When Trump Repeatedly Tweets He Wants “M” To Build The Wall, He’s Talking About Mexico, Right? Wrong!

Trump’s New “Pet” Idea Involves The U.S. Military (That’s The “M”!) Paying For It…


The President’s been trying hard to get some special attention for this Tweet, first putting it out on Sunday, then Retweeting the exact same thing just a few hours ago. Well now he’s got it.

As the Washington Post explains, the “M” he’s referring to is the U.S. military.

It could also stand for “Math“: because in the $1.3-trillion spending bill that swept through Congress last week, Trump only got $1.6-billion in wall funding vs. the $25-billion he asked for, while the Defense Department got everything requested: $700-billion dollars. As Trump says in his Tweet “our Military is again rich.” So surely they can scrape up a measly $25-billion so he can keep his campaign promise and fund his legacy

(Especially, as we’ve pointed out, the reason the President was lobbying so hard to get all $25-billion up front is he knows damn well if Democrats manage to retake the House or Senate in this fall’s elections he’ll never get it.)

Roll Call points out it’s not that simple: they say what the President’s calling for is called a “reprogramming” of funds, which “would require approval of the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services committees”.

But it might not be that simple either: Trump’s latched onto the idea of saying he’s doing things in the interests of “National Security” or in this case “National Defense”. He uses that phrase all the time now. He used it when he rolled out steel and aluminum tariffs. He did so again when he killed Broadcom’s takeover of Qualcomm. And there’s a reason he keeps returning to that specific phrasing: as the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, the President can take action unilaterally (in most cases) if he deems the safety or strategic interests of the United States to be under threat. Does “the wall” qualify?

Interestingly, one of the better explainers we could find about Presidential Powers over the military comes from the “American Center for Law and Justice”, which describes itself as “a politically conservative, Christian non-profit”. What’s probably more important to know is it’s led by Trump’s now-chief Russia lawyer Jay Sekulow. Perhaps Trump’s been getting guidance from Sekulow on other matters as well.



Trump Scores Big “Win” On South Korea Trade


The New York Times reports a deal should be announced today.

And the President’s strategy of doing one-on-one deals instead of regional ones, and renegotiating pacts that are already in place, seems to be paying off big-time in South Korea, with the U.S. gaining many concessions.

The two that are probably most important?

  • South Korea is permanently exempted from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, but in exchange agrees to cut back annual steel exports to the U.S. by about 30%. South Korea is currently the 3rd largest supplier of steel to the U.S.
  • And tariffs on South Korean-made trucks get extended for 20 years (!) until 2041. They were set to expire 3 years from now. That was the subject of great concern for U.S. truck makers.

The one that sounds the most important but is probably the least?

  • Doubling the number of U.S. cars that can be exported each year to South Korea. (Because right now there isn’t enough demand for American cars to come close to the current, much lower number).

And one could plausibly argue that Trump’s protectionist, pro-tariff strategy worked–as the President might say–“beautifully”, at least in this case. Now the question is can it be repeated with countries that are less politically and militarily entwined with the U.S.



One More Korea Story


The U.S.-South Korea trade agreement comes against the backdrop of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s historic not-that-secret visit to Beijing, and meeting with China’s President Xi, which we reported on yesterday and the Chinese government has now confirmed.

The official Chinese Xinhua news agency released a series of photos:



And along with the photos a “news story” that’s worth reading only because it says absolutely nothing, and exists almost as a pristine exercise in stringing lots and lots of words together.

But of course the story is the photos.


For those of you interested in this kind of thing, the New York Times has a pretty good story on the now-famous bulletproof North Korean train that Kim took to the meeting, just like his father did.


Meanwhile, the New York Times reports North Korea appears to be bringing another nuclear reactor online. The country says it’s going to be used only to provide much needed power to its citizens(, although it could be used to produce plutonium. Actions such as these do lend credence to the camp (in which sits newly-appointed National Security Adviser John Bolton) that Kim Jong-un’s sudden decision to welcome talks (that started around the time of the Olympics), is nothing more than a stalling ploy to finish work on a nuclear missile that could hit the U.S. mainland.



One More Car Story


The Trump Administration this week is likely to roll back strict Obama-era car emission rules, and that may prove more of a headache than panacea for car makers because California may not go along with it.

Although car emission standards are set by the federal government, the state of California has a waiver that allows it to set its own, stricter standards. And a dozen or so other states have adopted the California rules, so at this point most cars sold nationwide adhere to those standards.

But that could soon change. If EPA head Scott Pruitt makes his move as he’s expected to by the end of the week, California may decouple, leaving car makers potentially in the position of producing cars to two sets of standards.

It’s a case of “be careful what you wish for” because those same car makers had been lobbying the Trump Administration to make the change, but now are urging restraint in order to keep California from breaking away.

California has by far the most private and commercially owned cars of any state, almost double #2 Texas, which is why it has so much clout.




Fighting Words From A Former Supreme Court Justice


In a New York Times Op-Ed, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens bluntly says: “Repeal the Second Amendment“. Stevens says he was inspired by the Parkland students, and it’s time to admit that today’s firearms are nothing like those that existed when the Constitution was written.

Stevens was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon. When he retired in 2010, President Obama replaced him with Justice Elena Kagan.


Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens



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