Posts Tagged ‘Trump administration’

US wants Africa to chip in more on anti-terror ops, John Bolton says

December 13, 2018

“Unfortunately, billions upon billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have not achieved the desired effects. They have not stopped the scourge of terrorism, radicalism, and violence.

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The Trump administration is pushing African nations to take on a greater role fighting the terrorist groups that threaten them, White House national security adviser John Bolton said Thursday.

“What we’d like to do is empower the African countries to do more of their own security, to do it in coordination with one another,” Bolton said during an address on the Africa strategy at the Heritage Foundation. “They’re the ones who know the neighborhood rather than have the deployment of American forces who are comparatively very well paid and well equipped.”

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John Bolton

The Pentagon announced last month it will draw down the roughly 7,200 U.S. military personnel in Africa by 10 percent over the next several years, even as it continues support counterterrorism operations and airstrikes in places such as Somalia.

Al-Qaeda linked al-shabab recruits walk down a street on March 5, 2012 in the Deniile district of Somalian capital, Mogadishu, following their graduation

Al-Shabab is an al-Qaeda-linked group fighting to overthrow the UN-backed Somali government. AFP photo

The U.S. has a main base in Djibouti and conducts military operations including advice and assistance to partner forces across Africa. The operations, often conducted out of the public eye, sparked controversy last year when four U.S. troops were killed in an ambush in Niger.

A Somali security officer looks toward the scene of twin car bombs that exploded within moments of each other in the Somali capital Mogadishu on November 9, 2018. (AFP)

Bolton pointed to the G5 Sahel Joint Force as a model for the continent’s new independent counterterror operations. Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad formed the joint force last year to fight terror groups and curb organized crime.

President Trump’s new Africa strategy focuses on countering growing Chinese and Russian influence and takes a hard-line approach to years of what Bolton described as failed U.S. aid and United Nations peacekeeping support.

“Unfortunately, billions upon billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have not achieved the desired effects. They have not stopped the scourge of terrorism, radicalism, and violence,” Bolton said. “They have not prevented other powers, such as China and Russia, from taking advantage of African states to increase their own power and influence.”

Boko

“From now on, the United States will not tolerate this long-standing pattern of aid without effect, assistance without accountability, and relief without reform,” he said.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/us-wants-africa-chip-in-more-on-anti-terror-ops-john-bolton-says

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© AFP/File | Burkina Faso is on the front line of the jihadist revolt in the Sahel, with gunmen launching coordinated attacks in March on the French embassy, cultural centre and the Burkinabe military headquarters in Ouagadougou

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Pakistani leader Imran Khan tells the U.S.: We’re not your ‘hired gun’ anymore

December 10, 2018

The U.S. has consistently said publicly that Pakistan remains the key to convincing the Taliban to make peace in Afghanistan — while at the same time privately complaining that the Pakistan government only pays lip service ending the Taliban’s safe havens on its soil. In an interview with The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth, Pakistan’s new prime minister, and former cricket star,Imran Khan pushes back on the allegations, while insisting his country won’t be America’s “hired gun.”


Imran Khan addresses a campaign rally in July. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

“When I came into power, I got a complete briefing from the security forces. They said that we have time and time again asked the Americans, ‘Can you tell us where the sanctuaries are, and we will go after them?’ There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan,” Khan told the Post. “But where are these people? Our border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has the greatest amount of surveillance. The U.S. has satellites and drones. These people crossing would be seen.”

That said, Khan says he agrees peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. “We will do everything … We will try our best. Putting pressure on the Taliban is easier said than done. Bear in mind that about 40 percent of Afghanistan is now out of the government’s hands.” And he insisted he does not want the Americans to leave Afghanistan in a hurry like they did in 1989. “I talked for years about how there was no military solution in Afghanistan, and they called me ‘Taliban Khan.’ If you did not agree with the U.S. policy, you were [thought to be] anti-American. Now I’m happy that everyone realizes there is only a political solution.”

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/milley-could-have-extended-period-as-joint-chiefs-chair-in-waiting

See also:

Pakistani leader to the U.S.: We’re not your ‘hired gun’ anymore

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/pakistani-leader-to-the-us-were-not-your-hired-gun-anymore/2018/12/06/e138790c-f8a5-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.dbe6fe343251

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Taiwan To Upgrade Guided Missile Destroyers

December 10, 2018

The military is to upgrade the AN/SLQ-32 electronic warfare system on its four Keelung-class guided missile destroyers from the (V)3 variant to the (V)6 variant.

The upgrade, which is to cost a total of NT$1.99 billion (US$65.24 million), is expected to be completed by 2023, sources said.

It would improve the system’s electronic and mechanical countermeasure capabilities, and the vessels would be able to avoid threats more effectively, they said.

The upgrade would also improve the vessels’ survival rate and benefit defense operations, they added.

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Taiwanese Navy Destroyer Suao

The (V)3 systems have been in use for 13 years, they said.

The US military has already upgraded to the (V)6 variant and has suggested that Taiwan do the same, the navy said on Saturday.

This year, the navy created the six-year budget after US President Donald Trump’s administration in June last year announced that it would sell AN/SLQ-32 upgrades to Taiwan.

Next year’s budget was reported to be about NT$66.19 million.

The upgrades are to be implemented based on a fixed maintenance schedule to accommodate the needs of defending the Taiwan Strait, sources said.

The Keelung-class guided missile destroyers were originally Kidd-class destroyers which served in the US Navy from 1981 to 1998.

The US agreed to sell them to Taiwan in 2001, and they have been part of the Republic of China Navy since 2005.

Unlike the Kang Ding-class and Cheng Kung-class frigates, which use missiles made in Taiwan, the Keelung-class destroyers use US-made Standard and Harpoon missiles.

The military is to also purchase 16 Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block IIIA surface-to-air missiles to bolster its air defense capabilities, a navy officer said on condition of anonymity.

Additional reporting by CNA

Carpio on South China Sea dispute: We have advanced tremendously

December 10, 2018

“If China can seize the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of the Philippines, coastal states which are weak militarily will also suffer at the hands of their stronger neighbors.”

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio believes that the Philippines has “advanced tremendously” in connection with a maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

“This is a long-term struggle. Where are we now? We have advanced tremendously. We have the ruling,” Carpio said in an interview with political analyst Richard Heydarian on Friday.

He was referring to the landmark 2016 decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that held that China has “no legal basis” to “claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’”.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Edd Gumban/File

 

“The ruling is being enforced by the naval powers, and the South China Sea can never become a Chinese lake because of that,” Carpio said.

The senior justice, a vocal advocate of the Philippines’ maritime claims, also cited as a development the memorandum of understanding on oil and gas development that Beijing and Manila have signed.

The document, he said, envisions a service contract-type agreement on oil and gas development — a route that allows income splitting without China encroaching on Philippine sovereign rights.

“The way I look at it, we are progressing. The naval powers of the world have increased their freedom of navigation and overflight operations,” Carpio said.

“The tempo of these operations have increased tremendously under the Trump administration. They’re worried, they don’t want China to control the South China Sea.”

When asked for advice to the Philippine government, Carpio suggested: “We should be careful with our words, the president and the foreign minister, that we do not unintentionally waive anything.”

In particular, Carpio said that President Rodrigo Duterte “should be very careful” as his statements on disputes may bind the country under the doctrine of unilateral declaration.

The senior justice recalled Duterte announcing that he will set aside the landmark arbitral ruling. “That is a statement by a head of state against the interest of the country on a dispute, and if China accepted that, we are bound, we will be bound,” he said.

Carpio said Duterte’s statement prompted him to advise the Department of Foreign Affairs to clarify the president’s remarks, lest it be construed as an official abandonment of the international court’s decision.

“Had we not come out then, we would have been bound by the declaration because China would raise that,” the justice said.

Carpio was part of the legal team that argued the Philippines’ case before the Hague-based PCA.

Filipinos, too, must ensure that they do not waive any of their sovereign rights, and educate themselves and the world that China has “no historic right to the South China Sea,” he said.

“If China can seize the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of the Philippines, coastal states which are weak militarily will also suffer at the hands of their stronger neighbors,” Carpio said. —LDF, GMA News

Includes video:

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/677472/carpio-on-south-china-sea-dispute-we-have-advanced-tremendously/story/

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Bad Trump Administration Communications Added to Stock Market Misery

December 10, 2018

It’s the holiday season. The economy is the best its been in over a decade. So what’s got the stock market so down?

To make a holiday cocktail as strong as our current volatility, you’d need several key ingredients.

The bartender would add two shots of Federal Reserve — way more than needed. A shot of China trade. A few splashes of oil and a dash of expected economic moderation. You garnish that tall glass with Twitter and the media crowd ramping up the political negativity with faux economic “expertise.”

That’s a too strong and bitter holiday nog.

Commentary
By Jonathon Trugman
New York Post

Falling oil prices historically have been a sign of global weakness. The difference now is that America is a net exporter of oil; it had not been before.

The China tariff tiff is a failure to communicate effectively. The news was clearly good coming out of the G-20, but that message was garbled in every way possible.

Solid communications could have spared 800 points on the Dow Jones index.

Coming off the tariff tiff, the markets faced Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou being arrested in Canada at the request of the United States on money-laundering charges. She had been “flagged” by HSBC for violating Iran sanctions. The flap depressed the Dow by over 700 points.

Well, those negatively pre-disposed commentators couldn’t cut the White House any slack for standing up to China and making a better deal for America, so they subtly piled on, pretending to be analytical and talking about an upcoming recession.

But on Thursday the Fed — as reported by The Wall Street Journal — was leaning toward raising rates in December and then taking a “wait and see” posture (something I suggested Oct. 27). And markets rallied on the news. On Friday Peter Navarro, White House Director of Trade and Industrial Policy, came out with unneeded his own China trade comments that send stocks down to close out a bad week.

Remember, holiday cocktails are something to be enjoyed in moderation. But, in the case of the noxious rumor-and-panic potion, abstinence is the way to go.

https://nypost.com/2018/12/08/bad-communication-is-why-the-stock-market-has-been-so-down/

John Podesta lecturing Europe on Trump — Raising alarms about climate data

December 10, 2018

John Podesta has been making the rounds in Europe to warn the European Union that U.S. climate data needs protection from the Trump administration.

The former Hillary Clinton campaign manager was in Brussels last week to address the European Parliament on what he described as the necessity to combat the current administration’s open “hostility” to climate science.

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Podesta explained in a Guardian op-ed (Below) that he spoke to parliamentarians about the “unprecedented threats facing the global understanding of climate change as a result of the Trump administration’s hostility to climate science, and [discussed] what European countries can and should do in response.”

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Scientific organizations and environmental groups strongly protested the Trump administration’s early actions of removing climate change information from websites in the first year of Trump’s presidency. Last Earth Day, critics even staged a national protest of Trump’s actions. Called the March for Science, it was billed as promoting the role of science in policymaking.

Trump appointees have defended their actions by noting that programs to monitor the climate have stayed intact, like NASA’s Earth observation satellites. But Podesta and others say it is congressional action to preserve funding for the programs that has helped those programs stay afloat, not the Trump administration. In fact, the administration has sought to defund programs related to studying the effects of climate change for the past two years.

The administration has also opted not to publicize the climate data it has. A recent survey down by the watchdog group Environmental Data and Governance Initiative showed that in the first year of the administration, the Interior Department, Energy Department, and Environmental Protection Agency were scrubbed of public information on climate change.

Podesta is trying to gin up European Union support for combating the Trump administration’s energy agenda, which is oriented not toward addressing climate change but toward rolling back regulations that Podesta assisted the Obama administration in implementing. He wants both policymakers in the U.S and Europe to “stay alert” for signs of political interference when it comes to climate and energy data.

After speaking at a hearing on the European Commission’s new climate plan to be carbon neutral by 2050, Podesta was off to Norway to talk to Nils Rokke, the head of EU’s leading energy research consortium, the European Energy Research Alliance.

The main point Podesta pressed during their chat, Rokke told the Washington Examiner, was the climate data and the programs the U.S. has to collect that data is being threatened by the current administration under its budget proposals.

“He was painting a very disturbing picture of what’s going on, you know, like burn the data,” Rokke said, noting a report by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress that Podesta founded.

The Washington-based think tank in June released a report called “Burning the Data,” which alleged that Trump and his political appointees have “attacked” federal programs that operate or fund climate and energy data and research.

Podesta used the report in Brussels to convey a sense of urgency in taking steps to counter the attack.

“If the Trump administration fails to fund the satellites, climate models, Arctic flights and other scientific investments needed to produce and interpret vital climate and energy data, other champions, including European agencies and governments, will need to step up to fill in any to fill in any data, monitoring and research gaps that could set back our understanding of climate change and its impacts,” Podesta wrote in his op-ed.

The Center of American Progress did not respond to repeated requests for it to comment on Podesta’s European tour, nor did it comment on how it is following up on its “Burning the Data” report in Washington.

Podesta founded the think tank and previously served as its CEO, but no longer runs it on a day-to-day basis. He serves an advisory role as a member of the board of directors.

Environmentalist say they will be urging the Democratic-controlled House next year to conduct oversight on the Trump administration’s treatment of the climate data and climate programs, and the need for those to be protected.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/energy/john-podesta-paints-disturbing-picture-of-trump-in-europe-in-raising-alarms-about-climate-data

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The Guardian

As a warming world wreaks havoc, Trump wages war on climate science

The US administration’s politicization of science has led to big budget cuts for data and analysis. Others must fill the gap

This global heat map from July 2018 shows how temperatures are soaring across the planet.
 This global heat map from July 2018 shows how temperatures are soaring across the planet. Photograph: Climate Reanalyzer/Climate Change Institute/University of Maine

The evidence of climate change is all around us, from melting Alaskan permafrost to wildfires in Sweden, from the brutal European heatwave to the devastating 2017 and 2018 hurricane seasons, which have claimed thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and North Carolina. In recent weeks, the worst wildfires in California history have wiped entire towns off the map and killed scores of people. The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning of mass wildfires, superstorms, food shortages and dying coral reefs by 2040 was a cry for immediate action.

But as climate change is happening in real time, the practice of climate science –collecting data, observing and analyzing the Earth’s systems and communicating those findings to decision-makers and the public – has never been at greater risk. That’s why I am in Brussels this week speaking to European Union parliamentarians on the unprecedented threats facing the global understanding of climate change as a result of the Trump administration’s hostility to climate science, and discussing what European countries can and should do in response.

Even though the need for high-quality reliable scientific data on the causes and effects of climate change has never been higher, the politicization of climate science in the United States has reached regrettable new lows. The Trump administration has twice now issued budget proposals that sought to dramatically reduce funding for or outright eliminate the collection and analysis of data about Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and geological, biological and energy systems. All told, across all 13 US federal agencies that play a role in federal climate and energy data and science programs, the Trump administration’s budgets would have yielded cuts of 13.2 to 16.8%, according to an analysis released in June by the Center for American Progress.

The Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts – and their other efforts to interfere with the practice of science – matter because the United States has long been the world’s pre-eminent source for climate and energy data and analysis. The US government’s role in making this data publicly available at no cost further enables users around the globe to advance their own understanding of climate change, which is critical to reducing risk and saving lives. In every aspect of research and analysis of the Earth and its climate, immense, detailed data sets undergird the decisions of leaders in government, the military and business, and the actions of farmers, ranchers, engineers and planners around the world.

So far, Congress has responded to the Trump administration’s provocative budget requests by acting on a bipartisan basis to restore and even increase funding for many vital climate science programs. But the care that appropriators have shown for science, and particularly for climate and energy data and research, can only go so far. Political appointees in the Trump administration retain a great degree of discretion which they can exercise over how these appropriated funds are actually spent.

For example, Nasa’s Carbon Monitoring System, which enabled observation and analysis of global carbon sinks and sources, saw its $10m budget eliminated because a single line item fell through the cracks in the appropriations process and administration officials seized the opportunity to cut the program.

Outside advisory boards of experts who helped translate federal climate science into usable information for state and local policymakers and businesses have seen those longstanding councils disbanded with little notice.

Of highest consequence to the international scientific community, the Trump administration has dramatically cut or altogether ceased funding to the IPCC, the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Climate Observation System (GCOS), and other United Nations climate research bodies.

These and other budget cuts and policy changes are taking place against a backdrop of troubling stories of scientists being sidelined within their agencies, prohibited from traveling or presenting their findings, or seeing the public-facing resources they helped write erased from government websites. It’s little wonder that the US government’s leading career atmospheric and oceanic scientists, with decades of experience, are leaving in frustration with an administration that ignores their work.

Scientists and policymakers in Europe and the United States alike need to stay alert to signs of political interference in climate and energy data collection that will limit our capacity to understand and respond to the warming planet, whether that interference occurs in the United States or elsewhere. If the Trump administration fails to fund the satellites, climate models, Arctic flights and other scientific investments needed to produce and interpret vital climate and energy data, other champions, including European agencies and governments, will need to step up to fill in any data, monitoring and research gaps that could set back our understanding of climate change and its impacts.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/27/climate-change-science-data-trump-administration-

Saudi Crown Prince “Played” Jared Kushner on Israel-Palestinian Peace Deal

December 9, 2018

Mohammed bin Salman reportedly capitalizes on Trump’s Mideast adviser’s inexperience to boost his reputation and receive crucial White House backing after Khashoggi murder

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC on October 23, 2017. Right: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Lebanon's Christian Maronite patriarch on November 14, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photos by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC on October 23, 2017. Right: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Lebanon’s Christian Maronite patriarch on November 14, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photos by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman deliberately established a personal friendship with US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, using the latter’s interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and promising to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in the United States, in order to court Kushner’s political support and White House influence, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing multiple former senior White House officials and other US and Saudi sources, the in-depth report said the friendship, which entailed first-name-basis informal chatting on WhatsApp that continued even after the widely condemned killing of Saudi dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi, worried officials in the State Department and the Pentagon, who feared Kushner was being manipulated.

Kushner has been the most steadfast defender in the White House of Riyadh in the wake of Khashoggi’s October 2 murder and dismemberment inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which US intelligence agencies have concluded was ordered by Prince Mohammed himself.

The Trump administration has publicly defended continued ties despite the killing.

The US president has condemned the brutal slaying as a “horrible crime … that our country does not condone.” But he rejected calls by many in Congress, including members of his own party, for a tougher response, and also dismissed reports from US intelligence agencies that Prince Mohammed must have at least known about such an audacious and intricate plot.

Last month, Trump told reporters that “foolishly canceling” arms sales to Saudi Arabia worth billions of dollars would only benefit Russia and China, which would be next in line to supply the weapons.

People hold signs during a protest at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in Washington, October 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Critics denounced Trump’s statement, saying he was ignoring human rights and granting Saudi Arabia a pass for economic reasons.

According to the report, a delegation of Prince Mohammed’s associates visited Washington in November 2016, the month Trump was elected — when he wasn’t yet crown prince — and flagged Kushner as a crucial focal point, citing his lack of familiarity with Saudi Arabia and his intense focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Within months, Kushner had been courted to organize a formal meeting between Prince Mohammed and Trump, including honors normally reserved for heads of state.

That meeting had been organized while “bending protocol,” according to the report, a claim denied by the White House, which said Kushner had “always meticulously followed protocols and guidelines” regarding interactions with foreign officials.

Ultimately, Kushner was said to have helped catapult Mohammed bin Salman into the crown prince position, becoming the most influential leader in Riyadh at just 33 years old.

US President Donald Trump (center right) holds a lunch meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (center left) and members of his delegation in the White House Cabinet Room on March 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Prince Mohammed’s “bromance” with Kushner has been the “foundation of the Trump policy not just toward Saudi Arabia but toward the region,” the report quoted Martin Indyk, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Middle East envoy and ambassador to Israel, as saying.

That included Riyadh’s inclusion in a yet-unpublished Israel-Palestinian peace plan and US support for a Saudi-led boycott of Qatar and for Riyadh’s interventions in the Yemen civil war.

It also led to Saudi help in implementing Trump’s strategy of extreme vetting of immigrants, including intelligence and data exchange, and cooperation in fighting Islamist terrorism and extremism via a center that has been inaugurated in Saudi Arabia.

Little has come so far of the Saudi promises to invest in US infrastructure and to sign huge contracts with Washington over four years for weapons and other products. Likewise, little headway has been made by the Saudis regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Ramallah rejecting Prince Mohammed’s approaches on behalf of Washington.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner (right) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 22, 2018. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem/Flash90)

Last month, ABC News reported that Kushner in 2017 exaggerated the amount of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia in a bid to solidify the Trump administration’s alliance with the kingdom.

The report said Kushner directed the State Department and Pentagon to inflate the amount of arms exchanges between the two countries to $110 billion, a figure that current and former US officials said included potential deals. Actual sales have amounted to only $15 billion.

The extensive sales were touted as a major foreign policy achievement for the Trump administration, and were cited by the president as a key reason he would not punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of Khashoggi.

The Trump administration’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace is expected to be rolled out in the coming months.

But the plan is unlikely to be welcome by either side, especially with the Palestinian Authority boycotting the Trump administration since its recognition last year of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The PA has vowed to oppose the so-called “deal of the century.” Israel’s shaky right-wing coalition government, meantime, is down to a majority of just 61 in the 120-seat Knesset after Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister last month to protest a Gaza ceasefire following a major flareup and took his party into the opposition.

Although the Trump administration has been long touting its peace plan, details of it have been scant, and the Palestinians have vowed not to cooperate with US efforts.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/saudi-prince-said-to-use-israeli-palestinian-conflict-to-get-kushners-support/

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Senior officials had concerns the Saudis were “playing” Jared Kushner

December 9, 2018

President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was identified “as a crucial focal point” by a delegation of Saudis that visited the United States at the start of the Trump administration, the New York Times reports.

Jared Kushner stands behind two Saudi men.
Jared Kushner with Saudi officials at the White House. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Why it matters: Kushner’s relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has insulated the kingdom from heavy criticism in the administration. According to the Times, the two “were on a first-name basis” while texting and speaking on the phone, and their conversations continued after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, of which the kingdom has denied responsibility. The White House maintained in a statement to the Times that Kushner “has always meticulously followed protocols and guidelines.”

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Details: From the start of the administration, there was concern among senior officials that Kushner “sought to help Prince Mohammed…vault ahead in the line for the throne,” before MBS was made the crown prince, the NYT reports.

  • When MBS visited the United States, Kushner ensured he received “the kind of treatment usually reserved for heads of state.”
  • When the administration visited Riyadh in March 2017, White House officials began to fear there was “a risk the Saudis were playing” Kushner, a former White House official told the Times.
  • The two men have “continued to chat informally” since the situation surrounding Khashoggi has unfolded, with Kushner offering MBS “advice about how to weather the storm…and avoid further embarrassments.”

The Saudis were working before the inauguration to align themselves with the Trump administration, the NYT reports, offering its assistance to help the White House “fulfill its campaign pledges.”

  • A presentation put together by the Saudis after a team met with Kushner in November 2016 mentioned his “lack of familiarity with the history of Saudi-American relations,” and identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the most important issues to draw Kushner’s attention.”
  • Many initiatives proposed by the Saudis to help Trump “deliver for his supporters” per the NYT were welcomed by the Trump administration, including defense contracts with the kingdom, pledged assistance in defeating terrorism, and more.

The White House’s statement: “Jared has always meticulously followed protocols and guidelines regarding the relationship with MBS and all of the other foreign officials with whom he interacts.”

https://www.axios.com/senior-officials-had-concerns-the-saudis-were-playing-jared-kushner-83ae24ef-110c-4f97-85ff-acbfab803cf6.html

Manafort Lied About Contacts With Trump Administration, Mueller Filing Says

December 8, 2018

Document lays out basis for saying president’s former campaign chairman breached a plea deal

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Paul Manafort arriving for a court hearing in Washington in June. PHOTO: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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WASHINGTON—Paul Manafort was in contact with Trump administration officials earlier this year, even though he told prosecutors he had no communications with them, special counsel Robert Mueller alleged Friday in a filing describing lies he has said the president’s former campaign chairman told prosecutors.

“Manafort told multiple discernible lies—these were not instances of mere memory lapses,” Mr. Mueller’s office wrote.

Mr. Manafort, who served as President Trump’s campaign chairman for several months in 2016, had told Mr. Mueller’s investigators that he had no direct or indirect communications with Trump administration officials while they were in office. But the filing alleged Mr. Manafort told a colleague he had been in contact with a “senior Administration official” through February. It also said that Mr. Manafort in May authorized someone to speak to the administration on his behalf, and that electronic records show more contacts with administration officials.

The filing comes after Mr. Mueller accused Mr. Manafort last month of lying to his office about multiple issues after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate in the investigation into links between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. Prosecutors said those lies created a breach of his plea agreement that erased any prospect for leniency from Mr. Mueller’s office.

Mr. Manafort met with Mr. Mueller’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation 12 times, nine of which came after his September plea agreement, prosecutors said. He was also called to testify before a grand jury twice, in October and November, they said.

Mr. Manafort has denied intentionally providing false information, and his lawyer is scheduled to provide a fuller response to the allegations next week.

Mr. Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud by a Virginia federal jury in August. In September, as he was set to face a second criminal trial on related charges in Washington, he reached a deal to plead guilty to conspiring against the U.S. and to obstruct justice, and agreed to cooperate in the continuing investigation.

The 10-page filing from Mr. Mueller lists five topics Mr. Manafort allegedly lied about, including his interactions with his long-time associate in Ukraine whom the FBI previously assessed to have connections to Russian intelligence; about the role that associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, played in trying to reach potential witnesses against Mr. Manafort to influence their testimony; about a business payment; about information for another criminal investigation; and about his Trump administration contacts.

Mr. Kilimnik was also charged by Mr. Mueller for helping Mr. Manafort try to improperly influence witness testimony, but he isn’t in custody and hasn’t responded to the charges in court.

Parts of Friday’s filing were redacted, and prosecutors said they would submit a separate filing under seal that they said included information about matters under investigation and about individuals who hadn’t been charged.

Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign aided Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election, and he has called the federal probe a “witch hunt.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that the Manafort filing “says absolutely nothing about the President.” She added: “It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues.”

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/manafort-lied-about-contacts-with-trump-team-mueller-filing-says-1544225571

U.S. Companies Feel the Pinch as Tariff Costs Start to Mount

December 7, 2018
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American companies that import products are paying record amounts in customs duties as more tariffs imposed by the Trump administration take effect.

Tariff collections topped $5 billion in October, according to data from the Treasury Department and from Census Bureau data analyzed and released by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a lobbying coalition of manufacturing, farming and technology groups.

President Trump campaigned on an aggressive trade agenda, and from early this year has imposed or considered tariffs on thousands of products from dishwashers to semiconductors. U.S. revenue from tariffs has begun to build rapidly only in the last few months, as more of the levies have taken effect.

The amount of tariffs being paid by U.S. importers has doubled since May, including an increase of more than 30% from August to October, according to the data. The sum has risen through the year as steel and aluminum tariffs were applied to imports from a growing group of countries, then surged in October, which was the first full month in which U.S. tariffs were in place on a full $250 billion of imports from China.

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China and the U.S. struck a trade truce Dec. 1, agreeing not to add or increase tariffs for now. But the tariff rates in place in October will remain in effect, meaning collections are likely to remain high in November and December.

President Trump has touted the surge in revenue his tariffs have brought in thus far. “We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Tariffs are assessed to the U.S. importer of record, meaning U.S. companies that import items from China and the rest of the world directly are the initial parties responsible for paying. The Census Bureau data are based off customs filings, while the Treasury data are based off actual payments.

While some importers will bear the cost of the tariffs themselves, others may be able to persuade their foreign suppliers to cut prices enough to offset the cost and others may pass the higher costs on to their customers.

“We are now seeing the raw data behind the stories of tariff pain that are coming in from every corner of the country,” said Charles Boustany, a former Republican congressman who is the spokesman for Tariffs Hurt the Heartland. “American businesses, farmers, manufacturers and consumers are suffering under the weight of the current tariffs and are reeling from the continued uncertainty over whether they will be increased even further.”

Russell Tiejema, the chief financial officer of Masonite International Corp., a Tampa, Fla. manufacturer of doors, said at an investors’ conference this week that U.S. tariffs would hit about 10% of the $900 million worth of material his company acquires to build its products.

“About half of that, we would be the importer of record, which means that we would be the party liable for tariff remittance,” said Mr. Tiejema. “The other half we acquire from other suppliers who then acquire it upstream from China, but they stand as the importer of record. In both cases, we need to negotiate, wherever possible, price concessions.”

Many U.S. companies are also facing retaliatory tariffs from China—and from Canada, Mexico, the European Union and other countries hit by U.S. tariffs this year on steel and aluminum. Data from the research group the Trade Partnership, which works with Tariffs Hurt the Heartland to assess the impact of tariffs, estimate that more than $1 billion in tariffs were paid on U.S. exports in October, based on the volume of trade of affected goods.

John T.C. Lee, the president of Andover, Mass. MKS Instruments, which makes precision measuring instruments, said at a Nasdaq Investors Conference this week that his company was facing both U.S. tariffs and retaliatory tariffs from other countries. MKS faces $3 million in tariffs on its imports over a year, and $7 million in tariffs on its exports, he said.

“That is most likely going to be borne by the customers,” he said, noting that many had no other options for getting those products, a situation that gives his company more leverage to raise prices.

Even after the recent increase in revenue from tariffs, they account for a small share of government income. Tariffs were the primary source of federal revenue before World War I, but that share has dwindled with the introduction of the income tax and the liberalization of trade. In October, more than 2% of federal receipts came from tariffs, the most in at least two decades.

Write to Josh Zumbrun at Josh.Zumbrun@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-companies-feel-the-pinch-as-tariff-costs-start-to-mount-1544180471