Trump tries to deal with prospect of damage from former National Security Advisor’s testimony

Developments on Day 71 of the Trump Administration:

Trump: “Mike Flynn Should Ask for Immunity”

Donald Trump loudly backs former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s pursuit of immunity in the Trump-Russia investigations — but then goes silent for the rest of the day.

Flynn made headline news on Thursday with the revelation that he is willing to testify to the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees if he is guaranteed security from any criminal prosecution. The general was dismissed after 24 days as National Security Advisor because of five phone conversations that he had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on December 29, the day that President Obama imposed new sanctions on Moscow over Russia’s hacking and interference in the 2016 US elections.

Congressional sources said no response had been made to Flynn’s request. One indicated that investigators want to make further progress and to ascertain the extent of Flynn’s information before acting.

Trump tweeted on Friday morning:

But Trump avoided comment in public throughout the day. Asked by reporters if he was asking for the Justice Department to grant immunity, the President ignored the questions and walked out of the room, leaving two executive orders on foreign trade unsigned.

White House press spokesman Sean Spicer later said Trump wanted Flynn to testify to “get this matter behind us” but declined to say specifically that immunity should be granted: “The President is very clear that he wants Mike Flynn to go and be completely open and transparent with the committee.”

Trump Signs Executive Orders on Foreign Trade

Donald Trump signs two executive orders for reviews of foreign trade.

“Thousands of factories have been stolen from our country, but these voiceless Americans now have a voice in the White House. Under my administration, the theft of American prosperity will end,” Trump declared. “The well-being of America and the American worker is my north star.”

The orders commission a report on practices that contribute to the trade deficit, while the second seeks better collection of anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

Within 90 days, the report will be presented to the White House.

The orders come days before Trump’s meeting with President Xi Jinping of China. During his campaign, Trump accused Beijing of “raping” the US over trade.

Germany: US Steel Tariff is “Dangerous Step”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says the Trump Administration is taking a “dangerous step” with a tariff on imports of foreign steel:

The U.S. Government is apparently prepared to provide American companies with unfair competitive advantages over European and other producers, even if such action violates international trade law. I very much fail to comprehend the decision.

The Commerce Department prepared for the tariff with a report the pricing of certain types of steel plate from Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The findings allow the administration to begin collecting tariffs ahead of a final determination expected in May.

The report came before Trump’s signature of executive orders on Friday afternoon for reviews of foreign trade.

“During the campaign, I traveled the nation and visited the cities and towns devastated by unfair trade policies — probably one of the major reasons I’m here today, trade,” Trump said. “Nobody’s ever made bad trade deals like our country has made.”

EPA Head Pruitt Denies Petition to Ban Pesticide

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, denies a petition for a ban on the use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos on food crops.

Chlorpyrifos, a product of Dow Agrosciences, has been registered for use since 1965 against mosquitoes, cockroaches, and fire ants.

In September 2007, the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council requested a ban based on concerns over toxicity. Some scientists and environmental groups claim that chlorpyrifos can harm children’s developing brains and nervous systems, while other scientists and the US Department of Agriculture argue that chlorpyrifos is not harmful at the exposure levels set by the EPA.

Pruitt concluded that the science remains unresolved and further evaluation is needed about possible neuro-developmental effects.

Report: 43% Cut for Core EPA Budget

The alternative Twitter account of National Park Service personnel says the Trump Administration has deepened the core budget cut for the agency to 43%.

The account said 25% of the EPA staff will laid off, and 56 programs will be cut including pesticide safety, water runoff control, and environmental cooperation with Mexico and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Administration’s initial draft budget cut the EPA funding by 31%, but @AltNationalParkService said a March 21 update is circulating. It said the impact on Washington-based staff and personnel is greater because the draft mandates that the EPA maintain funding at current levels to states for waste treatment and drinking water.

Judge Approves $25 Million Settlement Over Trump University’s Fraud

A federal judge approves a $25 million settlement deal over allegations of fraud by Trump University.

The deal, which calls for Trump to reimburse more than 6,000 students who say they were defrauded, was reached in November but needed approval from US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

Students paid $1,500 to $35,000 for courses on “real estate investment secrets” ostensibly taught by instructors handpicked by Trump. However, the course material was easily found on the internet, some of the investment techniques were illegal in states where the seminars took place, and mentoring was said to be worthless or non-existent with unqualified instructors.

During the campaign, Trump insisted he would not settle the lawsuit as he “always won” his cases. He accused Judge Curiel, who was born in Indiana, of being biased because he is “Mexican”.