This week will tell whether President Trump’s confrontational approach to Canada and other countries over trade at -- and after -- the Group of Seven summit made any difference to Senate Republicans weighing whether to back legislation curtailing some of his authority.
Early indications are, not much.
Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) are pressing ahead with their bill to require congressional approval when the president wants to levy "Section 232" tariffs -- that, is tariffs filed with a national security justification -- like those recently imposed on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico, the European Union and Canada. Corker and Toomey want to add the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the wide-ranging annual defense policy bill that is currently on the Senate floor.
Corker says developments over the weekend at the G-7 should have increased his colleagues’ interest in supporting his and Toomey’s legislation. That is, after some friendly encounters at the summit of international leaders in Quebec, Trump announced over Twitter as he departed (for North Korea) that the United States would not be signing on to the carefully crafted communique with other nations because of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments at a news conference criticizing the tariffs on Canada as “kind of insulting.”
“Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!” Trump fumed over Twitter -- simultaneously insulting Trudeau and giving the lie to the national security basis for the 232 tariffs in the first place.
Trump advisers went on the Sunday shows and tripled down on Trump’s comments, as my colleague Damian Paletta put it, with trade adviser Peter Navarro going so far as to say that there’s “a special place in hell” for Trudeau.
"There's a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door," Navarro told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. "And that's what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference."
Navarro’s comments did not go over well with Senate Republicans. Orrin Hatch (Utah) told me and Seung Min Kim for our story published last night that Navarro “should’ve kept his big mouth shut,” while John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that “if Mr. Navarro worked for me, I’d probably give him a stern talking-to.”
Corker’s view on all of this: “I would think that more people would be inclined to want to support a piece of legislation that allows us to weigh in on any final product. That would be, I think the natural impulse of people who saw what happened,” said the Foreign Relations Committee chairman.
And yet, not so much.
There was little evidence as senators returned to the Capitol Monday evening that any minds had been changed among undecided senators. Hatch did say the legislation appealed to him. But Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said “I haven’t heard a compelling case. The sponsors of the bill need to make that.”
More from Cornyn, “I’m for senators getting votes on amendments but the chance of getting a presidential signature on this at this point I don’t’ think is good, and I don’t think having that fight right now is necessary. In the long term, I agree with Sen. Corker about 232, that it should not be used as a pretext for economic protectionism. It should be reserved strictly for national security concerns. But I don’t think it’s really feasible to get a bill like that passed right now.”
Trump has been personally twisting arms against the bill, inviting Fischer and more than a dozen other GOP senators to the White House last week to urge them against it, and calling Toomey from Singapore Sunday night to lay out his justification for imposing the 232 tariffs in the first place -- which didn’t seem to sway Toomey.
But in large part GOP senators’ stance on the Corker-Toomey bill reflects where they’ve been on any number of issues since Trump took office: Unwilling to challenge the president. That Corker (who’s retiring) and Toomey (who was just reelected) are pushing the amendment at all -- along with about 10 co-sponsors of both parties -- is notable as a rare concrete step to take on Trump. But the measure looks likely to die, which could happen as soon as this week -- either because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocks it from getting a voter, or the bill's sponsors don't get the requisite 60 votes needed to advance it in the Senate.
The defense authorization legislation does, however, contain a notable related element: On a bipartisan basis, senators said Monday they are including language to block Trump’s attempt to lift certain restrictions against Chinese telecom giant ZTE, my colleague Karoun Demirjian reports. This came despite an appearance on Capitol Hill Monday evening by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, apparently to try to bat away the provision. Even presuming the language passes the Senate, there’s no guarantee it makes it into the final version that must be worked out with the House, which included a milder ZTE provision.
But on the ZTE issue, at least, senators were willing to cross Trump as foreign policy hawks like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), usually a top Trump defender, decided that going soft on China was too much to stomach.
|You are reading The Finance 202, our must-read tipsheet on where Wall Street meets Washington.|
|Not a regular subscriber?|
-- Meanwhile, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shook hands during their historic summit in Singapore in which the U.S. president said he had 'developed a very special bond' with Kim. In the biggest news so far from the summit, Trump said the U.S. would end regular "war games" it hosts with South Korea. The latest from Post correspondents who were on the scene: "'Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war,' Trump said at a news conference in Singapore following more than four hours of talks with Kim," report David Nakamura, Philip Rucker, Anna Fifield and Anne Gearan. "Trump said Kim 'reaffirmed' his commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and also agreed to destroy a missile site in the country. 'We’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations,' the president said."
But but but: "... Trump provided few specifics about what steps Kim would take to back up his promise to denuclearize his country and how the United States would verify that North Korea was keeping its pledge to get rid of its nuclear weapons, saying that would be worked out in future talks ... 'We will do it as fast as it can mechanically and physically be done,' he said of the process to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons ... Trump called the [military] exercises [with Seoul] 'very provocative' and 'inappropriate' in light of the optimistic opening he sees with North Korea. Ending the exercises would also save money, Trump said."
Some other news from the summit:
- Trump seems have raised the case of Otto Warmbier, the American student who was detained in North Korea before being released in a coma, blind and deaf and dying shortly afterwards (Warmbier's parents are suing the North Korean government). The president said Warmbier "did not die in vain."
- Following the meeting, Trump and Kim signed a "very comprehensive," per Trump, agreement outlining a path forward for negotiations. "The document was not immediately released, but Trump held aloft a copy for news photographers. Images show that the agreement includes a pledge by Trump to 'provide security guarantees' to North Korea, while 'Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.'"
Here's some smart analysis from Phil and Anne in Singapore: "President Trump shook his hand for 13 long seconds, patted him on the back and led him down a rich red carpet. North Korean leader [Kim] may be considered the world’s greatest human rights abuser and a totalitarian collector of nuclear weapons, but as they met for the first time here Tuesday, Trump declared himself honored ... The lush Capella hotel on the resort island of Sentosa may be the most important stage thus far of Trump’s presidency. By personally negotiating terms for North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons with the rogue country’s reclusive leader — something previous American presidents did not do — Trump put his brand of transactional, mano-a-mano diplomacy to a test ...
Rather than approach Kim as a pariah, Trump showered him with respect and even flattery, enthused to shake hands with a monstrous figure in part, perhaps, because his monstrosity is his source of power. By simply jetting here for the summit, Trump effectively threw a coming-out party for Kim and afforded his rogue state the international prestige it has long sought ..."
-- Global stock markets started Tuesday with a muted reaction to the summit, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Riva Gold. “The Stoxx Europe 600 pared early gains to trade flat by midday following Mr. Trump’s news conference, while futures pointed to a 0.1% opening loss for the S&P 500 ahead of closely watched inflation figures,” Gold reports. “‘It may be an interesting historic moment, but it’s only a modest step in removing that tail risk—markets are taking it somewhat skeptically and want to see much more concrete follow-up,’ said Larry Hatheway, chief economist and head of investment solutions at GAM Holding."
-- And some companies think North Korea may soon be open for business. From The New York Times's Alexandra Stevenson in Hong Kong: :The chances are slim — very, very slim — to none that North Korea would open up like that in the foreseeable future. Still, some businesses are setting up internal task forces to start drawing up plans, according to lawyers and advisers who specialize in North Korea. Shares of companies that could profit are starting to rise, in what one analyst called the 'Rocket Man rally.' A few big companies have tentatively reached out to contacts in North Korea, said Wook Yoo, a partner at Bae, Kim & Lee, a South Korean law firm ... "
-- And don't forget, Dennis Rodman was there too. Watch his comments below:
I’m not sure it’s possible to capture an entire era in one image, but Dennis Rodman running a cryptocurrency grift on live TV from the North Korea summit while wearing a MAGA is a serious nominee https://t.co/Qs7aQ4w6n8— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) June 12, 2018
— Larry Kudlow had a heart attack. The Washington Post's Damian Paletta and Robert Costa: "Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow suffered a heart attack on Monday and is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. 'Earlier today,' Kudlow 'experienced what his doctors say was a very mild heart attack. Larry is currently in good condition at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and his doctors expect he will make a full and speedy recovery,; White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement ... Trump said. Kudlow’s wife, Judith Kudlow, told The Washington Post in a brief conversation on Monday evening that Kudlow was doing well and recovering. ... Kudlow, 70, had traveled with Trump to Canada for a contentious meeting of the Group of Seven industrial nations on Friday and Saturday, and he had defended the president vigorously on television on Sunday."
Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2018
— Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump disclose outside sources of income (not so coincidentally, perhaps, at the same time as the summit last night). The Post's Amy Brittain, Ashley Parker and Anu Narayanswamy: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, brought in at least $82 million in outside income while serving as senior White House advisers during 2017, according to new financial disclosure forms released Monday. ... The filings show how the couple are collecting immense sums from other enterprises while serving in the White House, an extraordinary income flow that ethics experts have warned could create potential conflicts of interests. ... In an email statement, Peter Mirijanian — a spokesman for Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s and Ivanka Trump’s ethics counsel — said that the couple have followed all ethics rules and that Monday’s disclosures are an insufficient way to understand the nuances of their net worth.”
— The low unemployment rate looms over the Fed's meeting. The Wall Street Journal's Nick Timiraos: "No question looms larger for Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell than this: How low can the U.S. unemployment rate safely go? Only twice in the past half-century has unemployment fallen to its current rate of 3.8%—for a few years in the late 1960s and for one month in 2000... The Fed is likely to announce Wednesday it is raising its benchmark short-term interest rate to a range between 1.75% and 2%, the latest in a series of increases aimed at avoiding such outcomes by keeping the economy on an even keel. Then, Mr. Powell will have to answer the unemployment question. His response will determine how high and fast interest rates will rise... It will shape whether millions left behind in this expansion will get a chance to join in; whether inflation—stamped out and buried over the past quarter-century—makes an unexpected comeback; or whether financial bubbles, which crippled the economy twice in the past 20 years, return."
— Expect a ruling on the AT&T-Time Warner merger. The Post's Brian Fung: “A federal judge is about to render a major decision in the government's lawsuit against a merger of AT&T and Time Warner, a case that could reshape how millions of Americans get access to the AT&T Internet and entertainment. For weeks, the case has been in limbo as Judge Richard Leon has worked toward a ruling in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Now he is expected to issue his opinion on Tuesday. ... The government says the deal would lead to higher prices for consumer. According to regulators, AT&T would use its control over Time Warner content — which it knows other cable companies need to keep their customers happy — to extract higher licensing payments. That would benefit AT&T in a number of ways, government lawyers allege. ... Most analysts who have been tracking the case say AT&T performed better at trial than the Justice Department by focusing on undercutting the government's economic analysis of the deal and poking holes in its witnesses' testimony.”
— Low expectations about income growth. Reuters's Jonathan Spicer: “U.S. inflation expectations were flat in May after several months of gains, while Americans grew more pessimistic about income and spending growth, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York survey published on Monday. The survey of consumer expectations, which the Fed considers along with other data on U.S. price pressures, remained at a median of 2.98 percent for one year into the future. The three-year measure was 2.96 percent in May, a bit down from 2.97 in April.”
— Trump's team tries to make up with Canada. Politico's Megan Cassella: "A day after ... Trump and his top advisers went on the attack against Canada, members of his Cabinet are taking steps to preserve and strengthen ties with the U.S.’ nearest ally. In one sign of the change in tone, the Department of Agriculture announced Monday that Secretary Sonny Perdue would head to Canada later this week to meet with his counterpart Lawrence MacAulay. ... A USDA spokesperson pushed back against the idea that Perdue was heading north to patch things up with Canada, noting that the visit has been in the works for weeks and is part of an ongoing series of meetings Perdue's had with his Mexican or Canadian counterparts over the last year."
-- But Trump himself said Trudeau's comments at a post-G-7 presser would "cost Canada a lot of money," CNBC reports. Trump made the remarks at the post-North Korea summit news conference: "'When I got out to the plane, I think that Justin probably didn't know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions. And I see the television and he's giving a news conference about how he will not be pushed around by the United States and I say push him around?'" CNBC reported Trump as saying. "No, I have a good relationship with Justin Trudeau. I really did, other than he had a news conference, that he had because he assumed I was in an airplane and I wasn't watching. He learned. That's going to cost a lot of money for the people of Canada. He learned. You can't do that. You can't do that."
Meanwhile, Canada stays focused on trade. From the Toronto Star's Bruce Campion-Smith: "Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen kicked off Question Period on Monday with a statement of support for the Canadian position, which was met with applause. 'Canadians witnessed, with shock and dismay, the U.S. administration hurl insults, verbal attacks, and threats of more tariffs at us. We are all Canadians first, and we will stand with Canadian workers and the families impacted by this escalating trade war,' she said. Outside the House of Commons, Canadian officials were decidedly low key on the issue, keen to not further inflame the situation or respond in kind."
But Canadian lawmakers did adopt a unanimous resolution supporting Trudeau as some Americans launched a #ThankCanada Twitter campaign. From The Post's Alan Freeman in Ottawa: "They cited Canada’s welcome of transatlantic flights diverted to Newfoundland after the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks, as well as its role in spiriting U.S. diplomats out of Tehran in the wake of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Some thanked Canada for maple syrup, Leonard Cohen or early adoption of same-sex marriage."
— Lagarde worries about the global economy. Reuters's Paul Carrel and Michael Nienaber: "International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde led an attack by global economic organizations on ... Trump’s 'America First' trade policy on Monday, warning that clouds over the global economy 'are getting darker by the day'. ... Lagarde unleashed a thinly veiled attack on Trump’s trade policy, saying challenges to the way trade is conducted were damaging business confidence, which had soured even since the weekend G7 summit. The Washington-based IMF is sticking to its forecast for global growth of 3.9 percent both this year and next, she said, before adding: 'But the clouds on the horizon that we have signaled about six months ago are getting darker by the day, and I was going to say by the weekend.'”
— Mexico looks at Japan and away from the United States. Bloomberg News's Eric Martin: “Mexico’s top trade official is traveling to Japan this week as the Latin American nation seeks to diversify exports and investment amid an impasse in Nafta talks. Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said he still sees a high chance of a deal to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, but that the U.S., Canada and Mexico will need to show flexibility. ... The world’s third-largest economy is the biggest market in the trade pact that succeeded the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. abandoned a few days after Trump took office last year. The new deal, known as Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, was agreed on by 11 nations in March and approved by the Mexican Senate in April. Deepening ties with Japan and the other nations in the Pacific deal is part of Mexico’s push to diversify exports. Currently, 72 percent of the nation’s $435 billion in goods sold abroad every year go to the U.S.”
— Trump only trusts himself. The Post's Ashley Parker: "From tariffs to pardons to immigration roundups, the president is increasingly charting his own strategy on unilateral actions — and there is evidence the approach may be working for him. Trump’s approval numbers have ticked up in recent polls from his previous low points. ... The latest example of Trump’s willingness — and even eagerness — to rely on his gut and spurn traditional friends and allies came Saturday after the G-7 summit, when the president used a duo of tweets to attack the leader of the host country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for saying that Canada 'will not be pushed around' by U.S. trade policies. Trump also signaled he does not plan to sign the hard-fought and carefully-worded compromise communique upon which the seven nations had earlier agreed.”
— German carmakers' troubles continue. The New York Times's Jack Ewing: "Germany’s car industry, already under scrutiny for concealing excess diesel pollution, suffered fresh damage to its reputation on Monday after prosecutors said a top Volkswagen manager was a suspect in a criminal inquiry, and authorities in Berlin ordered Daimler to recall hundreds of thousands of vehicles equipped with illegal emissions-cheating software. Volkswagen, where the emissions cheating first emerged more than two and a half years ago, was punished for hesitating to overhaul its management ranks when Munich prosecutors said they had opened a fraud investigation into Rupert Stadler, the leader of the carmaker’s highly profitable Audi division and a member of the Volkswagen management board. ... Later in the day, the German Transport Ministry ordered Daimler to recall 774,000 vehicles in Europe because of 'inadmissible' software that shut down or reduced the effectiveness of equipment designed to control diesel emissions."
— Rolls-Royce announces another engine issue. Reuters: “Britain’s Rolls-Royce ... said a costly compressor problem that had grounded Boeing planes had now been found in a different type of engine, compounding pressures on a group that is due to cut more than 4,000 jobs this week. Britain’s best known engineering company has been hit by a problem with a compressor in the Trent 1000 package C engine that is not lasting as long as expected, grounding planes, forcing inspections and angering airline clients. ... On Monday it said it had now found the same issue on a “small number of high life Package B engines”, requiring a one-off inspection of the B fleet and sending its shares down 1 percent.”
First 1000 Boring Company Flamethrowers being picked up today! pic.twitter.com/hBMp5fGzAB— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 9, 2018
— Some people really want Elon Musk's flamethrowers. The Post's Hamza Shaban: "Just in time for Father’s Day, Elon Musk’s tunneling construction company began handing out its first batch of $500 flamethrowers this weekend. What started as an online gag has turned into a marketing ploy worth millions — with the first 1,000 customers receiving the flamethrower — that promotes the Boring Company, Musk’s endeavor to build underground transportation tunnels. The billionaire inventor and chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX announced the sale of the flamethrower last year. Only 20,000 of them would be made, he said, and they quickly sold out. ... Some customers are already trying to turn a profit on the device. On eBay, interested buyers can bid on several listings for the Boring Company’s Not a Flamethrower."
— Warren and Warner criticize Mulvaney's work at CFPB. American Banker's Rachel Witkowski: “Two top Democratic senators accused the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney, of 'starving' the agency of data used to help write new rules. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Mark Warner, D-Va., submitted a letter to the agency Monday as part of a comment period for public input on whether to change the CFPB’s rulemaking process. The lawmakers emphasized that the agency should maintain data collection as part of its rulemaking process, while also warning that Mulvaney has been pulling back on gathering data 'without any justification.'”
— SEC commissioner says executives are cashing out instead of investing. The Hill's Naomi Jagoda: "A commissioner on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday called on his colleagues to update and reexamine rules relating to stock buybacks following an increase in buybacks after the enactment of ... Trump's tax-cut law. Robert Jackson, who was appointed by Trump to one of the SEC's Democratic seats, expressed concerns about the fact that corporate executives are using stock buybacks as an opportunity to cash out the stocks they receive as part of their compensation. 'We give stock to corporate managers to convince them to create the kind of long-term value that benefits American companies and the workers and communities they serve,' Jackson said in a speech at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. 'Instead, what we are seeing is that executives are using buybacks as a chance to cash out their compensation at investor expense.'"
— Trump's D.C. hotel at center of lawsuit. The Associated Press's Tami Abdollah and Stephen Braun: "Lawyers for Maryland and the District of Columbia accused ... Trump in federal court Monday of 'profiting on an unprecedented scale' from foreign government interests using his Washington, D.C., hotel, but a Justice Department lawyer insisted Trump isn’t breaking the law because he provided no favors in return. ... U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte peppered lawyers for both sides over their arguments Monday, and had a particularly pointed exchange over Justice Department lawyer Brett Shumate’s view that emoluments required a clear, provable 'quid pro quo' — an exchange for an official action. 'Wouldn’t that be bribery?' Messitte countered. 'Another clause in the Constitution makes bribery a basis for impeachment. Are you saying that Congress could consent to bribery?' Shumate stood his ground, saying 'ultimately it’s a question for Congress to decide, whether to consent or not,' adding that there needs to be corrupt intent for bribery."
— The Post's Philip Bump takes a look at what U.S. trade with Canada looks like:
- The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee meets today and tomorrow.
- The Senate Banking Committee holds an executive session to vote on the nominations of Richard Clarida to be vice chairman of the Federal Reserve System and Michelle Bowman to be a member of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors.
- Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting testifies before the House Financial Services Committee tomorrow.
- House Appropriations Committee markup of defense and financial services appropriations bills for fiscal year 2019 tomorrow.
- House Financial Services Subcommittee hearing on securities law enforcement tomorrow.
- The House Small Business Committee holds a hearing on “The Impact of Category Management on the Small Business Industrial Base” tomorrow.
- The Brookings Institution holds an event on “Building a more dynamic and competitive economy” tomorrow.
- Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting appears before the Senate Banking Committee on June 14.
- The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on central banking and the regulatory state on June 18.
— From the New Yorker's Charles Barsotti: