Browsing the blog archives for March, 2017.


Trump Threatens Freedom Caucus, and Other News

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Trump Maladministration

The so-called president intends to make good on his threat to “go after” Freedom Caucus members who thwarted him on the health care bill —

Trump’s threat to “fight them” in the 2018 elections was an extraordinary step. Trump had previously made electoral threats against wayward members of his party, but Thursday’s tweet was especially direct, threatening to treat them the same way as Democrats.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump tweeted. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” …

…Finding Trump supporters to challenge Republicans in a primary would be hard and could further thrust the GOP into civil war.

To which I say, boo. And hoo.

The New York Times has identified two White House officials who gave intelligence reports to the nearly toasted Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment.

Mr. Cohen-Watnick is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who was originally brought to the White House by Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser. The officials said that earlier this month, shortly after Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter about being wiretapped on the orders of President Barack Obama, Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials.

Officials said the reports consisted primarily of ambassadors and other foreign officials talking about how they were trying to develop contacts within Mr. Trump’s family and inner circle in advance of his inauguration.

The problem is that Nunes has denied his sources worked in the White House; see Aaron Blake at WaPo.

Elsewhere — Jared Kushner is Trump’s Guy who is charged with running government like a business. But according to a former employee, Kushner can’t run a business like a business.

Paul Waldman tells us that Mike Pence is terrified of women. He should be, and so should Sam Brownback.

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Unpresidented

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Trump Maladministration

The so-called president approval rating has fallen to 35 percent  in the Gallup daily tracking poll, equal to Lyndon Johnson in August 1968.

But LBJ had actually, you know, done stuff. The war in Vietnam seemed out of control, and his apparent lack of a plan for the war had pissed off both hawks and doves, and even Walter Cronkite. He’d been barred from attending the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The nation was reeling from various riots and assassinations. And so on. It was a rough time.

But with Trump, nothing has happened except for his own screwups. Trump dropped to 35 percent by being Trump.

Ronald Reagan also sank to 35 percent at the beginning of 1983, and obviously he recovered from that. At the beginning of 1983 people did not like the way Reagan was handling the economy. His big, splashy tax cuts — notably the “Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981” — hadn’t brought about the promised recovery. However, Gallup says,

His ratings moved back above 50% by November 1983 — not only because the economy was picking up, but also in part as a result of rally effects associated with the U.S. invasion of Grenada and the terrorist explosion that killed 241 American Marines in Beirut, Lebanon.

A sensible nation would have booted Reagan out of office for the invasion of Grenada and the slaughter of those Marines  — Ronald Reagan’s Benghazi. It’s possible we had already passed a point off no return into Crazy Land at that point.

But my point is that Trump appears to be sinking to a point of no return himself. He’s hit the lowest approval rating from which any POTUS has ever recovered. None have ever come back from 34 percent or lower. Note that Trump’s White House staff isn’t nearly as competent as Reagan’s, plus Donnie lacks Ronnie’s people skills.

Now for today’s oopsie: The geniuses in the Trump Brain Trust have realized that much of the border with Mexico is marked by a river. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke revealed that this poses a problem

“The border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall,” he said. “The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”

— Wait, what? Does that mean they think they can build the wall on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande? Zinke didn’t specifically say that, this headline to the contrary. But if they don’t want to build it on the U.S. side, and they don’t want to build it down the middle of the bleeping river — where the hell else do they think they can put it?

Tune in soon for another episode of How Low Can He Go, or You Can’t Make This Shit Up.

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On the Road

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Trump Maladministration

I am traveling and visiting family, which is why I have been scarce. I will be back in the groove tomorrow. Behave!

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Trump’s Day of Reckoning

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Congress, Trump Maladministration

Charles Pierce, today:

The Rules Committee of the House of Representatives met shortly after dawn on Friday to try and set up a process by which Paul Ryan’s tax-cut plan could pass the full House at some point later in the day. On Thursday, after everything fell apart, the president* sent the head counselors at Camp Runamuck down to the Capitol to tell recalcitrant Republicans that what they had before them was his take-it-or-leave-it offer and that, if they chose not to pass it, then 24 million Americans wouldn’t lose their health insurance, get sick, go broke and/or die. The president* is betting that Republicans in Congress don’t want that on their consciences.

So they’re going to attempt another vote today on an Obamacare replacement bill that’s been rewritten so many times the Congressional Budget Office can’t keep up. As I wrote yesterday, Trump tried to get the Freedom Caucus on board by letting them make changes that made the whole thing even worse, but even that failed to close the deal. So, Trump-style, the so-called president told Congress that if they didn’t pass their bill today, they’d never get another chance at it and Obamacare would have to remain on the books.

Such a deal-maker, this guy. James Hohmann wrote,

 If you read Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal,” substituting “contractors” for “conservatives,” the president’s ultimatum to House Republicans on health care is not at all surprising. “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off your back,” Trump wrote in the 1987 business classic.

As a businessman, Trump bragged about his ability to drive a hard bargain to win favorable terms and make lots of money. “I also protect myself by being flexible,” he explained. “I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. … I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.”

One theme he kept coming back to is that you’ve got to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are. Trump recalled a 1981 meeting with the attorney general and the head of gaming enforcement for New Jersey in which he threatened to walk away from Atlantic City – despite already making huge investments on the Boardwalk there – if he didn’t get certain concessions.

He described the pitch: “Much as I wanted to build a great casino on the great site I’d assembled, I said, I have a very successful real estate business in New York and I was more than willing to walk away from Atlantic City if the regulatory process proved to be too difficult or too time-consuming. The bottom line, I concluded, was that I didn’t intend to invest any more money – or to begin any construction – until I got a decision one way or the other on my licensing.”

The problem, of course, is that a president has absolutely no authority — or “leverage,” as they say — to stop the House from passing any dadblamed bill it wants to pass. Sure, he could eventually veto it. But if sometime down the road Congress managed to pass an ACA replacement bill that nearly all Republicans and a couple of Democrats actually liked — a long shot, I realize — those same Republicans could do Trump a world of political hurt if he vetoed the thing.

But of course, it’s possible a sufficient number of House Republicans are too stupid to realize all that, and seriously think OMG if we don’t vote yes today Obamacare will be the law of the land forever!

The Koch boys are adding to the generally merriment by promising candy and flowers to Republican reps who vote no.

Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, the two political action hubs of the Koch donor network, announced Wednesday night that they had a “seven-figure fund” ready to help Republicans who reject the American Health Care Act.

The fund will supplement an ongoing online campaign that’s thanking lawmakers who’ve promised to oppose the bill, which they say retains too many elements of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“In seven years, we have never wavered in our commitment to a full repeal of this disastrous law,” AFP President Tim Phillips said in a statement. “We want to make certain that lawmakers understand the policy consequences of voting for a law that keeps Obamacare intact. We have a history of following up and holding politicians accountable, but we will also be there to support and thank the champions who stand strong and keep their promise.”

One suspects that wavering congress critters are getting a lot of phone calls today, and not just from their constituents.

Politico is saying the vote today is too close to call. I am making no predictions. If it passes, the Senate is likely to take it apart and rewrite it anyway. And if it fails, that certainly doesn’t mean the danger is over. But failing would make the so-called president look very, very weak.

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Trump’s Out of Political Capital Already

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Trump Maladministration

Too bad for the so-called president that he can’t borrow political capital from his friends in the Russian mob, because he appears to be running low. This happened today:

Conservative House Republicans rebuffed an offer by President Trump Thursday to strip a key set of mandates from the nation’s current health care law, raising doubts about whether House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has the votes to pass the bill.

Trump met at the White House with the most conservative House Republicans, hoping to close a deal that would help ensure passage of the party’s health-care plan by shifting it even further to the right. But the session ended with no clear resolution, and some lawmakers said they needed more concessions before they would back the bill.

Apparently the bill is still being rewritten even as Paul Ryan is trying to get the House to vote on it today.  And why is today so gosh-darn important? Because today is the seventh anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. [Update: No vote today. They’ll try again tomorrow.]

House Republicans have been working to gut the bill even further from the version that the CBO said would cut 24 million people off from getting health care. But word is that there are enough Senate Republicans worried about their future re-election campaigns that such a bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

Greg Sargent wrote a couple of days ago:

The fate of the GOP health plan appears to hang in the balance, with GOP leaders still struggling to find the votes to pass it in the House. There is widespread disagreement both about the bill and its prospects for passage. But one thing appears to be widely agreed upon: President Trump has now “taken ownership” of this bill.

Yet Trump’s ownership of the GOP plan is not having the desired effect. It doesn’t appear to be moving many Republicans — indeed, GOP critics of it appear to be hardening in their opposition — and a new poll out this morning finds that support for it is dropping.

Possibly even Republicans can find the daily Gallup tracking poll showing approval for Trump slowly deflating like an old tire — he’s now consistently in the high 30s rather than the low 40s — and a new Quinnipiac poll finds substantial majorities of Americans could not say Trump is honest, has good leadership skills, or cares about most Americans. A majority still finds him intelligent, however, which means there are a few more scales to fall from a lot more eyes.

Perhaps they hadn’t yet read the latest Time magazine interview of Trump, in which he comes across as a spoiled 12-year-old, and a not very bright one at that. It’s so bad that after a few paragraphs I had to double-check it wasn’t a spoof. See also 9 bonkers things Donald Trump said in his new exclusive interview with Time.

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Where There’s Trump, There’s … Russian Mobsters

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Trump Maladministration

So it turns out Trump Tower was under surveillance by the FBI. But this wasn’t ordered by President Obama. It wasn’t a wiretap of Trump’s suite. And it ended in 2013. But, hey

For two years ending in 2013, the FBI had a court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on a sophisticated Russian organized crime money-laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower in New York.

The FBI investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Known as the “Little Taiwanese,” he was the only target to slip away, and he remains a fugitive from American justice.

But that doesn’t mean Trump was involved. Oh, wait …

Seven months after the April 2013 indictment and after Interpol issued a red notice for Tokhtakhounov, he appeared near Donald Trump in the VIP section of the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Trump had sold the Russian rights for Miss Universe to a billionaire Russian shopping mall developer.

That could be a coincidence …

ABC News conducted a review of hundreds of pages of property records and reported in September that Trump-branded developments catered to large numbers of Russian buyers, including several who had brushes with the law. Russian buyers were particularly drawn to Trump licensed condo towers in Hollywood, Florida, and Sunny Isles. Local real estate agents credited the Russian migration for turning the coastal Miami-area community into what they called Little Moscow.

Well, okay, that’s a whole lot of coincidence.

Josh Marshall wrote,

When you start piecing together the Trump story, basically everywhere you look, whether it’s residents in his Trump-branded buildings, or his business associates or investors in his projects, Trump is – there’s simply no other way to put it – tied up with it not just Russians but in many cases Russians tied to the criminal underworld and money laundering.

People still remember when Trump joked that he could shoot a guy dead on 5th Avenue and still keep his supporters on Team Trump. Well, one of his tenants, Eduard Nektalov, a diamond dealer from Uzbekistan, actually was shot to death in broad daylight on 6th Avenue in a gangland assassination. He was reported cooperating at the time with the Feds. …

…As I told someone yesterday, sometimes it’s helpful to clear away any suggestion of geopolitical or intelligence shenanigans from the Trump story and see what’s left. What’s left is a guy who almost lost everything and then clawed his way back with a lot of pretty unsavory money. Look at Trump, any of his business partnerships and really anything else and you keep finding Russians with tons of money and frequent attention from the FBI. The idea that Trump associates may have connived with a Russian intelligence operation against the US electoral process is such a shocking and singular possibility that it tends to obscure this pretty shocking set of facts that are pretty much in plain view.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there’s Trump, there’s Russian mobsters.

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The Western Wildfires

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Trump Maladministration

I don’t watch television news much, so I hadn’t heard about the wildfires on the prairies until I read this article in the New York Times yesterday.

Death comes with raising cattle: coyotes, blizzards and the inevitable trip to the slaughterhouse and dinner plate. But after 30 years of ranching, Mark and Mary Kaltenbach were not ready for what met them after a wildfire charred their land and more than one million acres of rain-starved range this month.

Dozens of their Angus cows lay dead on the blackened ground, hooves jutting in the air. Others staggered around like broken toys, unable to see or breathe, their black fur and dark eyes burned, plastic identification tags melted to their ears. Young calves lay dying.

Ranching families across this countryside are now facing an existential threat to a way of life that has sustained them since homesteading days: years of cleanup and crippling losses after wind-driven wildfires across Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle killed seven people and devoured homes, miles of fences and as much as 80 percent of some families’ cattle herds.

But for many, the first job after the fire passed was loading a rifle.

“We did what had to be done,” Mr. Kaltenbach, 69, said. “They’re gentle. They know us. We know them. You just thought, ‘Wow, I am sorry.’”

“You think you’re done,” he said, “and the next day you got to go shoot more.”

These are not big agribusiness corporate type cattle ranchers, but what remains of the old family-owned ranches that began in the 19th century. A lot of the families have at least one member with a “regular” job to make ends meet. The wildfires have burned 2 million acres, an area larger than the state of Delaware, it says here.

And I felt sad for this guy:

Beyond the toll of the fire, a frustration also crops up in conversation after conversation. Ranchers said they felt overlooked amid the tumult in Washington, and were underwhelmed by the response of a new president who had won their support in part by promising to champion America’s “forgotten men and women.”

“This is the country that elected Donald Trump,” said Garth Gardiner, driving a pickup across the 48,000-acre Angus beef ranch he runs with his two brothers. They lost about 500 cows in the fires. “I think he’d be doing himself a favor to come out and visit us.”

Mr. Gardiner voted for Mr. Trump, and said he just wanted to hear a presidential mention of the fires amid Mr. Trump’s tweets about the rapper Snoop Dogg, the East Coast blizzard and the rudeness of the press corps.

“Two sentences would go a long way,” Mr. Gardiner said.

One suspects the so-called president has forgotten them already. I did some searching and cannot find that Trump has yet addressed the wildfire situation, although he was quick to criticize President Obama last November for not speaking up quickly about the wildfires in Tennessee that devastated Gatlinburg.

So far the people affected by the fires have received little word about government aid, although farmers in other states and some farm organizations have sent hay, fencing and other supplies to the burned areas.

“This is our Hurricane Katrina,” Mr. Sawyers said. The political response to the fires convinced him that Washington, even with an administration supported by 83 percent of Clark County voters in the election, was still “out of touch and didn’t care about us.”

“None of them are worth a damn, Republicans or Democrats,” he said.

If there actually are any elected Democrats representing the folks in the burned areas, I’d suggest they get their butts in gear and try to do something. However, I suspect we’re looking at all Republicans — and climate change deniers as well.

Still, it does seem odd that I’m seeing only a little reporting on this. Maybe there’s more about it on television, but it’s not reflected on the Web. Rural America really is invisible.

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What About Those Hearings, Huh?

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Trump Maladministration

I didn’t get to watch, but I just read Josh Marshall’s rundown on what we know and what we don’t. See also Martin Longman’s look at why the Republicans at the hearings were obsessing over Michael Flynn.

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Health Insurance Is a Racket

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Trump Maladministration

People who get insurance through their jobs often think the premiums deducted from their paychecks are the entire cost of their insurance.  Or, they might dimly understand that their employer chips in part of the cost, too.

But the reality is something else entirely.

This guy explains it pretty well. Note that he’s talking about his own employee benefit health insurance:

My family’s generous health insurance costs about $20,000 a year, of which we pay only $4,000 in premiums. The rest is subsidized by taxpayers. You read that right. Like virtually everyone else on my block who isn’t old enough for Medicare or employed by the government, my family is covered by private health insurance subsidized by taxpayers at a stupendous public cost. Well over 90% of white households earning over the white median income (about $75,000) carried health insurance even before the Affordable Care Act. White socialism is nice if you can get it.

Companies can deduct the cost of their employees’ health insurance while employees are not required to report that benefit as income. That results in roughly a $400 billion annual transfer of funds from state and federal treasuries to insurers to provide coverage for the Americans least in need of assistance.

This has been going on since the post World War II years, and because The System hides the real cost of insurance from most Americans, they have no idea how expensive it really is.

There’s a thing called the Milliman Medical Index that figures out how much health insurance costs. “In 2016, the cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four covered by an average employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan is $25,826,” the Milliman Medical Index says. And this was the lowest increase in premium cost they’ve seen for many years. The lowest, mind you.

So how come everyone was squawking about insurance going up last year? Milliman noted that employees share of cost took a leap last year, pushing up their health care paycheck deductions while employers gave themselves a break. If you were paying for private insurance purchased on an exchange, I understand that the insurance companies decided to crank up their prices for this year because they’d been lowballing in previous years.

In other words, Obamacare didn’t do anything to make insurance more expensive. This was the insurance companies’ doing, or your employer, or both.

It gets better. It’s hard to find anyone who actually likes the Republican’s Obamacare replacement plan. But the plan has one enthusiastic supporter — Anthem, the country’s second largest insurer. Here’s why.

Anthem, which is based in Indiana, is already the largest insurer in California, Kentucky, Virginia and elsewhere. Two years ago, its chief executive, Joseph Swedish, made a big bet. He decided to put public pressure on Cigna, another major insurer, to accept a merger. Eventually, Swedish succeeded, and Anthem agreed to pay $48 billion to buy its rival.

But the Obama administration’s Justice Department filed suit against the merger, arguing that it would force consumers to pay higher prices. Last month, a federal judge agreed and blocked the merger. Cigna isn’t happy with the deal anymore either and has filed a $14 billion lawsuit against Anthem. None of it makes Swedish look good.

Anthem’s best remaining hope for the deal is probably to persuade the Trump administration to take a different view of the merger and unblock it.

Against this backdrop, Swedish wrote a carefully worded letter last week to Congress praising the Republican health bill. He stopped short of supporting the entire bill, as Jordan Weissmann of Slate has noted. Rather, Swedish lauded a few provisions (which would clearly help Anthem’s bottom line) and offered enough kind words that the White House could claim Anthem supported the bill.

“The time to act is now,” Swedish wrote. The bill, he added, “will ensure more affordable health plan choices for consumers in the short term.” More objective evaluators of the bill — like the Congressional Budget Office — are less sanguine.

Regardless of its accuracy, though, the letter seemed to make the White House happy. “Progress on repeal & replace: Major insurer supportive,” Kellyanne Conway tweeted, linking to Politico’s story about the letter.

More significantly, President Trump and Tom Price, the Health and Human Services secretary, granted Swedish a private meeting this week. At it, Swedish lobbied for changes to the bill that would benefit Anthem, according to reports in Bloomberg and Modern Healthcare.

Anthem’s chief financial officer, John Gallina, all but bragged the next day at an industry conference about the meeting’s success: “We feel very good, very encouraged, by the fact that the president and his team are listening and actually making changes based on feedback that the industry is providing.”

Translation: We’re going to kiss Trump’s ass, and he’ll see to it we get our merger.

Of course, health care itself is expensive. There are few more naive than a young person who has never had to pay a hospital bill. Such as:

It’s lunchtime at the Main Street Grill. The place has a rusted metal sign swinging above the front door. There’s a TV that plays Fox News a lot. On the wall, there’s a sign from the original Ellaville High School and photos of teens who worked here before going off to the military.

Blake Yelverton is taking a break with a burger that doesn’t cut any corners. Cheese and bacon and everything. He’s 23, a burly young man with a big red beard, and he works on his father’s cow farm.

“I don’t believe it’s the federal government’s job to provide health care,” he said. “It’s communism, socialism anyway.”

Yelverton hopes Trump trashes the whole thing, and he’s not too fond of the GOP plan being discussed in Congress either. “They’re doing a lesser evil of Obamacare,” he said.

His insurance?

“I’m on my parents’ plan,” he said.

So, Yelverton, it turns out, benefits from Obamacare. That’s because the law allows parents to keep kids on their insurance until age 26 — a widely-popular element of Barack Obama’s signature health law that Republicans intend to keep in their replacement plan.

Confronted with that information, he pauses for a moment.

“I haven’t been to the doctor in four or five years,” he said.

The young folks often don’t see the point of insurance because they have absolutely no idea how ruinously expensive medical care is. This kid has no clue that only the extremely wealthy can pay for it out of their own pockets. The rest need tax subsidies, whether we’re getting them directly through the exchanges or indirectly through an employee benefit plan.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the health insurance companies aren’t adding any value to this system even as they take their own cut.

And then there’s Paul Ryan, the absolutely useless dimwit and chief author of the Republican plan, who said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick. Which, um, is exactly how insurance works. The healthy pay for the sick. The people who didn’t crash their car into a tree pay for the one that did. The guy whose house burned down will get a new house paid by the homeowners who never filed a claim. That’s how it works.

Maybe we should send the whole country to night school to study how health insurance works before we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with stupid health care plans.

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Trump vs. Merkel

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Trump Maladministration

The meeting between the so-called president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed a bit prickly to me, although of course I wasn’t there. Germans were upset that the so-called president failed to shake her hand at one point. But that seems the least of it.

Trump apparently believes that Germany is screwing the U.S. in trade deals.

Trump told Merkel and the press that Germany had gotten the better end of the stick in trade deals with the US in the past and that he was looking to rectify that situation.

“The negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States,” he said. “But hopefully we can even it out.”

We know what “even it out” means, and it is an absurd notion. It means negotiating a bilateral trade deal with Germany and somehow ignoring the rest of the rest of the European Union.

Merkel explained to Trump that  “The European Union is negotiating those agreements for all of the member states,” but whether he grasped that is hard to tell

Of course, what Merkel says about it doesn’t matter in a White House that is gripped by the delusion that Germany can just tell the EU to take a hike — at least, it will be gripped by this for as long as that policy is directed by Trump’s trade head, Peter Navarro.

Navarro, in a much-derided speech this month, said Germany “uses the argument” of being in the eurozone to avoid trade deals with the US, and that because of this Germany would be “one of the most difficult trade deficits we’re going to have to deal with.”

Navarro has gone as far as to accuse Germany of being a currency manipulator for using the euro. He thinks that because countries with weaker economies than Germany’s are factored into the euro’s value, Germany can sell its manufactured goods more cheaply than it could if it had its own currency.

Obviously, that’s not currency manipulation. That’s just the reality of the euro’s makeup.

But it means Merkel faces a scenario in which the president of the United States and his top trade adviser think one of their closest and most important allies is lying to them about its need to respect the EU. Trump and Navarro think this is a choice Germany is making about the US, not an obligation that is part of the fabric of its political and economic systems.

Peter Navarro is director of the National Trade Council, a newly formed bureaucratic thingie in the executive branch somewhere. This is from an article about him:

It is sometimes difficult to get a detailed, direct answer from President Trump and his surrogates on their economic policy.

During the campaign he slid past substance by making sweeping claims of how, under a Trump administration, the US would ‘”win bigly” and “stop being taken advantage of.”

Those pronouncements continue.

But luckily there is one voice coming from the White House that clearly articulates the direction in which it wants this country to head economically. That voice belongs to Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s newly formed National Trade Council.

Over the past few weeks, Navarro has given a number of interviews that explain the administration’s propensity for victimhood, an obsession with Germany, and a deep-seated desire to change the face of the American economy as we know it.

All these factors have contributed to growing fears that this administration will start a trade war with any of the countries it has scapegoated — Mexico, China, or, yes, now Germany.

I missed this, but in January Trump suggested a 35 percent tariff on BMWs imported into the U.S., and Germans probably are still pissed about that —

Germany’s deputy chancellor and minister for the economy, Sigmar Gabriel, said on Monday morning that a tax on German imports would lead to a “bad awakening” among US carmakers since they were reliant on transatlantic supply chains.

“I believe BMW’s biggest factory is already in the US, in Spartanburg [South Carolina],” Gabriel, leader of the centre-left Social Democratic party, told the Bild newspaper in a video interview.

“The US car industry would have a bad awakening if all the supply parts that aren’t being built in the US were to suddenly come with a 35% tariff. I believe it would make the US car industry weaker, worse and above all more expensive. I would wait and see what the Congress has to say about that, which is mostly full of people who want the opposite of Trump.”

In an interview with Bild and the Times, the US president-elect had indicated that he would aim to realign the “out of balance” car trade between Germany and the US. “If you go down Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes Benz in front of his house, isn’t that the case?” he said. “How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Not very many, maybe none at all … it’s a one-way street.”

Asked what Trump could do to make sure German customers bought more American cars, Gabriel said: “Build better cars.”

Trump was never a manufacturing guy, so he doesn’t understand supply chains. And he doesn’t understand how the EU works, and neither does his trade guy, Navarro. What else doesn’t he know?

After tweeting from Mar-a-Lago that he had a GREAT meeting with Angela Merkel, in spite of what the FAKE NEWS said, he stepped in more doo doo.

Um, what is he talking about? I didn’t think the U.S. collected money to run NATO. 

And, of course, it doesn’t. Nobody owes NATO money. Nobody owes the U.S. anything on behalf of NATO. The issue is that NATO members commit to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, and most of them don’t. Germany spends 1.2 percent, although Merkel has said that will increase. But framing this issue as if Germany is somehow victimizing the United States is just  … weird.

See also Oops, he did it again: Donald Trump just can’t stop himself from blurting out state secrets.

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