Step comes only week after Treasury Secretary said tariffs were suspended
Developments on Day 495 of the Trump Administration:
Why Is White House Suddenly Proceedings with Widespread Duties?
The White House changes course yet again on widespread tariffs on Chinese goods, declaring that the 25% duty on $50 billion of products will proceed.
Only last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said — after detailed talks in both Beijing and Washington — taht a trade war was “on hold” with tariffs suspended as negotiations continued.
In a personal intervention, Trump overruled Commerce Department sanctions on China’s second-largest maker of smartphones, ZTE, possibly averting a shutdown of the company and loss of 75,000 jobs — although observers noted the motive may have been a quid pro quo for China’s granting of trademarks to Ivanka Trump’s company and a Chinese Government loan to an Indonesian project in which the Trump Organization has an interest, as well as a gesture to sustain negotiations.
But, with protectionists inside the White House fighting back, the White House announced yesterday that the tariffs will be effective from June 30. The statement was issued days before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross travels to Beijing for the next round of talks.
The step may also complicate Trump’s personal mission to revive a June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after the White House scrapped the meeting last week. China is the main economic link with Pyongyang.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce responded on Tuesday framing the US step as an attempt to gain leverage in negotiations:
We feel surprised by the tactical statement issued by the White House, and yet it was also unsurprising….[We will] defend the interests of the Chinese people and core national interests….
This [White House announcement] is clearly contrary to the consensus that China and the US reached not long ago in Washington.
Trump, preoccupied with his campaign to undermine the Trump-Russia investigation by whipping up a fictional “Spygate”, did not refer to China in his tweets yesterday.
The Trump Administration first announced the tariffs in late March, in part to cover for a retreat from its chaotic attempt to impose steel and aluminum duties which mainly affected American allies. The Chinese responded with a measured imposition of tariffs on $3 billion of American products, prompting the US to add about $100 billion of Chinese goods to a potential tariff list.
Top GOP Congressman Knocks Back Trump’s “Spygate”, Supports FBI Investigation of Trump Campaign
A key Republican Congressman has pushed back Donald Trump’s “Spygate” attempt to undermine the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign, supporting the use of an informant in contact with campaign officers suspected of Russian ties.
Trey Gowdy, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, was one of the Republicans who attended a Justice Department meeting providing documents relating to the use of the confidential source, UK-based US academic Stefan Halper. Donald Trump and his allies pressed for weeks for disclosure of the classified information, putting out the false claim of a “spy” inside the campaign.
Gowdy said on Tuesday that the FBI’s decision was justified:
President Trump himself in the PFBI Director James] Comey memos said if anyone connected with my campaign was working with Russia, I want you to investigate it, and it sounds to me like that is exactly what the FBI did. I think when the President finds out what happened, he is going to be not just fine, he is going to be glad that we have an FBI that took seriously what they heard.
I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
Halper met three Trump campaign advisors from summer 2016: Carter Page, under scrutiny by the FBI as a possible Russian agent since 2013; George Papadopoulos, who was working with a Kremlin-linked, London-based academic to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and possibly to receive “thousands” of e-mails linked to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton; and Sam Clovis, the campaign’s co-manager who brought in both Page and Papadopoulos.
Gowdy went farther in suggesting that Trump may have compromised himself, politically and legally, with his tweets alleging an FBI plot. He said they could be subject to questioning by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“If I were his lawyer, and I never will be, I would tell him to rely on his lawyers and his [communications] folks,” Gowdy said.
The Congressman tried to cover his defense of the FBI and criticism of Trump’s approach by stressing the President — for now — is not a target of the investigation.
Trump Berated Sessions, Demanding He Reverse Recusal from Trump-Russia Investigation
Donald Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from oversight of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Sessions was forced to recuse himself because of meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016, when the future Attorney General was a senior Trump campaign advisor, and failure to declare the contacts in his confirmation hearings.
In March 2017, Sessions flew to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for dinner, because Trump was refusing to take his calls about a pressing decision over the Administration’s “Muslim Ban” barring entry to citizens of six mainly-Muslim countries from the US.
However, at the dinner, Trump immediately objected to Sessions’ recusal and insisted that he reverse the decision.
The incident is now being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as are Trump’s recurrent public insults and private attacks on Sessions — all of which could point to an obstruction of justice case against Trump.
Trump reacted to the story on Wednesday morning with the tweet that he wished he had selected a “good lawyer” rather than Sessions to be Attorney General.
Surge of Immigrant Children in Shelters Under Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” Policy
The number of immigrant children held in US Government custody without their parents surges 21% in the past month, under the Trump Administration’s policy to separate family members crossing the border.
The Government has not disclosed how many children have been separated from their parents, but the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that it had 10,773 migrant children in its custody, up from 8,886 on April 29. The total includes both separated children and those who were unaccompanied when they entered the US.
As their parents are sent to federal prisons, children have been sent to HHS shelters, which are now at 95% capacity.
The agency is exploring the possibility of housing children on military bases as a “last option”, according to an HHS official. Meanwhile, there are about 1,300 reserve beds to accommodate more children, including several hundred at a government-owned building in Homestead, Florida.
An official for US Customs and Border Protection testified at a Senate committee hearing last week that 638 adults were referred for prosecution between May 6 and May 19 under the new policy, and that they brought 658 children with them.
On Tuesday, Administration officials says an agreement was reached to give the Department of Homeland Security more access to the personal information of parents, relatives, or other adult sponsors seeking custody of the children.
In the past, the information was withheld from immigration enforcement while the sponsors were vetted by HHS, out of a concern that Homeland Security’s involvement could have a “chilling effect” on parents living in the country without documents and thus discourage them from claiming the children.