The Review, March 3, 2018: White House Takes Numerous Hits; Trump Becomes Unglued, Announces Major Tariffs

Trump announces tariffs (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

It was a wild week, ending with concerns that Trump is becoming “unglued”.

A week ago, in response to the Devin Nunes memo, Democrats released their counter memo disproving claims that a FISA search warrant was improperly obtained against Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

On Wednesday Trump lashed out at his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.   Trump complained that it was “disgraceful” that Sessions instructed the Inspector General, whom Trump termed “an Obama guy, to investigate alleged FISA search warrant abuse instead of using Department of Justice attorneys. In a rare turn from his impersonation of a door mat, Sessions publicly responded that he would perform his job “with integrity and honor”. The sentiment is appreciated, although it is probably too late for that.

On Tuesday Trump son-in-law and major advisor Jared Kushner lost his top-secret security clearance. 30 others in the White House also were denied their top-secret security clearances, which is likely to cause a fair amount of disruption. Without that clearance, Kushner cannot effectively participate in many high-level White House discussions. Trump could waive this requirement, although he would be lambasted for doing so. Later in the week, though, Trump asked his chief of staff John Kelly to help remove Kushner and his wife Ivanka from their official positions, although they would still remain as aides.

We may know why. Kushner desperately needs help refinancing his building at 666 Fifth Avenue, New York. 666 is, of course, the “mark of the beast” from the book of Revelation; you may draw your own conclusions.

The country of Qatar turned down Kushner’s request for financial help last spring. Subsequently, in a major change of policy, the U.S. supported a blockade of Qatar led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE – despite the U.S. having its largest military base in the Mideast in Qatar. Part of Jared’s portfolio has been the Middle East. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating.

In addition, at least four foreign countries have internally discussed how to manipulate Kushner given, among other things, his difficult financial position.

Then former model and White House Communications Director Hope Hicks resigned after she informed the Senate Intelligence Committee that she has to tell “white lies” for Trump as part of her job. You may be forgiven for thinking her role with Trump was similar to an airline emotional support animal.

On Wednesday we learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into Trump’s Russian business dealings prior to the 2016 election campaign, including potentially compromising information the Russians may have had regarding Trump.

On Thursday we learned that Trump was preparing to fire National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. One of the replacements could be John Bolton, who seems eager for military action against North Korea. But on Friday White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump was “not going anywhere”. One hopes that is true, given that McMaster has been one of the few “adults in the room” at the White House.

Also on Thursday, without consulting with his staff or government attorneys in advance, Trump announced 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% tariffs on aluminum imports into the U.S. from all foreign countries, including friends and allies. Such a move would be extremely likely to set off a trade war as foreign countries retaliated with their own tariffs. Major stock indices fell sharply. On Friday Trump said that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” although the history of trade wars shows exactly the opposite. The European Union immediately threatened retaliation. Trump responded with a threat to raise taxes on European cars.

Trump’s tariff decision was reportedly due to anger over Hope Hicks’ testimony, actions by his Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner’s loss of his top-secret security clearance. Even Trump allies expressed concern that Trump is out of control, with one calling it “pure madness”.

Of course, the question, as with all things Trump, is whether he will really proceed with the tariffs. The U.S. business community is certain to push back hard. Let’s hope they succeed.

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