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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US, Canada fail to reach a deal on rewriting NAFTA

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

NAFTA talks: Canada voices optimism as it rejoins negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Mueller meeting after June 12 Giuliani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Argentina’s Peso Plunges to Record Low

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cohen’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS NORTH AMERICAN-MADE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump, without evidence, blames China for hacking Clinton emails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Trump accuses Google of rigging search results

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

Markets may be signaling rising recession risk: Fed study

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

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

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

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

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

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

McCain Takes Shots At Trump In Farewell Statement

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Powell sets Fed’s course with data-based judgment

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

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

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

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

Trump says Mexico trade deal near; NAFTA hurdles seen easing

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 By David Lawder and Sharay Angulo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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

1) The outcome of the event

2) The market’s reaction to the event

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

— After quantitiative easing ended in 2014

— When oil prices fell 50% in 2014

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dollar, bond yields fall as investors weigh Trump woes

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

Russia is still attacking the US and trying to help Trump

Microsoft stops Kremlin-based hackers 01:24

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

Russia is buying lots of gold to shield it from sanctions

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

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

Saudi Arabia has called off Aramco float, report suggests

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Manafort found guilty in federal trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘NATIONAL DISGRACE’

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

From Alternative Facts to “Truth Isn’t Truth”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CENTRAL BANKS IN SPOTLIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reuters Graphic

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

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

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

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