Friday Reads: Waiting on JusticePosted: December 7, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
We’re beginning to see the fruition of really bad policy as we’re far enough into the Trump Reign of Terror to see both the economy and the foreign sector spin into a dead zone. We’ve already had repeated constitutional crises and threat to rule of law. Those aspects showed up almost immediately in tweets and executive actions. But, it takes a nearly two years for fiscal policy actions to start grinding their way onto the edges of our economy and the results are not pretty and are likely to get uglier. We just witnessed the uselessness of Trump at the G20 and his inability to even pull off another state funeral with grace. His foreign policy team is lean and getting more ineffective by the day.
How much more can we take? Well, we’ll see shortly as bad policy actions in the economic arena are shoving us towards recession. Even the Toddler’s advisers can see it coming now. Trade man has botched up the nation’s longest recovery/boom. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t say I didn’t tell you to bail from the market earlier this year. It’s not often you see the Dow Jones fall 1400 points in two days.
But many economic analysts also predict the recent economic boom will soon fizzle, with growth plunging below 2 percent by 2020, according to an analysis by S&P chief U.S. economist Beth Ann Bovino. Currently, the economy is growing at a rate of 3.5 percent. That squares with cyclical trends suggesting the U.S. is due for an economic downturn soon.
Friday’s job numbers provided little reassurance, with the Labor Department reporting that employers added 155,000 jobs last month, a figure well below expectations of 198,000.
Compounding the worry is Trump’s trade showdown with China, which poses a risk to the global economy. Over dinner at last weekend’s G-20 summit, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to pause their escalating trade fight for 90 days as they search for a long-term agreement. But since then, Trump has shaken markets with bellicose trade talk.
That means stress for Trump aides and allies planning a 2020 message they hope to build, in part, around economic growth and greater prosperity for Americans. Former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and, to a lesser degree, Barack Obama all vaulted to reelection with the help of a growing economy. The last one-term president, the late George H.W. Bush, is widely considered to have been doomed by a recession which struck midway through his tenure.
While top officials like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argue that gross domestic product and inflation are the most important metrics to track, and that those figures remain healthy, other advisers say voters are focused on more tangible indicators, including wages, unemployment, and the housing and stock markets.
“They know it could be a very dangerous situation if the market volatility is hurting workers in key battleground states through their pensions, investments, you name it,” said one Republican close to the White House. “The concern is probably at a DEFCON 3 at this point, but it will definitely spike in 2019 if there’s no real solution [to the trade dispute with China] during this 90-day period.”
Part of the problem for a president obsessed with the stock market is that no one can pinpoint what exactly is causing the drops — uncertainty about trade deals, fear about rising debt, or slowing economic growth.
Kudlow is baffled which is what you’d expected from a disgraced coke-raged trader with no economic chops. Mnuchin is far up in the stratosphere of asshole that he’s unlikely to say anything useful. Meanwhile, Never Trumper Jennifer Rubin minces no words.
Understand that Trump inherited a very strong economy. He has had a Republican-controlled House and Senate. And he got his tax plan, a mammoth supply-side cut that disproportionately benefited the rich and corporations. Oh, and he has been on a protectionist tear since his first day in office, and already has inflicted pain on U.S. consumers and farmers. His promised resurgence of manufacturing and of coal (the latter quite laughable considering the alternative sources of energy) have not panned out.
Put differently, the Obama recovery is wearing down and huge debt, trade wars, rising interest rates and a slowdown in China’s economy are pushing us toward a setback, if not a full-blown recession.
Magnifying the market freakout is the inversion of the yield curve (when short-term bond rates exceed long-term rates, sometimes considered a precursor to a recession). It’s not clear if this is the flashing red light for a recession or a result of “other factors, such as a recent reversal of large speculative bets on declining bond prices and the Federal Reserve’s large holdings of Treasuries,” according to Reuters.
This is not 1929, and as bad as Trump’s trade policies may be, he has not brought back the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (which raised average tariffs on thousands of imported goods to 48 percent). However, there is a reason that credible economists who may disagree on other matters almost uniformly oppose protectionism.
There is reason to be skeptical that a negotiated settlement will conclude within the 90 days China and the United States decided upon, and even less reason to think Robert E. Lighthizer, the hard-liner U.S. trade representative who will head the U.S. bargaining team, has the ability to close a deal. “He will be taking the reins from [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin, who led previous rounds of negotiations with the Chinese but could not close a deal that satisfied the president,” the New York Times reported. “That choice could rattle the Chinese, who have cozied up to Mr. Mnuchin, viewing him as more moderate.”
Trump’s judicial nominations, choices for the DOJ, and just overall wrecking of the criminal justice system in the country is an ongoing war on the rule of law and democracy. We have a AG nomination but do we actually want him? (Via NYT)
President Trump on Friday said he intended to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department.
“He was my first choice since Day 1,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he walked from the White House to a helicopter for a trip to Kansas City, Mo. “He’ll be nominated.”
Mr. Trump’s focus on Mr. Barr, who supports a strong vision of executive powers, had emerged over the past week following the ouster last month of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the turbulent reception that greeted his installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as the acting attorney general.
The move at the Justice Department is one part of a larger staff shake-up underway.
Mr. Trump also announced that Heather Nauert, the chief State Department spokeswoman, is his pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations.
William Barr is not the man to pick to lead the fight for criminal justice reform. He is the one to pick if you want a runaway executive branch. (Via Vox).
Much of the attention is focused on what Barr’s nomination may mean for the Russia investigation, given his previous remarks that he thought it was okay for Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey and that Hillary Clinton should be investigated.
But as head of the US Department of Justice, Barr would also have a lot of control over the federal criminal justice system more broadly. Ames Grawert, senior counsel at the Brennan Center, which supports criminal justice reform, tweeted, “Barr is one of the few people left in policy circles who could reasonably be called as bad as, or worse than, Jeff Sessions on criminal justice reform.” And make no mistake: Sessions had a very bad record on criminal justice reform.
In fact, Barr praised Sessions’s record at the Justice Department, including some of his work dismantling criminal justice efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration.
In short: If you were hoping that Sessions’s replacement would be better on criminal justice reform, Barr’s nomination should be of great concern.
He has been part of the DOJ establishment so that’s likely to smooth him through the Senate. Will it help the chaos at the DOJ?
Former SOS Rex Tillerson has gone public on what he really things of the placeholder in the White House. Via WAPO: “Rex Tillerson on Trump: ‘Undisciplined, doesn’t like to read’ and tries to do illegal things”. I imagine Trump will spend executive time tweeting crap about this.
The fired secretary of state, who while in office reportedly called Trump a “moron” (and declined to deny it), expounded on his thoughts on the president in a rare interview with CBS News’s Bob Schieffer in Houston.
It wasn’t difficult to read between the lines. Tillerson said Trump is “pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read,” and repeatedly attempted to do illegal things. He didn’t call Trump a “moron,” but he didn’t exactly suggest Trump was a scholar — or even just a steady leader.
“What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil corporation,” Tillerson said, was “to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’ ”
Tillerson said Trump believes he is acting on his instincts rather than relying on facts. But Tillerson seemed to suggest that it resulted in impulsiveness.
“He acts on his instincts; in some respects, that looks like impulsiveness,” Tillerson said. “But it’s not his intent to act on impulse. I think he really is trying to act on his instincts.”
Well, just when you think things couldn’t get worse on the diplomatic front we get a whacky nomination for our UN Ambassador. I’m getting a little tired of seeing Fox News sending us their worst.
Nauert, 48, is an unusual choice for the UN role given that she had little experience in government or foreign policy before joining the administration in April 2017 after several years as an anchor and correspondent for Fox News, including on the “Fox and Friends” show watched by Trump. Haley also lacked foreign policy experience when she took the UN posting, but she had twice been elected governor of South Carolina.
Nevertheless, Nauert’s candidacy had the strong support of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who came to trust her as a reliable voice and advocate for Trump’s agenda. It was a stark turnaround from the era of Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who shut her out from his inner circle. She had threatened to quit several times under Tillerson but, thanks partly to her alliance with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner, she ended up outlasting her former boss.
Here’s some more bombast if you’d care to read it.
And some judge just went back to “but her emails” …we’ll never hear the end of the tweets on this. Via The Chicago Tribune:
A U.S. judge ordered the Justice and State departments Thursday to reopen an inquiry into whether Hillary Clinton used a private email server while secretary of state to deliberately evade public records laws, and to answer whether the agencies acted in bad faith by not telling a court for months that they had asked in mid-2014 for missing emails to be returned.
The order risks reopening partisan wounds that have barely healed since Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid, but in issuing the order Thursday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act required it.
In a narrow but sharply worded 10-page opinion, Lamberth wrote that despite the government’s claimed presumption of transparency, “faced with one of the gravest modern offenses to government openness, [the Obama administration’s] State and Justice departments fell far short” of the law’s requirements in a lawsuit for documents.
Lamberth added that despite President Donald Trump’s repeated campaign attacks against Clinton for not making her emails public, “the current Justice Department made things worse,” by taking the position that agencies are not obliged to search for records not in the government’s possession when a FOIA request is made.
Former FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify in private before members of two House committees on Friday.
Before Democrats take control of the House in January, GOP leaders want to question Comey about his July 2016 decision not to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server and about his role in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Comey, who President Donald Trump fired in May 2017, has already testified that he didn’t coordinate with the Democratic administration at the Justice Department or White House. But some Republicans have questioned whether investigators were biased. Trump himself has suggested that Comey wanted a job in a potential Clinton administration.
Comey will appear before members of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on a revelatory day in Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s closely held investigation into Russia electoral interference.
And despite a bomb threat during Don Lemon’s broadcast last night, CNN managed to come out with this: “Kelly expected to resign soon, no longer on speaking terms with Trump.” Here we go again.
Seventeen months in, Kelly and President Donald Trump have reached a stalemate in their relationship and it is no longer seen as tenable by either party. Though Trump asked Kelly over the summer to stay on as chief of staff for two more years, the two have stopped speaking in recent days.Trump is actively discussing a replacement plan, though a person involved in the process said nothing is final right now and ultimately nothing is final until Trump announces it. Potential replacements include Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, who is still seen as a leading contender.Kelly has been on the verge of resigning or being fired before, only to bounce back every time. But aides feel the relationship can’t be salvaged this time. Trump is becoming increasingly concerned about Democrats taking over the House in January, and has privately said he needs someone else to help shape the last two years of his first term, which he predicts will be politically focused. He has complained repeatedly that Kelly is not politically savvy.
Well, I’ll end here. It’s way too early for all of this kinda news and I’m waiting again for Mueller Time! Only the best and brightest folks!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?