“It’s upped the ante and increased the public focus on what the House is up to, but the underlining inquiries are still proceeding as they have,” Chris DeLacy, a counsel to former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) who now heads the political law group at Holland & Knight, tells me. “It probably won’t change the mechanics about how a subpoena would be issued and dealt with by the courts.”
The Trump team is fighting in court to block Democratic requests on a number of fronts. Among them, the president is trying to shoot down an effort by the House Ways and Means Committee to force the Internal Revenue Service to turn over his tax returns. And Trump is attempting to stop Deutsche Bank, Capitol One and accounting firm Mazars USA from producing his personal and business financial records — including, at least in the case of Deutsche Bank, some of his tax returns.
(The Manhattan district attorney is separately seeking eight years of Trump's tax returns as part of its investigation into alleged hush-money payments Trump made to two women; the judge in that case just stayed the subpoena and gave the Justice Department until Monday to decide whether it wants to intervene, my colleagues Renae Merle and Deanna Paul report.)
Pelosi has charged six committees with presenting the findings of their investigations so House Democrats can assemble their best case for impeachment. But the House leader seems inclined to keep the scope of the impeachment inquiry narrowly focused on Ukraine: "Pelosi told colleagues that keeping the inquiry narrowly focused on Ukraine allegations could also help keep the overall impeachment process out of the courts, where a slew of other investigative matters have been bogged down for months. They did not rule out ultimately including other issues in drafting articles of impeachment," report my colleagues Philip Rucker, Rachael Bade and Robert Costa.
House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), whose panel has been seeking records from the banks and Mazars, takes the more expansive view. “I understand that all of the chairs of the six committees will be involved in basically coming up with what should be articles of impeachment based on the work that we have been doing,” she said in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday, before Pelosi seemed to solidfy her approach.
“Some will have more to say about what those articles should be based on the work that they have been doing, some will say less. And we will agree basically what those articles should be based on our experiences that we've had with our investigations. And that will be what the Judiciary Committee will be working with.”
But leadership’s preferred timeline for action could end up superseding the court fights. “You've got a time issue here, definitely,” DeLacy says, “and there are conflicting reports about whether this is going to be fast or a long, drawn-out exercise.”
Representatives for the Financial Services and Ways and Means committees didn't respond to requests for comment.
There is some dispute among lawyers about whether formally launching the impeachment gives Democrats more power to compel the administration to cough up records. Per Reuters’s Jan Wolfe: “Past court decisions make clear that Congress has a stronger claim to documents and testimony when it is conducting an impeachment investigation, rather than asserting its traditional oversight powers,” citing Frank Bowman, a University of Missouri law professor who wrote a book on impeachment.
Others said just declaring a number of already launched probes now constitute an impeachment inquiry — without voting on a resolution to authorize it — confers no new legal authority. “Without that vote — is it an impeachment inquiry?” McDermott Will & Emery lawyer Sam Dewey tells CNN’s Katelyn Pomerantz. “Pelosi can say it, but just because she says it, I’m not sure what that means.”
— Stock market shrugs off impeachment. The Post's Heather Long: "This is a political moment for the country, not an economic one, many analysts say. Stocks fell a bit Tuesday as news of the decision by [Pelosi] broke (the Dow Jones industrial average lost about 142 points, or about 0.5 percent, by the end of the day), but the market rebounded Wednesday (the Dow ended up 163)."
History suggested no correlation between the process and the market's performance. As this JPMorgan chart notes, the market rose during President Bill Clinton's impeachment:
Stocks fell as Nixon's presidency unraveled, but then, as Heather notes, "markets were a lot more focused in 1973 and 1974 on skyrocketing oil prices that tipped the U.S. economy into a recession." Via LPL Financial:
Now, investors are far more focused on the U.S.-China trade war. And by at least one line of thinking, a defensive Trump could be more likely to strike a deal, as Heather explains: "The thinking goes like this: The Chinese could perceive Trump as weak, making this a moment to try to push for something quick and puny. Trump’s words Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly were aimed at fueling that thesis and pushing the market higher."
— The even bigger picture: Global gloom strengthens the dollar. Bloomberg's John Auther: "The situation isn’t as positive for U.S. assets as it might first appear. Investors have been in a defensive crouch for a while. That means putting money into safer havens, which means a net flow of money into the U.S. The latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch global survey of fund managers found a classic “risk-off” asset allocation, with investors overweight in traditional havens, such as cash and bonds – and heavy exposure to the U.S. is now part of the risk-off menu...
"In this situation, the dollar benefits even if the country is about to tear itself apart in a presidential impeachment. The dollar spot index, which measures the greenback against other developed market currencies, is now at roughly its highest levels since the earliest days of the Trump presidency, and comfortably ahead of its long-term trend."
— NY Fed boosts repo infusions. WSJ's Daniel Kruger: "The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Wednesday it would increase the size of scheduled operations to provide short-term cash loans to financial firms. The Fed said it would increase the size of overnight cash loans offered Thursday through the market for repurchase agreements, or repos, to $100 billion from $75 billion, while doubling the size of a two-week offering Thursday to $60 billion.
"Banks asked the Fed for about $92 billion in overnight reserves Wednesday, offering collateral in the form of Treasury and mortgage securities, compared with the $75 billion provided by the central bank."
Big banks dominance of the overnight market for cash loans is complicating the problem, Kruger writes: "Activity in the market for repurchase agreements, or repos, where banks and investors seek more than a trillion dollars in cash loans every day, has increasingly concentrated at large banks. When those banks hoard reserves, it can drive borrowing costs higher for smaller firms."
— U.S., Japan reached limited deal: “The United States and Japan have struck a limited trade deal that will cut tariffs on agricultural and industrial products as well as provide rules for digital trade,” Politico’s Adam Behsudi reports. The agreement was announced by Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
“Japan agreed to cut or eliminate tariffs on beef, pork and other commodities on a level similar to what Tokyo agreed to in the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade deal that the president withdrew from during his early days in office. The deal could provide some badly needed relief to U.S. farmers who have been hit hard by Trump’s trade fight with China.”
- What it means for dairy: “Dairy-state Democrats have raised concerns that the new deal won’t benefit milk producers as much as the original TPP would have. The official said the U.S.-Japan agreement offers the same access as the 11-nation pact for more than 80 percent of dairy products.”
- What about the auto tariffs: “‘While faithfully implementing these agreements, both nations will refrain from taking measures against the spirit of these agreements and this Joint Statement,’ a joint statement reads. “Tokyo interprets that sentence, along with Trump’s remarks made in the meeting with Abe, as enough assurance that the U.S. won’t pursue auto tariffs as long as the agreement is ‘faithfully implemented,’ a Japanese official said.”
- Other details: “According to a U.S. fact sheet, Japan will reduce tariffs on beef and pork; provide a country-specific import quota for wheat and wheat products; and immediately eliminate tariffs on almonds, walnuts, blueberries, cranberries, sweet corn, grain sorghum, broccoli and other U.S. farm goods.”
- The digital aspects: “The digital trade provisions will prohibit customs duties on digitally transmitted videos, music, software and other products. It would also prohibit barriers to cross-border data flows and prevent data localization requirements, the U.S. said in the fact sheet.”
— WTO rules U.S. can tariff EU over Airbus aid. Bloomberg's Bryce Baschuk, Jonathan Stearns, and Shawn Donnan: "The World Trade Organization will authorize the U.S. to impose tariffs on nearly $8 billion of European goods due to illegal state aid provided to aircraft maker Airbus SE, according to people familiar with the decision, a move that will likely trigger retaliatory measures from the European Union.
"The U.S. duties, which could hit as soon as October, will target planes and parts as well as luxury products, such as wine and spirits like Dom Perignon and Moet & Chandon -- and leather goods under labels such as Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, according to a list published by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office."
- No big macro impact. From Beacon Policy Advisors: "While the dollar amounts involved with these tariffs are not quantitatively significant from a macroeconomic perspective, they are qualitatively significant in terms of the trajectory of US-EU trade tensions, particularly in light of [Trump’s] self-created mid-November deadline to determine whether to impose auto tariffs on the EU."
— Trump closes NYC trip with two fundraisers. AP's Deb Riechmann: "Wednesday night’s fundraiser was at the home of John Paulson, who runs a New York-based investment firm he founded in the mid-1990s. According to Forbes magazine, Paulson has a net worth of more than $4 billion. Paulson also was one of Trump’s economic advisers during his 2016 Republican campaign for president.
"The event Paulson hosted was expected to raise an estimated $5 million, while a breakfast fundraiser on Thursday, before Trump heads back to Washington, was likely to take in about $3 million, according to a Republican familiar with the fundraisers."
— Juul CEO is out: “E-cigarette maker Juul Labs, at the center of a public uproar over a surge in youth vaping, said that its chief executive officer is stepping down and will be succeeded by a top official from Altria Group, a part-owner of Juul,” my colleague Laurie McGinley reports.
“Juul also said it was immediately suspending all product advertising in the United States, including its ‘Make the Switch’ campaign that has drawn fire from the Food and Drug Administration for making safety claims for its products, and will refrain from lobbying on a planned ban on flavored vaping products recently announced by President Trump. In another sign of the vaping fallout, Altria and Philip Morris International said they had ended merger talks."
- This is a critical time for the industry: “The sudden developments underscore the concerns prompted by continued increases in underage e-cigarette use and growing alarm over a mysterious lung ailment linked to vaping that has stricken at least 530 people, nine of whom have died. Officials said Tuesday that they still don’t know the cause.”
— GM and UAW making progress in talks: “General Motors Co and the union that represents its 48,000 striking hourly workers in the United States have made progress in talks toward a new labor deal but are grappling with issues over the pay and job security of newer and temporary workers, two people familiar with the talks [told Reuters],” Reuters’s Ben Klayman reports.
“United Auto Workers (UAW) Vice President Terry Dittes told union members in a statement issued late in the day that ‘all unsettled proposals are now at the Main Table and have been presented to General Motors.’ ”
— How did people miss the ball on WeWork?: “The whole WeWork debacle, from the botched IPO to the removal this week of Adam Neumann as CEO, may have been avoided if SoftBank had simply valued the company more like a real-estate business and less like a high-growth tech company,” CNBC’s Alex Sherman reports. “So how did SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and his lieutenants decide WeWork was worth $47 billion, a number public market investors viewed as nearly four times too high?”
“The answer is a combination of abounding optimism from Son, SoftBank president Ron Fisher and Vision Fund chief Rajeev Misra, and the elimination of dissenting viewpoints around Son, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the valuation discussions were private. A spokesperson at SoftBank declined to comment.”
- JPMorgan was a Neumann's "most critical enabler," the NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin writes: "JPMorgan has been one of its most ardent backers for years, working multiple sides. It lent Mr. Neumann money personally (with his inflated shares as collateral), provided equity and debt for the company, served as a corporate adviser for the I.P.O. and secured nearly $6 billion in financing as part of the now scotched offering. If there was one institution best placed to fully understand the various conflicts of Mr. Neumann, it was JPMorgan."
— eBay CEO steps down: “Devin Wenig, eBay’s president and chief executive, has resigned as the online retailer pursues an extensive review of its business and weighs whether to sell more of its assets, the company announced,” my colleague Taylor Telford reports.
“Wenig, a former Reuters CEO, joined eBay in 2011 and had held the top job since July 2015. The company’s chief financial officer, Scott Schenkel, will serve as interim CEO while the board searches for a permanent replacement … He did not elaborate on the differences.”
— Vox acquires New York magazine: “The merging of large media companies often fans anxiety around declining print subscriptions, the pressure for online clicks and the competition that social media poses to mainstream news outlets,” my colleague Rachel Siegel reports.
“But Vox Media and New York Media are attempting to tell a different story: a partnership driven by shared ambition instead of mere survival … Vox announced it was acquiring New York Media in an all-stock transaction that combines their print, digital and podcast platforms. It’s a strategy media experts say could work because of the similarities in Vox and New York Media’s online brands. And if executives can keep their promise and avoid editorial layoffs, analysts say, the combination would stand apart from other media mergers that hollow out their ranks to meet financial targets.”
MONEY ON THE HILL
— House passes marijuana banking bill: “A measure to protect financial institutions that service cannabis companies passed the House in a bipartisan vote, U.S. News and World Report's Claire Hansen writes, "becoming the first standalone marijuana reform bill to ever clear a chamber of Congress."
“The legislation, if ultimately made into law, would protect financial institutions and ancillary firms that serve marijuana businesses from criminal prosecution and other consequences — a long-awaited move that would provide stability and security to the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry. The measure, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019, passed the chamber by a vote of 321-103. Nearly all Democrats backed the bill as did 91 Republicans. It required a two-thirds majority to pass because it was voted on under a procedure that suspends House rules — a move that allows bills that enjoy broad but not unanimous support to be voted on quickly.”
The vote represents a turning point, Politico's Zachary Warmbrodt writes: "The Republican turnout for the bill is stark evidence that the politics around cannabis are rapidly shifting after 33 states — and likely more to come — have legalized marijuana in some form. Long-running stigmas around pot are fading as cannabis becomes increasingly entrenched in local economies. 'The genie is out of the bottle,' said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who led efforts to build the bill’s Republican coalition even as he remains opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana... Trump has sent positive signals and is not expected to stand in the way."
— As minimum wage rises in New York, employment hasn't suffered. The minimum wage increase New York is phasing in doesn't appear to be having an effect on employment right across the border in Pennsylvania, a new study by the New York Fed finds. Via the NYT's Jeanna Smialek:
- Accenture, Conagra and Carnival are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger.
- The Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on abusive debt collection practices.
- The Financial Services’ Task Force on Technology holds a hearing on real-time payments.
- The Chief Economist of the American Farm Bureau Federation speaks at an event at the National Economist Club.