Trump’s Presidency In Focus: Day 91

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Trump Policies Worries IMF, World Bank

World finance leaders are gathering on US President Donald Trump’s home turf yesterday to try to nudge his still-evolving policies away from protectionism and show broad support for open trade and global integration.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings bring the two multilateral institutions’ 189 members face-to-face with Trump’s “America First” agenda for the first time, just two blocks from the White House.

“These meetings will all be about Trump and the implications of his policies for the international agenda,” said Domenico Lombardi, a former IMF board official who is now with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a Canadian think-tank.

He added that IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde is aiming to “socialize” the new administration to the IMF’s agenda and influence its policy choices.

The IMF in particular has sounded warnings against Trump’s plans to shrink U.S. trade deficits with potential measures to restrict imports, arguing in its latest economic forecasts that protectionist policies would crimp global growth that is starting to gain traction.

Trump administration officials are now pushing back against such warnings by arguing that other countries are more protectionist than the United States.

Trump launched the week by signing an executive order to review “Buy American” public procurement rules that have long offered some exemptions under free trade agreements, and by lashing out at Canadian dairy restrictions.

In addition to warnings on trade, the IMF on Wednesday unveiled two studies pointing out dangers from fiscal proposals that Trump is considering. These included warnings that his tax reform ideas could fuel financial risk-taking and raise public debt enough to hurt growth.

Making tax reforms “in a way that does not increase the deficit is better for growth,” added IMF fiscal affairs director Vitor Gaspar.

The advice may simply be ignored, especially after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last month insisted that an anti-protectionism pledge be dropped from a Group of 20 communique issued in Baden-Baden, Germany, said Eswar Prasad, former head of the IMF’s China department

“The IMF has little leverage since its limited toolkit of analysis-based advice, persuasion, and peer pressure is unlikely to have much of an impact on this administration’s policies,” said Prasad, now an international trade professor at Cornell University.

Mnuchin’s decision against naming China a currency manipulator last week removed one concern for the IMF ahead of the meeting.

Lagarde also noted on Wednesday that the IMF would listen to all of its members, and work for “free and fair” trade. Lagarde is set to interview Mnuchin on stage during the meetings.

Revealed: Putin Drew-Up Plan To Sway US Election In Trump’s Favour

A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 US presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former US officials.

They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what US intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. US intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies after the election.

The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.

The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.

It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage US voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.

A second institute document, drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the US electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the seven officials said.

The current and former US officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the Russian documents’ classified status. They declined to discuss how the United States obtained them. USintelligence agencies also declined to comment on them.

Putin has denied interfering in the US election. Putin’s spokesman and the Russian institute did not respond to requests for comment.

The documents were central to the Obama administration’s conclusion that Russia mounted a “fake news” campaign and launched cyber-attacks against Democratic Party groups and Clinton’s campaign, the current and former officials said.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (not pictured) in Moscow’s Kremlin, Russia April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Pavel Golovkin/Pool

“Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map,” said one of the sources, a former senior U.S. intelligence official.

Trump has said Russia’s activities had no impact on the outcome of the race. Ongoing congressional and FBI investigations into Russian interference have so far produced no public evidence that Trump associates colluded with the Russian effort to change the outcome of the election.

Four of the officials said the approach outlined in the June strategy paper was a broadening of an effort the Putin administration launched in March 2016. That month the Kremlin instructed state-backed media outlets, including international platforms Russia Today and Sputnik news agency, to start producing positive reports on Trump’s quest for the U.S. presidency, the officials said.

Russia Today did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Sputnik dismissed the assertions by the U.S. officials that it participated in a Kremlin campaign as an “absolute pack of lies.” “And by the way, it’s not the first pack of lies we’re hearing from ‘sources in U.S. official circles’,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Russia Today and Sputnik published anti-Clinton stories while pro-Kremlin bloggers prepared a Twitter campaign calling into question the fairness of an anticipated Clinton victory, according to a report by U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian interference in the election made public in January.

Russia Today’s most popular Clinton video – “How 100% of the 2015 Clintons’ ‘charity’ went to … themselves” – accumulated 9 millions views on social media, according to the January report.

The report said Russia Today and Sputnik “consistently cast president elect-Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional media outlets.”

The report said the agencies did not assess whether Moscow’s effort had swung the outcome of the race in Trump’s favor, because American intelligence agencies do not “analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion.”

Trump Voters Will Get ‘Buyer’s Remorse’, Says Michael Moore

Michael Moore has said that he believes many Americans who voted for President Donald Trump will eventually get “buyer’s remorse”.

The term buyer’s remorse refers to a sense of regret experienced after making a purchase and is often associated with the consumption of an expensive item such as a flash car or a grand house.

The Oscar-winning documentary-maker, who has emerged as a leading critic of Mr Trump in the last year, argued people should not relinquish hope for their fellow American citizens.

Moore, who predicted Mr Trump would become US President in July of last year, also discussed the start of the Trump presidency. He questioned why the billionaire had not made a greater effort to reach out to Democrats that might be eager to help with some of his policies.

“It’s odd that [Mr Trump] hasn’t come in with an attitude of ‘why don’t I talk to the other side,’ because there’s certainly enough Democrats that would go along with some of this,” he said.

“He could use his ‘Art of the Deal’ persuasion to convince some of them to go along with him.

“Instead, he’s spent his first weeks in the White House being angry and sort of ‘I hate everybody, I’m going to fight everybody’. I’ve never seen such a sore winner.”

Moore previously positioned himself as a Bernie Sanders supporter, but following the news that Mr Sanders had dropped out, he announced he would vote for Hillary Clinton in order to keep Mr Trump out of the White House.

Moore, who has enjoyed a renaissance in recent months, has called on Americans to transform their anger at Mr Trump’s victory into action via protests and civil disobedience.

Last month he argued Mr Trump had just began the “extinction” of human life on Earth. He made the remarks in the wake of Mr Trump’s executive order that rolls back Obama-era rules directed at tackling global warming. The controversial order seeks to suspend, rescind or review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

“Historians in the near future (because that may be the only future we have) will mark today, March 28, 2017, as the day the extinction of human life on Earth began,” Moore said in a Facebook post.

Trumplomacy: US Raises Stakes Over Iran Nuclear Deal

In announcing a broad review of Iran policy the Trump administration has not jettisoned the nuclear deal.

But Rex Tillerson has come pretty close to saying the agreement is not worth keeping, even though he’s had to admit it’s working.

This week the secretary of state informed congress that Tehran is keeping its side of the bargain to restrict its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, which he’s required to confirm every 90 days.

In spoken remarks, though, he talked only of Iran’s bad behaviour and linked that to the future of the deal – a message that will resonate far more on Capitol Hill and to which it was probably aimed.

Former President Barack Obama would have agreed with all the charges: that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, that it supports proxies which undermine US interests in the region, that it’s hostile to Israel and that its ballistic missile tests challenge UN Security Council prohibitions.

But Mr Obama kept those issues separate from the nuclear agreement, which would have been impossible to achieve without that narrow focus.

Mr Tillerson, on the other hand, called this a mistaken approach and said the review would take a comprehensive look at all of the threats posed by Iran.

He also gave the deal itself short shrift.

He said it delayed rather than blocked Iran’s goal of becoming a nuclear state, ignoring arguments even by critics that it has reduced a significant security threat for now.

Iran, for its part, continues to deny it was ever trying to develop nuclear weapons.

And the secretary of state raised the stakes by bringing in comparisons to North Korea.

He dismissed the agreement as a short-term effort to “buy off a power who has nuclear ambitions” that would backfire in the long term, the kind of approach that he said failed with Pyongyang.

Indeed, “an unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea,” he said. “The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean it will “tear up” the deal, which was agreed with five other world powers.

More likely, it would pursue the strictest enforcement possible, in particular by increasing pressure on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In parallel, there is growing bipartisan support in Congress for additional sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile programme, human rights violations and support for terrorist groups.

Such an approach might not violate the letter of US commitments but could still jeopardize the agreement.

Tehran would almost certainly accuse the Trump administration of non-compliance and might eventually decide to withdraw.

Trump Stands, As He Promised Biggest Tax Cuts

President Donald Trump has wasted little time in shaking up how things are done in Washington – for better or worse – in his first few weeks in office.

Questions about what the Republican might do with his power and how he will shake up domestic and foreign policy are finally being answered.

From travel bans and border immigration plans to climate change and public safety, here is where he stands on key issues.

Mr Trump has promised the biggest tax cuts since the Ronald Reagan era. He has pledged reductions across-the-board, promising working and middle-income Americans “massive” cuts. His plan includes reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to three, cutting corporate taxes, eliminating the estate tax and increasing the standard deduction for individual filers.

According to one analysis, the top 1% of earners would see their income increase by double-digits, while the bottom quarter gets a boost of up to 1.9%. But the Center for a Responsible Budget has also warned his plan would balloon the national debt.

Venezuela State Oil Company Gave Cash For Trump Inauguration

Venezuela has donated $500,000 to US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, newly released records show.

Citgo Petroleum, a US-based subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, is named in papers filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The revelation comes as the Venezuelan economy appears to be crippled by food shortages, violent crime and inflation.

Two people were shot in protests on Wednesday as tens of thousands took to the streets to demand new elections

Other major corporations named in the documents include Pepsi and Walmart, which gave $250,000 and $150,000 respectively, while owners of NFL teams or their companies gave more than $5m includingCasino owner and billionaire Sheldon Adelson also gave $5m.

 

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