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Never mind the optics, Theresa Mays US dash was mortifying | Jonathan Freedland

Sure, it went fine Trump managed not to drop any bombshells. But this hasty visit smacks of desperation

In normal times, youd say everything went swimmingly. Sure, the American president seemed a tad unsure how to say the name of his guest whom he greeted as Ter-raiser slightly reinforcing the White Houses earlier failure, in a briefing note, to spell the British prime ministers name correctly, dropping the h and thereby suggesting Donald Trump was about to receive Teresa May, who made her name as a porn star.

But other than that, the PM would have been delighted. In the press conference that followed their Oval Office meeting, there were no bombshells: Trump managed to get through it without insulting an entire ethnic group, trashing a democratic norm or declaring war, any of which might have diverted attention from Mays big moment. He was on best behaviour, diligently reading the script that had been written for him, attesting to the deep bond that connects Britain and the US. May received all the assurances she craved that her countrys relationship with the US remains special. Why, he even, briefly, took her hand.

However, these are not normal times. May and her team will be pleased with the optics and indeed some of the substance artfully, May got Trump to confirm, on camera, that he is 100% behind Nato but the underlying truth is that this dash to Washington was mortifying.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/27/never-mind-the-optics-theresa-mays-us-dash-was-mortifying


Angela Davis’ Women’s March speech: ‘this countrys history cannot be deleted’

Read the full transcript of her powerful address made on Saturday in Washington DC

At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, trans people, men and youth who are here at the Womens March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, hetero-patriarchy from rising again.

We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.

The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this countrys history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.

No human being is illegal.

The struggle to save the planet, to stop climate change, to guarantee the accessibility of water from the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, to Flint, Michigan, to the West Bank and Gaza. The struggle to save our flora and fauna, to save the air this is ground zero of the struggle for social justice.

This is a womens march and this womens march represents the promise of feminism as against the pernicious powers of state violence. An inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to antisemitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation.

Yes, we salute the fight for 15. We dedicate ourselves to collective resistance.

Resistance to the billionaire mortgage profiteers and gentrifiers.

Resistance to the healthcare privateers.

Resistance to the attacks on Muslims and on immigrants.

Resistance to attacks on disabled people.

Resistance to state violence perpetrated by the police and through the prison-industrial complex.

Resistance to institutional and intimate gender violence, especially against trans women of color.

Womens rights are human rights all over the planet and that is why we say freedom and justice for Palestine. We celebrate the impending release of Chelsea Manning. And Oscar Lpez Rivera. But we also say free Leonard Peltier. Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Free Assata Shakur.

Over the next months and years we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out.

The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance: resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music.

This is just the beginning and in the words of the inimitable Ella Baker: We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. Thank you.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/22/angela-davis-womens-march-speech-countrys-history-cannot-be-deleted


Trump’s treasury secretary pick failed to disclose nearly $100m in assets

Steven Mnuchin didnt tell the Senate finance committee that he was a director of an investment fund incorporated in a tax haven and omitted other assets

Steven Mnuchin, the hedge fund millionaire Donald Trump has picked to run the US treasury, failed to disclose nearly $100m in assets to Congress, including his role as a director of offshore funds and close to $1m in art owned by his children.

The error was disclosed hours before Mnuchin was grilled by the Senate finance committee on Thursday over his role at a California bank that foreclosed on thousands of vulnerable borrowers, his attitude to tax havens and the future regulation of the US financial system.

On Wednesday night the committee learned Mnuchin had initially failed to disclose he was a director of Dune Capital International, an investment fund incorporated in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven. He also omitted other assets, including $95m in real estate and $906,556 worth of artwork held by his children.

Mr. Mnuchin has claimed these omissions were due to a misunderstanding of the questionnaire he does not consider these assets to be investment assets and thus did not disclose them, even though the committee directs the nominee to list all real estate assets, according to documents filed with the committee.

Mnuchin was questioned by the Democratic senator Bob Menendez who asked how he had failed to disclose the assets when he signed a statement listing his holdings on 19 December.

I have a ton of other questions on policy but first and foremost is truth and veracity, what Americans need in their treasury secretary said Menedez. In essence isnt it true that what you did here is take these companies, put them offshore so you could help your clients, who you were making money from, to avoid US taxation.

Mnuchin said that was not true at all.

I assure you that these forms were very complicated, he said. When I certified those forms I thought it was correct. Mnuchin said he may have erred in giving the forms in early and should have waited and that his lawyer had assured him he had filled the forms in correctly.

It doesnt take a rocket scientist to understand list all entities, said Menendez.

Mnuchin said his decision to move his investment vehicles offshore was not always about taxes but about making investments eligible for pensions and other non-profits. These are very complicated issues. We need tax code simplification, he said. Mnuchin said he was in favor of changing the tax code and to make sure we dont let anybody avoid taxes.

Over five hours the treasury secretary nominee remained composed as he faced tough questions over his management of OneWest, a California bank created after he took over IndyMac in 2009 after it collapsed during the financial crisis, dragged down by a portfolio of bad loans.

OneWest foreclosed on more than 36,000 homeowners under Mnuchin. including one 90-year-old woman over a 27-cent payment error. Under Mnuchin, OneWest churned out foreclosures like Chinese factories churned out Trump suits and ties, Senator Ron Wyden told the hearing.

On Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren accused Mnuchin of making millions at OneWest by grinding families into the dirt. Warren held a press conferences with four women who had loans with Mnuchins former firm and who had either lost their home or were in danger of being evicted.

In his prepared testimony for his confirmation Mnuchin denied accusations that OneWest Bank was a foreclosure machine designed to profit from the bursting of the housing bubble.

Since I was first nominated to serve as treasury secretary, I have been maligned as taking advantage of others hardships in order to earn a buck. Nothing could be further from the truth, Mnuchin wrote in his opening statement.

Mnuchin said he could not talk about specific loans because of privacy but that some had been in the public eye. The most troubling was to the octomum [Natalie Suleman, who became a media celebrity after she gave birth to octuplets in January 2009]. We worked very, very hard, that was a terrible situation, to move her to another home that they could afford, he said.

There were mistakes, we regret those, said Mnuchin. He said banks would prefer to make a loan modification than to foreclose which is very costly to the bank.

Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican chairman of the committee, said it was disappointing that Democrats were unfairly objecting to Trumps nominees and that if the Senate concentrated on Mnuchins qualifications there would be little if any opposition to Mr Mnuchins nomination.

Hatch dismissed Warrens conference as a mock hearing that was essentially unrelated to Mr Mnuchins qualification for the job.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/19/steven-mnuchin-financial-disclosure-confirmation-treasury


Elizabeth Warren: Trump’s treasury secretary pick ‘grinds families into the dirt’

Homeowners who lost homes or face eviction after dealing with bank previously run by Steven Mnuchin call on Senate to reject his nomination

Homeowners who lost their homes or face eviction after running into difficulties with a bank previously run by treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject his nomination.

Donald Trumps pick for treasury secretary had made millions grinding families into the dirt, the conferences organizer, Senator Elisabeth Warren, said while introducing four women who had loans with Mnuchins former firm, OneWest.

Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, hedge fund manager, film financier and CEO of OneWest, will appear before the Senate finance committee on Thursday. Warren has been blocked from allowing the unhappy OneWest borrowers to testify at the hearing. The secretary of treasury will personally touch the lives of every single person in the US, Warren said. We have had a chance to hear about the lives of four people [Mnuchin] has touched, and the results were devastating.

Mnuchin led a team of investors that took over California-based lender IndyMac in 2009 after the bank was undone by its portfolio of risky loans. The entity was renamed OneWest and, according to critics, embarked on a concerted effort to foreclose on loans and seize borrowers properties.

Among those who spoke at the meeting was Colleen Ison-Hodroff, from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 84-year-old and her husband, Monroe, bought a reverse mortgage on their fully paid-off home through OneWest subsidiary Financial Freedom. Reverse mortgages are typically bought by retirees looking to supplement their retirement income.

Ison-Hodroff told the hearing that a broker assured the couple that Colleen could remain in the house that had been their home for 54 years even if her husband died. But days after her husbands funeral in 2014, she received a notice that she had to immediately pay off the full balance of her loan or face foreclosure. She is still fighting to keep her home.

I do not think a man like that should be treasury secretary and be in charge of the economy, said Ison-Hodroff.

According to an analysis of public data by the California Reinvestment Coalition, OneWests reverse mortgage servicing subsidiary, Financial Freedom, was responsible for 40% of reverse mortgage foreclosures nationwide, more than twice its 17% share of the market.

A disproportionately high number of OneWest Bank foreclosures occurred in minority communities in California, according to an analysis by Urban Strategies Council and released by the California Reinvestment Coalition.

Warren has called OneWest a foreclosure machine and Mnuchin the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis he managed to participate in all the worst practices on Wall Street.

Another witness, Heather McCreary, from Sparks, Nevada, said her family was made homeless by OneWest after that the company refused to renegotiate their home loan. Sylvia Oliver, from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, claimed OneWest repeatedly refused to work with her to modify a loan. I dont think this is a track record anyone should be proud of, she told the hearing.

Mnuchin is expected to robustly defend his record at the hearing Thursday. According to prepared remarks obtained by Bloomberg, Mnuchin will tell the committee: Since I was first nominated to serve as treasury secretary, I have been maligned as taking advantage of others hardships in order to earn a buck. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If we had not bought IndyMac, the bank would likely have been broken up and sold in pieces to private investors, where the outcome for consumers could have been much bleaker, Mnuchin said. My group had nothing to do with the creation of risky loans in the IndyMac loan portfolios.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/18/steven-mnuchin-treasury-nominee-elizabeth-warren-hearing


Trump interior secretary pick on climate change: ‘I dont believe its a hoax’

Ryan Zinke distanced himself from the president-elect in confirmation hearing: The climate is changing. The debate is what is that influence and what can we do

Donald Trumps nominee for secretary of interior, Ryan Zinke, distanced himself from the president-elect on Tuesday, saying the climate is changing. The debate is what is that influence and what can we do.

Zinke, a two-term congressman for Montana, had been asked by Bernie Sanders about Trumps infamous 2012 tweet where the real estate developer described climate change as created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

Zinke, a former navy Seal, responded by stating matter of factly, I dont believe its a hoax.

The statement came in a hearing on his nomination held by the Senate energy and natural resources committee on Tuesday.

However, the Trump cabinet nominee insisted he wasnt a climate science expert and stated his belief in being prudent towards what he characterized as a lot of debate on both sides of the aisle.

Zinke also differed from many in his own party by insisting: Im absolutely against transfer or sale of public lands. Many Republicans have long pushed for the federal government to transfer ownership of public lands to the states, and this was included as a plank in the partys platform. However, the Montana Republican still made clear his support for fossil fuel drilling on federal lands, saying We have to have an economy.

Zinke is expected to sail through the Senate with bipartisan support. He was introduced by both of his states senators, Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Steve Daines, before the hearing on Tuesday. Zinke had long been considered the strongest general election opponent to Tester in 2018 but his appointment likely prevents him from seeking a Senate bid and boosts Democratic chances of holding onto Testers seat in the midterms.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/17/trump-interior-secretary-pick-ryan-zinke-climate-change


Attempts to hold Trump to account only seem to make him stronger and stranger

In a week in which the world of the president-elect grew ever more bizarre, he remained his own unpredictable, infuriating, charismatic, deeply flawed self

Dont be rude! Dont be rude! barked the president-elect with the authority of a school principal reprimanding a two-year-old. Not for the first time in the course of 18 months of Donald Trumps wild ride to the White House and surely not for the last the worlds media found itself gathered at his feet, dutifully soaking up his scorn like naughty children.

Dont be rude! No, Im not going to give you a question! repeated the man destined in seven days time to become the 45th president of the United States as he shut down CNNs senior White House correspondent. The reporters misdeed? Having the temerity to try to ask a question.

It was one of those moments, of which there have been many along the way, when observers of the Trump phenomenon had to pinch themselves to maintain equilibrium. Was this man really about to occupy the most powerful office on the planet? And were we actually receiving a lesson in good behavior from the individual who mocked a disabled person and bragged about grabbing pussy?

This weeks event was the first press conference Trump had held since his shocking victory in November, the first indeed for six months since he took the unusual decision to cut out the media middleman and communicate directly to the American people through Twitter. Even before he appeared in the lobby of Trump Tower, his Fifth Avenue HQ and home, he had put us firmly in our places squashing about 250 reporters into a space barely able to hold half that number, prompting an unseemly scramble for journalistic real estate.

To add to the enervating claustrophobia, Trump further packed the lobby with staffers who proceeded to cheer raucously at all the right moments in the manner of canned laughter in a recorded TV show. The subliminal message to the gathered media throng was clear: cheer along with us, or risk being subjected to the CNN treatment.

So much has changed, so much stayed the same in the half year since his last media encounter. Physically, Trump emphasised his altered status by drawing a blue curtain across the lobby and placing 10 American flags with eagle finials in front of it, as a suitably televisual presidential backdrop.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/14/donald-trump-press-conference-twitter-media


Trump’s Scotland golf resort proceeds with expansion despite business pledge

President-elects team does not consider multimillion-dollar plans in conflict with written vow to end new foreign investments, which critics call ambiguous

The Trump Organization will press ahead with multimillion-dollar plans to expand one of the president-elects golf resorts in Scotland, despite its apparent pledge to halt new investments overseas.

Trump officials said the plans for the Trump International Golf Course Scotland in Aberdeenshire likely to immediately involve extending its boutique hotel and building a second 18-hole golf course did not conflict with his promise not to pursue new or pending deals outside the US.

Implementing future phasing of existing properties does not constitute a new transaction so we intend to proceed, a Trump Organization spokeswoman told the Guardian.

The expansion plans could see the resort grow substantially, with a new 450-room five-star hotel, timeshare complex and private housing estate. This would greatly increase the value to the Trump Organization of an investment onwhich Trump originally boasted he would spend up to 1bn.

Richard Painter, a former White House chief ethics adviser to George W Bush, said this extra investment was a perfect example of the clear conflicts of interest between Trumps newfound power as president and his familys business interests.

Hes using language which is ambiguous. It clearly illustrates that around the world, he will just simply expand around the various holdings and as they continue to expand, the conflicts of interest expand, Painter said.

Its like [the board game] Monopoly: if you have one house on Boardwalk, its not a new deal to go for three hotels on Boardwalk.

At a contentious press conference on Wednesday, the president-elect announced that his organisation would no longer pursue foreign investments as part of his controversial plans to avoid conflicts between his substantial business interests and his presidency.

In a document issued by the Trump team later that day, the president-elects lawyers Morgan, Lewis & Bockius wrote that his new pledge prohibits without exception new foreign deals during the duration of President-Elect Trumps Presidency.

Trump and his legal adviser Sheri Dillon said control of his property, hotels and golfing empire which includes two golf resorts in Scotland and one in Ireland would pass to his sons Eric and Donald Jr, and Trump executive Allen Weisslberg, before his inauguration as president on Friday 20 January.

There is speculation that Eric Trump will fly to Scotland next week, as that transfer of power takes place.

Trump
Trump International Golf Links, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Photograph: Mapbox, OpenStreetMap

Crucially, President-elect Trump has not agreed to sell or transfer his shares in the golf resorts, which means he retains ultimate ownership and stands to benefit from increases in the value of those investments. He owns 100% of the shares in the Aberdeenshire course, which has consistently made heavy losses. He has personally loaned it nearly 40m, and it lost 1.1m last year.

The so-called white paper released by Trumps legal advisers on Wednesday, setting out the new management arrangements and announcing a new trust to be run by his sons and Weisselberg, also said the agreement prohibits the Trump Organization from entering into any new transaction or contract with a foreign country, agency [or] any state or local government or any agency or instrumentality thereof, other than normal and customary arrangements already undertaken before the president-elects election.

Trumps legal advisers claim this structure will prevent Trump from breaching foreign bribery rules because any profits earned by allowing foreign dignitaries and leaders to stay at his two Scottish hotels, and his large Irish golf resort and hotel at Doonbeg there, would be passed to the US Treasury.

Walter M Shaub, director of the US Office of Government Ethics, said Trumps plan doesnt meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and every president in the past four decades has met.

Painter added that this structure was not legally enforceable. This is meaningless language, because what is the definition of a new deal? When youre a real estate developer, you are constantly entering into new contracts, expanding existing facilities, refinancing leases.

The phrase new deal is subject to such wide range of interpretation that it can easily be worked around, he said.

Trumps executives in Scotland argue that his new agreement to halt overseas investment cannot affect the Trump International Golf Course Scotland in Aberdeenshire course, which lies 10 miles north of Aberdeen, since its expansion plans predate Trumps election victory on 9 November. A spokesperson for the Trump transition team did not immediately return a request for comment.

The expansion proposals are partly derived from the resorts masterplan, which was approved against fierce opposition from environmentalists by the Scottish government in 2008.

The largest of his two Scottish hotels is the 149-room five-star hotel at Turnberry, which Trump bought with its associated Open championship course in 2014. He has since spent some 60m developing the resort, adding a new ballroom, a 3,500-a-night presidential suite and an ostentatious fountain.

Aberdeenshire councils planning department has recently approved plans to expand Trumps boutique hotel at the resort north of Aberdeen, which he bought in 2006, and is processing a live planning application for the second golf course.

On 2 November, a week before Trump stunned his opponents by winning the presidency, it gave listed building consent to extend the resorts boutique hotel, a converted early Victorian country house called Macleod House in memory of the president-elects Scotland-born mother Mary Macleod, to include a banqueting hall and six new bedrooms.

On 22 December, the council published a further official report on water management plans for the second 18-hole golf course, which is also being named in honour of Trumps mother. The course was a central part of the 2008 masterplan and this application has been in the planning system since September 2015.

The boutique hotel was not included in the masterplan approved by Scottish ministers in 2008 but it has been in use as a hotel for several years. Trumps critics in Aberdeenshire argue that its expansion raises substantial questions about the future of Trumps ultimate plans for the resort.

The Trump Organization had tried to dilute the original masterplan proposals last year by setting out plans for a new 850-home private housing estate and 1,900 leisure accommodation units, thought to be timeshares. Those plans were incorporated in Aberdeenshires draft local plan, although the council said he would also have to build a new primary school and affordable homes for local residents in return for planning consent.

But in December government planning inspectors threw that proposal out and insisted the Trump Organization stuck to the original 2008 plan which requires it to first build the 450-bed luxury hotel, and associated sports facilities, as a prerequisite for approval to build highly profitable private homes.

They said that if he built a new housing estate, he must also provide hundreds of affordable homes, the new school, community facilities and pay for a new roundabout, alongside robust environmental checks during construction.

David Milne, a local resident and vocal critic of the resort, said the decision to press ahead with expanding the boutique hotel suggested the Trump Organization had dropped plans for a five-star hotel at the resort.

I would question whether or not theres any valid reason why the plans are compatible, Milne said. If youre going to be required to do a 450-room hotel, why are you messing around with adding a six-bedroom extension to a boutique hotel?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/14/trump-scotland-golf-resort-conflicts-of-interest


Ben Carson refuses to guarantee no housing funds will benefit Trump

Former presidential candidate is accused of plagiarism in opening remarks at Senate confirmation hearing for housing secretary post

Ben Carson has refused to guarantee that no federal housing funds would benefit the Trump family should he be confirmed as the secretary of housing and urban development (Hud).

The retired neurosurgeon and former Republican presidential candidate faced a pointed line of questioning during his Thursday hearing before a Senate committee, and although he said he will absolutely not play favorites for anyone, he declined to give a direct promise that none of the billions of dollars that Hud distributes in grants and loans would benefit the president-elect, his family, or their real estate holdings.

It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American, he said. Its for all Americans, everything that we do.

The Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren repeatedly questioned Carson on the matter. Although Carson avoided directly answering her questions, he did say he would not cut or limit a program if someone gained money from it.

If there happens to be an extraordinarily good program thats working for millions of people, and it turns out that someone that youre targeting is going to gain, you know, $10 from it, am I going to say no, the rest of you Americans cant have it? I think logic and common sense probably would be the best way, he said.

Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, ended her careful line of questions to call for the passage of a law she and other Democrats proposed this week that would require Trump to place all of his assets in a blind trust.

She told Carson: The problem is that you cant assure us that Hud money, not of $10 varieties but of multimillion-dollar varieties, will not end up in the president-elects pockets. And the reason you cant assure us of that is because the president-elect is hiding his familys business interests from you, from me, from the rest of America. And this just highlights the absurdity and the danger of the president-elects refusal to put his assets in a true blind trust.

Warren criticized Trumps continued refusal to distance himself completely from his business empire before taking office. On Wednesday, in his first press conference since July, Trump and one of his lawyers said all control of Trumps business assets would be handed over to his adult sons. Trump has repeatedly ignored calls from ethics experts to create a blind trust. The head of the federal governments ethics agency made a rare public statement on Wednesday evening to say that Trumps proposal to put his children in charge of the business would not be satisfactory to avoid conflicts and broke with 40 years of precedent.

Before Carson faced Warrens questions, he delivered off-the-cuff opening remarks, speaking freely instead of reading directly from the written statement he had prepared and submitted in advance of Thursdays hearing.

At least a portion of those prepared remarks appear to have been plagiarized, reported the Washington Post, including two paragraphs copied word-for-word from a 2008 policy report published by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation. The text describes the dangers of lead paint and the impact that unsafe housing can have on health.

A spokesman for the president-elects transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Guardian, but told the Post that the mistake was in error and that a set of hyperlinks and footnotes meant to be included in the text seems to have fallen off.

Other senators on the committee questioned Carson on his personal background growing up in poverty, his lack of government experience, and his previously expressed desire to reduce government spending.

Carson, who has no government experience and no political experience aside from his failed bid to be the Republican nominee for president, spoke extensively about his upbringing and his work as a neurosurgeon and philanthropist. Republican senators questioning him on Thursday seemed largely unworried by the prospect of Carson running a large federal agency despite his lack of experience.

Senator Mike Rounds brushed aside such concerns, saying: It seems to me that probably running this department is not really brain surgery, and if you can handle that you most certainly have the abilities to step in and look at this with fresh eyes.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/12/ben-carson-housing-secretary-confirmation-hearing


Trump names son-in-law Jared Kushner as senior adviser, testing nepotism law

Kushner, who had Trumps ear in an informal role during the election, will need to argue a federal anti-nepotism law does not apply to him

Donald Trumps son-in-law Jared Kushnerwas named senior adviser to the president on Monday, an appointment that would further entangle the incoming White House team in a web of potential conflicts of interest and accusations of nepotism.

For months, Kushner has had Trumps ear in an informal role alongside the businessmans three grown children: Donald Jr, Eric and Kushners wife, Ivanka.In a statement, Trumps transition team said that Kushner had formed an effective leadership team with the president-elects chosen chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Kushner, 35, will need to argue that a federal anti-nepotism law does not apply to him. The law, enacted in 1967 after John F Kennedy appointed his brother as attorney general, prohibits any federal official from hiring family members to an agency or office which he or she leads.

The law has loopholes, however. Ethics experts say that Kushner could retain a technically unofficial role, for instance as a consultant, in order to skirt the law. Trumps transition team said Kushner has chosen to forego his salary while serving in the administration.

Attorneys for Kushner reportedly want to argue that the White House is technically not an agency, and that therefore Trump and Kushner would be exempt from nepotism rules. Trumps transition team has argued that this loophole would also make Trump exempt from his own possible conflicts of interest.

WilmerHale, a law firm contracted by Kushner, has said in a statement that he is committed to complying with federal ethics laws and has coordinated with the Office of Government Ethics.

Trump could also try to argue that he has wide authority to select his advisers, using Hillary Clintons work in the White House in the 1990s as a precedent. At the time, an appeals court ruled that Clinton could work in government because she already held an official title, first lady.

More traditional conflicts of interest also appear strewn across Kushners path to the White House. More so than his father-in-law, who has for years turned away from real estate in favor of branding deals, Kushner is a major figure in New York real estate, the scion of an extraordinarily wealthy family with business interests around the world.

Kushner Companies has invested billions in real estate around the US in the last decade, and relies heavily on foreign investment and lenders.

Experts have said that even should Kushner place holdings in a blind trust, he would still test ethics laws. Kushner will be required to make some financial disclosures, and would continuously test the limits of the law in the White House.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/09/jared-kushner-senior-adviser-donald-trump


‘Fear and threats’: Mexico hits back after Trump pressures automakers

Mexican government categorically rejects attempts to scare off investors but effects seem clear as future Ford plant and job hopes are left an empty shell

Mexico has hit back in the verbal trade war with Donald Trump, hitting out at the use of fear or threats to deter companies from investing in the country.

The US president-elect has threatened to slap import tariffs on US automaker General Motors for importing cars it makes in Mexico and Japans Toyota for planning a new factory there.

Ford also announced that it was cancelling a $1.6bn new factory in the northern state of San Luis Potosi that had been criticised by Trump, though the company said the decision was business-related.

Without mentioning Trump or any government, Mexicos economy ministry nonetheless said in a statement that it categorically rejects any attempt to influence the investment decisions of companies on the basis of fear or threats.

Trump has vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) with Mexico and Canada as well as impose tariffs on companies that ship jobs out of the United States.

The investments that are made in Mexico, the United States and Canada benefit the three countries thanks to the integration of our chains of production, the economy ministry said. This, the statement said, did not cause the loss of jobs for any of the participating countries.

Fords abrupt move to scrap its $1.6bn plant in San Luis Potosi has sent shockwaves through the factorys likely network of suppliers. Many of them had already started to expand in anticipation, in a state where industry is easily 70% dependent on the auto sector, according go Julian Eaves, managing director of Preferred Compounding de Mexico, a US-owned maker of rubber compounds operating in central Mexico .

Its going to have a huge impact on the local community, said Eaves, calculating the loss to the economy could run into the hundreds of millions or billions of over the next five years, as manufacturing, contracting and indirect jobs all fall short of plans.

Billboard
Billboard welcoming Ford at the San Luis Potosi industrial park. Photograph: Reuters

In a matter of days, Fords retreat has turned the factory site into a barren plain bereft of its economic promise. It now looks like a cemetery, said Fernando Rosales, 28, a hydraulic hoses contractor preparing to abandon the site. [There is] only death here, we are all leaving.

Fords decision also puts the brakes on Detroit automakers push to build small cars in Mexico to reduce labour costs while using higher-paid US workers for larger, more expensive vehicles.

Not far from the doomed Ford site, other major players from the global automotive industry are in the midst of multi-million dollar investments, including General Motors Co, which Trump has also repeatedly berated for investing in Mexico.

German carmaker BMW is assembling a $1bn plant, and a few miles from the Ford site Goodyear is busy building a $550m tyre factor.

The US president-elects broadsides against Mexico have shown how exposed companies in the supply chain are to the whims of US automakers under pressure not to offshore production.

Shares in Kansas City Southern, one of the main railroad operators in Mexico, fell following news of the Ford cancellation and have lost 3.3% since Tuesday morning.

Between 40 and 50,mostly foreign-owned suppliers had been ready to come and supply the San Luis Potosi plant, said Sergio Resendez of real estate broker Colliers International.

This was going to catapult us, Gustavo Puente, the state economy minister of San Luis Potosi, said of the plant Ford originally announced in April of last year. Ford told him the plan was off about an hour before it went public with the news, he said.

Around 12 to 14 of the suppliers had already invested money buying land or signed a contract with developers, said Resendez of Colliers, though Puente suggested the number was fewer.

Its a very, very complicated hole, Resendez said. The suppliers, depending on their level of advancement, will lose money. They had already made big investments.
At the Ford premises shocked and dejected workers packed up construction materials and prepared to leave. This is a massive kick in the teeth, said Rosalio Rocha, 52, a construction worker on the site from a nearby town.

It looks like he is going to keep going on about it, he added, referring to Trump.
Some of the ground at the 280-hectare site had already been levelled and the skeletons of two large white buildings stood out against a rusty brown and green backdrop.

Workers said they had heard plans for an industrial park opposite the site for suppliers had also been suspended. The parks developers were not immediately available to comment.

The auto sector is at the heart of a Mexican industrial boom since the 1994 Nafta agreement.

It hurts because were partners in trade, culture, sports, were partners in everything, said Puente, the San Luis Potosi economy minister. It hurts because [Trump] is pushing a policy that wants to break those ties.

With Reuters and Agence France-Presse

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/07/fear-and-threats-mexico-hits-back-over-trumps-bullying-of-automakers


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