Pelosi: Trump Administration Is ‘One of the Most Compromised, Corrupt’ in History

Pelosi: Trump Administration Is ‘One of the Most Compromised, Corrupt’ in History

Monday at a House and Senate Democratic Leaders Press Conference on the steps of the Capitol, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said President Donald Trump’s administration was “one of the most compromised, corrupt administrations in history.”

Pelosi said, “The American people are confronted, one of the most compromised, corrupt administrations in history. Instead of delivering on its promise to drain the swamp, President Trump has become the swamp. Republicans of the White House and the Congress are cravenly beholden to big money interests and the American people are paying the price. From giveaways to dirty energy polluters, our children are paying the price in the air they breathe and the water they drink. To the giveaways of tax breaks for Wall Street and wealthy corporations, shipping jobs overseas—our workers and the middle class are paying the price. To giveaways to big Pharma, raising drugs costs, where children, seniors and working families are paying the price every day. The American people deserve better, but Republicans are standing in the way. We want Republicans and their corrupt big donor-driven agenda to get out of the way. It has given the American people a raw deal. Democrats are offering a better deal for our democracy.”

She continued, “To save our democracy we are committed to empowering the American voter to demand responsive government, protecting every citizen’s right to vote and their right to have their vote counted as cast, safeguarding our election infrastructure and ending partisan redistricting. Next we are strengthening America’s ethics laws to fight the special interests, ending the revolving door in Washington and reining in the influence the lobbyists, big money donors and special interests who drive the Republican agenda, fixing our broken campaign finance system to combat big money influence, wiping out the scourge of unaccountable, secret dark money, and overturning Citizens United. Republicans’ special interests and donor-first agenda is part of their DNA but Democrats have a people-first agenda. To put the power back in the hands of the American people, we’re fixing our broken political system and ensuring government works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well connected.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

Trump Retreats From China Tariffs Amid White House Trade Discord

Trump Retreats From China Tariffs Amid White House Trade Discord

President Donald Trump retreated from imposing tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods because of White House discord over trade strategy and concern about harming negotiations with North Korea, according to people briefed on the administration’s deliberations.

Trump also succumbed to pressure from farm-state Republicans, who heavily lobbied the White House to resolve its trade differences with China, which had especially targeted U.S. agricultural products with planned retaliatory tariffs.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that the administration’s plan to impose tariffs had been suspended, and Trump said on Twitter on Monday that the Chinese had agreed to purchase unspecified amounts of American farm products. Some of his loyalists led by former chief strategist Steven Bannon criticized the deal as a capitulation.

The agreement at least delays a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, a prospect that has rattled financial markets for months. But many U.S. concerns about China’s economic practices remain unresolved: its acquisition of American technologies; the country’s plans to subsidize the growth of advanced domestic industries such as artificial intelligence and clean energy; and U.S. companies’ access to China’s markets.

Bannon blamed Mnuchin. Trump “changed the dynamic regarding China but in one weekend Secretary Mnuchin has given it away,” he said in an interview. “Mnuchin has completely misread the geopolitical, military, and historical precedents, and what President Trump had done was finally put the Chinese on their back heels.”

Warring Factions

Some White House officials blame poor coordination among the warring factions in Trump’s economic team for the retreat, according to several people briefed on the matter. Within the administration, divisions are raw between free-trade supporters such as Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and China hawks led by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.

During a trip to Beijing earlier this month, Navarro and Mnuchin argued about the U.S. negotiating position, and Navarro wasn’t deeply involved last week in negotiations with a Chinese delegation in Washington.

The divisions are apparent in Trump’s public actions. In April, the Commerce Department cut off Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp. from its American suppliers in response to what Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called “egregious” violations of U.S. sanctions against doing business in Iran and North Korea.

Trump reversed the action via tweet a week ago, declaring that it would cost “too many jobs in China.”

“China is pushing the president around, and he seems to accept it,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said in a speech on Monday. “The way to win real concessions from China is to stay tough, not to bluster and back off at the first sign of friction.”

While Schumer is a Democrat, he has consistently complimented Trump’s confrontation of China.

The White House said in a statement on Monday night that “the president and his entire administration are committed to ending decades of unfair and illegal trading practices that harm our farmers, workers and many other parts of the U.S. economy.”

“The president will not back down until we see meaningful and lasting change,” the White House added.

North Korea Specter

Looming large over negotiations with China are separate but inextricable talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. Trump is counting on Chinese President Xi Jinping to maintain pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose country is economically dependent on China, with which it shares an 800-mile border.

Last week, North Korea’s state-run news agency and top officials began issuing threats to back out of a planned June 12 summit in Singapore between Trump and Kim. Trump, who has publicly entertained the idea he may win the Nobel Peace Price for brokering a peace deal with Kim, suggested himself that Xi was pulling strings in Pyongyang to put pressure on U.S. trade negotiators.


Read More: China’s Xi Jinping Can Make or Break Any Deal Between Trump and Kim

White House officials think that Trump could try to re-establish a harder line toward China after the North Korea summit, the people briefed on administration discussions said.

Some Republicans warned Trump that congressional seats held by their party that should have been safe in midterm elections were endangered by the trade dispute. Several farm-state lawmakers expressed relief that a damaging round of tariffs and counter-tariffs is — for now — no longer on the horizon.

‘Catastrophic’ Tariffs

“It would be catastrophic,” Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said. The Chinese had targeted soybeans, one of his state’s top exports to the country, as one product for retaliatory tariffs.

“We have made the case to the White House at least twice in the last four months,” he said in an interview.

But Trump loyalists including Bannon and campaign trade adviser Dan DiMicco were among the loudest critics of the president’s retreat.

“It gives the appearance that the Chinese are doing what they’ve always done to us: put in significant delay tactics. It’s a road we’ve been down for 25 years and has gotten us nothing but trouble – -more theft of IP, more stealing and hacking of proprietary information of companies in this country, ever growing trade deficit in manufactured goods,” DiMicco, who now serves on an advisory committee for the the U.S. Trade Representative, said in a phone interview.

The Trump administration yet has a chance to show strength against China, however. Mnuchin faces a deadline within a day or two to recommend curbs on Chinese investment in American technology firms. The Treasury Department has
considered
citing an emergency law to prevent the Chinese from investing in — and acquiring — sensitive U.S. technologies.

Publicizing the report would show China that the U.S. intends to hold it accountable for trade behavior the Trump administration considers unfair. A Treasury spokeswoman said on Monday that Mnuchin had updated Trump on the issue, but didn’t say whether any portion of the report would be made public.

— With assistance by Billy House, Erik Wasson, and Laura Litvan

(Updates with White House statement in 12th paragraph.)

Trump to press South Korea’s Moon Jae-in as summit with North on shaky ground

Trump to press South Korea’s Moon Jae-in as summit with North on shaky ground

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a swearing in ceremonies for new CIA Director Gina Haspel at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, on May 21, 2018.

KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters

Three weeks before an unprecedented U.S.-North Korea summit is supposed to take place, President Donald Trump will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday as U.S. officials try to figure out whether Pyongyang is serious about negotiating a deal on denuclearization.

Moon’s White House visit was originally arranged as a meeting to fine-tune a joint strategy for dealing with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un but has instead become more of a crisis session after Pyongyang last week threatened to pull out of the planned June 12 summit in Singapore.

Moon’s government led efforts to resume dialogue with North Korea and gave enthusiastic accounts of its encounters with Kim, spurring Trump to accept an offer of a first-ever meeting between U.S. and North Korean presidents.

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But the White House was caught off-guard when, in a dramatic change of tone, North Korea last week condemned the latest U.S.-South Korean air combat drills, suspended North-South talks and threw into doubt the summit with Trump if Pyongyang was pushed toward “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

Trump has insisted he remains committed to the summit, but Vice President Mike Pence warned on Monday that the president was still willing to walk away from the meeting, telling Fox News that North Korea should not attempt to seek concessions for promises it did not intend to keep.

Trump has warned in the past that the summit might not take place or that he could walk out if it looked like a deal was not possible. His aides are now looking to Moon to help determine whether Kim is taking a harder line against denuclearization than South Korea had previously communicated to them, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other U.S. officials have privately expressed concern that Moon, eager to make progress with the North, may have overstated Kim’s willingness to negotiate in good faith over the dismantling of his nuclear arsenal.

Two visits by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the past two months have apparently failed to yield much clarity on Kim’s intentions.

Some in the U.S. government worry that Moon may be prepared to accept a less-stringent version of North Korean denuclearization than Washington wants and could be open to faster sanctions relief for Pyongyang, the officials said.

Most analysts say it is unrealistic to believe North Korea will agree to complete abandonment of its nuclear program, which has focused on developing a missile capable of hitting the United States and which Kim sees as crucial to his survival in power.

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If the summit is cancelled or fails, it would be a major blow to what Trump supporters hope will be the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency.

The uncertainty comes at a time when Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has drawn criticism internationally, his moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem has fuelled violence on the Israel-Gaza border and he is on the defensive over an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Testing Trump?

North Korea’s warning of a possible withdrawal from the summit is seen as an effort to test Trump’s willingness to make concessions on his demands for Pyongyang’s denuclearization, the U.S. official said.

“It’s straight out of North Korea’s playbook,” the official said.

North Korea’s condemnation of Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, for proposing that North Korea should emulate Libya by abandoning its program of weapons of mass destruction was believed meant to sow divisions within the administration.

Despite Trump having contradicted Bolton on the Libya point, there has been no sign of Bolton losing influence.

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Seoul has been hoping to ensure a successful summit after a historic meeting last month between Moon and Kim produced a declaration of goodwill.

But South Korea’s role has been brought into question since last week when North Korea’s chief negotiator derided Seoul as “ignorant and incompetent.”

Seoul has refrained from responding.

“The heads of South Korea and the United States are expected to discuss measures to guarantee a bright future for North Korea in the case it truly goes through complete denuclearization,” said Nam Gwan-pyo, an official at the presidential Blue House.

Trump has sought to placate Kim by holding out the possibility of economic development, and he pledged on Thursday that Kim’s security would be guaranteed in any deal.

But Trump has insisted on concrete steps before any easing of sanctions, and warned that failure to reach a denuclearization agreement could lead to “decimation” of Kim’s rule.

“They are locked into not giving much to the North Koreans early…whereas South Korea probably has a bit more interest in economic incentivization,” said Christopher Green, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. “So they need to calibrate between the two of them.”

China could also be on the agenda. Trump suggested last week that Beijing, which Washington is at odds with over trade, may be influencing North Korea’s hardened stance.

Beijing responded on Friday that it stands for stability on the Korean peninsula and for settlement through diplomacy.

However, Trump on Monday urged China, North Korea’s main trading partner, to maintain tight sanctions, tweeting that “the word is that recently the Border has become much more porous.”

South Korea wants to play the mediator in upcoming talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Reuters

Turning up the heat on Trump: Dems say ‘culture of corruption’ to be focus of midterms

Turning up the heat on Trump: Dems say ‘culture of corruption’ to be focus of midterms

But midterm elections have often functioned as a referendum on the president. And the strategy is acknowledgment that the opposition party may be better off swimming with the anti-Trump tide and harnessing the energy among progressives.

“The problem is that a lot of people hear that (economic) message, they agree with that message, but they’re not convinced that we can actually get it done because they view Washington as captured by special interests,” Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., who helped craft the new strategy, told NBC News.

“We realized that every other message we’re putting out there needs to be accompanied by a democracy reform agenda,” Sarbanes continued. “We think that that caffeinates every other message that we’re delivering.”

He added at the news conference: “The people know what happens when a culture of corruption takes hold. Government works for somebody else and not for them.”

It’s an effort to provide an overarching framework of the myriad and diverse scandals in Washington, from Scott Pruitt’s Environment Protection Agency to the Trump-Russia saga, arguing that they all come back to a culture in which donors are rewarded, not voters.

Voters are already primed for that message, Democrats argue, pointing to polling that shows the public thinks Republicans are more likely to be beholden to special interests than Democrats.

On Monday, the party’s leaders committed to a package of a good-government reforms and campaign finance changes to try to tap into the same populist revulsion with Washington that helped put Trump in office.

“Instead of delivering on his promise to drain the swamp, President Trump has become the swamp,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Republicans in the White House and the Congress are cravingly beholden to big money interest and the American people are paying the price.”

Image: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center at lectern, and other Democrats gather on the steps of the Capitol to advance their “Better Way” agenda, in Washington on May 21, 2018.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

That tone was notably different from the one the two leaders struck a year ago when they laid out the first planks of their “Better Deal” messaging plan in suburban Virginia.

Trump was rarely mentioned. Instead, the focus was on giving voters a reason to vote for Democrats, and not simply against Republicans.

“Too many Americans don’t know what we stand for,” Schumer said. “Not after today.”

Just 27 percent of Democratic ads so far this year mention Trump, compared to 60 percent of GOP ads that mentioned President Barack Obama by this point in 2014, according to data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Democrats are not abandoning the economic message they rolled out then, party officials say, but rather adding another layer to their overall message to voters.

Party leaders have been debating which approach to emphasize since shortly after Trump’s election.

“Democrats could be poised to win landslide victories in this year’s elections,” Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg wrote recently in The Hill newspaper. “But they’ll lose this opportunity if they don’t address the economic challenges confronting their strongest supporters, who are at risk of staying home on Election Day.”

At the same time, corruption has proven to be a potent political message, especially in midterm elections. Democrats, for instance, made disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff the poster child for it ahead of their 2006 wave.

And when the country is in an anti-incumbent mood, the message is an appealing one for challengers who might otherwise struggle to be heard.

“The minority party is never going to have as big a megaphone as the sitting president of the United States,” said Jesse Lee, a former Obama White House aide who is now a senior adviser at the Center for American Progress.