Sarah Sanders won’t say the White House isn’t interfering in FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh

“That’s a question you’d have to ask the Senate.”

On Fox News Sunday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer whether the White House is limiting the FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “Has the White House limited in any way who the FBI may talk to?” host Chris Wallace asked her in an interview that aired on Sunday. “And specifically, has the FBI given a list of potential people to talk to that does not include Julie Swetnick, the woman, the third accuser who talked about gang rapes — and also college friends who may contradict Judge Kavanaugh on the issue of heavy drinking?” Sanders did not explicitly answer Wallace’s question about reports that the White House counsel gave a specific witness list to the FBI that did not include Swetnick, who last week said that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were both involved in sexual assault and gang rapes when they were students at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s. “The White House is not micromanaging this process,” she replied vaguely. “The Senate is dictating the terms, they laid out the request, and we’ve opened it up, and as you’ve heard the president say, do what you need to do. The FBI, this is what they do, and we are out of the way letting them do exactly that.” “But to be specific, did the White House counsel give the FBI a list?” Wallace pressed. “Not that I’m aware of. The White House counsel has allowed the Senate to dictate what the terms look like and what the scope of investigation is. Again, the White House isn’t intervening, we’re not micromanaging this process. This is something — it’s a Senate process, it has been from the beginning and we’re letting the Senate continue to dictate what the terms look like.” “So do you know if either the Senate or the White House is saying don’t interview Julie Swetnick?” “That’s a question you’d have to ask the Senate,” she replied. NBC News reported on Saturday that White House counsel Don McGahn’s witness list to the FBI also excludes former classmates of Kavanaugh who have described him as a heavy drinker (contradicting his own accounts). Also not on the list are his high school classmates who could explain why he and and a group of his male friends used the name of a student at a nearby all-girls Catholic school to repeatedly refer to themselves as “Renate Alumnius.”

The sources who spoke to NBC News said that questioning Mark Judge would not be the FBI’s top priority. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, said that Judge was present in the room during the assault. The sources also said that the limits imposed by the White House did not change after Trump’s tweet on Saturday saying the FBI can investigate whoever it wants. In a similar fashion to Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, was unable to reject reports Sunday that the White House had imposed limits on the FBI investigation.

“Did Don McGahn say you can interview these witnesses but not these witnesses?” CNN host Jake Tapper asked her. “I don’t think he would do that. But I’ve not talked to him about it.” Three women have publicly come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick.

Musk out as Tesla chair, remains CEO in $40M SEC settlement

© Brendan Smialowski, AFP | Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk have agreed to a $40 million settlement with the government over a misleading tweet. Musk will remain CEO but will relinquish his role as chairman for at least three years.

Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk have agreed to pay a total of $40 million and make a series of concessions to settle a government lawsuit alleging Musk duped investors with misleading statements about a proposed buyout of the company. The securities fraud agreement, disclosed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Saturday, will come as a relief to investors, who had worried that a lengthy legal fight would only further hurt the loss-making electric car company. The SEC on Thursday charged Musk, 47, with misleading investors with tweets on Aug. 7 that said he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share and had secured funding. The tweets had no basis in fact, and the ensuring market chaos hurt investors, it claimed. Investors and corporate governance experts said the agreement could strengthen Tesla, which has been bruised by Musk’s recent behavior, which included smoking marijuana and wielding a sword on a webcast, and attacking a British rescue diver via Twitter. The settlement should place more oversight on Musk while not taking the “devastating” measure of forcing him out, said Steven Heim, a director at Boston Common Asset Management, which owns shares in Tesla battery maker Panasonic Corp. Tesla must appoint an independent chairman, two independent directors, and a board committee to set controls over Musk’s communications under the proposed agreement. “The prompt resolution of this matter on the agreed terms is in the best interests of our markets and our investors, including the shareholders of Tesla,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a statement. Thursday’s charges shaved about $7 billion off high-flying Tesla, knocking its market value to $45.2 billion on Friday, below General Motors Co’s $47.5 billion. In the settlement, the agency pulled back from its demand that Musk, who is synonymous with the Tesla brand, be barred from running Tesla, a sanction that many investors said would be disastrous. “I think this is the best possible outcome for everyone involved” said Ivan Feinseth of Tigress Financial Partners, who rates Tesla “neutral” and who called the SEC’s penalty “a slap on the wrist” for Musk. “The fact that he can remain CEO is very important for the company.” Neither Musk nor Tesla admitted or denied the SEC’s findings as part of the settlement, which still must be approved by a court. Tesla and Musk did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk had been directly involved in almost every detail of Tesla’s product design and technology strategy, and drove the company’s employees to extraordinary achievements – much as another Silicon Valley chief executive, Steve Jobs, did at Apple Inc. The entrepreneur is now required to step down as chairman of Tesla within 45 days, and he is not permitted to be re-elected to the post for three Thursday that the SEC’s actions were unjustified. Tesla shares jumped after his Aug. 7 tweets, a blow to short-sellers betting on the stock’s decline.

Trump Grabs Oil Market’s Interest Over Call With Saudi King Salman

Trump Grabs Oil Market's Interest Over Call With Saudi King Salman

Donald Trump spoke on the phone Saturday with King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, days after the U.S. president’s latest criticism of OPEC over high oil prices. The pair discussed the stability of the oil market and the strategic partnership between the two countries, Al Arabiya TV reported, without providing more details. The White House said Trump and the King spoke on “issues of regional concern.” Hedge funds are watching Trump’s back-and-forth with the kingdom for any signs that the U.S. might take action against the country or other members who belong to the cartel. Trump’s been increasing the pressure on OPEC, saying it’s pushing oil prices too high. At its latest meeting, the group ignored his call to reduce oil prices. This week, Trump again said he wasn’t happy with OPEC, Middle East nations and oil prices, asserting that the producer group was causing prices to rise while benefiting from protection of the U.S. military. Trump has gone after OPEC multiple times this year, including while speaking at the United Nations on Sept. 25. “OPEC and OPEC nations, are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it,” Trump said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “We want them to stop raising prices. We want them to start lowering prices and they must contribute substantially to military protection from now on.”

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, surged on Friday to a fresh 4-year high above $83 a barrel as the market braces for the impact of the U.S. energy sanctions on Iran.

Gasoline pump prices are on the rise in the U.S., squeezing consumers weeks before critical mid-term elections. The national unleaded average gas price was $2.875 per gallon on Friday, according to AAA, up 1.4 percent in the past month and 11.7 percent higher than a year ago.

The Fed could be hiking the U.S. into a recession, warns Peter Boockvar

The Fed and global central banks could push the U.S. into recession: Boockvar
The Fed and global central banks could push the U.S. into recession: Boockvar

The Federal Reserve just keeps on hiking, and it could be setting the U.S. economy up for its next recession, says Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. This week, the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate a quarter point, and upgraded its expectations for economic growth for this year and next. However, rising borrowing costs have been faulted by a few observers, including President Donald Trump, who just days ago said he was “not happy” about the central bank’s move. One of those who echoed the president’s concerns was Boockvar, who told CNBC’s “Futures Now” on Thursday, that 10 of the last 13 rate hike cycles ended in recession. “We’re now getting deeper into the rate hike cycle, and while we all focus on where the fed funds rate is going to be, behind the scenes the Fed continues to shrink their balance sheet,” the veteran investor said.

The Fed built up $4.5 trillion in bonds and other securities during its quantitative easing program which began nearly a decade ago.The dual approach of hiking rates while reducing asset holdings tightens monetary conditions at a faster pace than a change to the fed funds rate alone.

Next month, the Fed will increase its reductions to $50 billion a month — five times the pace this time last year. Separately two other major central banks are also pulling back on cheap money stimulus “What worries me going into next year is that it’s not just the Fed,” added Boockvar. “The ECB is ending QE by year end… and then you add on what the Bank of Japan is doing,” said Boockvar. “The monetary spigot really changes a lot next year.” Fiscal policy from the Trump White House may not have the same effect in offsetting the Fed’s monetary policy going forward, either, Boockvar cautioned. “Next year you start to lose the one-time step-up to earnings from the tax cut and…the monetary tightening begins to pick up steam,” he said. The GOP’s corporate tax cuts, which passed late last year, have raised companies’ earnings by a wide margin this year. That one-time boost created easy comparables that made profit growth appear even more impressive this year. S&P 500 earnings are expected to increase 22 percent this year, according to FactSet, nearly double the rate in 2017.

If Trump abandons globalism, American interests will suffer ‘irreparable harm’

President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018. 
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018.

President Donald Trump, speaking on the world’s biggest stage, this week laid for the United Nations his case for patriotism and against globalism. He then doubled down on his determination to push back on China. If he’s determined to do the first, however, he will fail at the second. Put another way: If he wants to dramatically reduce U.S. engagement through multilateral institutions, he will lack the leverage to either counter China or shape its behavior. Thus, President Trump should have instead remade himself as a “patriotic globalist.” After all, it was patriotism at its best that prompted U.S. decision makers after the Second World War to establish an America-led system of alliances and institutions that ended the destructive cycle of zero-sum relations in Europe and Asia. They did so not out of abstract benevolence or Utopian naivete, but because global engagement ensured American interests. And history has proven them right. Through establishing international norms for free trade and a U.S. military presence around the world to enforce them, U.S. leaders enabled U.S. businesses to securely trade globally, thus creating unprecedented profits and jobs. Whatever you think of Trump’s style, what appeals to his supporters is that he frequently puts his finger on real problems that other politicians have swept under rugs. His UN speech betrays a misunderstanding of how U.S. international engagement since World War II has served American interests. Cold War victory over Soviet-style communism and its global influence efforts, without a shot being fired by the principals, came about only due to consistent U.S. leadership of allies and friends, working through acronymic institutions such as NATO, the OSCE, the EU and the IMF. Hardly a week passes when the U.S.-established order doesn’t face strains, many exacerbated by the Trump administration itself. Finally, it remains uncertain whether Canada will join the recent U.S.-Mexico trade agreement and thus strengthen NAFTA, or whether the trilateral trade pact will come undone and lead to even greater trade tensions with America’s nearest neighbor and ally. These short-term developments are not disconnected strands but rather all relate to maintaining U.S. international interest though existing international institutions and agreements. The stakes for the international system, however, are highest in the contest between the United States and China over who will have the most influence in shaping the coming century.

Asian stocks lower on US-China trade worries

A man cycles past in front of electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018.

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday after a Chinese government report accusing the Trump administration of bullying other countries dampened hopes for a settlement in their escalating tariff war. KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.8 percent to 2,775.91 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent to 6,180.10. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 advanced 0.1 percent to 23,900.57 while Hong Kong and Seoul were closed for holidays. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Malaysia and the Philippines retreated while Taiwan and Singapore advanced. WALL STREET: Industrial companies and bank sank after news reports that China pulled out of possible talks proposed by Washington on ending their fight over Beijing’s technology policy. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.4 percent to 2,919.37. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.7 percent to 26,562.05. Both the S&P 500 and Dow set record highs last week. General Electric dropped 3.5 percent and 3M declined 1.3 percent. China issued a report accusing Washington of abandoning “mutual respect” required for international relations and “trade bullyism” toward other governments. At the same time, both governments imposed new tariffs on each other’s goods in their war over U.S. complaints that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.  The criticism of Washington “suggests that China might prefer to wait out the current U.S. administration, rather than embarking on potentially futile negotiations,” said Cheng Wei Liang of Mizuho Bank in a report. “It is increasingly likely that both sides will not resume negotiations for some time, at least until there is a noticeable shift in the political mood on either side.”

Russian-US tycoon boasted of ‘active’ involvement in Trump election campaign

Exclusive: Simon Kukes was in contact with senior Kremlin official in 2016 while donating to Trump-supporting committe

Simon Kukes and the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani at a fundraising dinner in New Work in August 2016.
Simon Kukes and the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani at a fundraising dinner in New Work in August 2016.

A Russian-American businessman who donated a substantial sum to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election effort boasted to a senior figure in Moscow that he was “actively involved” in the Republican candidate’s campaign, the Guardian can reveal. Simon Kukes said he was helping Trump with “strategy development” and shared photos of his 29-year-old Russian girlfriend posing with the future president. Kukes made the claims to Vyacheslav Pavlovsky, a career Kremlin official and former ambassador to Norway. Pavlovsky is currently vice-president of Russian Railways. The disclosure raises questions about the role played by Kukes in the run-up to the election and what information, if anything, was being relayed by him to his associates in Russia. Kukes’s donations began two weeks after the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, when Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner discussed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton with a Russian lawyer. In total Kukes gave $273,000 (£207,000) to Trump Victory – a fundraising committee that distributes donations between the candidate, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties. He had no previous history of giving money to political causes. During this period he was in regular contact with Pavlovsky. In one email written in July 2016, Kukes wrote in Russian: “I am actively involved in Trump’s election campaign, and am part of the group on strategy development.” Kukes said that he would be in Switzerland from 20 July until 2 August, and asked Pavlovsky if he wanted to meet there. Kukes emailed again a week later, saying he would like to introduce Pavlovsky to a “close friend”, a Moscow oil executive, “who has just flown in”. They were discussing “very interesting projects for Russia and the US”, he wrote, adding: “I hope one of them will materialise.” One US intelligence expert described Kukes’s communications with Pavlovsky as suspicious. “To me this reads like an email exchange between a source and a handler, or a source and headquarters,” Lindsay Moran, a former CIA officer, told NBC News after reviewing the email exchanges. Since giving money to Trump, Kukes has avoided publicity. He founded a Houston-based consultancy, Nafta Consulting LLC, and invested in a company that develops US shale and oil assets. He was an investor in Promstroy, an oil services company.


North Korea says ‘no way’ will disarm unilaterally without trust

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin By David Brunnstrom and Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea’s foreign minister told the United Nations on Saturday continued sanctions were deepening its mistrust in the United States and there was no way the country would give up its nuclear weapons unilaterally under such circumstances. Ri Yong Ho told the world body’s annual General Assembly that North Korea had taken “significant goodwill measures” in the past year, such as stopping nuclear and missiles tests, dismantling the nuclear test site, and pledging not to proliferate nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. “However, we do not see any corresponding response from the U.S.,” he said. “Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.” While Ri reprised familiar North Korean complaints about Washington’s resistance to a “phased” approach to denuclearization under which North Korea would be rewarded as it took gradual steps, his statement appeared significant in that it did not reject unilateral denuclearization out of hand as Pyongyang has done in the past. Ri referred to a joint statement issued by Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump at a first ever summit between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12, when Kim pledged to work toward “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” while Trump promised guarantees of North Korea’s security. North Korea has been seeking a formal end to the 1950-53 Korea War, but the United States has said Pyongyang must give up its nuclear weapons first. Washington has also resisted calls to relax tough international sanctions on North Korea. “The U.S. insists on the ‘denuclearization-first’ and increases the level of pressure by sanctions to achieve their purpose in a coercive manner, and even objecting to the ‘declaration of the end of war,'” Ri said. “The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us. But the problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust.”

On Wednesday, Trump said he did not have a time frame for this, saying “If it takes two years, three years or five months – doesn’t matter.”

The Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Pompeo has visited North Korea three times already this year, but his last trip did not go well. He left Pyongyang in July saying that progress had been made, only for North Korea within hours to denounce him for making “gangster-like demands.”

Mexico says US, Canada could reach new NAFTA deal in 48 hours

Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico's top negotiator for "NAFTA 2.0," insists that even if no 11th-hour US-Canadian deal is reached, a three-way deal would still be possible at some point in the future
Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico’s top negotiator for “NAFTA 2.0,” insists that even if no 11th-hour US-Canadian deal is reached, a three-way deal would still be possible at some point in the future (AFP Photo/NICHOLAS KAMM)

Mexico City (AFP) – The United States and Canada have told Mexico they could reach a compromise within 48 hours on keeping the updated North American Free Trade Agreement a three-country deal, the Mexican economy minister said Friday. Speaking as he presented the Mexican Senate with the current US-Mexican agreement to update NAFTA — which does not include Canada, the third member of the original deal — Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Washington and Ottawa were making a “very serious,” last-ditch attempt to bridge their differences. “For the first time, we’re seeing a real effort by both sides,” he said. “In the next 48 hours, we will know if we are going with a trilateral agreement.” Guajardo, Mexico’s top negotiator for “NAFTA 2.0,” insisted that even if no 11th-hour US-Canadian deal is reached, a three-way deal would still be possible at some point in the future. But that would mean “going ahead with a bilateral agreement and then later defining what legal actions we would have to take to maintain the possibility of a three-way deal,” he said. A Canadian government source told AFP that Canada’s top negotiator, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, “is in constant communication with the Americans, both formally and informally.” The United States and Mexico want to push their deal through their respective legislatures before Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office on December 1. In the United States, there is a three-month timeframe for doing so — meaning Congress must have the text of the deal by Sunday. US President Donald Trump has been pushing for a complete overhaul of the 25-year-old trade deal, which he says has been a “rip-off” for the United States. In August — more than a year into the negotiations — the United States and Mexico announced they had reached a two-way deal, after breaking away for bilateral talks on their outstanding issues. But the ensuing talks to incorporate Canada have stumbled. According to the negotiators, Canada’s insistence on a trade dispute provision and its protected dairy sector are the last major sticking points. Ottawa is also seeking assurances that the United States will not, after signing a new NAFTA deal, turn around and hit Canada with punitive auto tariffs. Tempers flared this week on both sides as the end-of-month deadline approached. “We’re not getting along with their negotiators,” Trump said Wednesday of Canada. “Canadians are tough negotiators, as we should be,” Trudeau fired back.”We won’t sign a bad deal for Canada.” The politics are high-stakes on both sides: Trump needs to look strong heading into the US mid-term elections in November, while Trudeau does not want to be seen as caving with a general election looming next year. The man whose impending inauguration is responsible for the rush — Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — downplayed the importance of the end-of-month deadline. “There is no fatal date, there is still time to reach a deal,” he told a press conference earlier Friday. The leftist president-elect, a free-trade skeptic, had criticized NAFTA in the past. But his transition team played an active part in the recent negotiations, and he has firmly backed the US-Mexican deal — which he wants Canada to join. Lopez Obrador, widely known as “AMLO,” said he had spoken by phone Thursday with Trudeau. “He said the negotiations were very difficult, that it might not be possible (to reach a three-way deal), but that they (Canada) had made a proposal,” he said. But he said he considered the substance of the US-Mexican deal to be final, and that Mexico did not want to renegotiate points that had already been agreed with Washington. “We don’t want to put our economic future and our country’s financial stability at risk,” he said.

South Korea’s LG Display to cut jobs through voluntary retiremen

A man walks out of the headquarters of LG Display in Seoul, October 20, 2011. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s LG Display Co Ltd, an Apple supplier, will cut jobs through voluntary retirement for the first time since its founding, a spokeswoman confirmed on Saturday. LG Display plans to receive applications in October for voluntary redundancy among employees in production that make up about 65 percent of its workforce, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported earlier on Saturday citing the company, adding the target size of the voluntary redundancy has not been decided. The spokeswoman said the voluntary retirement offer is driven by automation as well as the company’s portfolio switch from liquid crystal display (LCD) to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens, which require fewer production personnel. The company will secure competitiveness by increasing the portion of R&D workers and engineers, she added. Prices of LCD screens, the company’s mainstay, have plummeted partly due to Chinese competition, causing LG Display to say in July it would slash $2.7 billion in capital spending planned through 2020 in order to switch its portfolio to OLED screens. Company officials had previously said that it was not planning layoffs for fear of losing talent to China.