirds support needed to override a presidential veto. McConnell and most GOP senators say publicly that they believe Trump will ultimately decide not to fire Mueller, a former FBI director who is widely respected in Washington.  The Judiciary Committee voted down an amendment from Cornyn, Hatch and Lee that would have gutted the special counsel bill and replaced it with a nonbinding sense of the Senate resolution on allowing Mueller to finish his investigation.

Twitter shares fall on outlook of slower growth, rising costs

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) shares fell about 5 percent Wednesday after the social network said its revenue growth would slow this year and costs rise as it works to fight the spread of hate speech and allegations of election manipulation through its service.That outlook overshadowed the second profitable quarter in the 12-year-old company’s history, topping Wall Street estimates for revenue, profit and monthly active users, as advertisers in Asia and other markets outside the United States embraced its video ads.  Revenue growth for the remainder of 2018 will be similar to the slower rates of 2016, Twitter said. It said its tally of daily active users, a closely watched metric, grew 10 percent year-over-year, a slower pace of growth than the 12 percent to 14 percent maintained in recent quarters.That slower user growth “has spooked investors,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said. Twitter said it expected to increase its workforce by 10 percent to 15 percent in 2018 to make discussions on the service more civil, increase ad sales and meet other priorities. Twitter cut its headcount 6 percent last year.  Its shares traded down 5 percent around midday at $28.92 on the New York Stock Exchange. Through Tuesday’s close, they were up 26.9 percent this year, compared with a 1.5 percent decline in the S&P 500 Index .SPX. Total revenue rose to $664.9 million, beating analysts’ expectations for $607.6 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.Twitter swung to a net profit of $61 million, or 8 cents per share, in the first quarter, from a loss of $61.6 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding items, the company earned 16 cents per share, topping the average analyst estimate of 12 cents per share.  U.S. President Donald Trump has kept the San Francisco-based service in the headlines, with his regular missives to his more-than-51 million followers, but Twitter has found more business success abroad growing its user base and ad sales. International sales accounted for 48 percent of revenue, growing 53 percent year-over-year, compared with 2 percent growth in the United States.

Macron: France Will Not Leave the Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Because We Signed It’

French President Emmanuel Macron told a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday that France will not leave the Iran nuclear deal and urged Washington to remain committed to the agreement. “There is an existing framework called the JCPOA to control the nuclear activity of Iran,” Macron said, using the official acronym for the deal. “We signed it, at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that.” “It is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns and very important concerns—this is true,” Macron added. “But we should not abandon it without having something substantial and more substantial instead. That’s my position. That’s why France will not leave the JCPOA, because we signed it.” During his address, Macron also vowed that “Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons,” prompting loud applause from both Republicans and Democrats. “As for Iran, our objective is clearer: Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons,” Macron said. “Not now, not in five years, not in 10 years, never.” Macron said that he and President Donald Trump should work on a “more comprehensive deal” addressing all of the concerns about the nuclear deal. The French president explained that four pillars should serve as the foundation for this plan: “the substance” of the existing nuclear deal; the JCPOA’s sunset clauses, key restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program that are set to expire in about a decade; containing the Iranian regime’s military influence in the Middle East; and monitoring Iran’s ballistic-missile program. France was a party to the nuclear deal, which it, the U.S. under the Obama administration, and four other world powers struck with Iran in 2015. The deal curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed … and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests

The mountain’s collapse after a fifth blast last fall has led to the creation of a massive ‘chimney’ that could leak radioactive fallout into the air, researchers have found

North Korea’s mountain nuclear test site has collapsed, putting China and other nearby nations at unprecedented risk of radioactive exposure, two separate groups of Chinese scientists studying the issue have confirmed. The collapse after five nuclear blasts may be why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared on Friday that he would freeze the hermit state’s nuclear and missile tests and shut down the site, one researcher said.   The last five of Pyongyang’s six nuclear tests have all been carried out under Mount Mantap at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea’s northwest. One group of researchers found that the most recent blast tore open a hole in the mountain, which then collapsed upon itself. A second group concluded that the breakdown created a “chimney” that could allow radioactive fallout from the blast zone below to rise into the air.  A research team led by Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, concluded that the collapse occurred following the detonation last autumn of North Korea’s most powerful thermal nuclear warhead in a tunnel about 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the mountain’s peak. The test turned the mountain into fragile fragments, the researchers found. The mountain’s collapse, and the prospect of radioactive exposure in the aftermath, confirms a series of exclusive reports by the South China Morning Post on China’s fears that Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test had caused a fallout leak.  Radioactive dust could escape through holes or cracks in the damaged mountain, the scientists said.  “It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident,” Wen’s team said in the statement.  The findings will be published on the website of the peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters, likely next month.  North Korea saw the mountain as an ideal location for underground nuclear experiments because of its elevation – it stood more than 2,100 metres (6,888 feet) above sea level – and its terrain of thick, gentle slopes that seemed capable of resisting structural damage.  The mountain’s surface had shown no visible damage after four underground nuclear tests before 2017.  But the 100-kilotonne bomb that went off on September 3 vaporised surrounding rocks with unprecedented heat and opened a space that was up to 200 metres (656 feet) in diameter, according to a statement posted on the Wen team’s website on Monday.  As shock waves tore through and loosened more rocks, a large section of the mountain’s ridge, less than half a kilometre (0.3 mile) from the peak, slipped down into the empty pocket created by the blast, leaving a scar visible in satellite images.  Wen concluded that the mountain had collapsed after analysing data collected from nearly 2,000 seismic stations.  Three small earthquakes that hit nearby regions in the wake of the collapse added credence to his conclusion, suggesting the test site had lost its geological stability.

Trump threatens ‘big problems’ for Iran

Media caption Trump brushes ‘dandruff’ off ‘perfect’ Macron

US President Donald Trump has warned Iran of “big problems” if it resumes the nuclear programme it agreed to curb in a 2015 international accord. Speaking at the White House with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr Trump called the Iran deal “insane”. Mr Macron, who is lobbying Mr Trump to preserve the deal, said it was possible to forge a new Iran accord. The US president has been threatening to reject an extension of the Obama-era nuclear pact by a 12 May deadline. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit the US capital on Friday to make a last-minute bid to dissuade Mr Trump from potentially torpedoing the Iran agreement. “It won’t be so easy for them to restart,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office on Tuesday when a journalist asked him about the possibility of Iran relaunching its nuclear programme if the deal is scrapped. “They’re not going to be restarting anything. They restart it they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before. “And you can mark it down – they restart their nuclear programme, they will have bigger problems than they’ve ever had before.” Mr Trump’s stark warning comes a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened “severe consequences” if the US withdraws from the nuclear deal. Mr Rouhani did not specify what retaliatory action Tehran might take. But his Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, has said a probable response would be to restart the enrichment of uranium – a key bomb-making ingredient.The US president is also demanding that signatories to the pact agree permanent restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment. Under the current deal they are set to expire in 2025.  At one point during Tuesday’s Oval Office photocall, Mr Trump wiped “dandruff” from Mr Macron’s shoulder. “We do have a very special relationship,” Mr Trump told journalists gathered in his office. Also on the agenda is the Paris climate accord, the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and planned US tariffs on EU steel and aluminium. Earlier in the day, Mr Macron and his wife were welcomed to the White House with a military ceremony and a 21-gun salute. In welcoming remarks, Mr Trump thanked France for joining the US and Britain earlier this month in launching air strikes after an alleged chemical attack in Syria. On Tuesday evening, the White House will host an official state dinner for the Macrons, who will be served lamb and jambalaya, a traditional Cajun stew.