Posts Tagged ‘World Economic Forum’

ECB minutes highlight policymakers’ fears over currency wars — Is the Trump administration was deliberately trying to engage in currency wars?

February 22, 2018

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Claire Jones in Frankfurt
Financial Times (FT)

The extent of European officials’ concerns over the weakness of the dollar was laid bare on Thursday in a set of European Central Bank accounts that highlighted fears that the US administration was deliberately trying to engage in currency wars.
The accounts of the ECB’s January monetary policy vote also reveal that the governing council’s hawks pushed for a change in the bank’s communications, saying economic conditions were now strong enough to drop a commitment to boost the quantitative easing programme in the event of a slowdown.Mario Draghi, ECB president, last month hit out at US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin’s claim that a weak dollar was good for the American economy, saying Washington needed to uphold the rules of the international monetary system, which forbid nations from deliberately devaluing their currencies.

Image result for Mario Draghi, photos

Mario Draghi

The remarks were seen as a signal that the US could ditch its strong dollar policy — and in so doing damage euro exports and lower imported inflation. US President Trump has since reaffirmed the strong dollar policy.

The accounts of the January ECB meeting, published on Thursday, show Mr Draghi’s fears were widely shared among the bank’s decision makers. “Concerns were . . . expressed about recent statements in the international arena about exchange rate developments and, more broadly, the overall state of international relations,” the account said. “The importance of adhering to agreed statements on the exchange rate was emphasised.” Those agreements explicitly rule out competitive devaluations.

The volatility in the euro was, the account said, “a source of uncertainty which required monitoring”.

The decline in the greenback following Mr Mnuchin’s remarks led the euro to soar to $1.25 in the days following the January 25 meeting of the ECB. The euro is now trading below $1.23.

The minutes highlighted dissent over the bank’s communications on its policy intentions, an element of what policymakers dub “forward guidance”.

The dissent was over the ECB’s promise to boost QE should economic conditions disappoint or financial conditions worsen.

“Some members expressed a preference for dropping the easing bias regarding the [QE programme] from the governing council’s communication as a tangible reflection of reinforced confidence in a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation,” the account said. “However it was concluded that such an adjustment was premature and not yet justified by the stronger confidence.”

The central bank is now buying €30bn of bonds a month under the €2.5tn QE programme.




U.S. GDP Grew 2.6% at Year End, Extending Strong Stretch — Federal Reserve predicts 2.5% growth again in 2018

January 27, 2018

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U.S. President Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 26, 2018


By Josh Mitchell
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Jan. 26, 2018 3:32 p.m. ET

Eight years into what has been an unexpectedly slow expansion, the U.S. economy appears to have picked up steam.

Business executives have reported solid quarterly earnings in recent weeks and pointed optimistically to investment and hiring plans for 2018, supported in part by federal tax cuts. Stock prices keep churning higher. And on Friday the Commerce Department reported that U.S. economic output remained on an above-trend path in the final three months of last year.

Gross domestic product—the value of goods and services produced in the U.S.—rose at a 2.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the government said. That didn’t match the second and third quarters’ above-3% growth rates, but it exceeded the 2% average that has prevailed since the early 2000s. Output grew 2.5% in 2017 as a whole, the most in three years, and the Federal Reserve predicts 2.5% growth again in 2018.

That puts the economy in unusual territory: not quite booming, but still gaining momentum deep into an expansion. The growth cycle that began in mid-2009 already ranks as the third-longest ever and is set to become the second-longest this spring. Rather than fizzling, the expansion is being spurred on by robust consumer spending and business investment. It isn’t near the vigor of the late 1990s, but that was the last time growth clearly accelerated this deep into an expansion.

“We don’t have a lot of history to guide us here,” said Richard Moody, chief economist of Regions Financial Corp. “It is unusual to see what looks to be a strong acceleration this late in the cycle.”


  • Heard on the Street: Why Consumers Can’t Keep Driving the Economy
  • Fourth-Quarter GDP At a Glance
  • How Hurricanes Hurt and Helped
  • Durable-Goods Orders Rose 2.9% in December
  • U.S. Employers Slowed Pace of Hiring in December
  • Tax Incentive Puts More Robots on Factory Floors

Investors cheered the latest evidence of an economy that won’t quit, driving up the Dow Jones Industrial Average by more than 100 points, or 0.4%, at midday.

President Donald Trump has pledged to return the economy to a growth rate of 3% or more, pinning his agenda on a $1.5 trillion tax cut he signed into law last month, a rollback of environmental, labor, financial and other regulations, and tougher trade positions. By Mr. Trump’s standard, growth didn’t measure up in the fourth quarter, but the pickup that has played out over the past nine months still has given the president something to boast about.

“There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States,” he said to business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland Friday. “America is open for business and we are competitive once again.”

While many economists anticipate a further pickup this year, many also say 3% will be difficult to achieve over the long haul given an aging population and meager productivity growth.

Several developments are helping the economy perk up. Among them: Synchronized global economic growth and renewed investment spending by U.S. firms, who had spent years hunkering down. Those factors have converged with low unemployment, tame inflation, low interest rates and a booming stock market to bolster business and household optimism and spending.

Shelving manufacturer B-O-F Corp. of Aurora, Ill., spent about $750,000 to combine two factories into a larger, single plant that opened this year. The company, which builds slanted shelves in cases at grocery and convenience stores, is aiming to boost production capacity by a third with the new plant.

Jamie Knorring, B-O-F’s president, credits the rebound in the housing market with his company’s good fortune, including a fourth quarter that was the company’s best ever.

“When they’re building more houses, they need to build more stores,” he said, adding the company plans additional factory upgrades and equipment purchases this year.

The global upswing is driving sales for Rockwell Automation Inc., the Milwaukee-based maker of factory software and hardware, as companies in a range of sectors look to boost productivity. Rockwell said this week its fiscal first-quarter revenue jumped 7% to $1.6 billion, driven by sales to heavy industry and energy companies.

Through Friday, 26% of S&P 500 companies have reported quarterly results, and out of those 76.69% beat earnings-per-share expectations. The current growth rate for earnings compared with last year is 12.3%.

Firms that earlier in the expansion focused on boosting payrolls while labor was cheap now appear to be renewing investment in facilities and equipment.

Employees perform quality control inspections on 2018 Honda Accord vehicles.Photo: Ty Wright/Bloomberg News

Stronger domestic demand prodded Heartland Produce Co., which sells fresh fruits and vegetables to grocers in the Midwest, to recently add 4,000 square feet to its warehouse in Kenosha, Wis.

“With the economy being stronger and unemployment being low, people have more buying power and they’re spending it at the store,” Heartland President Bill Dietz said in an interview. He said his company might look at opening another facility this year.

Investment in business equipment expanded at an 11.4% annual rate in the fourth quarter after a 10.8% growth rate in the third, the best six-month stretch since a burst of activity in mid-2014, Friday’s economic-output report showed.

While they were investing more, businesses pared back their inventories in the fourth quarter, which helped to reduce output. Inventory rebuilding could boost output in the months to come.

Consumers are driving growth, too. Consumer spending rose at a 3.8% rate in the period, an increase last exceeded in late 2014. Spending on long-lasting items known as durable goods rose at a 14.2% rate, the fastest pace since 2009.

David Alter, 34 years old, spent much of the past decade building his savings and investing in stocks. In December, he bought a car and a second home, in Orlando, Fla., where he just started a new job as a technology manager for a major theme-park company. He said the new job coupled with a big rise in technology stocks he owns gave him the confidence he needed to take on a second mortgage, a fixer-upper for which he just bought a new heating and ventilation system.

“I feel very good on how things are performing,” he said of the economy. “But it does make me worry like when that’s going to stop. It can’t ride up forever.”

There are other reasons for caution. A chunk of the fourth quarter’s growth likely reflected a temporary boost in spending related to a pair of hurricanes that ripped through Texas and Florida last summer. Spending that was halted by the storms—such as restaurant visits by consumers and construction—was simply pushed back into the year’s final stretch. Likewise the storms spurred a temporary boost in spending on repairs and replacement items, like cars.

The global upswing is a two-edged sword for the U.S. Exports are rising, but so are imports. So while consumer spending is on an upswing, many of the goods Americans are buying are being produced abroad. That runs against Mr. Trump’s “America First” agenda. A widening trade deficit subtracted more than a percentage point from growth in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said. That came even though the dollar has weakened, a development that should be improving the U.S. trade position by making imports more expensive and exports cheaper.

—Andrew Tangel contributed to this article

Write to Josh Mitchell at

Opinion: Donald Trump unmasks World Economic Forum in Davos

January 26, 2018

There was not really anything essentially new in US President Donald Trump’s speech in Davos. But his appearance there highlighted the well-known restrictions of the World Economic Forum, DW’s Andreas Becker writes.

Donald Trump in Davos

There had been massive speculation about the much-anticipated speech of the US president on the final day of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Would he make any concessions? Praise the merits of free trade and multilateral treaties?

After all, participants at the forum had been meeting to help shape a joint future in a fractured world, according to the event’s motto, which was seen by many as a deliberate broadside against Donald Trump’s policy agenda.

But, after his 15-minute address, it was obvious that Trump had said what he’d been saying all along. He lauded his own policy, which he said was behind increased employment and economic expansion in the United States. He emphasized that the interests of his own nation were his top priority, adding that every other national leader in the room would also be well advised to care primarily about their own countries’ interests.

Trump insisted that there would be no free trade without fair accords. Nor did I hear anything new when he talked about migration, North Korea or Iran.

DW correspondent Andreas Becker


DW correspondent Andreas Becker

The president just didn’t want to let his audience get distracted from his main message: Invest in the US! He repeatedly encouraged business and finance leaders to seize the opportunity and do more robust business in the United States. By the way, I’ve seen many other heads of state and government touting their countries as good business locations too.

But Trump’s campaign to attract investments is absolutely straightforward and direct. “America is open for business,” he said, mentioning the benefits of tax cuts, cheap energy and less red tape.

Applause, applause!

World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab praised Trump’s recent tax reform, saying it would provide a boost to the global economy. He didn’t mention that the International Monetary Fund keeps forecasting that this boost will be short-lived, with the resulting budget deficits bound to cause massive problems. Other business leaders also lauded Trump’s tax breaks for companies, including Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser.

Trump’s speech revealed once more what all the debates about wealth inequality, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, science and culture weren’t able to conceal: The annual Davos forum in essence remains a gathering for investors out to do brisk business. All the rest, while being important, only seems to be a sideshow.

Schwab is no doubt right in saying how important multilateral cooperation and accords are in today’s world. Trump’s take — that the world is improving as long as companies are in good shape — is unfit for meeting global challenges such as climate change and controlling migration flows.

There are only casual talks in Davos about such issues, with the tough fight for solutions and agreements taking place at less-glamorous summits at the United Nations and elsewhere.

The World Economic Forum is out to improve the state of the world — or so it says. But it’s definitely not half as important as it wants to make us believe.

Donald Trump came to Davos with a mission to reassure

January 26, 2018

BBC News

Donald TrumpImage by EPA

Few people knew what to expect.

Would this be belligerent Trump – wagging his finger at the global elite about how divorced they were from reality, from what people really want?

Or would this be conciliatory Trump, setting a different tone? We heard the second.

The president touched many of the World Economic Forum’s erogenous zones. But many were not quite sure how to take it considering the pit bull they were expecting.

He talked about the voices of the forgotten – a constant theme here among the “super-haves” who are coming to a creeping realisation that the system has to change if faith in the capitalist system is to endure.

He talked about economic success being about more than the sum of production, it was about the “sum of its citizens”.

Businesses, he argued, had to remember their obligations to the people who worked for them.

Critics will pick at the easy holes. For example, on those income tax cuts it’s the wealthy who will gain more.

And the business tax cuts are far larger than those for middle-income Americans.

Mr Trump said that America First did not mean America Alone. It was the key line of the speech.

Fair trade, not trade war

And it was a message echoed by other leading members of the White House power pack here, including Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser and head of the US National Economic Council.

This is all about trade and the US approach.

The fear was that America under Mr Trump would throw up a series of trade barriers, increasing protectionism at a time when most government leaders at Davos – Narendra Modi of India, Justin Trudeau of Canada and Emmanuel Macron of France – were preaching the gospel of globalisation.

But today we heard a more nuanced manifesto. America, Mr Trump said, did not want a trade war, it wanted fair trade.

Which may come as a surprise to countries like South Korea, smarting this week following the imposition of tariffs on US imports of solar panels and washing machines.

Mr Trump’s argument is this:

The rules of the free trade world were built after the Second World War when America’s economic interests were rooted in the successful development of other countries’ economies.

These countries then became eager customers for American products.

That equation has changed. China is a much more powerful economy.

Donald Trump at DavosImage copyrightAFP

The Asian emerging markets, South America and Europe all now have much more muscular dogs in the fight for global trade.

Mr Trump said state planning, intellectual property theft and industrial subsidies were the new weapons of trade wars – and used against America.

“Fair and reciprocal trade” is the new US mantra.

And if the administration feels it does not receive such treatment, the president will act – for example, by passing an executive order pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation Asian trade deal.

Mutual benefit

It’s a message that has not fallen on stony ground here.

“I don’t think it’s inappropriate that we re-look at some of the treaties that were so asymmetric,” Larry Fink, the chief executive of investment company BlackRock, told me.

“Some of these countries now are very strong and very developed. It’s going to be a long game.

“The world is benefitting by global trade and we need to find ways of creating more global trade to benefit more humanity worldwide,” he said.

America is still a trading nation, one which gains far more economically from globalisation – world trade – than it does from protectionist measures.

And that brute economic truth means that Mr Trump has to play a different tune here – to the business leaders and investors who decide where to place their cash – than maybe to the left-behind voters of the US rust belt.

So the president said that America was ready to do bilateral deals that would be “mutually beneficial”.

He even suggested a re-engagement with the TPP. On trade, this was Trump 2.0.

The politics might have been angry in the past, but today, economic reality softened the president.

Davos: Trump calls on world to confront Iran’s ‘support for terrorists’

January 26, 2018

DAVOS: President Donald Trump on Friday called on world powers to do more to confront the threat posed by Iran due to its alleged support for terror groups.
He was addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, a gathering of generally pro-free-trade political and business leaders.
“We continue to call on partners to confront Iran’s support for terrorists and block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon,” Trump told the forum.
Trump also called for “maximum pressure” to de-nuke the Korean Peninsula.
The US president, in his debut appearance at the forum, said that the US was open for business, clarifying one of his campaign mantras.
“America First does not mean America alone,” he said. “The world is experiencing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America. America is open for business and we are competitive once again.”
Trump said that the United States was more attractive than ever to foreign investment under his year-old presidency.
But he warned: “We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others.
“We support free trade but it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal. The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices.”


Soros to Google and Facebook: ‘Your days are numbered’

January 26, 2018


January 26, 2018
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Hungarian-born billionaire investor George Soros. (AFP FILE PHOTO)


Billionaire investor George Soros launched a scathing attack on tech giants at the Davos summit on Thursday, calling them monopolies that could be manipulated by authoritarians to subvert democracy.

During an annual dinner he hosted at the World Economic Forum held this week in the Swiss alpine resort, Soros turned his sights on a host of subjects, including United States President Donald Trump and the speculation frenzy surrounding the cryptocurrency, bitcoin.

But much of the Hungarian-born financier’s ire was reserved for the tech giants of Silicon Valley who, he asserted, needed to be more strictly regulated.

“Facebook and Google effectively control over half of all internet advertising revenue,” the 87-year-old told diners during a speech.

“They claim that they are merely distributors of information. The fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access,” he added.

He predicted that tech giants would “compromise themselves” to access key markets like China, creating an “alliance between authoritarian states and these large, data rich IT monopolies.”

“This may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined,” he warned.

Predicting that governments would start to more heavily regulate the sector, Soros said: “Davos is a good place to announce that their days are numbered.”

Known for his legendarily successful currency trading, Soros dismissed bitcoin as a “typical bubble”.

But he said the cryptocurrency would likely avoid a full crash because authoritarians would still use it to make secret investments abroad.

He described Russia’s Vladimir Putin as presiding over a “mafia state” and called Trump a “danger to the world”.

But he predicted that the US president’s appeal would not last.

“I regard it as a purely temporary phenomenon that will disappear in 2020 or even sooner,” Soros claimed.

But the investor’s traditional Davos predictions do not always pan out. Last year, in Switzerland, he warned that the stock market rally would end after Trump’s election and that China’s growth rate was unsustainable.

China’s growth has continued while US stocks are regularly hitting record highs.                        /kga


US President Donald Trump declares ‘America open for business’ at Davos summit

January 26, 2018

In a defense of “America First,” Donald Trump has urged companies from across the globe to invest in the US. The president also called for greater cooperation on combating terrorism and pressuring North Korea.

US President Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum

US President Donald Trump on Friday declared his first year in office a major economic success during his speech to delegates of the World Economic Forum in Davos, saying “now is the perfect time to bring your business” to the US.

Trump highlighted the US’s latest tax overhaul and reduction in regulations, which Davos summit Klaus Schwab said contributed to global growth before the president took the stage.

Read more: Davos: New momentum for Europe?

Also taking flak for isolationism at summit

  • Trump said that his “America First” policy does not mean isolation. He called for greater cooperation on a range of fields, including energy, trade and security.
  • However, Trump warned that the world “cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system.”
  • Trump has regularly defended his “America First” policies, suggesting they are compatible with greater international cooperation. He also frequently points to US stock market growth.
  • Since Trump assumed office, US allies, including Germany, have warned Washington against pursuing an isolationist policy. Similar warnings have been issued by other speakers at the Swiss business forum.

Vows to continue ‘America First’

During his speech, Trump said:

  • That while the US has a “cutting-edge economy,” the country’s “immigration system is stuck in the past.” Trump has maintained a tough stance on irregular immigration, vowing to build a wall along the US’s border with Mexico.
  • Washington “will not longer turn a blind eye to unfair trade policies” That statement showed that Trump is not backing down from his desire for US-centric trade policies. However, he also said that “America First does not mean America alone.”
  • “The world is experiencing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America.”

Have other US presidents visited Davos summit: Trump is the second sitting US president to visit the Davos summit. Bill Clinton was the first to do so for the forum’s 30th anniversary in 2000. However, the late Ronald Reagan had participated via video link in the 1980s.

Read more: Globalization: Even Davos gets the blues

What did Trump say about security: Trump claimed that the US-led coalition against the “Islamic State” militant group had “retaken almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria.” He called on countries to continue to pressure North Korea to end their nuclear program, while reiterating his call for other countries to contribute their “fair share” towards global defense.

How did the audience react: While his speech received applause and laughter at times, there was a moment when Trump reportedly elicited boos, after saying: “It wasn’t until I became a politician I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be.”

ls/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)


President Trump’s Speech to the World Economic Forum — “America is roaring back”

January 26, 2018

Trump pushes ‘America First’ in Davos

Trump arrives in Davos 01:32


  • Executives, entrepreneurs and political leaders have gathered in Davos
  • Trump’s visit to Davos was marked more by its conventionality than its disregard for international norms

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) — President Donald Trump on Friday pushed his “America First” message abroad as news broke at home that he had tried to fire the special counsel investigating him.


Trump did not address the bombshell report that he had tried to fire Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia for 2016 election meddling as well as possible obstruction of justice charges against the President. Instead, he stuck closely to a script that emphasized favorable conditions for making money in the United States.
Sounding at moments like the president of a local chamber of commerce, Trump declared “there has never been a better time to do business in America.”
He insisted that his “America First” governing agenda would not prevent him from negotiating bilateral trade agreements as long as they favor American interests.
It was only after his speech concluded that Trump strayed from his pro-business platitudes and into the brash pronouncements about the media and Democrats that usually pepper his speeches.
Deriding the “nasty, mean, and fake” news media, Trump drew boos and hisses from the crowd of global elites, a break from the otherwise polite reception he received here at the yearly summit for the world’s ultra-wealthy.
The President’s tone was muted during much of his address, particularly compared to the booming enthusiasm he has shown on the campaign trail when railing against globalization, yet his words were upbeat. He sought to drive a hard bargain for global businesses to increase their investment in the United States.
“America is roaring back and now is the time to invest in the future of America,” Trump said, pointing to tax cuts, regulatory reform and new energy resources.

Diverting the spotlight

NYT: Trump tried to fire Mueller over 3 issues
Presidents often use foreign travel to distract from controversy back home, and in Davos, Trump sought to divert the spotlight from the developments involving special counsel Robert Mueller. But the Russia probe, which has clouded his presidency, remains front-of-mind for many in the well-read crowd here.
Executives, entrepreneurs and political leaders gathered at this mountainside village had been awaiting Trump’s remarks to the World Economic Forum with a sense of dread, fearing he’d use the platform to shame global elites in the same manner he railed against them during his populist presidential campaign.
And while the President did tout the commercial benefits of his “America First” agenda — a climate of competitive taxes and relaxed regulations — he downplayed the resentments and anger that have colored his previous assessments of the global financial elite.
He proclaimed that policies must be focused on improving conditions for “forgotten people,” a theme he campaigned upon as a presidential candidate.
“When people are forgotten, the world becomes fractured,” he said. “Only by hearing and responding to the voices of the forgotten can we create a bright future that is truly shared by all.”

A prelude

White House officials say Trump’s remarks in Davos served as a prelude to elements of the President’s first State of the Union address next week in Washington.
An honest discussion on trade was not featured in the speech, including how withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has left the United States on the sidelines as the role of China and other countries rise.
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his appearance at Davos to announce the finalization of the TPP agreement — without the United States.
Trump did, however, declare that his administration would consider negotiating Pacific trade agreements “either individually or perhaps as a group, if it is in the interests of all.”
The speech echoed the same message the President delivered personally over dinner on Thursday to a small audience of European business executives in Davos that he is trying to encourage to increase their investments in the US.
The speech was a far cry from the highly critical Davos message that Trump and many campaign advisers — like one-time chief strategist Steve Bannon — often espoused during his bid for office.
Trump and his aides anticipated a wary welcome to Davos by the businessmen and political leaders who flock annually to this snowy town. But instead of outright scorn, Trump was greeted by certain fascination when he strode into the Congress Center to begin meetings on Thursday.
Flocked by camera-wielding participants, Trump declared he’d already been given a warm welcome to the summit.
“This is like walking into the Academy Awards, except we have more photographers,” Trump told CNBC in an interview.
At a conference dedicated to global integration, Trump may not have been a natural guest, given his penchant for blasting the role of elites and the notion of free trade. But Trump checked nearly all of his criticism at the door, choosing instead to sell America and its economic strength.
In a brief question-and-answer session with Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, Trump said his time as a businessman prepared him for his current role on the global stage.
“Being a businessman has been a great experience for me,” Trump said, noting that he is the first businessman elected president without formal political experience.
“I’ve always been very successful in making money. I’d been good at it,” he said.
And that, perhaps, was one of the strongest bonds Trump had with his audience, including many business titans from the United States and across the world.
Despite his well-known brand name, he had never before been invited to the World Economic Forum. But on Friday as they watched and waited to take their leave, Trump left quickly for his ride on Marine One above across the Swiss Alps to Zurich and his flight aboard Air Force One to Washington.

Donald Trump Denies Reports He Tried to Fire Mueller — First Reported by The New York Times

January 26, 2018

President calls reports “fake news” as he arrives at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington on June 21, 2017.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington on June 21, 2017. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

DAVOS, Switzerland—President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed as “fake news” reports that in June he ordered the top White House lawyer to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but backed off when his counsel threatened to resign.

“Fake news. Fake news,” Mr. Trump said as he arrived in the World Economic Forum on Friday morning for meetings with foreign leaders ahead of his address this afternoon.

The New York Times first reported Thursday on Mr. Trump’s alleged directive, what would be the first known instance where he attempted to fire Mr. Mueller as the special counsel investigates whether Trump associates colluded in Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Mr. Trump has denied collusion, and Moscow has denied meddling in the election.

The Department of Justice tapped Mr. Mueller to lead the investigation after Mr. Trump fired then-Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey last May. Mr. Comey had previously been leading the Russia probe.

Around the same point last summer as Mr. Trump reportedly issued his order to fire Mr. Mueller, West Wing officials expressed concern that White House counsel Don McGahn would quit out of frustration over the lack of protocols surrounding meetings between Mr. Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, whose activities are under scrutiny in the Russia probe, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The president has repeatedly complained about what he perceives as a lack of loyalty among his top law-enforcement officials. He has attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his decision last spring to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, leaving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge. Prior to firing Mr. Comey, he told the then-FBI director he expected his loyalty, Mr. Comey told Congress last year.

As part of the Russia investigation, Mr. Mueller is also examining whether the president obstructed justice in firing Mr. Comey. He has told Mr. Trump’s lawyers he may want to interview the president about that issue and others in the near future, the Journal reported.

Mr. Trump said Wednesday he was willing to testify under oath in Mr. Mueller’s investigation, which he has repeatedly called a “witch hunt,” putting the timeline for such an interview within two to three weeks. “I would love to do it, and I would like to do it as soon as possible,” the president said.

The president’s attorneys have spent recent weeks negotiating the precise terms under which Mr. Trump might consent to an interview with the special counsel, according to people familiar with their efforts.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at

Trump sends ‘warmest regards’ to African leaders after reported slur

January 26, 2018


© AFP | Trump congratulated Kagame on taking over as chair of the African Union.

DAVOS (SWITZERLAND) (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Friday asked the African Union chairman to pass on his “warmest regards” to other regional leaders at a summit this weekend, after sparking outrage with a reported slur against Africans.The outspoken US leader congratulated Rwandan President Paul Kagame on taking over as chair of the African bloc, which Trump said was a “great honour”.

“I know you’re going to your first meeting shortly. Please give my warmest regards,” Trump told Kagame after they held a one-on-one meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The US president ignored questions shouted by journalists about his reported dismissal this month of African nations as “shithole countries”, during a meeting on immigration with congressional leaders.

The reported remark drew outrage around the world and prompted several African governments to demand explanations from their US ambassadors.

The 55-nation African Union chaired by Kagame demanded an apology, although Trump has denied making the remark as relayed by US lawmakers who were present at the meeting.

Trump said he had “tremendous discussions” in Davos with Kagame, who for his part said they had “good discussions” about the economy and trade.