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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 46)

Trump Lawyer’s Impeachment Argument Stokes Fears of Unfettered Power

Westlake Legal Group 30dc-legal-facebookJumbo Trump Lawyer’s Impeachment Argument Stokes Fears of Unfettered Power United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Presidents and Presidency (US) Foreign Aid Ethics and Official Misconduct Dershowitz, Alan M Constitution (US)

WASHINGTON — When a lawyer for President Trump suggested to senators this week that whatever a president does in pursuit of re-election is inherently in the public’s interest, the moment crystallized fears among some of Mr. Trump’s critics about creeping presidential autocracy.

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” said the lawyer, Alan M. Dershowitz. He sought on Thursday to clarify or walk back his remarks, saying on Twitter that they were mischaracterized.

But the wave of outrage underscored how the politics of the Trump era — and his lawyers’ efforts to help Mr. Trump advance his agenda and defend himself from scrutiny — have become infused with concerns about executive power overreach.

The constitutional system is built on the idea that each of the three branches of government depends upon and is accountable to the others, said Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor and co-author of a separation-of-powers casebook, but an accumulating pattern of claims and actions by the Trump administration has called that into doubt.

“What is scary about Trump’s view of executive power is that he tries to do as much as he can without the sanction of Congress, and to resist oversight by the other branches,” Mr. Shane said. “Put all that together and you get a picture of an executive branch in which all activity is subject to the whim of the president, and how that whim is exercised cannot be effectively checked.”

The list of ways in which Mr. Trump and his legal team have pushed limits is growing.

In the Ukraine affair, his lawyers have argued that nothing is impeachable or illegal about using his official powers to coerce a weak ally to announce a corruption investigation into a domestic political rival, and the Senate’s Republican majority will likely vote to acquit him.

Along the way, Mr. Trump’s legal team came up with a theory by which the executive branch could lawfully withhold from Congress a whistle-blower complaint that an inspector general had deemed an “urgent concern.” A law says that the administration “shall” disclose such a complaint to lawmakers.

And before the Ukraine affair came to light, lawyers in the White House budget office developed a legal theory that Mr. Trump had constitutional authority to withhold military aid from Ukraine, overriding the Anti-Impoundment Act. They never activated that theory, since he released the aid after the whistle-blower filed his complaint.

The president’s edgy views of executive power did not start with Ukraine. Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly claimed that Article II of the Constitution, which creates the presidency, gives him “the right to do whatever I want.”

He has said he could pardon himself and vowed to systematically stonewall “all” congressional subpoenas.

Mr. Trump broke with a long-held norm by personally ordering an investigation into the Russia investigators, and he repeatedly tried to impede the special counsel inquiry, boasting that he has “an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.”

After William P. Barr, a longtime believer in a maximalist interpretation of presidential power, privately provided the Trump administration with a legal theory by which obstruction of justice laws do not apply to presidents who abuse their power over the Justice Department, Mr. Trump appointed him attorney general.

In domestic policy, Mr. Trump has pushed the limits of emergency powers laws to claim a right to spend more taxpayer money on a border wall with Mexico than Congress was willing to appropriate. In foreign policy, he launched strikes at the Syrian government without permission from Congress, and nearly brought the country to war with Iran by killing a senior Iranian general without consulting lawmakers.

Against the backdrop of all this and more, critics of Mr. Trump seized on Mr. Dershowitz’s remarks. The leader of the House impeachment managers, Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, told the Senate on Thursday that Mr. Trump’s team had embraced the vision of a presidency that exists above the law — “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal” — that Richard Nixon famously articulated to defend his conduct after Watergate.

“We are right back to where we were a half-century ago — and I would argue we may be in a worse place because this time, this time that argument may succeed,” Mr. Schiff said, accusing Trump defenders of embracing “the normalization of lawlessness” by a president.

Mr. Dershowitz did not attend the impeachment trial on Thursday, but another member of the president’s defense team, Patrick Philbin, also distanced himself from the impression Mr. Dershowitz had left.

“The suggestion has been made because of Professor Dershowitz’s comments that the theory that the president’s counsel is advancing is, ‘the president can do anything he wants if he thinks it will advance his re-election, any quid pro quo, anything he wants, anything goes,’ and that is not true,” Mr. Philbin said.

On Twitter, Mr. Dershowitz said that the intended meaning of his remarks the previous evening, which circulated widely on social media and aired repeatedly on television, had been distorted.

“They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything,” Mr. Dershowitz wrote. “I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”

At least one part of Mr. Dershowitz’s self-defense seemed accurate. Some Democratic senators and other critics accused him of suggesting that even Nixon was not impeachable, despite his clear crimes. But that accusation is incompatible with Mr. Dershowitz’s main argument: that an impeachable “high crime and misdemeanor” requires an indictable offense.

(His embrace of that view was itself disputed. It cuts against the view of most legal scholars, and he himself said in 1998 that he thought a “technical crime” was not required to impeach a president who abuses power. He has since disavowed that view, saying he changed his mind after research.)

But the context of Mr. Dershowitz’s view that abuse of power, absent an indictable crime, is not impeachable provides a guide for sorting through his inflammatory remarks, which were muddled in places.

Mr. Dershowitz made his remarks in response to a question posed by a Republican senator about whether quid pro quos are routine in foreign policy. The president’s defense team has repeatedly pointed out that administrations commonly withhold assistance as leverage to induce another country to take some step.

The talking point elides the distinction between a president who is attempting to achieve some public policy goal or to obtain a personal benefit. In his answer, Mr. Dershowitz appeared to be attempting to rebut that objection, including by arguing that a president may have more than one motivation for acting.

Specifically, he was arguing against the idea that presidents can be impeached for otherwise lawful actions if they are motivated by gaining personal political benefits rather than serving the public interest. One reason this would be folly, he maintained, was that often both motivations will simultaneously exist.

(Mr. Trump’s legal team has argued that he had a sincere interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine. House impeachment managers have scoffed at that notion and portrayed him as solely motivated by a desire to manufacture a basis to smear a political rival as corrupt.)

But as he riffed, Mr. Dershowitz went further than merely observing that presidents routinely think about public opinion — that is, voter sentiments — as well as the public good when they weigh potential actions.

He also collapsed any distinction between those two motives by saying that politicians often justifiably believe that their re-election would serve the public interest. That part of his remarks went viral.

But the larger context was that under Mr. Dershowitz’s theory, even a president who nakedly abuses power, without any reference to the purported public good, cannot be impeached — so long as there is no indictable offense.

On Thursday, Mr. Dershowitz emphasized that he was not trying to communicate that presidents wield unfettered power when they are trying to get re-elected.

“Let me be clear once again (as I was in the Senate): a president seeking re-election cannot do anything he wants,” Mr. Dershowitz wrote on Twitter. “He is not above the law. He cannot commit crimes.”

But, he argued, a lawful act “does not become unlawful or impeachable if done with a mixed motive of both promoting the public interest and helping his RE-election.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Mitt Romney, a Man Alone

Westlake Legal Group 30dc-romney1-facebookJumbo Mitt Romney, a Man Alone United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Romney, Mitt Republican Party impeachment Flake, Jeffrey L

WASHINGTON — It’s been one of those spectacle weeks on Capitol Hill, the likes of which history might just stop to recognize, even if Trump-era Washington pauses for nothing.

There were big crowds, special rules in place, Alan M. Dershowitz mugging for photographs and Triumph, the canine puppet known for his ambush mockery of celebrities, trying to score an interview with Senator Mitt Romney, to no avail.

You could always recognize Mr. Romney, Republican of Utah, racing around the Capitol. He drew big press scrums and wore a bemused grin — a face to indicate that he had seen some things in a career that has taken some unforeseen turns, particularly now.

Mr. Romney is the rare Senate Republican — actually the lone Senate Republican — who is vocally pushing for witnesses to be called in President Trump’s impeachment trial. He is also the only Senate Republican who is seen as a possible vote to convict the president, an added distinction since Mr. Trump got every House Republican to fall in line.

All of which places upon Mr. Romney a level of curiosity that goes beyond the quasi-celebrity treatment he already receives as the last pre-Trump standard-bearer of a Republican Party that feels about 80 years removed from the party that nominated him eight years ago.

“Hey, it’s Mitt Romney!” …. “One question, senator!” …. “Senator Romney! Senator Romney!”

As Mr. Romney was beating a brisk retreat from the Senate floor during a break in the trial on Wednesday afternoon, a small pack of reporters yelled after him like kids chasing an ice cream truck. He ended up in his hideaway office tucked into the entrails of the Capitol.

“Yes, it is a little unusual,” Mr. Romney said in an interview, referring to the trial — specifically, to something “unusual” that had happened at the trial just before a break.

He was sitting at his desk in the back left corner of the Senate chamber. He looked attentive, jotted down notes and managed to refrain from sipping the contraband chocolate milk he was busted for drinking out of a bottle during the Tuesday proceeding.

Then, suddenly, the House impeachment managers started dropping Mr. Romney’s name into their testimony. The House’s lead prosecutor, Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, posed a theoretical circumstance in which President Barack Obama was discovered to be hitting up his Russian counterpart for dirt on his 2012 opponent, Mr. Romney, in exchange for military aid. Then two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas, shot back with a question for Mr. Schiff about whether Mr. Obama would have the authority to ask for an investigation of Mr. Romney’s son if he was being paid a million dollar by some shady Russian company.

At which point Mr. Romney raised his hands and flashed something between a smile and a grimace in the direction of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the presiding judge who had just read out the questions containing these imagined Romney scenarios. It was an expression to indicate this was not exactly a normal circumstance for any juror to find himself in, let alone a juror who ran twice for the job that the current impeached occupant of the White House (who had recently called said juror “a pompous ass”) now holds.

Mr. Romney has also become a magnet for nostalgia lately — at least among Democrats. “He is a decent, honorable man,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a recent interview of Mr. Romney. Mr. Biden conceded that it was unlikely that he would be running for president right now if it were Mr. Romney seeking re-election, not Mr. Trump.

“I think this is Senator Romney’s moment to shine,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, another Democratic presidential candidate who was in Washington for the impeachment trial. She was referring specifically to Mr. Romney’s support for calling witnesses.

“Hopefully he can bring some people with him,” Ms. Klobuchar said. She meant Republicans, a prospect that was looking more and more unlikely. By most indications, Mr. Romney’s ability to recruit Republican colleagues to his position has been minimal at best.

“I know there are some who feel if we open the door, we’d have tons of witnesses and court battles,” Mr. Romney said. He said he would propose an arrangement in which each side would get to call one or two witnesses, and then have 30 days to produce them — regardless of what procedural or legal roadblocks were placed before them.

Mr. Romney is also an oddity among Senate Republicans in that he has not withheld his low opinion of Mr. Trump. “He has made a career of trashing people by tweet,” Mr. Romney said in response to a question about what he thought of an outburst from the president on Wednesday morning about John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, whose unpublished manuscript contains an account that contradicts Mr. Trump’s impeachment defense. “It is part of his shtick and it’s working for him,” he said of the Twitter attack. “I think it’s unfortunate.”

By the same token, Mr. Trump has not been shy about heaping scorn upon Mr. Romney. It has created a situation in which some of Mr. Romney’s colleagues have taken their own shots at him, no doubt as a way to prove allegiance to their audience of one in the White House.

Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, likened Mr. Romney to “Jeff Flake on steroids,” referring to the former Arizona Republican and frequent critic of Mr. Trump who retired last year from the Senate. Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, who was recently appointed to the Senate by that state’s governor — over the objections of the White House — tried to score easy points with Mr. Trump by ambushing Mr. Romney (roughly the Senate equivalent of the new inmate picking a fight with the biggest dude on the cellblock).

“My colleague @SenatorRomney wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realDonaldTrump during their 15 minutes of fame” tweeted Ms. Loeffler, who along with her husband had been a major donor to Mr. Romney.

It is not just Senate Republicans who have gone against Mr. Romney, who has become a heat rod inside Mr. Trump’s party.

He gets yelled at in grocery stores, among other places. “I was on an airplane a few months ago and someone seated across the aisle began heckling me,” Mr. Romney recalled. It involved a “social issue” he said, and a flight attendant had to come over. “And they were moved to a different seat, so that I wouldn’t be bothered.”

Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist on Mr. Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, shrugs off the vitriol. “I hope it makes them feel better because I can tell you that Mitt Romney does not care,” Mr. Stevens said. “He is an incredibly secure individual. He does not have this residual anger towards the world like Trump does.”

It helps, Mr. Stevens added, that Mr. Romney has suffered much worse politically. “As Mitt once said in some context, ‘The worst thing that could happen to anyone in politics has already happened to me. I lost the presidency.’ It’s like the guys in Vietnam said, ‘What are you going to do, send me to Vietnam?’”

There was a time, after Mr. Obama defeated him in 2012, that Mr. Romney expected to live out his public days in quasi exile. That had been the precedent for party nominees who lose general elections. “Mike Dukakis can’t get a job mowing lawns,” Mr. Romney said in “Mitt,” the 2014 Netflix documentary about his two presidential campaigns.

Photographs of a solemn Mitt Romney pumping his own gas started popping up online. #SelfiesWithMitt became a thing. (“Airports are the worst,” he said.) He fought Evander Holyfield in a charity boxing match. People stopped him and said he looked familiar. “You’re John Kerry, you’re John Kerry,” said one woman who accosted him in Arkansas. Mr. Romney told people he was Tom Brady.

As the end of the week neared and potentially gettable votes in favor of calling witnesses kept falling away, the impeachment trial’s denouement began to resemble more of a fait accompli. It seemed likely by Thursday that there would be no witnesses called — only a fast vote that would result in an almost certain acquittal of Mr. Trump.

Before leaving the sanctuary of his hideaway and heading back to the trial, Mr. Romney grew solemn. “I think of this as an inflection point, politically in our country,” Mr. Romney said. “It’s a constitutional issue. I feel a sense of deep responsibility to abide by the Constitution, to determine — absent the pulls from the right and the pulls from the left — what is the right thing to do?”

It would be after midnight when Mr. Romney got home, where he likes to unwind after a long day with television before bed. (He much prefers “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the Netflix interview show starring Jerry Seinfeld, to anything on cable news.) The Super Bowl would be played on Sunday, without Mr. Brady. The Iowa caucuses would be held on Monday without Mr. Romney.

Whatever, Mr. Romney said he was not one for dwelling or looking back. “You go back to my campaigns,” he said. “I sort of watch how the president reacts to his opponents, and it’s not the way I did it. But you know what? He won and I didn’t. On the other hand, he won and I didn’t but I would not have done what he’s done in order to win.”

It is not clear what exactly Mr. Romney is referring to here, nor does he elaborate except to repeat the last part: “I would not have done some of the things he did.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Growth at Slowest Since 2016, Complicating Trump’s Pitch

The American economy turned in a weaker annual performance last year than in 2018, held back by developments that set the stage for slower growth to come.

Gross domestic product — which measures the value of goods and services produced inside the United States — grew at a 2.1 percent annual rate between October and December, the same as the previous three months, according to preliminary data released by the Commerce Department on Thursday.

A shrinking trade deficit resulting from a steep falloff in imports helped bolster the fourth quarter’s reading, as did a revived housing sector. Consumer spending expanded, but at a slower pace than during the summer.

Year-over-year growth was 2.3 percent in 2019, compared with 2.5 percent a year earlier.

“In the bigger picture on 2019, growth was solid,” said Matthew Luzzetti, chief United States economist for Deutsche Bank Securities. But he said a key element, domestic demand, disappointed, growing by 2.2 percent as consumers and businesses pulled back on spending. That was the weakest figure since 1.8 percent in 2013.

In the second half of 2017 and in some of 2018, the annual growth rate surged past 3 percent, helped by hearty tax cuts and government spending. And it continued to sail ahead at the start of last year, reaching 3.1 percent between January and March.

But the stimulus effect faded, and that growth level now looks more like an aberration. The economy has not expanded by 3 percent or more in a full calendar year since 2005.

Most economists now see normal growth circling the 2 percent mark.

The slowdown, in part, reflects a maturing labor market, where the official jobless rate creeps along at half-century lows as the expansion heads toward its 11th anniversary and a hefty chunk of the population ages into retirement.

“Underneath what you’re seeing is slower domestic activity,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief United States financial economist at Oxford Economics. “It’s just the natural state of things.”

Federal Reserve officials have maintained a wait-and-see approach on the economy, and on Wednesday left benchmark interest rates unchanged. The inflation rate has remained stubbornly below the Fed’s target of 2 percent.

One measure of inflation reported on Thursday, the personal consumption expenditure index, was unexpectedly weak. Excluding the volatile categories of food and energy, the index increased just 1.3 percent on an annual basis.

“That was the biggest surprise in the report,” Mr. Luzzetti of Deutsche Bank said. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, has “become increasingly worried about persistently low inflation and feeding into lower inflation expectations,” he said, “so these data do put some additional pressure on the Fed around the middle of the year when they’re doing this policy review.”

The economy’s resilience has been one of the Trump’s administration’s most notable accomplishments, and is sure to loom large as the 2020 presidential campaign gains momentum.

President Trump has maintained an enthusiastic bullishness on the economy even though the annual growth rate has fallen short of his promises of 3 or 4 percent.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this month, he declared that “the United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

Mr. Trump has spread blame for the economic slowdown, reserving his harshest criticism for the Federal Reserve Bank, which raised benchmark interest rates between 2015 and 2018 before cutting rates three times last year.

“No. 1, the Fed was not good,” he said. “Had we not done the big raise on interest, I think we would have been close to 4 percent.”

The president also mentioned the six-week strike at General Motors last fall and the continuing turmoil at Boeing, the nation’s largest aerospace manufacturer and largest manufacturing exporter, after accidents involving two of its 737 Max airplanes that killed 346 people.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_152689473_0048f378-f43b-42c5-8bc4-3d25e3071537-articleLarge U.S. Growth at Slowest Since 2016, Complicating Trump’s Pitch United States Economy Trump, Donald J International Trade and World Market Gross Domestic Product Commerce Department Boeing Company

Boeing 737 Max airplanes on the assembly line last year in Renton, Wash. Boeing’s troubles with the airliner hurt economic output.Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

December has usually been a strong month for Boeing, with average sales of 234 airplanes over the past five years, Ian Shepherdson, chief United States economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted in a newsletter. Last month, it sold just three. Strong sales of defense aircraft after Congress raised military spending offset the decline.

Still, Boeing’s halt in 737 Max production will continue to ripple throughout the economy in the coming year. This week, one of the airplane manufacturer’s suppliers, Arconic, said it expected to lose $400 million in Boeing sales and cut jobs. Another contractor, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, recently announced that it was eliminating 2,800 jobs this month. Hundreds of other companies are also grappling to manage the fallout.

Analysts say they expect Boeing’s disrupted production to shave half a percentage point off G.D.P. in the first three months of this year.

Imports fell sharply in September after the United States imposed tariffs on China because some American companies held off buying goods, hoping that the Trump administration might soon strike a trade deal that reduced or removed the tariffs.

As tensions with China cooled in December, imports revived, according to figures released Wednesday. And with a Phase 1 trade deal now signed, they might climb further in the months to come.

Rising imports push down G.D.P. because the measure counts only the value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders. When a nation buys more things from abroad than it sells — the definition of a trade deficit — it pushes down G.D.P.

While the deficit excluding oil steadily climbed through most of President Trump’s tenure, it had fallen sharply in recent months before December’s figures came in.

The Trump administration has made lowering the American trade deficit a goal. Economists, though, have opposed using the deficit as a scorecard: It can fall for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are good.

The deficit can fall because exports are growing, or because imports are shrinking, or both. For example, a boom in manufacturing can reduce the deficit by pushing imported products out of the American market and feeding a surge in exports — the outcome the Trump administration wanted to engineer.

But the deficit can also fall because the pace of the American economy is slowing, making consumers less likely to buy imported goods and businesses less likely to invest in the United States. And that has been the situation in the United States, economists say.

“There is no evidence of those broader positive developments,” said Brad W. Setser, a senior fellow in international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. “There is no growth in exports, and manufacturing is weak. So to the extent that tariffs have succeeded in bringing the trade deficit down, they have done so largely by reducing U.S. demand, not by raising U.S. production.”

Businesses are hesitant to invest when they are unsure of what’s ahead.

According to Ben Herzon, executive director of United States economics at Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm, research shows that the “level of investment spending recently has been about $100 billion lower that it would have had there been no uncertainty about trade policy.”

That suggests there is room for more investment if trade policy settles.

Tensions with China have eased with the signing of the Phase 1 pact. And this week, Mr. Trump signed the new North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico into law. But tariffs remain on two-thirds of Chinese imports. At the same time, trade frictions with Europe over tariffs, airplane subsidies, digital taxes and the World Trade Organization have ratcheted up.

Also unsettling is the outbreak in China and spread of a mysterious and deadly virus that has the potential to rattle investors, and slow growth in Asia.

On the domestic front, Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate and the coming presidential election add another large dose of political uncertainty.

No matter who becomes the Democrats’ nominee, “we’re likely to have two candidates with very different views on tax, regulatory and trade policy,” said Mr. Luzzetti of Deutsche Bank. “Businesses don’t know which direction that’s going to go in, so they may hold back on spending projects.”

Mr. Luzzetti said the volatility in the data because of trade and Boeing would make it hard to gauge the underlying growth dynamics until midyear.

Although wage growth and business investment have slacked off, consumers’ confidence in the economy has been unshaken. Optimism about the ease of finding a job helped fuel the rise in its most recent monthly measure of confidence, the Conference Board, a business research group, reported this week.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, and enthusiasm drives growth.

The growth, though, is not spread evenly. “The manufacturing and service sectors are telling two slightly different stories,” said Emily Weis, macro strategist at State Street Corporation, a large financial institution based in Boston.

While spending on services has remained strong, manufacturing in the United States has yet to revive, despite signs that it has stabilized abroad.

December was the fifth month in a row that the sector had declined. One large company, 3M, which makes Post-it notes and a wide range of other consumer and office products, announced this week that it was laying off 1,500 people globally.

“Manufacturing has generally underwhelmed in the U.S.,” Ms. Weis said.

The Commerce Department will revise the fourth-quarter results twice, as more data comes in.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Economy Grew at 2.1% Rate in Fourth Quarter

The American economy turned in a weaker annual performance last year than in 2018, held back by developments that set the stage for slower growth to come.

Gross domestic product — which measures the value of goods and services produced inside the United States — grew at a 2.1 percent annual rate between October and December, the same as the previous three months, according to preliminary data released by the Commerce Department on Thursday.

A shrinking trade deficit resulting from a steep falloff in imports helped bolster the fourth quarter’s reading, as did a revived housing sector. Business investment and consumer spending expanded, but at a slower pace than they had during the summer.

In the second half of 2017 and in some of 2018, the annual growth rate surged past 3 percent, helped by hearty tax cuts and government spending. And it continued to sail ahead at the start of last year, reaching 3.1 percent between January and March.

But the stimulus effect faded, and that growth level now looks more like an aberration. The economy has not expanded by 3 percent or more in a full calendar year since 2005. Year-over-year growth was 2.3 percent in 2019, compared with 2.5 percent a year earlier.

Most economists now see normal growth circling the 2 percent mark.

The slowdown, in part, reflects a maturing labor market, where the official jobless rate creeps along at half-century lows as the expansion heads toward its 11th anniversary and a hefty chunk of the population ages into retirement.

“Underneath what you’re seeing is slower domestic activity,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief United States financial economist at Oxford Economics. “It’s just the natural state of things.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164333802_4124a6b1-19c1-406f-810b-f9cf2eaf1a13-articleLarge U.S. Economy Grew at 2.1% Rate in Fourth Quarter United States Economy Trump, Donald J International Trade and World Market Gross Domestic Product Commerce Department Boeing Company

Caterpillar equipment in November awaiting export to Asia from Tacoma, Wash.Credit…Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Imports fell sharply in September after the United States imposed tariffs on China because some American companies held off buying goods, hoping that the Trump administration might soon strike a trade deal that reduced or removed the tariffs.

As tensions with China cooled in December, imports revived. And with a Phase 1 trade deal now signed, they might climb further in the months to come.

Rising imports push down G.D.P. because the measure counts only the value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders. When a nation buys more things from abroad than it sells — the definition of a trade deficit — it pushes down G.D.P.

While the deficit excluding oil steadily climbed through most of President Trump’s tenure, it had fallen sharply in recent months before December’s figures came in.

The Trump administration has made lowering the American trade deficit a goal. Economists, though, have opposed using the deficit as a scorecard: It can fall for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are good.

The deficit can fall because exports are growing, or because imports are shrinking, or both. For example, a boom in manufacturing can reduce the deficit by pushing imported products out of the American market and feeding a surge in exports — the outcome the Trump administration wanted to engineer.

But the deficit can also fall because the pace of the American economy is slowing, making consumers less likely to buy imported goods and businesses less likely to invest in the United States. And that has been the situation in the United States, economists say.

“There is no evidence of those broader positive developments,” said Brad W. Setser, a senior fellow in international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. “There is no growth in exports, and manufacturing is weak. So to the extent that tariffs have succeeded in bringing the trade deficit down, they have done so largely by reducing U.S. demand, not by raising U.S. production.”

The economy’s resilience has been one of the Trump’s administration’s most notable accomplishments, and is sure to loom large as the 2020 presidential campaign gains momentum.

President Trump has maintained an enthusiastic bullishness on the economy even though the annual growth rate has fallen short of his promises of 3 or 4 percent.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this month, he declared that “the United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

Mr. Trump has spread blame for the economic slowdown, reserving his harshest criticism for the Federal Reserve Bank, which raised benchmark interest rates between 2015 and 2018 before cutting rates three times last year.

“No. 1, the Fed was not good,” he said. “Had we not done the big raise on interest, I think we would have been close to 4 percent.”

The president also mentioned the six-week strike at General Motors last fall and the continuing turmoil at Boeing, the nation’s largest aerospace manufacturer and largest manufacturing exporter, after accidents involving two of its 737 Max airplanes that killed 346 people.

December has usually been a strong month for Boeing, with average sales of 234 airplanes over the past five years, Ian Shepherdson, chief United States economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted in a newsletter. Last month, it sold just three. Strong sales of defense aircraft after Congress raised military spending offset the decline.

Still, Boeing’s halt in 737 Max production will continue to ripple throughout the economy in the coming year. This week, one of the airplane manufacturer’s suppliers, Arconic, said it expected to lose $400 million in Boeing sales and cut jobs. Another contractor, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, recently announced that it was eliminating 2,800 jobs this month. Hundreds of other companies are also grappling to manage the fallout.

Analysts say they expect Boeing’s disrupted production to shave half a percentage point off G.D.P. in the first three months of this year.

Businesses are hesitant to invest when they are unsure of what’s ahead.

According to Ben Herzon, executive director of United States economics at Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm, research shows that the “level of investment spending recently has been about $100 billion lower that it would have had there been no uncertainty about trade policy.”

That suggests there is room for more investment if trade policy settles.

Tensions with China have eased with the signing of the Phase 1 pact. And this week, Mr. Trump signed the new North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico into law. But tariffs remain on two-thirds of Chinese imports. At the same time, trade frictions with Europe over tariffs, airplane subsidies, digital taxes and the World Trade Organization have ratcheted up.

Also unsettling is the outbreak in China and spread of a mysterious and deadly virus that has the potential to rattle investors, and slow growth in Asia.

On the domestic front, Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate and the coming presidential election add another large dose of political uncertainty.

No matter who becomes the Democrats’ nominee, “we’re likely to have two candidates with very different views on tax, regulatory and trade policy,” said Matthew Luzzetti, chief United States economist for Deutsche Bank Securities. “Businesses don’t know which direction that’s going to go in, so they may hold back on spending projects.”

Mr. Luzzetti said the volatility in the data because of trade and Boeing would make it hard to gauge the underlying growth dynamics until midyear.

Although wage growth and business investment have slacked off, consumers’ confidence in the economy has been unshaken. Optimism about the ease of finding a job helped fuel the rise in its most recent monthly measure of confidence, the Conference Board, a business research group, reported this week.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, and enthusiasm drives growth.

The growth, though, is not spread evenly. “The manufacturing and service sectors are telling two slightly different stories,” said Emily Weis, macro strategist at State Street Corporation, a large financial institution based in Boston.

While spending on services has remained strong, manufacturing in the United States has yet to revive, despite signs that it has stabilized abroad.

December was the fifth month in a row that the sector had declined. One large company, 3M, which makes Post-it notes and a wide range of other consumer and office products, announced this week that it was laying off 1,500 people globally.

“Manufacturing has generally underwhelmed in the U.S.,” Ms. Weis said.

The Commerce Department will revise the fourth-quarter results twice, as more data comes in.

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Biden Push for Labor Support Is Burdened by Obama-Era Baggage

Westlake Legal Group 00biden-labor12-facebookJumbo Biden Push for Labor Support Is Burdened by Obama-Era Baggage Warren, Elizabeth Trump, Donald J Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Organized Labor Obama, Barack Biden, Joseph R Jr American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations

On the campaign trail, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has highlighted the first two years of the Obama administration as a time when he helped enact sweeping legislation to widen access to health care and revive the economy, accomplishments most Democrats revere.

But to many union officials, those years were a disappointment — a time when the administration failed to pass a labor rights bill that was their top priority and imposed a tax that would affect many union members’ health plans. And they partly blame Mr. Biden.

“They were in the driver’s seat for the first two years, and what did they get done from a labor perspective?” said Chris Laursen, the president of a United Automobile Workers local in Ottumwa, Iowa, with nearly 600 members. “Joe Biden is complete status quo.”

Since Mr. Biden began his third campaign for the presidency last April, his supporters have portrayed him as the Democrat best positioned to win back union members who deserted the party in 2016 in crucial industrial states.

There is some basis for that claim. Mr. Biden, who has longstanding ties to many labor leaders, quickly gained an endorsement from the politically powerful firefighters’ union, and just won an endorsement from the ironworkers’ union. Polls frequently show him leading other Democratic candidates in battleground-state matchups against President Trump.

But for many labor voters — even white, blue-collar union members whose votes skewed toward Mr. Trump — the reaction to the former vice president has been more mixed. They frequently cite his policy centrism, which many associate with his time in President Barack Obama’s White House.

A mid-January poll by SurveyUSA showed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont surging to within three points of Mr. Biden among union households nationally. The combined support of Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has generally outpaced Mr. Biden’s among union households since August.

The Biden campaign declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mr. Obama. A campaign surrogate, former Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, called Mr. Biden “a champion for organized labor” and said, “It’s easy to take more extreme positions on issues when no one holds you accountable for actually enacting them.”

A photograph of Eugene Debs, an early hero of the American labor movement, hangs above a Sanders sign in the U.A.W. local office in Ottumwa.Credit…Daniel Acker for The New York Times An “Adios Trump” button on the local’s bulletin board. The U.A.W. and the local have not made an endorsement in this year’s campaign.Credit…Daniel Acker for The New York Times

The reservations of union members could be a bigger problem for Mr. Biden than they were for Hillary Clinton during her 2016 Democratic race against Mr. Sanders. Some large unions, including the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Mrs. Clinton, though many members later supported Mr. Sanders.

In the current cycle, many of these unions have skipped an early endorsement, making it easier for individual members and in some cases locals to support their own candidates. The teachers’ union in Los Angeles has endorsed Mr. Sanders, as has the Ottumwa local of the United Food and Commercial Workers, whose 1.3-million-member international endorsed Mrs. Clinton before the 2016 Iowa caucuses. A large Pennsylvania local of the food workers’ union has endorsed Mr. Biden.

While the Labor Department recently reported that union membership last year fell to a record low — 10.3 percent of the work force — labor endorsements can still be critical because of the role of unions in educating members about candidates and canvassing for them on the ground.

Mr. Laursen, the U.A.W. local leader in Ottumwa, estimates that more than half his members — who are primarily workers at a John Deere plant — backed Mr. Trump in 2016. But he says many of those who oppose the president’s re-election are supporting Mr. Sanders over Mr. Biden.

And the skepticism toward Mr. Biden may be even more pronounced in the less white, less male parts of the labor force.

Nicole McCormick, a West Virginia music teacher who helped organize a statewide walkout that made national headlines in 2018, said she worried that Mr. Biden wasn’t “willing to push for the things that we as Americans look at as radical, but the rest of the world looks at and is like, ‘We did that 50 years ago.’” She cited expanded access to unions, universal health care and paid parental leave as examples.

(Mr. Biden has proposed wide-ranging labor-law reforms, though his plan isn’t as ambitious as Mr. Sanders’s or Ms. Warren’s in some respects. He supports paid family leave.)

Keon Liberato, the president of a Philadelphia-based local of more than 200 workers who maintain and construct railroad tracks, said many of his members preferred Mr. Sanders. Mr. Liberato said his members, both African-American and white, knew Mr. Biden as a friend to railroad workers, but tended to believe that taking health care off the bargaining table under Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All plan “would be huge for the American people.”

In voicing their concerns about Mr. Biden, union officials frequently cite dismay over the Obama years. They acknowledge a number of accomplishments, including the economic stimulus, the rescue of Chrysler and General Motors, and elements of the Affordable Care Act, as well as a variety of pro-labor appointments and regulations. But they express reservations about the administration’s focus on deficit reduction, its ties to Wall Street, and especially its efforts to lower barriers to foreign competition.

“I was really disappointed with his trade policies,” said Nick Diveley, a U.A.W. member in Ottumwa, who supported Mr. Obama in 2008. “That’s what pushed me to Trump.” Mr. Diveley said he was open to voting for someone other than Mr. Trump in the fall but called Mr. Biden “just another established Washington guy.”

Union members and leaders also grumble about the so-called Cadillac tax on expensive health care plans that the Obama administration sought as a way to rein in wasteful spending. “It was an egghead Ivy League idea, that people overuse health care,” said D. Taylor, the president of the hospitality and casino workers union UNITE HERE, which helped lead the unsuccessful fight against the tax.

(The union was supportive of the law and the administration over all; the tax was recently repealed.)

And some complain that the Obama administration delayed action on labor’s top priority — a bill that could have expanded their ranks by making it easier to unionize through a sign-up process called card check, rather than a secret ballot — partly so that it could focus on health care.

“He failed to fight for our priorities and stand up for the main reason we endorsed him — card check,” said Norwood Orrick, a telecom technician and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Tampa, Fla. “It was discussed a lot in my immediate circles of activists.”

Beyond any single policy, there are complaints that the Obama administration sometimes treated labor as an interest group to be managed rather than a partner in making policy. Ana Avendaño, a former senior official at the A.F.L.-C.I.O., recalled a White House meeting on immigration that the federation’s president, Richard Trumka, attended.

“They sat him at one of the corners of the table,” squeezed between two other people, Ms. Avendaño said. “He couldn’t even open his pad. In D.C. terms, it was a show of disrespect.”

A spokesman for Mr. Trumka said: “While President Trumka worked with and respected President Obama, he felt there were times when the president tried to split the difference between Main Street and Wall Street. That did not serve him or us well.”

Some labor officials and union members see the more pragmatic approach of the Obama years, and Mr. Biden’s moderate reputation, as a selling point. “Our guys lean 55 percent Republican,” said Thomas Hanify, president of the Indiana firefighters’ union. “Over all for my members, Warren and Bernie Sanders are a little extreme.”

And many prefer Mr. Biden’s approach to health care, voicing concern that Mr. Sanders would do away with insurance plans that unions have worked hard to negotiate.

Other labor leaders, while citing shortcomings of the Obama presidency, say Mr. Biden was an advocate for their interests within the administration. Teachers’ unions were furious after Mr. Obama publicly embraced the firing of the entire faculty of an underperforming school in Rhode Island in 2010. But Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Mr. Biden helped resolve the situation.

“We started having a fairly heated argument, me and the vice president, at an A.F.L. meeting,” Ms. Weingarten said. “But he heard what I was saying.”

Jared Bernstein, an economic adviser to Mr. Biden during his vice presidency, said the same was often true on trade and other issues, including labor-law reform, which faced a complicated path in the Senate. “I know for a fact where Biden is on these things,” Mr. Bernstein said. “But he was part of an administration that at times very much pleased the unions, and at other times very much pissed them off.”

(As a senator, Mr. Biden supported some free-trade legislation, like the North American Free Trade Agreement.)

But many labor officials regard Mr. Biden as essentially a sympathetic face for unfriendly policies he was either powerless to reverse or personally advanced. One cited Mr. Biden’s role in leading the negotiations with Republicans over a long-term deficit-cutting deal that could have led to cuts in programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Biden, whose record on Social Security has been a subject of sparring with the Sanders campaign, says he supports an expansion of benefits for many retirees.

Frank Flanders, the political director of the food workers’ local in Ottumwa, said that he was skeptical of Mr. Biden’s views on trade and his more hawkish foreign policy views, and that he regarded Mr. Biden as a “corporate Democrat.”

“I think we had a lot of Trump voters in the general, for the most part it’s because he wasn’t Hillary,” said Mr. Flanders, describing how his members voted in 2016. “It’s also a concern I have about a Biden candidacy.”

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What Will Today’s G.D.P. Reading Show? Here’s a Preview.

Westlake Legal Group 30econ2-facebookJumbo What Will Today’s G.D.P. Reading Show? Here’s a Preview. United States Economy Trump, Donald J International Trade and World Market Gross Domestic Product Commerce Department Boeing Company

The Commerce Department will release its initial estimate of the gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the economy — for the fourth quarter of 2019 at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Wall Street analysts expect the figures to show that the economy grew at an annual rate of about 2 percent from October through December, a shade behind the 2.1 percent growth over the previous three months.

  • A fourth-quarter growth rate of 2 percent would amount to an increase of 2.3 percent year-over-year. That is weaker than the 2.5 percent rate for 2018, setting the stage for slower growth to come.

The economy continues to expand, even though it has done so more slowly in recent months.

In the second half of 2017 and in some of 2018, the annual growth rate surged past 3 percent, helped by hearty tax cuts and government spending. And it continued to sail ahead at the start of last year, reaching 3.1 percent between January and March.

That level now looks more like an aberration, as the temporary spurs faded. Most economists see normal growth circling the 2 percent mark.

The slowdown, in part, reflects a maturing labor market in which the official jobless rate remains at half-century lows as the expansion heads toward its 11th anniversary.

“Given how tight labor markets have become and how challenging it is for businesses to find qualified employees to fill spots, 2 percent growth is welcome,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of United States economics at Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm.

An unexpectedly large jump in December’s imports reported on Wednesday caused some Wall Street analysts to reduce their estimates of G.D.P. growth in the fourth quarter.

G.D.P. measures only the value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders, so when a nation is buying more things abroad than it sells — the definition of a trade deficit — it pushes down G.D.P.

The Trump administration has made lowering the American trade deficit a goal. While the deficit excluding oil steadily climbed through most of President Trump’s tenure, it had fallen sharply in recent months before December’s figures came in.

Economists have opposed Mr. Trump’s use of the trade deficit as a scorecard: It can fall for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are good. Currently, economists say, the deficit has fallen because of factors reflecting weakness in the economy, rather than strength.

The trade deficit can drop because exports are growing, or because imports are shrinking, or both. For example, the deficit can fall because manufacturing is booming, pushing imported products out of the American market and leading to a surge in exports — the outcome the Trump administration wanted to engineer.

But the deficit can also fall because the American economy is slowing, making consumers less likely to buy imported goods and businesses less likely to invest in the United States. And that is the situation in the United States, economists say.

“There is no evidence of those broader positive developments,” said Brad W. Setser, a senior fellow in international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. “There is no growth in exports, and manufacturing is weak. So to the extent that tariffs have succeeded in bringing the trade deficit down, they have done so largely by reducing U.S. demand, not by raising U.S. production.”

Imports fell sharply in September after the United States imposed tariffs on China because some American companies held off on buying goods, hoping that the Trump administration might soon strike a trade deal reducing or removing the tariffs.

As tensions eased in December, imports revived. With a Phase 1 trade deal now signed, imports are expected to climb further in the months to come.

The economy’s resilience has been one of the Trump’s administration’s most notable accomplishments, and is sure to loom large as the 2020 presidential campaign gains momentum.

Mr. Trump has maintained an enthusiastic bullishness on the economy even though growth has fallen well below his promises of 3 or 4 percent. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this month, he declared that “the United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

Mr. Trump has spread blame for the economic slowdown, reserving his harshest criticism for the Federal Reserve, which raised benchmark interest rates between 2015 and 2018 before cutting rates three times last year.

“No. 1, the Fed was not good,” he said.

The president also mentioned the six-week strike at General Motors last fall and the continuing turmoil at Boeing, the nation’s largest aerospace manufacturer and largest manufacturing exporter, after accidents involving two of its 737 Max airplanes killed 346 people.

“With all that, had we not done the big raise on interest, I think we would have been close to 4 percent,” he said.

Most economists disagree. The economy has not expanded by 3 percent or more in a full calendar year since 2005. As Mr. Herzon said, “We’re continuing along in this 2 percent economy.”

Nonetheless, expect Mr. Trump to claim economic success and the Democratic candidates to highlight the economy’s soft spots.

Boeing has historically recorded bonanza sales in December, with the company selling an average of 234 airplanes over the past five years, Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted in a newsletter. Last month, it sold just three. Strong sales of military aircraft offset the decline.

Still, Boeing’s halt in 737 Max production will ripple throughout the economy in the coming year. This week, Arconic, one of the airplane manufacturer’s suppliers, said it expected to lose $400 million in Boeing sales and cut jobs. Another contractor, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, recently announced that it was cutting 2,800 jobs this month. Hundreds of other companies are also grappling to manage the impact.

Kathy Bostjancic, chief United States financial economist at Oxford Economics, said she expected Boeing’s disrupted production to shave half a percentage point off G.D.P. in the first three months of this year.

The Commerce Department will revise the fourth-quarter results twice in the months ahead as more data comes in.

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To Senate Republicans, a Vote for Witnesses Is a Vote for Trouble

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-tot1-facebookJumbo To Senate Republicans, a Vote for Witnesses Is a Vote for Trouble United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Republican Party impeachment

WASHINGTON — In the end, the impeachment calculation nearly all Senate Republicans are making is fairly simple: They would rather look like they ignored relevant evidence than plunge the Senate into an unpredictable, open-ended inquiry that would anger President Trump and court political peril.

As Republicans on Wednesday lined up behind blocking witnesses in the trial, their reasoning reflected the worry that allowing testimony by John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser whose unpublished manuscript contradicts a central part of Mr. Trump’s impeachment defense, would undoubtedly lead to a cascade of other witnesses. They in turn could provide more damaging disclosures and tie up the Senate indefinitely, when the ultimate verdict — an all but certain acquittal of the president — is not in doubt.

“For the sake of argument, one could assume everything attributable to John Bolton is accurate, and still the House would fall well below the standards to remove a president from office,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

Republicans have offered myriad rationales for refusing new testimony: Gathering it was the House’s job. Calling more witnesses would lead to prolonged court fights over executive privilege. They had heard more than enough evidence to reach a verdict. There was not enough evidence to show they needed more information. Allowing the House to force the Senate into a drawn-out impeachment trial would set a dangerous institutional precedent. In essence, during what they hoped would be the final hours of Mr. Trump’s trial, Senate Republicans were constructing a permission structure for not trying to get to the bottom of what happened, with the hope that voters would find their explanations satisfactory and reasonable.

“We don’t need Mr. Bolton to come in and to extend this show longer, along with any other witnesses people might want, and occupy all of our time here in the Senate for the next few weeks, maybe even months,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas and a close ally of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said Tuesday evening on Fox.

Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff and a top outside adviser to Mr. McConnell, made it clear that Republicans viewed the idea of calling witnesses as a disaster in the making.

“More witnesses = Hindenburg,” Mr. Holmes wrote Wednesday on Twitter, showing a picture of the flaming airship. “None of it changes ultimate acquittal.”

Mr. McConnell has maneuvered to head off the conflagration. In a private meeting with senators on Tuesday, he warned rank-and-file Republicans that he was short of the votes to thwart a Democratic call for witnesses, an unmistakable tactic to bring wavering senators into line.

On Wednesday morning, he summoned a key swing vote, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to his office for a private meeting. She emerged refusing to speak about her intentions. And when the question-and-answer period opened later in the day, he gave the first question to three of the remaining Republican holdouts for witnesses: Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Ms. Murkowski and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah. The move signaled that Mr. McConnell was singularly focused on providing the waverers the answers they needed to feel comfortable ending the trial without more evidence.

Nearly all of the politically vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election in November have embraced their party’s strategy, making it clear that they favor taking their chances defending their votes against witnesses over trying to explain to voters loyal to Mr. Trump why they backed broadening an investigation into a president who is very popular with the Republican electorate.

Senator Cory Gardner, the Colorado Republican trying to hang on to his Senate seat in a state that has turned increasingly blue, illustrated that point on Wednesday when he said he would not support additional witnesses — a stance that is likely to draw considerable blowback from critics at home but endear him to Republicans.

“I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness,” he said in a statement, emphasizing that the House had already heard from plenty of people.

While polls show broad bipartisan support for calling new witnesses, Mr. Gardner, who protectively endorsed Mr. Trump’s re-election months ago, is keenly aware that he stands no chance without the wholehearted backing of the president. Republicans live with the reality that a critical tweet from the president can quickly send their campaigns into a tailspin, a point reinforced by the president’s latest Twitter warning shot on Wednesday morning.

“Remember Republicans,” he wrote, “Witnesses are up to the House, not up to the Senate. Don’t let the Dems play you!”

Ms. Collins is the only Republican up for re-election who is now seen as a likely vote for more witnesses. She is the rare member of her party who still seeks to appeal to a broad range of independent and even Democratic voters as well as Republicans. Her fellow Republicans say they see her as being in a unique position, and they have given her ample running room to do what she thinks is best for her re-election, even if it causes them problems.

Republicans insist that they have given the House case against Mr. Trump serious and sober review and have found it wanting. They are also obviously chafing against the constraints of the trial, forced to sit quietly in the chamber for hours on end, when they are much more accustomed to making their presence known at hearings and during floor votes and then exiting at their convenience. The thought of the trial continuing, with no end in sight and the result preordained, sparks despair in many of them.

But it is not just their schedules they see at risk if the Senate were to go down the path of new witnesses. Republicans have increasingly pointed to the fact that the Democratically controlled House has forced the Republican-led Senate into an impeachment trial to the exclusion of almost all other activity under strict Senate rules. They say allowing the House to effectively freeze the Senate would set a dangerous precedent.

“To make something out of the two impeachment articles would send an incredibly bad message to every House after this,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Republican leadership. “If you really want to shut the Senate down, just send them a vague article of impeachment.”

Democrats dismiss that complaint as well as the others raised by Republicans, saying they are simply in search of justification for failing to conduct a thorough review of the behavior of a president with a firm hold on voters who are essential to their individual political survival, as well as Republican control of the Senate.

“They keep coming up with excuses,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, who added that Republicans’ claims that witnesses would chew up weeks or months of Senate time were exaggerated and that he believed the testimony could be secured and wrapped up in a week or two.

If Republicans were so worried about precedent, he said, they should be concerned with what will happen if Mr. Trump is acquitted without the Senate taking the necessary steps to parse all the information it can about his conduct.

“If he’s allowed to completely stonewall, to do absolute obstruction on everything and not be held accountable, he’ll do it again and again, and future presidents will do it again and again,” Mr. Schumer said. “And this grand experiment we call democracy will have been fatally, fatally eroded.”

Still, Mr. Schumer conceded on Wednesday that his hopes of additional witnesses were growing fainter as the Republican leadership worked to lock down senators and bring the momentous proceeding to a close as soon as the vote on whether to call witnesses was concluded — a move now expected on Friday.

A slim possibility still existed that other Republicans would join Democrats and Ms. Collins and Mr. Romney in calling for more testimony, upending the party’s game plan. But nearly all Republicans were more than ready to vote, and they did not need new witnesses to confirm their verdict that it was past time to bring a speedy end to the trial.

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White House Assumed ‘Disgruntled’ Bolton Would Write a Critical Book

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-bolton01-facebookJumbo White House Assumed ‘Disgruntled’ Bolton Would Write a Critical Book United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) National Security Council Manuscripts Eisenberg, John A Cooper, Charles J Classified Information and State Secrets Cipollone, Pat A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — When John R. Bolton’s book manuscript landed on the desk of a White House national security aide shortly after Christmas, no one had to page through it to know that the draft could upend the impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

Now the question of who did review the book — and to what extent — has become a subject of the Senate impeachment trial of Mr. Trump. The White House has acknowledged that National Security Council staff members reviewed the draft, and that they briefed the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone.

But the president’s impeachment defense lawyers — Mr. Cipollone among them — insisted on Wednesday that they were unaware it contained the explosive revelation by Mr. Bolton, the former national security adviser, that Mr. Trump had directly linked aid for Ukraine to investigations he sought for personal gain.

“No one from inside the White House or outside the White House told us publication of the book would be problematic for the president,” Patrick F. Philbin, a deputy White House counsel and one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, said on the Senate floor. “We assumed Mr. Bolton was disgruntled and wouldn’t be saying a lot of nice things about the president, but no one told us anything like that.”

The acrimony between Mr. Bolton and the White House also escalated on Wednesday as both sides jockeyed for the upper hand over whether he can publish his book as planned or must wait for government censors to strip it of classified information, which would also serve to help keep more damning details from coming out during the impeachment trial.

The National Security Council released a letter sent last week to a lawyer for Mr. Bolton saying that the draft contained “significant amounts” of it.

Mr. Bolton’s lawyer fired back, releasing his response sent last week to the White House: Because Mr. Bolton could be called to testify to the Senate shortly, he said, it was “imperative” that officials review his Ukraine writings immediately.

Mr. Trump also jumped in, saying on Twitter that he had fired Mr. Bolton because “if I had listened to him, we’d be in World War Six by now.”

White House officials insist that their handling of Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was legally sound. But however by the book they played the initial review of the manuscript, the strategy proved politically treacherous.

Mr. Bolton’s account came out in the middle of the president’s lawyers’ presentation of their impeachment defense, undercutting a key element — that the aid freeze was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations he stood to benefit from — and forcing the president’s defense team to scramble to address the charge.

And Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader who had worked to keep witnesses out of the impeachment trial, raged that he was not warned that such dramatic revelations could come at the 11th hour.

But National Security Council lawyers and staff members believed they had little choice but to keep the book’s details closely held, according to people familiar with their decision making. White House officials had faced accusations of a cover-up last year after deciding to initially block Congress from receiving the whistle-blower complaint about the president’s dealings with Ukraine that set off impeachment proceedings.

Though Mr. Cipollone was briefed about the manuscript, lawyers for the National Security Council — the foreign policy arm of the White House — withheld the draft from other White House officials, administration officials said. The lawyers asked career civil servants, not political appointees, to review the book, in an effort to ensure it was handled similarly to any other book written by a former official with access to classified secrets, the officials said.

The lawyers did realize that Mr. Bolton’s book would by its nature be politically sensitive. One of the career lawyers, Yevgeny Vindman, did not take part in the review to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. His twin brother is Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a Pentagon official detailed to the National Security Council and a key witness about the president’s Ukraine dealings in the impeachment hearings.

The political appointees among the national security lawyers, Michael Ellis and his boss, John A. Eisenberg, saw the manuscript but had no direct role in scouring the document for potential classified material, according to a person familiar with the matter.

At critical moments throughout the Ukraine matter, Mr. Eisenberg and the National Security Council legal team have been drawn in, prompting questions by others in the White House about how they handled the issues. Mr. Eisenberg and Mr. Ellis handled the internal complaints immediately after Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and ordered records of the conversation be restricted.

The White House has said Mr. Cipollone did not review the manuscript or know details about its content. On Monday, a spokesman for the National Security Council said that “no White House personnel outside N.S.C. have reviewed the manuscript.”

Former officials say that while there are few regulations constraining the National Security Council, officials adhere to past procedures, which in reviews of manuscripts allows them to notify other officials of their existence but not to review their content.

The office that conducts prepublication reviews of manuscripts by former council officials is staffed by career officials rather than political appointees, said Brian Egan, who served as legal adviser to the National Security Council from 2013 to 2016. The career officials, about half a dozen, conduct reviews among other responsibilities, including ensuring that no presidential records are destroyed, declassifying old presidential records and reviewing proposed speeches, papers and quotes by former officials.

“Their job is not a P.R.-type job — their job is a much more technical job,” Mr. Egan said. “That’s how they see themselves.”

Still, Mr. Egan said, it was routine for the office to circulate portions of a manuscript to subject-matter experts on the council staff for input, suggesting that it might have shared any portions of Mr. Bolton’s draft about Ukraine with the European affairs office.

Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was not shared with the European affairs office, a person familiar with the matter said.

The White House notified Mr. Bolton’s lawyer that it had significant issues with classified information in the manuscript last Thursday, just days before Mr. Bolton’s draft was made public on Sunday.

Some information in the manuscript was classified at the top-secret level, said the National Security Council letter, signed by Ellen Knight, a senior director for records. The council staff would work with Mr. Bolton to identify classified information to “ensure your client can tell his story in a manner that protects national security,” she wrote.

It was not clear what material the National Security Council staff considered classified and would seek to block. But Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, said in his response that if his client was called as a witness in the impeachment trial, he was sure to be asked questions that would elicit the material contained in the Ukraine chapter of the manuscript.

Classification reviews can often drag on for years, delaying publication and drastically restricting what former officials can reveal in a book.

The review process “is liable to abuse,” said Kevin Carroll, a lawyer who is representing former C.I.A. and Air Force officers trying to publish a book.

“I find it highly unlikely that a very experienced official such as Ambassador Bolton, the former national security adviser, would put top-secret material in his manuscript,” Mr. Carroll said.

Ms. Knight offered no deadlines for completing the review.

Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

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Republicans Move to Block Impeachment Witnesses, Driving Toward Acquittal

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-impeach1-facebookJumbo Republicans Move to Block Impeachment Witnesses, Driving Toward Acquittal United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Schiff, Adam B Romney, Mitt Roberts, John G Jr Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch impeachment Dershowitz, Alan M Democratic Party Collins, Susan M Bolton, John R Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — The White House and Senate Republicans worked aggressively on Wednesday to discount damaging revelations from John R. Bolton and line up the votes to block new witnesses that would bring President Trump’s impeachment trial to a swift close.

As the Senate entered a two-day, 16-hour period of questioning from senators, Mr. Trump laced into Mr. Bolton, his former national security adviser, whose unpublished manuscript contains an account that contradicts his impeachment defense. The president described Mr. Bolton on Twitter as a warmonger who had “begged” for his job, was fired, and then wrote “a nasty & untrue book.”

Mr. Trump’s aides circulated a letter on Capitol Hill informing Mr. Bolton that the White House was moving to block publication of his forthcoming book, in which he wrote that the president conditioned the release of military aid for Ukraine on the country’s willingness to investigate his political rivals. That is a central element of Democrats’ impeachment case against the president, which charges him with seeking to enlist a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf.

Off the floor, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and other Republicans signaled that they were regaining confidence that they would be able cobble together the 51 votes needed to block new witnesses and documents and bring the trial to an acquittal verdict as soon as Friday, after the revelations from Mr. Bolton, reported Sunday by The New York Times, had threatened to knock their plans off course.

Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican, declared that he had “heard enough” and predicted that the Senate would vote to acquit the president by week’s end.

“I’m ready to vote on final judgment,” Mr. Barrasso told reporters. Asked if Republicans planned to move directly to a vote on the two articles of impeachment on Friday, Mr. Barrasso said, “Yes, that’s the plan.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Democrats were sounding a note of pessimism about the prospect of witnesses and securing new evidence in the trial.

“We’ve always known it will be an uphill fight on witnesses and documents, because the president and Mitch McConnell put huge pressure on these folks,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said during a break in the trial.

“Is it more likely than not? Probably no,” Mr. Schumer said. “But is it a decent, good chance? Yes.”

In answering questions, Mr. Trump’s lawyers offered their most expansive defense of the president to date, effectively arguing that a president cannot be removed from office for demanding political favors if he believes his re-election is in the national interest.

“Every public official I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” said Alan M. Dershowitz, the celebrity defense lawyer and constitutional scholar who is part of the Mr. Trump’s legal team. “Mostly, you’re right.”

“If the president does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he said.

Many of the arguments and much the day was tailored to persuading a few Republicans who remained holdouts on the question of whether to call witnesses. Mr. McConnell gave his party’s first question on Wednesday to Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in an effort to allay the concerns of the three lawmakers, Republican moderates who are swing votes on the matter. The trio teamed up to ask Mr. Trump’s lawyers how they should judge the president if they conclude he acted in the Ukraine matter with both political and policy motives.

The selection of Ms. Collins, who is facing the toughest re-election campaign in her long Senate career, was revealing: It suggested that Mr. McConnell was keenly focused on giving her every opportunity to have her voice heard before moving forward.

Notably absent from the group was the fourth Republican who had expressed interest in witnesses: Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a close friend of Mr. McConnell’s who has said he will not decide whether to support witnesses until after the question period has closed.

On Tuesday, Mr. McConnell warned Republicans privately that he did not currently have the votes to stop Democrats from summoning them. One after the other on Wednesday, in statements and hallway interviews, they made clear they would side with their leader.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, who had previously floated the idea of a witness deal, said Wednesday that he was “very, very skeptical” of new witnesses. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, facing a tough re-election in a swing state, issued a statement saying that he had heard enough and would vote against hearing from more witnesses.

Democrats need the votes of four Republicans to compel the Senate to subpoena witnesses and new documents. But it seems increasingly likely that Mr. Alexander, who is retiring from the Senate and is thus free to do as he chooses, will break from his party.

Mr. Trump is charged with abusing his power and obstructing Congress by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, and concealing evidence of it from lawmakers who were investigating. Republicans have said that if Mr. Bolton testifies, so too should Hunter Biden, who drew Mr. Trump’s interest because he sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company.

In the first hint of a possible crack in Democratic unity, Senator Doug Jones of Alabama suggested Wednesday that he might vote to acquit Mr. Trump on the charge of obstruction of Congress, though he said that the president’s own behavior was strengthening the case against him. And Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said he thought that Hunter Biden might be a relevant witness.

“I’m still looking at that very closely; there are some things that trouble me about it,” Mr. Jones said, without elaborating. “But I will tell you this about the obstruction charge: The more I see the president of the United States attacking witnesses, the stronger that case gets.”

Fielding friendly questions from Democratic senators, House managers reiterated the heart of their case and accused Mr. Trump’s lawyers of incorrectly stating that there was no evidence that Mr. Trump linked security assistance to investigations. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House impeachment manager, responded to Mr. Dershowitz’s argument by saying it was “very odd.”

“If you say you can’t hold a president accountable in an election year where they’re trying to cheat in that election, then you are giving them carte blanche,” Mr. Schiff said. “All quid pro quos are not the same. Some are legitimate and some are corrupt.”

Democrats have argued that Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine was precisely the kind of corrupt scheme that the nation’s founders had in mind when they created impeachment, fearing that an out-of-control executive would abuse his power for personal gain. But throughout the day, lawyers for Mr. Trump argued that all elected officials make policy decisions to help themselves get re-elected.

Answering the question from the three Republican moderates, Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, said a president could not be removed for a “mixed-motive situation” in which he is acting out of both personal and policy concerns.

“There’s always some personal interest in the electoral outcome of policy decisions and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Mr. Philbin told senators. “That’s part of representative democracy.”

Mr. Trump’s legal team also argued that the House needed to prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt” — a standard of proof that legal experts say has no basis in either the Constitution or the rules of the Senate. And the legal team said that the case was merely “based on a policy difference” between the president and the career diplomats who sounded the alarm on his pressure campaign in Ukraine.

The questioning is a formal affair: Senators submit questions in writing and they are read aloud by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The chief justice set a five-minute time limit for answers, citing a similar limit imposed by his predecessor Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999.

White House lawyers have a system to help their speakers stay within the five minutes: a stack of small white cue cards showing when the clock is about to run out. They hold them up when 2 minutes, 1 minute 30 seconds and 10 seconds are left.

The Democratic House members do not appear to have such a system — which may explain why Mr. Schiff was cut off by the chief justice when his first answer ran long.

Catie Edmondson, Nicholas Fandos and Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What You Need to Know About Trump’s Middle East Plan

President Trump stood alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House on Tuesday to reveal a long-awaited plan intended to resolve generations of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Noticeably absent from that announcement, though, was any Palestinian representation, and Palestinian leaders have flatly rejected the plan. The proposed settlement strongly favors Israeli priorities rather than having both sides make significant concessions.

Mr. Trump vowed at the start of his presidency that he would negotiate a “bigger and better deal” to broker peace than anyone could imagine. Three years later, experts say that the plan, developed under the supervision of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, falls remarkably short of that goal and is unlikely ever to become the basis for a peace agreement.

Here are some of the plan’s main features.

While Mr. Trump’s proposal is the latest in a series of United States-brokered attempts to forge peace between Israelis and Palestinians, his framework was a sharp departure from decades of American policy. The United States has long voiced support for the creation of a Palestinian state with only slight adjustments to the Israeli boundaries that existed before the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, when Israel wrested the West Bank from Jordan, and Gaza from Egypt.

Instead, the 181-page Trump plan proposes a West Bank riddled with interconnected chunks of Israeli territory containing Jewish settlements, many of them largely encircled by Palestinian lands. For the Palestinians, it would mean giving up a claim to large amounts of West Bank land — including places where Israel has built settlements over the past half-century and strategic areas along the Jordanian border. Most of the world regards the settlements as illegal.

The framework also sets aside the longtime goal of a fully autonomous Palestinian state. Instead, Mr. Trump vaguely promised that Palestinians could “achieve an independent state of their very own” but gave few details, while Mr. Netanyahu said the deal provided a “pathway to a Palestinian state” with significant caveats.

The Palestinians do not subscribe to the plan, though the deal provides for a four-year window for them to engage in renewed settlement talks. During that time, Israel would refrain from constructing settlements in those parts of the West Bank that the plan has designated for Palestinians.

Previous American proposals spoke of uprooting tens of thousands of Israelis from the settlements to return those areas to the Palestinians for inclusion in their state, but the Trump plan promises to leave both settlers and Palestinians in their current homes. Rather, it maps out a series of linked settlements and other areas that would officially become Israeli territory in the midst of the West Bank.

Trump’s Proposal for a Palestinian State

Westlake Legal Group mideast-plan-map-300 What You Need to Know About Trump's Middle East Plan West Bank Trump, Donald J Palestinians Palestinian Authority Netanyahu, Benjamin Kushner, Jared Jordan Israel

State of

Palestine

Israeli

enclaves

Westlake Legal Group mideast-plan-map-460 What You Need to Know About Trump's Middle East Plan West Bank Trump, Donald J Palestinians Palestinian Authority Netanyahu, Benjamin Kushner, Jared Jordan Israel

Mediterranean

Sea

Mediterranean

Sea

State of Palestine

Israeli enclaves

Westlake Legal Group mideast-plan-map-600 What You Need to Know About Trump's Middle East Plan West Bank Trump, Donald J Palestinians Palestinian Authority Netanyahu, Benjamin Kushner, Jared Jordan Israel

Mediterranean

Sea

Mediterranean

Sea

State of Palestine

Israeli enclaves

Note: Boundaries are approximate and based on available data provided by the White House, some of which was obscured.

Source: White House

By The New York Times

The plan also envisaged a Palestinian capital in “eastern Jerusalem,” on the outer edges of the city beyond Israel’s security barrier, while guaranteeing Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. The city is a holy site for the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths and has long been a sticking point in peace negotiations.

Mr. Netanyahu later clarified that the proposed Palestinian capital would be in Abu Dis, a Palestinian village on the outskirts of the holy city.

The plan proposes transportation links between the unconnected Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza. But the element of the plan that may prove to be its only lasting effect is American recognition of Israel’s claim over the Jordan Valley and all Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The proposal gives American approval to Israel’s plan to redefine the country’s borders and formally annex settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley that it has long sought to control.

That would leave the West Bank portion of any potential Palestinian state surrounded on all sides by Israel. Israeli forces seized the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 war, and Israeli settlements have steadily encroached on the region over the decades since, a move largely condemned internationally.

Mr. Netanyahu caused controversy in September when he vowed, while running for re-election, to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategically critical chunk of the occupied West Bank nestled against the border with Jordan. On Tuesday, he made it clear that he saw President Trump’s plan as giving legitimacy to claiming Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley as Israeli territory.

“For too long, the very heart of the land of Israel where our patriots prayed, our prophets preached and our kings ruled has been outrageously branded as ‘illegally occupied territory,’” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Well today, Mr. President, you are puncturing this big lie.”

Mr. Netanyahu said that his cabinet could move within days to assert sovereignty over those areas, but the decision could be subject to legal challenges because the current government is an interim administration.

Despite Mr. Trump’s assertion that the deal was “a win-win opportunity” for both sides, Palestinians have largely rejected it.

Mahmoud Abbas, the 84-year-old leader of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the plan in a speech on Tuesday evening, calling it a “conspiracy” not worthy of serious consideration.

“We say a thousand times over: no, no, no,” Mr. Abbas said, speaking from Ramallah in the West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership cut off communication with the Trump administration in 2017 after Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and later moved the American Embassy to the city. On the streets of Gaza and the West Bank, protests against the plan broke out on Tuesday.

The reaction from other Arab governments has been mixed. None of the United States’ Arab allies have formally endorsed the plan or committed to ushering it into reality, though ambassadors from Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates attended the announcement.

David Friedman, the United States ambassador to Israel, said in a call with reporters after the plan was announced that the big reveal was timed in a “nonpolitical way.”

He said that the plan was “fully baked” before an Israeli election last April but that American officials had held off introducing it then. When that election produced no government, the United States again postponed any announcement until after a second election in September, he said.

Now, as Israel approaches a third election in less than a year, which could also fail to produce a government, Mr. Friedman said that the time had been right to introduce the proposal. He noted that American officials had also discussed the plans with Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White Party and Mr. Netanyahu’s main rival in the March 2 election.

But experts say that the timing of the rollout has more to do with the domestic politics of the United States and Israel than with resolving the conflict, with Mr. Trump facing an impeachment trial and Mr. Netanyahu facing trial on corruption charges.

William F. Wechsler, director of Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research organization, said in an emailed statement that the plan was unlikely to have a major impact in the short term.

“The announcement’s chosen timing, specific staging, limited participants, and indeed its substance make clear that it has less to do with a good-faith effort to reach peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Mr. Wechsler said, “and more to do with the immediate legal and electoral challenges that confront both leaders.”

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