Trump’s Decision To Exempt Canada And Mexico From Trade Tariffs Isn’t A Sign The President Is Coming To His Senses

He’s Actually Making Things More Problematic


The President today is expected to sign his order to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the rest of the world.

His move to give Canada and Mexico a one-month reprieve is being portrayed by some as a “reversal” or “concession” on the part of the President, who until now had insisted the tariffs be applied immediately to everyone.

We don’t see it that way: the one-month delay has nothing to do with showing support for America’s two biggest trading partners, including one (Canada) with which the U.S. actually has a broad trade surplus.

It’s purely because the President intends to use the threat of tariffs as a bargaining chip in ongoing efforts to renegotiate NAFTA. Those negotiations are widely reported to be “not going well”, a fact that’s at least somewhat belied by the fact that everybody’s still talking. However, by hanging the threat of tariffs over negotiators’ heads, he’s certainly not improving the odds.

Canada and Mexico combined supply exactly 1/4 of the steel the U.S. uses, while domestic manufacturers produces about 1/4. That means half of America’s steel supply is still free from tariffs, at least for now. This chart is from an interesting U.S. government report:



There’s also a significant legal issue here. Congress makes laws. The President has the power to execute them. In matters of trade, the President has typically had more leeway than on other matters, and Congress and the courts have tended to expand Presidential power in this area. At the same time, the little game he’s now playing with Canada and Mexico seems to go way beyond the semblance of “normal”…

As the Washington Post reports: “Government lawyers have struggled in recent days to reconcile Trump’s public comments with the legal provisions they have been told to enforce. For example, Trump is trying to use the tariff threats to force Canada and Mexico to offer unrelated concessions in NAFTA. By publicly acknowledging this, he has potentially spoiled the legal standing of the tariffs, a senior administration official said, making it harder for them to design the prohibitions.”

Trump’s also making noise about taking punitive action against “intellectual property theft“. While the President didn’t yet say it, that action would almost certainly have to involve China. And in this case, we’d be all for it. Punitive tariffs are sometimes necessary and have been employed by almost all Presidents. Where we have a problem with what Trump’s been doing is he’s been going after everybody even if they’ve traded fairly, and is also starting to give unfair protection to U.S. companies, which should be strong and innovative enough to compete on their own.



We Measure Our Gun Laws By Whether The NRA Would Approve Of Them Or Not


And by that measure, Florida just made some progress. No semi-automatic weapon ban, no closing of the “gun show loophole”, etc.  So while it may seem to some of us like hardly enough, the Republican-controlled legislature there passed a 3-day waiting period for gun purchases and raised the minimum purchase age on rifles to 21. Two things the NRA publicly opposes. The vote was 67-50.

The new law also includes a bunch of stuff the NRA doesn’t mind: like adding funds for mental health and more armed staff on school grounds.

Separately, Florida’s two U.S. Senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio jointly promoted legislation that would ban the purchase or possession of firearms by people who have court-issued protection orders against them.

As all this was going on, Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was indicted by a grand jury on 17 counts of murder, and 17 counts of attempted murder. This was considered a formality, since Cruz has already confessed. The major issue remaining is whether Prosecutors will seek the death penalty or accept Cruz’ lawyer’s offer of a guilty plea that would make an extended court proceeding unnecessary.


Nikolas Cruz in court



Attorney General Jeff Sessions, In California, Attacks California


At a meeting of the California Peace Officers Association, Sessions told the audience that California is using “every power it has; powers it doesn’t have, to frustrate federal law enforcement”. Sessions vowed to use “every power I have” to reverse that.

There’s a video clip here:


California’s Governor Jerry Brown shot back that the Trump administration is full of liars, in this case lying about his state protecting undocumented immigrants who are criminals, when California expressly does not do that. He also said Sessions was “basically going to war against the state of California”.

President Trump will visit California next week.



Nerve Agent Was Used In Attack On Ex-Russian Spy And His Daughter

And now police in England say a third person was hospitalized as a result of the attack: the officer who initially responded to the call. It’s not clear whether Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia survived the attack because the dosage was low, or because the response time was fast.

Remember, it was a nerve agent slapped in his face that killed North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un’s half brother Kim Jong Nam last year as he walked alone through an airport in Malaysia.



It’s Going To Be Very Difficult For Porn Star Stormy Daniels To Win Her Case Against Trump, But Maybe That’s Not Her Point…

Daniels is contending since Trump never signed the agreement with her, it’s invalid. Rich Hasen on electionlawblog lists a few reasons that might still be a problem for her, most strikingly explaining the concept of “implied contract by conduct” meaning if one side starts behaving in a way that honors a contract (in her case taking the money and keeping quiet), it’s very hard for that person to argue there’s no contract, even if both parties never signed.

But maybe her point right now is just getting information out to the public in the process of filing her lawsuit, that the agreement would’ve forbidden her from simply coming out and saying. Because her suit contains many things we didn’t know before: ranging from the exact duration of their relationship, to revelations Daniels has or had text messages and/or photos, to Trump using an alias in the agreement: “David Dennison” or Double D, while Daniels was referred to as Peggy Patterson, or PP. (Late Night Talk show hosts should be able to mine comic gold from both of those).



Ted Cruz, You’re So Silly! (Or Maybe Genuinely Scared?)

Fresh off state primaries in Texas, Ted Cruz came out of the gate slinging mud in the form of a parody song at the center of his first campaign ad. It accuses his Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke of changing his name from Robert in an attempt to appeal to a wider range of voters.

Thing is, Ted Cruz’ real name isn’t Ted. It’s Rafael.

It’s an issue that’s come up before, and prompted O’Rourke to post this adorable photo on Instagram showing him as a toddler wearing a sweater with the name “Beto” embroidered on the front. (O’Rourke does not deny “Beto” is a nickname, but says it’s one he’s had all his life, practically).



Scaramucci, Scaramucci, Scaramucci

We seldom watch cable news these days, except when we catch a glimpse or two at the gym, and we can’t help but notice Trump’s short-tenured former Communications Director is everywhere. Vigorously and sometimes viciously defending the President and his policies. CNN reports Trump’s egged him on when he’s attacked White House Chief of Staff Kelly. But even if we don’t buy that, what are the chances he’s just freelancing vs. on some kind of job audition? The only argument against that, is his marriage almost fell apart last time around. If he does go back, we have one piece of advice: don’t take photos with Trump where you’re standing over him, hand on his back, posing as someone would with their enfeebled father.




Whatever Happened To…?

The bipartisan bill to reinforce Obamacare marketplaces? It’s still out there, but Vox reports the White House this week came out with at list demands if legislators want the President to sign it. They include tightening of abortion funding, and loosening rules so that insurance companies could charge older people a lot more.

Trump’s solemn pledge to permanently forbid importing trophies from elephant hunts back into the U.S., after his Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke approved it? NPR reports the administration as of March 1st is quietly allowing it again.