President Seems To Be Using “National Security” As Catch-All For Taking All Kinds Of Unilateral Action
He issued an Executive Order blocking a blockbuster bid by Broadcom to take over Qualcomm. That move considered highly unusual at least partly because the Singapore-based Broadcom didn’t really have a done deal yet, which would’ve valued San Diego-based Qualcomm at about $117-billion.
The Trump administration has killed a handful of technology deals since coming into office, some of them sizable, most involving Chinese companies as the purchaser (Obama had blocked sales to Chinese companies too). But as Bloomberg points out, this appears to broaden the policy to hanging a “not for sale” sign on at least semiconductor firms, and perhaps technology companies in general, even if China is not directly involved in the deal.
According to the Washington Post, in the Broadcom case, the Trump administration was concerned that if the deal went through, Broadcom could cut Qualcomm’s research and development. Because of that, China’s Huawei Technologies, could catch up and maybe even pass the U.S. in next-generation technologies. Broadcom issued a statement saying it disagrees the merger would pose any threat.
Broadcom was originally the semiconductor arm of Hewlett-Packard, and was sold a couple of years ago to a Singapore-based company, which then started using the Broadcom name. In part to avoid regulatory scrutiny, the company last year announced it would relocate to the U.S. At that time, Trump feted Broadcom’s CEO in the Oval Office.
So while Trump’s move is an unusual one, the Broadcom-Qualcomm bid itself is extremely odd. And it’s very possible the President did the right thing.
But that’s not what concerns us. It’s the language we’re hearing repeatedly from Trump in justifying unilateral moves he’s making on global trade. In his executive order, Trump said the merger “threatens to impair the national security of the United States“. That’s exactly the same language–to the word–that he used when he slapped steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
(And while Republicans in Congress are making a big show of steaming about Trump’s tariffs, only one, Arizona’s lame duck Jeff Flake has actually moved to curtail Trump’s authority through legislation).
Congress and the Supreme Court have historically given the President a lot of leeway in terms of administering trade policy. And almost anything involving another country can be justified in terms of “national security”, making it very hard to challenge.
“Threatens to impair the national security of the United States.” Seems Trump is becoming a big fan of that phrase. Because those words kind of give him the legal authority to do whatever he wants. At least when it comes to global business.
House Committee Chaired By Trump Sycophant Says President’s A-OK With Russia
The House Intelligence Committee, headed by Devin Nunes, he of “the memo”, closed its investigation of Russia interference in the 2016 election. Concluding this: “The bottom line: the Russians did commit active measures against our election in ’16, and we think they will do that in the future. We disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.” That quote from Republican Mike Conaway of Texas, who compiled the Committee’s 150-page draft report.
Trump celebrated with an ALL-CAPS Tweet:
Trump brings the good news with him to a $35,000 a head fund raiser today in California.
The Senate Intelligence Committee and Special Counsel Robert Mueller continue their investigations.
Britain Places Blame On Russia For Nerve Agent Attack Against Former Spy, But Trump, He Won’t
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May saying it’s “highly likely” Russia is behind the attack on British soil against a former Russian spy and his daughter last week. The nerve agent has been identified as belonging to a class that was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. The target of the attack in Salisbury, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in the hospital, as is a Detective who was the first on the scene in response to a call to police.
Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated the chemical agent used in the attack clearly came from Russia, saying: “This is a substance that is known to us and does not exist widely.”
After Completely Buckling To The Demands Of The N.R.A., Trump Says He Isn’t
Yesterday we told you about the release of the White House’s proposal for dealing with school shootings which perhaps not-so-curiously all of a sudden didn’t include the one item where Trump didn’t agree with the N.R.A. That’s increasing the minimum age for buying a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.
Trump Tweeted in protest that even though it’s not part of his recommendations, it’s not off the table:
But hey, it was an easy “mistake” for us to make, since we thought Trump was all about taking action first, not waiting and watching. Just a couple of weeks ago he lambasted Republican members of Congress and even suggested throwing due process out the window for that very reason.
The “court cases” he’s referring to is the N.R.A.’s challenge to the recently passed state law in Florida, which does raise the minimum age in that state. The N.R.A. says, of course, that’s unconstitutional.
Election Day In Western Pennsylvania
We told you a little about this yesterday: the contest pits Democrat Connor Lamb against Republican Rick Saccone in a district Trump won by a ton. Fivethirtyeight has an excellent preview.
Both parties are downplaying the importance of a win here; it’s true that whomever is victorious will have to run again in November.
It’s equally true that whichever party loses will go into complete freak-out mode over those November mid-terms.
Trump stumped for Saccone in the district this past weekend, but the event turned into more of an endorsement of Trump, by Trump, instead.
And on the eve of the vote, Trump Tweeted one of the laziest endorsements we’ve ever seen from the President:
Saccone’s opponent, Democrat Connor Lamb, has very cleverly and nimbly managed to distance himself from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Running against Pelosi” is a favorite tactic of Republicans when the Democratic candidate is something of an unknown quantity, as Lamb is. (He’s a former Marine and Federal Prosecutor, but not a politician). We’ll talk more about the importance of this tomorrow if Lamb wins.