From NATO Antics to a Pelosi Rebuff: Highlights of This Week

As of this post, only 332 days remain until the 2020 Election. Almost certainly, the days and weeks leading up to it will be filled with eyebrow-raisers that far overshadow the fundraisers. Here are just a few of the events that happened this week.

On Monday, in retaliation against France’s new digital services tax, the Trump Administration announced a proposal to levy tariffs on up to $2.4 billion worth of French imports. The French tax is aimed at preventing tech giants from avoiding taxes when they place their headquarters in low-tax countries in Europe. It would impact companies whose yearly global sales exceed 750 million Euros ($830 million) and French earnings over 25 million Euros. Such American companies as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, would be affected, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative called it “discrimination” against American companies.

Trump also attended the NATO summit this week, and what stands out most, at least for Tuesday, is not the official discussions or negotiations, but an informal chat. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught on video mocking Trump in an exchange with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Later, during a press conference, Trudeau didn’t comment directly on whether he had mocked Trump, but tried to explain that he had been making a reference to the fact that “there was an unscheduled press conference (for Trump)” before his meeting with Trump.

Trump responded to Trudeau’s remarks about him with, “Well, he’s two faced.”

Also on Tuesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris announced that she was ending her campaign for the 2020 election.

“I’m not a billionaire,” Harris said, explaining her decision to withdraw. “I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it has become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete. In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do.”

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held an 8 1/2-hour public hearing featuring three legal scholars and one Constitutional expert, each of whom provided testimony as to whether Trump committed bribery and other impeachable offenses by allegedly conditioning military aid to Ukraine, as well as a White House visit, on a public announcement by Ukraine’s new President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of investigations into Trump’s political rivals.

The three legal scholars, Stanford University professor Pamela S. Karlan, Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, and University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt, all chosen by Democrats, testified that, yes, Trump had committed impeachable offenses, and that he had obstructed Congress.

Constitutional expert Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University professor called by the GOP (though he noted that he had not voted for Trump), disagreed, saying that if impeachment were to take place in this case, it “would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.”

Gerhard, however, testified, “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that House committee chairs will begin drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump.

“The president’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution, especially when he says and acts upon the belief, Article II says I can do whatever I want. No, his wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution, a separation of powers, three co-equal branches, each a check and balance on the other,” said Pelosi.

Many believe that impeachment is almost certain, though a vote to remove Trump from office is unlikely in the Republican-led Senate.

Republicans hold that Democrats want to impeach Trump simply because they “hate” him. When asked by a journalist if she hated Trump, Nancy Pelosi responded, “As a Catholic I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me … So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

Trump calls Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” after NATO hot mic gaffe | CBS News [2019-12-04]

Rep. Biggs pushes back on Pelosi’s impeachment announcement |
Fox News [2019-12-05]

U.S. Will Feel Trump’s New Tariffs on Chinese Goods

Donald Trump has levied additional tariffs on China, after recent trade talks between the U.S. and China ended with no deal. On Friday, May 10, Trump raised tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of products imported from China.

Trump maintains that the new tariffs will mainly cost China, not the U.S. “The tariffs paid to the U.S.A. have had little impact on product cost, mostly borne by China,” he tweeted. 

“Our country can take in $120 billion a year in tariffs, paid for mostly by China, by the way, not by us,” Trump said. “A lot of people try to steer it in a different direction. Ultimately it’s paid for largely by China.”

Many economists disagree, however.

Even White House Chief Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow essentially disagreed with Trump during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday. When questioned about the new tariffs, Kudlow admitted that the increased tariffs will not only have consequences for the Chinese, but also for U.S. consumers and businesses.

“It’s not China that pays the tariffs, it’s the American importers, the American companies that pay what, in effect, is a tax increase and often passes it off to U.S. consumers,” probed Wallace.

“Fair enough,” responded Kudlow. “In fact, both sides will pay… The Chinese will suffer GDP losses and so forth…”

“[China] may suffer consequences, but it’s U.S. consumers and businesses who pay, correct?” Asked Wallace.

“Yes, to some extent,” Kudlow said. “I don’t disagree with that.”

According to experts from Princeton and Columbia Universities, as well as experts from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the tariffs imposed on China in 2018 have already increased American consumer costs by $1.4 billion per month.

Additionally, that round of tariffs on crops such as corn and soybeans that are exported to China made those markets for corn and soybeans difficult or impossible for many farmers. Tariffs on steel and aluminum have increased the prices of farm machinery, as well as appliances.

Meanwhile, business owners and manufacturers are preparing for the impact of the newer, steeper tariffs. At 25 percent, the new tariffs will have a deeper and wider impact on the prices of goods in the U.S., from finished goods imported from China, to imported raw materials and finished goods made with those raw materials in the U.S.

“The latest round of tariffs will add another $500 a year in costs for the average American household…And that could grow,” says economics professor Katheryn Ross of the University of California at Davis. 

Indeed, Trump continues his threat to broaden tariffs to apply to all Chinese imports.

What Trump’s trade war with China means for American consumers | 
PBS NewsHour [2019-05-13]

Larry Kudlow on rising tensions and Trump’s China strategy |
Fox News [2019-05-12]