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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "deal"

The miraculous Brexit deal… or not?

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Just as I was getting coffee this morning, an excited flurry of news was breaking across the pond. Seemingly out of the blue, a Brexit deal had been reached between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the head of the European Union commission. As recently as yesterday, the prospects for such an agreement seemed seriously in doubt, but both men were out on social media announcing the success of the talks. But as we’ll get to in a moment, it may not be as solid as they seem to think. (NBC News)

The U.K. and European Union announced Thursday they had agreed to a new Brexit divorce deal, a key breakthrough ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline for Britain to leave the bloc.

However the deal must still be ratified by European leaders and lawmakers in the British Parliament.

Negotiators for the two sides had been locked in talks ahead of a critical summit in Brussels later this week.

The agreement, which looked unlikely just days ago, could break the deadlock that has paralyzed British politics since the country voted to leave the E.U. in a June 2016 referendum.

As with most things these days, the momentous news was first put out on Twitter. EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker certainly sounded optimistic.

And BoJo struck the same positive tone.

So is that it? Johnson wins and Brexit happens on Halloween? Not so fast, sports fans. The deal doesn’t happen unless the House of Commons approves it in a rare weekend session on Saturday. And unless the Prime Minister knows of some Labour defections that nobody else is talking about, he still needs the support of at least ten Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs from Northern Ireland.

That doesn’t sound like a sure thing at all. No sooner had the deal been announced by both BoJo and the EU, Arlene Foster, the head of the DUP, retweeted a statement from the party’s main account saying nothing had really changed.

To give credit where due, BoJo has gotten further than Theresa May ever did. She made endless trips across the channel with what was essentially the same offer and Juncker would always send her back with nothing to show for her efforts. The difference with Johnson’s approach appeared to be the “resolution” of the Irish backstop issue. But it really doesn’t resolve it at all. The deal simply kicks the can down the road for a few years while allowing Northern Ireland to remain in one the main European trade groups.

Perhaps that temporary bandage wasn’t enough to convince the DUP to go along with this. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s being reported that the IRA has come out saying that such a deal would mean that any new “infrastructure” along the border would be a “legitimate target for attack.”

Things are getting messy and nobody wants to see a renewal of “the troubles” between the Irish after so many decades of progress toward peace. Boris Johnson may have convinced Juncker, but he clearly has more work to do back home.

The post The miraculous Brexit deal… or not? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Did Trump cut a secret ethanol deal with Iowa’s governor?

Westlake Legal Group 682a8755-0a07-49d1-a2d1-3d8957a5653e Did Trump cut a secret ethanol deal with Iowa’s governor? The Blog King Corn Kim Reynolds Iowa governor ethanol deal

Over the summer, I wrote about how the President needs to climb down off the ethanol teeter-totter and pick one energy policy he can stick with. The competing interests of the ethanol lobby in corn-growing states and the oil and gas industry in the states with lots of refineries have had Donald Trump doing a political zig-zag routine that would make an NFL running back proud.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen no signs of progress on this front. The President has continued to hand out favors to both sides, resulting in a situation where both sides are perpetually angry. This pattern appeared to continue last week when Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced that she’d spoken to Trump and they were “close” to a deal that sounded good to her. And if it sounds good to Reynolds, you know it will sound terrible to the oil and gas folks. (Des Moines Register)

Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed optimism about a deal negotiated with President Donald Trump last week to mitigate the damage to Iowa’s ethanol industry caused by federal waivers for oil refineries, but cautioned that she’s still waiting to see the final version on paper.

“We’re waiting to see that in writing and hopefully we’ll get that sooner rather than later,” Reynolds told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “And we’ll continue to touch base with the administration and just see where they’re at on it. But I take them at their word. It was a really, really good meeting with a good dialogue and ideas committed to the farmers.”

This sounds like a very dangerous meeting if you ask me, particularly if there’s nothing “on paper” yet. Reynolds is talking about a “fix” for the exemptions granted to 31 refineries under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). King Corn sees those exemptions as damaging the market for ethanol. The refineries see them as a way to avoid bankruptcy caused by the crushing burden of costs from the government’s artificial “market” for ethanol, generated by mandates rather than demand.

So what could a “fix” for the exemptions look like? The most obvious choice is to take back some or all of the exemptions, throwing the refineries (and the jobs they support) under the bus. If that’s the President’s approach it’s not a very good one because it just puts him right back where he was before the most recent round of negotiations. He’ll temporarily make the people in Iowa happy while once again ticking off the folks in Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Texas (among others).

Perhaps there’s a better solution out there just waiting to be taken up. Rather than continuing to beat up American interests, if Trump really wants to come up with a gift for King Corn, how about a plan to vastly ease the ethanol industry’s ability to sell to Brazil? Only a few weeks ago that country significantly increased the cap on the amount of tariff-free ethanol they will allow to be imported. Why not make sure that our ethanol producers scoop up those export opportunities?

Shipping a few hundred million more gallons of ethanol out of the country would ease the pressure to force even more of that garbage fuel into our gasoline supply. And as a bonus, you’d be sending it to somebody who actually wants it rather than making companies buy it via government mandates. This would still be a “solution” arrived at by having the government pick winners and losers (which is bad) but you could at least put the battle for the President’s soul between King Corn and the fossil fuel industry into some sort of truce for a while.

The post Did Trump cut a secret ethanol deal with Iowa’s governor? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Report: Trump considered easing sanctions on Iran two days ago to encourage talks — over Bolton’s strong objection

Westlake Legal Group b-6 Report: Trump considered easing sanctions on Iran two days ago to encourage talks — over Bolton’s strong objection Trump The Blog Sanctions rouhani nuclear maximum pressure khamenei Iran deal Bolton

Golly, whoever leaked this to Bloomberg must have been pretty high up the food chain to know what the president was thinking on a matter as sensitive as Iran diplomacy.

And they must have a pretty sizable axe to grind with him if they’re willing to make him sound this weak, particularly in comparison to Bolton.

Any theories? Do any current or former disgruntled national security aides with a reputation for score-settling in the press present themselves as logical suspects?

The post-Bolton era will be a golden age of natsec leaking, my friends.

President Donald Trump discussed easing sanctions on Iran to help secure a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month, prompting then-National Security Advisor John Bolton to argue forcefully against such a step, according to three people familiar with the matter.

After an Oval Office meeting on Monday when the idea came up, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced his support for the move as a way to restart negotiations with Iran, some of the people said. Later in the day, Trump decided to oust Bolton, whose departure was announced Tuesday.

The White House has started preparations for Trump to meet with Rouhani this month in New York on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly the week of Sept. 23, according to the people. It’s far from clear if the Iranians would agree to talks while tough American sanctions remain in place…

Easing any sanctions without major concessions from Iran would undercut the pressure campaign that not only Bolton, but also Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Trump have said is the only effective way to make Iran change its behavior.

Macron has discussed brokering a meeting between Trump and a top Iranian diplomat. He might end up as the conduit at the UN.

Needless to say, backing off sanctions on Iran would mean abandoning the “maximum pressure” approach Trump has taken towards the country since exiting Obama’s nuclear deal. The two sides are playing a game of chicken right now: Trump has ramped up sanctions in hopes of bringing the Iranian economy to its knees (with some success, by the way), believing that they’ll cave and agree to nuclear terms more favorable to American in exchange for sanctions relief. Iran is ramping up its enrichment program again in hopes of making Trump panic about a new crisis in the Middle East, believing that he’ll cave and start lifting sanctions as a precondition to getting them back to the bargaining table. Iran’s president has explicitly said, in fact, that they won’t talk to the United States in a meaningful way unless Trump blinks first. Who’s the chicken?

If you believe this Bloomberg story, it sounds like Trump’s the chicken. Or will be soon.

A basic problem for him in trying to stare down Iran is that he keeps signaling how reluctant he is to let this cold war turn hot. Skepticism of war is his most laudable quality as president but he’s made such a show of it that it’s ended up undercutting the effectiveness of his “madman” image. Ideally Iran would be eager to talk with Trump without preconditions because they’ve concluded that he’s so wacky and bellicose that he just might order a bombing run on Tehran after all. And he is wacky in many things. But in matters of war he’s arguably more sober than his advisors, to the point of boasting that he canceled an attack on Iran because he cares about Iranian lives just that much. Iran is sizing him up; they knows there’s a presidential election coming; they know how eager Trump is to keep his campaign promise of avoiding new military entanglements; they know from his experience with North Korea (and more recently the Taliban) how enchanted he is by big peacemaker photo ops, even if they don’t produce anything meaningful for the United States. And so they’ve concluded that it’s safe to drive a hard bargain with the “madman” after all. His carrot-and-stick approach is really all carrot.

I mean, he sent Rand Paul to feel them out on talks, for fark’s sake. How much plainer can he be that he’s desperate for diplomacy?

They probably figure they can get him to recommit to the basic framework of the Obama nuclear deal so long as they add a few token bells and whistles and be sure to credit him lavishly with an unprecedented master stroke of diplomacy. But they’re going to test him first by refusing to agree to talks unless and until he blinks on sanctions. And now we find out that he’s thinking about blinking.

This Times piece from a few weeks ago about Iran coming around to the idea of talks with Trump caught my eye because it’s not what you’d expect in the current political climate. Trump’s polling has slipped lately. The trade war is deepening. He’s no better than a 50/50 shot at reelection. You might think that Iran would try to wait him out for 14 more months and see if they end up with a Democrat in 2021 who’s willing to reinstate the Obama nuclear deal. But no:

The new strategy, those who spoke about it said, was also predicated on dangling a foreign-policy victory to Mr. Trump that he could use to bolster his re-election prospects

If Mr. Trump wanted a “more comprehensive” deal than the existing accord, then Iran would consider his demand — and even discuss parts of its ballistic missile program and Iran’s role in the region — but in return Iran, too, would seek a more comprehensive guarantee from the United States for long-lasting economic relief, the people at the meeting said.

“This golden window of opportunity will likely not repeat in the next decade,” Sadegh Alhusseini, a senior foreign-policy and economic adviser to Mr. Jahangiri, said in a Twitter message. “This is the start of the game for Iran. Approaching U.S. elections give Iran a rare card to play with Trump.”

Iran might actually prefer a dovish Republican in office to a Democrat. Most of the hawkish impulse towards the country within the U.S. comes from the right, after all. With a Democrat in charge, those right-wing hawks are free to agitate for war, or at least “maximum pressure” in the form of sanctions. With Trump in office, they can’t. It’d be “disloyal” to the president to do so. It’s Trump’s party now, not John Bolton’s. So for Iran, friendly relations with Trump is basically a risk-free gamble. If they hand him a diplomatic win and he’s reelected, he’ll owe them in his second term and will be eager to build on the fledgling detente. If they hand him a diplomatic win and he loses, his Democratic successor will be reluctant to toss Iran’s olive branch to Trump aside and resume a hostile posture. It’s Democrats even more so than Republicans who want better relations with Iran, after all.

So what do they lose by talking to him and just maybe nailing down a grand bargain in which America formally recognizes the regime and renounces future efforts at regime change? For cripes sake, he was willing to legitimize the Taliban with a U.S. visit without even demanding they commit to a ceasefire. He’ll have Rouhani over for a state dinner before 2020 is out. No doubt they think they can roll him, especially with Bolton now out of the picture. But just to be sure, they’re going to test him to see if he’s willing to blink on sanctions first. He probably will.

The post Report: Trump considered easing sanctions on Iran two days ago to encourage talks — over Bolton’s strong objection appeared first on Hot Air.

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Philly cop shooter was offered “bull**** deal” to surrender

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We previously covered the arrest of long-time Philadelphia felon Maurice Hill after he shot six police during a standoff at his rowhome. Thankfully, all of the officers survived and have been released from the hospital, but the details of the nearly fatal encounter are still emerging. We already knew that a lawyer of Hill’s acquaintance contacted him by phone and later showed up in person to help convince him to surrender before he wound up dead. But it turns out that the city’s District Attorney, Larry Krasner, had also been on the phone with Hill. They were discussing what sort of a sentence Hill could expect if he surrendered and Krasner admits he was feeding him a fantasy. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Early on, I said 25 [years], then he said 20 and I said OK,” Krasner recounted Friday. At one point, Hill insisted on a deal in writing. Krasner started writing a draft, but did not finish it.

The conversation occurred 4½ hours after the standoff began, as officers were still being treated at hospitals, and 3 hours before it ended with Hill’s surrender and no more bloodshed. In an interview Friday, Krasner described his offer as a “phony baloney” agreement that he had no intention of honoring — and said Hill’s lawyer was in on the ruse.

“We need to be clear here: This was bulls— from the beginning,” Krasner said.

So Kasner offered Hill 20 years verbally, but we don’t know if his attorney repeated that offer. Some legal experts are already speculating that this could cause problems for the prosecution because if the attorney, Shaka Johnson, had been officially retained by Hill at that point, there would have been an obligation to tell Hill that it was a bogus (or “bull___”) offer. But did Johnson even know the details? Also, Krasner never even delivered a written offer. He threw out the draft copy of it he started.

I would hope that the courts wouldn’t allow something like this to gum up the works, but we’ve seen stranger things happen. Still, there were already six cops shot. Two more were trapped in an upper level of the house. Four hostages were in handcuffs and trapped in there with Hill. I would think the courts could support telling Hill they were bringing him a stripper in a cake at that point if it got him out of the building with no further shooting and ended the crisis.

Meanwhile, as shocking as it may sound, there were people actually planning a rally in support of the shooter last night. Considering the fact that people were harassing the cops during the standoff, perhaps that’s just par for the course in that neighborhood. Yesterday afternoon they claimed to be expecting “hundreds” of people to show up in support of the shooter. As it turns out, three people showed up for the rally. There were actually more cops there than Hill supporters, so perhaps that’s a hopeful sign.

Hill has a few arraignment and other court dates coming up presently. He’s expected to face enough charges of attempted murder of police officers to keep him in jail for the rest of his life. Assuming they don’t blow the prosecution because of this “offer.”

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Romney: I’m voting against this garbage budget deal

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He *did* once say that he was “severely conservative,” remember. Who could have guessed at the time that he was telling the truth?

“Utah balances its budget every year, and while it may not be in fashion in Washington, we still care deeply about fiscal responsibility. The federal government, however, has followed a very different course, and our national debt now totals over $22 trillion,” Romney said in a statement to The Hill.

“This deal unfortunately perpetuates fiscal recklessness by adding another $2 trillion to the debt, and I cannot support it. We must repair our fiscal foundation and set a course to a balanced budget now so that we avoid a future debt crisis that would pose grave hardships for our children and grandchildren.”

Romney joins Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in opposing the deal. Other Republicans, including Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and John Kennedy (La.), are still undecided.

This is a rare instance in which it’s low-risk for a Republican in Congress to be on the wrong side of an issue from Trump:

It’s always low-risk for Romney to be on the wrong side of Trump because, unlike most senators, he’s more popular in his red home state than Trump is. POTUS couldn’t give him the Jeff Flake treatment even if he wanted to. And since Romney got elected to a six-year term just last year, the soonest he’d need to worry about Trump backing a primary challenger to him is 2024, when Trump will be in the final year of his presidency (assuming he wins next fall, of course) and his influence over the party will be waning. This was, then, a safe vote for Mitt. But it’s also relatively safe for Johnson, Braun, Lankford, and Paul simply because the deal is all but guaranteed to pass both chambers of Congress with Democratic support. It’s an unusual case of Trump not needing (many) votes from his own party to get something done, in which case the logical thing for congressional Republicans to do is maintain the pretense that they’re interested in shrinking government and vote no. That’ll keep fiscal conservatives back home happy. And Trumpers who might otherwise be unhappy at their defiance of King Donald won’t care since the bill will pass anyway.

No wonder, then, that the Trump cheering squad known as the Freedom Caucus decided to go their own way on this vote. In fact, a majority of House Republicans voted no today as the bill passed the lower chamber, 284-149. Pelosi had the votes she needed from her own party so Kevin McCarthy’s crew was free to engage in a bit of harmless tea-party nostalgia.

As for Trump’s own spending priorities, a former senior administration official (Bannon? Scaramucci? Kelly?) told Politico that “He doesn’t care about the cost. Wall Street is happy. The defense folks are happy. That’s good enough.” Trump allegedly told Senate Republicans in a meeting a few days ago how pleased he was at the complacency from Fox News and the rest of conservative media about the deal. Part of that complacency is due to the reality of the new Congress: Pelosi gets a say here, and as she proved with the standoff over funding for the wall this past winter, she’s not prone to blink in a staredown. Why force another standoff that’s destined to end in compromise, if not capitulation? But partly too it’s a matter of recognizing that the central fraud of the tea-party era, the idea that rank-and-file Republicans care meaningfully about limiting government, is now so transparent that it would be pathetic to have another big fight about it, particularly with the debt ceiling in the middle. Let’s just acknowledge reality. Trump has drained the swamp, says Philip Klein — of the tea party:

There are many ways in which the Trump presidency has been disruptive to the status quo. But when it comes to spending and deficits, he has restored Washington to a much more conventional place in which both parties agree to ignore warnings of fiscal disaster, and resolve their differences by simply agreeing to spend more money…

Should investors eventually demand higher interest rates [as a condition of purchasing U.S. treasuries], or should the economy falter — making Americans more dependent on public assistance, leading to federal stimulus, and reducing revenues — deficits will only get much deeper. This is especially true given the tacit agreement of both parties to do nothing to address the crisis facing Medicare and Social Security…

The Freedom Caucus, founded to supposedly represent the Tea Party values of limited government in Congress, has devolved into a PR shop for Trump. Mick Mulvaney, one of the founders of the group, has discounted the importance of deficits as the president’s budget man and chief of staff. And even Rush Limbaugh recently declared that, “Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore. All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.”

One of the few lasting spending successes of the tea-party era, notes Klein, was the Budget Control Act passed in 2011, which placed caps on discretionary spending. The new Trump-backed budget deal repeals the final two years of that statute. “There’s stories being written that this is the final nail in the coffin of what used to be the tea party movement. That’s sad. But maybe true,” said Rand Paul. But don’t worry. He’ll be cheerleading again for Trump tomorrow.

Exit quotation from Patterico, attempting to answer the question “What is the point of the Republican Party?”: “This party stands for owning the libs and for nothing else.” Indeed.

The post Romney: I’m voting against this garbage budget deal appeared first on Hot Air.

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Report: Trump taps Rand Paul as envoy to Iran to negotiate detente

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I love it so much, purely for petty political reasons. Imagine the sting of the tears rolling down Lindsey Graham’s cheeks when he heard this news. Imagine the torrents of profanity emanating from John Bolton. Day in and day out, hawks doggedly kiss the president’s ass in hopes of keeping him open-minded about their interventionist ideas. He’s an isolationist by instinct — but he’s also consumed with projecting “strength,” a great asset to hawks in convincing him to abandon Obama’s nuclear deal. There’s no country on earth whom Washington interventionists are more eager to have a showdown with than Iran; at a minimum, they expect their endless sycophancy towards Trump to pay off in presidential resolve to keep up a maximum pressure campaign towards the mullahs.

So now here he is deputizing the most prominent isolationist in Congress, the son and heir to Ron farking Paul, to reach out to Iran’s foreign minister. Not Lindsey Graham. Not Tom Cotton. Not Liz Cheney. Not his own NSA, for cripes sake. Rand Paul. Everyone who tries to toady to Trump for their own reasons eventually gets stabbed in the gut, it seems. (Except Rand?) Which makes it that much more amazing that so many Republicans continue to be eager to toady to him.

Anyway, too bad POTUS doesn’t have a bureau of professional diplomats for something like this. Silver lining, though: At least he didn’t tap Tucker Carlson for the job.

Over a round of golf this past weekend, Sen. Rand Paul asked President Donald Trump’s blessing for a sensitive diplomatic mission.

Paul proposed sitting down with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to extend a fresh olive branch on the president’s behalf, according to four U.S. officials. The aim: to reduce tensions between the two countries. Trump signed off on the idea.

With Zarif in New York City this week for U.N. meetings and private sitdowns with journalists and think-tank experts, the prospect of the dovish Kentucky senator serving as the administration’s chief diplomatic emissary has rankled many administration officials, who are expressing concern that Paul’s intervention threatens to scuttle the president’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran

The move smacks of desperation, said Mark Dubowitz, head of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has pushed for a hard line on Iran.

It does seem a little desperate. Trump’s strategy towards Iran, such as it is, is straightforward: Tear up the nuke deal, slap crushing sanctions on them, and then … cross your fingers and wait. Hopefully the economic toll is so great that they come crawling to the bargaining table, ready and willing to fully denuclearize. If we’re really, really, really lucky, the economy will turn so bad that Iranians will turn restive and an insurrection will start to gather momentum.

And if none of that happens and they decide to wait the United States out, with high tensions liable to cause an incident that leads to war? The White House will get back to you.

That’s why we’re getting Rand Paul, international diplomat. The only way out of this as far as Trump is concerned is talks, and he’s willing to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks towards that end. He won’t go to war unless Iran forces him by launching the first attack, and he won’t — yet — relax sanctions as a goodwill gesture to entice them to talk with him. But he will name one of the most conspicuously dovish politicians in the United States to reach out, in case they’re still unclear that Trump is willing to make concessions in the name of resolving this standoff. This marks the second time in less than three weeks, in fact, that Trump has excluded his hawkish NSA, John Bolton, from diplomacy with an enemy of the United States in favor of a more dovish presence: Remember that it was Tucker Carlson, not Bolton, who was with Trump for the grip-and-grin with Kim Jong Un at the DMZ. Now Bolton and Mike Pompeo are being shoved aside in favor of Rand Paul because Trump needs a new way to signal to Iran that he’s prepared to make nice in the name of peace.

Most leaders would insist that their own White House staff carry out negotiations with an enemy regime, not just as a matter of basic loyalty but to communicate that the administration stands united and that the enemy had better be prepared to make real concessions to persuade reluctant U.S. officials to reach a compromise. Sending Paul instead feels like a concession in and of itself, right out of the box, before anything serious had been discussed. “The one thing that these guys don’t understand is the more desperate they look for a deal the more the Iranian regime will play hard to get,” said Dubowitz of Paul being deputized. If it wasn’t clear enough to Iran before that Trump is truly desperate for a way out of this standoff, knowing that he runs the risk of Iran lashing out and plunging him into a war he doesn’t want if it doesn’t get solved, sending an American who’s more to their liking in lieu of his own guys is it.

By the way, note this tweet from Iran’s foreign minister a few weeks ago:

The “B team” is Zarif’s term for top anti-Iran hawks in the U.S. and beyond: Bolton, Netanyahu, and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to the Times of Israel. In other words, Zarif is already pursuing a strategy of trying to divide Trump from his own advisors and international allies by suggesting to him that he’s being manipulated into war by a nefarious cabal that doesn’t have his best interests — a message which the conspiratorial Trump might be receptive to, especially on this subject. “I do not believe that President Trump wants war. But I believe that people are around him who wouldn’t mind,” said Zarif in an interview a few days ago, again trying to turn Trump against his advisors. And now here’s POTUS sending Rand Paul to talk to him instead of Pompeo. Weird but true: America picks Great Britain’s diplomats nowadays, it seems, and Iran picks America’s.

Liz Cheney and several dozen other hawks sent POTUS a letter today begging him to maintain his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, realizing now how much that’s in doubt. It’s gonna be so amazing when Rand Paul negotiates an Obama-level sellout to Iran for Trump and all the Republican hawks in Congress who are terrified of losing Trump’s favor have to stand there and applaud the deal through their tears.

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Trump on Epstein and his victims: I feel very badly — for Alex Acosta

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I mean, who else is there to feel bad for in a story about young girls being serially preyed upon by some super-rich Eyes-Wide-Shut-style degenerate?

As I recall, he spoke this way about Rob Porter too before Porter ultimately chose to parachute out of the White House under media pressure. If Acosta follows suit, it would inch us further towards the surreal yet increasingly attainable goal of an entire cabinet of “acting” secretaries.

If you’re tempted to feel bad for him, pause here and read Ken “Popehat” White’s piece about the sinister weirdness of the plea deal Acosta made with Jeffrey Epstein when he was a U.S. Attorney in Florida. It’d be one thing to sympathize with Acosta if he’d simply used bad judgment in giving a break to a criminal who then reoffended. Mistakes happen. This isn’t bad judgment, though, insists White, who’s spent his professional life on both sides of federal criminal trials. This is a sweetheart deal so sickeningly sweet, involving heinous sex offenses, that a non-corrupt explanation for it isn’t obvious.

Epstein’s team secured the deal of the millennium, one utterly unlike anything else I’ve seen in 25 years of practicing federal criminal law. Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges, register as a sex offender, and spend 13 months in county jail, during which time he was allowed to spend 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, out of the jail on “work release.” In exchange, the Southern District of Florida abandoned its criminal investigation of Epstein’s conduct, agreed not to prosecute him federally, and—incredibly—agreed not to prosecute anyone else who helped him procure underage girls for sex. This is not normal; it is astounding…

Every federal plea agreement I’ve ever seen includes a clause saying that it binds only the U.S. Attorney’s Office signing it, not any other office. Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement conspicuously, and very oddly, lacks that clause—which further demonstrates the suspicious nature of the deal.

It’s not like Epstein had committed a minor offense or that the evidence against him was thin, notes White. Acosta had firsthand witnesses. God only knows how many girls have been victimized by Epstein since he finished serving the wrist-slap sentence Acosta arranged for him. And that’s not all. Reporter Vicky Ward, who’s been chasing this story for nearly 20 years, notes today at the Daily Beast that “federal prosecutors agreed to keep the [plea] deal secret from Epstein’s victims, which meant they would not know to challenge it in court. As it turned out, this actually broke the law, because victims have a right to know of such developments, under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.”

Why didn’t Team Trump hold all of this against Acosta and look elsewhere for a Secretary of Labor, you ask? If you believe WaPo, it’s because they didn’t bother to inquire: “There was no substantial vetting done on Acosta until after Trump decided to nominate him, according to current and former administration officials.”

Pelosi, Schumer, and various Democratic 2020 candidates have called on him to quit. Acosta’s trying to placate them, but good luck riding out the months to come of media attention to Epstein:

Inevitably Democrats will try to force him to testify about this, if only to humiliate Trump. Does Trump still want him on the federal payroll when that happens?

By the way, one of the many dark subplots to Epstein’s reign of terror is how exactly he became a man of such phenomenal wealth and power to begin with. That’s the whole key to his deal with Acosta, notes White; when you can afford to hire any lawyer in America, you can “go on offense” against the U.S. Attorney in court and in the media, raising the proverbial price of a prosecution. Epstein’s ability to operate with impunity boils down to his money. But … how was that money acquired? It’s a strange yet apparently true fact that no one really knows quite how this fabulously rich and well-connected scumbag earned his millions — or is it billions?

The bulk of Epstein’s wealth is believed to come from his money-management firm for ten-figure investors, although his only known client is Victoria’s Secret founder Les Wexner, who reportedly ditched Epstein over a decade ago.

After sex-trafficking charges were handed down on Monday, executive-suite financiers discussed how absent Epstein was from the field: “He’s supposed to run an enormous FX [foreign-exchange] trading firm,” said Enrique Diaz-Alvarez, chief risk officer at Ebury. “But I never once heard of him or his firm or anyone who worked or traded with him.” And as Forbes wrote in a 2010 blog with a very direct title — “Sex Offender Jeffrey Epstein Is Not a Billionaire” — his money-management firm based in the U.S. Virgin Islands “generates no public records, nor has his client list ever been released.”

Epstein made his name in finance initially at Bear Stearns, rising to become a partner in just four years. Then he set off to start his own firm, and the story got stranger:

Where’d he get his clients? Is his wealth a pure product of Wexner’s business? If so, if Epstein was such a crack investor for Wexner, how come his clientele didn’t expand to many more well-known figures? And how was it that a brash young Bear Stearns partner allegedly was able to convince billionaires to invest with him instead of Wall Street’s many alternatives?

Is it possible that maybe finance wasn’t Jeffrey Epstein’s chief business, that he made his money in procuring other … commodities? Reading about the question marks surrounding his income last night and knowing how well-known he seemed to be to so many rich and famous men gave me the same sort of shudder one gets at the end of “Se7en” when the mystery box is produced. You’ve got a strong sinking suspicion of what’s in that box, but you can’t bear to have it confirmed. Same with Epstein and his cash flow. Who was funding this wretch, and for what, exactly?

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Trump threatens Iran with obliteration over further attacks after Rouhani calls White House “afflicted by mental retardation”

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Listen, I don’t know how they do it in Iran, buddy, but in America we don’t use ugly, archaic terms like “mental retardation.”

The proper term for our White House is “developmentally disabled.”

In the post-Trump world, high-stakes international diplomacy is basically indistinguishable from a Twitter flame war.

“The useless sanctioning of Islamic Revolution Supreme Leader (Khamenei) and the commander of Iranian diplomacy means closing the doors of diplomacy by the U.S.′ desperate administration,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted. “Trump’s government is annihilating all the established international mechanisms for keeping peace and security in the world.”…

“You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks,” an exasperated Rouhani said, calling the sanctions “outrageous and idiotic.”

“The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do,” he added.

No one’s going to call POTUS a retard on the playground and get away with it:

He thought his show of magnanimity in declining to hit back after Iran downed our drone might produce a diplomatic breakthrough. He spared dozens of Iranian lives and took care to emphasize that those lives were on his mind when he gave the order to stand down. That was an olive branch. When Iran didn’t accept it, he tightened the screws with a few new sanctions. Now here’s Iran warning that those sanctions have closed the doors on diplomacy.

In other words, this has turned into a game of chicken to see which side wants talks more badly. Trump’s gambling that the economic pain from sanctions will cause Iran to capitulate and beg him for negotiations. Iran’s betting that Trump will agree to relax sanctions as a precondition — a new olive branch — to talks. The regime doesn’t want to lose face by transparently succumbing to America’s pressure campaign; they need Trump to give them a way to agree to talks that doesn’t look like a surrender. That means America needs to move first in suspending sanctions.

Is he willing to do that? If not, if he insists on an Iranian surrender under pressure, then the threat of an Iranian provocation that results in war will grow. Either they’ll attack Americans in the region or they’ll try to resume their nuclear program and Trump will feel compelled to act militarily. Which is a bad outcome for him: Because he’s not a hawk, because he got elected in 2016 on a platform of reducing America’s entanglements in the Middle East, he’s at least as wary of war as Iran is. He’s risking his presidency potentially by refusing to back off from sanctions if that’s Iran price for a summit. Bolton and Pompeo will urge him to stand firm and keep the pressure on, but Trump will want to be conciliatory. What does he do?

Here’s Bolton earlier today at a press conference in his surreal new role as America’s olive-branch-extender, urging Iran to walk through the open door of diplomacy that Trump has provided for them. Every media account of last week’s White House deliberations that I’ve read had Bolton in favor of attacking Iran over the downed U.S. drone. Now this. Speaking of which, according to Morning Consult, the public strongly approves of Trump’s decision to hold off on bombing Iran. Fully 65 percent agreed that calling off the strikes was the right thing to do, a level of bipartisan support rarely seen during Trump’s presidency.

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McConnell on Mexico tariffs: Give the guy credit. It worked

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This is such a bone of contention in the liberal media right now that everyone seems to be unable to let go of it. The question of the day/week is whether or not President Trump actually chalked up a win in his negotiations with Mexico over immigration and tariffs. Cocaine Mitch was on Hugh Hewitt’s show this morning and was asked to deal with the same subject. The Senate Majority Leader had been critical of the tariffs all through the negotiations, but now that all is said and done he’s giving credit where due. Hey… the President turned out to be right. (Politico)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell eased up on his criticism of President Donald Trump’s threat to impose steep tariffs on imported goods from Mexico, saying Tuesday the president deserved applause for the way his brinkmanship worked out.

McConnell’s shift in tone comes as there remains an air of mystery surrounding the deal’s specifics and whether concessions made by Mexico were significant or came to fruition solely because of the tariff threat.

“They just can’t let the president have a win,” McConnell said in an interview on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show.

At almost the same time that McConnell was talking to Hugh, I was on a conservative talk radio show out of Chicago being asked the exact same thing. What is first notable is that nearly all of the coverage you see on CNN or MSNBC and in the Washington Post and the New York Times consists of variations on the same theme. You can break the criticism down into three grabs at the brass ring.

1. Avoiding the tariffs is not a “win” because it was just Trump avoiding a crisis that he created himself.
2. Getting Mexico to agree to the tougher immigration enforcement is not a “win” because they’d agreed to most of it months ago.
3. It’s not even a “deal” because Trump could go back on his word at any time and impose the tariffs anyway.

Allow me to answer these in order as I did on the show this morning.

1. It’s called a negotiating tactic. Was it effective? Well, Mexico did what Trump wanted.
2. Mexico had said they agreed a while ago, but they weren’t doing anything. On Thursday, right after Trump announced the deadline, they sent thousands of troops to the border, arrested hundreds of migrants and took other steps. Trump was looking for action, not words.
3. Mexico can still reverse course on border enforcement at any time also. That’s why Trump is keeping the tariffs in his back pocket.

Mitch McConnell realizes all this. If Mexico had failed to act and the tariffs began to pile up, he’d at least be on record as being against them. But instead, we got what we wanted and he’s giving a nod to that reality.

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Defying the Hysterics, Mexico Starts Caving to Trump’s Tariff Threats

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Mexican federal police in riot gear receive instructions at the border crossing between Guatemala and Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Members of a 3,000-strong migrant caravan have massed in this Guatemalan border town across the muddy Suchiate River from Mexico, as U.S. President Donald Trump threatens retaliation if they continue toward the United States. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

I’ve been critical of Trump’s trade policies at times. My instinct is to oppose tariffs, especially if they are targeted to benefit certain industries at the expense of consumers and other workers. For example, I don’t think Pennsylvania residents are inherently more entitled to steel manufacturing jobs than any other American. Trump’s messaging can often be confusing and that’s been part of the issue. Tariffs as leverage are good. Tariffs as a means to their own end are inevitably harmful.

Despite my prior concerns, at some point I made the decision that I was done reacting rashly toward the President’s trade policy. I found much of the hysteria on the right over every new rumor of a tariff to be tedious and an overreaction. The economy is not going to crash because your Chipotle burrito might cost $0.05 more and even dealing with the bigger items, we were actually talking small fractions of the overall price being affected. One could certainly argue that even small increases are worthy of disapproval and harmful, but the constant preaching of Armageddon is all just a bit much.

I say all that to say that when President Trump announced new tariff threats toward Mexico in order to get them to help with illegal immigration, I took a wait and see approach. It was clear to me that this was a leverage play and that Mexico had far more to lose than we did. I opined at the time that I doubted they’d ever even go into effect.

I may end up being right because Mexico is currently in the process of caving to Trump’s demands.

This follows reports that Mexico is already beefing up its southern border.

Mexican soldiers, armed police and migration officials blocked hundreds of migrants after they crossed the border from Guatemala in a caravan into southern Mexico on Wednesday, and detained dozens of them, a witness from a migrant aid group and an official said.

The Mexican response in the border town of Metapa, which included dozens of soldiers, marked a toughening of the government’s efforts to curb the flow of mainly Central American migrants, said Salva Cruz, a coordinator with Fray Matias de Cordova.

“That many sailors and military police, yes, it’s new,” Cruz said, by WhatsApp, from Metapa, in the southern border state of Chiapas, where the vast majority of migrants cross into Mexico.

Things are moving quickly and there’s still a lot up in the air but what’s clear is that Mexico got the message.

They have no desire to take the hit when they so heavily rely on exports to the U.S. for their economic stability. In the past, the Mexicans have rebuffed signing a “safe 3rd country” agreement with us. We have such an agreement with Canada already. What it essentially does is say that migrants (they aren’t technically illegal aliens yet) must make their asylum claims in the first country they arrive in that isn’t their own. Guatemalans must do so in Mexico while Hondurans would do so in Guatemala, etc.

This helps stem the flow of “asylum shopping,” where migrants pass up perfectly safe offers of asylum in order to get to the U.S. for economic reasons. Asylum is not an ticket to try to find the best situation possible. It’s there to mitigate life threatening situations.

Now, Mexico and Guatemala are working with us to setup proper asylum procedures, where they aren’t making a dangerous 2,000 mile trip when asylum is being offered to them where they are in Mexico.

The news has some conservatives changing their tune on the whole ordeal.

Good for Shapiro. One of the reasons I enjoy his material is that he does his best to be an honest broker. He’s willing to admit he was wrong here when a lot of other “conservative” voices wouldn’t.

If I’m Donald Trump, I take this deal or something close to it. There’s only so much Mexico can do and these latest terms seem like a max effort to me. It’s unrealistic to think they can actually stop all migrant flows to the the U.S. but if they are willing to help us enforce logical asylum policies and send thousands of troops to their southern border, that’s a big win for the President.

Even if a deal is struck in the next few days, one thing is certain. Democrats will oppose it because the goal for them has never been to stop illegal immigration or secure the border. They want these people making the inhuman journey at the behest of the cartels because they see these people as political leverage. No doubt some liberal judge will attempt to get involved here as well.

Regardless, it appears that Trump’s leverage play has worked and perhaps that’ll earn him a little more benefit of the doubt next time. Ah, who am I kidding?


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