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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "United States"

Trump’s Made-for-TV Trade War Keeps World Guessing

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164275284_1ba88126-ff22-41f4-a606-d6c65fb638b4-facebookJumbo Trump’s Made-for-TV Trade War Keeps World Guessing United States International Relations United States Economy United States Politics and Government International Trade and World Market Economic Conditions and Trends Customs (Tariff) China Agriculture and Farming

When President Trump’s advisers suggested that Beijing resume buying around $20 billion in American farm products as part of a trade deal, Mr. Trump wasn’t satisfied. In a dramatic public retelling in the Cabinet Room, he said he pressed his team to more than triple that figure, then trimmed that a little and asked for up to $50 billion in annual purchases.

“My people had $20 billion done,” Mr. Trump recounted in an Oct. 21 cabinet meeting. “And I said, ‘I want more.’ They said, ‘The farmers can’t handle it.’ I said, ‘Tell them to buy larger tractors. It’s very simple.’” The cabinet members gathered around Mr. Trump laughed.

Mr. Trump has brought his characteristic love of show business to trade talks with China, injecting public drama into typically staid proceedings. He has alternated displays of anger and warmth toward Beijing and assumed the role of the insatiable negotiator, pairing ambitious goals for a trade pact with even bigger threats should China not accede to his terms.

But more than a year and a half into the biggest trade war in modern history, Mr. Trump’s approach has not yet produced the grand finale he hoped for. Instead, the president’s cliffhanger tactics appear to have made it even harder to bring complex trade talks to a close and exacerbated economic uncertainty across the globe.

Despite Mr. Trump’s Oct. 11 announcement that the United States and China had reached a “historic” Phase 1 trade agreement, actually signing a deal has proved elusive. The two sides continue to negotiate and could finalize an agreement in the next few weeks, if negotiators decide to compromise. But Mr. Trump continues to give mixed signals about whether he actually wants a deal and if any of his tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods will ever be removed.

“We’re taking in billions of dollars in tariff money from China,” Mr. Trump said on Nov. 8. “I like our situation very much. They want to make a deal much more than I do, but we could have a deal.”

A prolonged trade war offers Mr. Trump some political advantages: It allows him to maintain a tough public stance toward China and avoid Democratic criticism that he is caving to Beijing.

But businesses are not entertained. The unrelenting trade fight has prolonged financial pain for American farmers, companies and consumers, paralyzing firms that rely on robust trade flows between the world’s two largest economies.

Executives across the world say they have no choice but to postpone some hiring and investment, make sure any new expansions are not crippled by unforeseen policies, and conserve cash.

The uncertainty is weighing on the United States economy, particularly manufacturing, which has slumped over the past several months. Chinese economic growth has slowed to its lowest rate in nearly three decades, while Germany has barely avoided falling into recession.

“It’s striking that in almost every corner of the world geopolitical tensions are threatening to put the brakes on growth,” John Williams, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a speech last week. “The uncertainty created by current events is no doubt having a lasting effect on the economic conditions we’re experiencing today.”

Mr. Trump’s theatrical embrace is not limited to China. He has injected similar drama into trade talks with other partners, including Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, publicly threatening them with tariffs and suggesting he might leave some trading partners behind.

The president says his approach has created leverage — and in some cases, he is right. The threat of tariffs has prompted officials from Mexico, Canada, Japan and elsewhere to make concessions they might not otherwise have agreed to. It has also brought China, which is heavily reliant on exports to the United States, to the negotiating table.

But that strategy may now be discouraging China from bringing the talks to a close. Mr. Trump’s tendency to waver and increase his demands have made China wary of offering concessions, for fear that he will only demand more, people familiar with Chinese trade policy said.

Eswar Prasad, a trade professor at Cornell, said the president’s “mercurial temperament and predilection to undercutting his own negotiating team” had complicated the already challenging task of striking a deal. “By hyping up expectations and setting unrealistic goals for the trade talks, Trump makes the prospects for any sort of trade deal with China more uncertain and volatile,” he said.

The two sides have been unable to reschedule a meeting between Mr. Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Chile that was canceled because of domestic protests. Mr. Trump has since said that a deal signing would take place in United States “farm country,” but the Chinese have been reluctant to commit to a meeting until a deal that includes tariff reductions is finalized.

Without a set deadline, the two sides have lost a source of external pressure to get the deal done. Beijing is also concerned about the president’s unpredictable behavior — as demonstrated by his abrupt departure from a high-profile meeting last February in Hanoi with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. They fear that Mr. Trump may end up giving fewer concessions than they anticipate, resulting in an embarrassing trip for Mr. Xi, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Mr. Trump continues to insist his tactics will be worth it, saying he is the only president tough enough to take on China without fear of repercussions and that the United States will be better off. Many businesses agree that China has long taken advantage of the United States and support Mr. Trump’s efforts to remove trade barriers and end coercive practices that have disadvantaged American firms operating in China.

But they have struggled with his approach, which has repeatedly escalated tensions, prolonging the trade fight far longer than most expected. The lack of resolution has been discouraging, given that many analysts believe that the administration is tackling only the easiest issues in its Phase 1 deal, and leaving more contentious topics, like the subsidies that China gives to its industry, for later talks.

The roller-coaster ride has been exasperating for businesses that thrive on certainty and cannot easily shift supply chains or adjust shipments of products that need weeks to cross oceans. The most recent twists in the China trade talks have left firms uncertain whether a 15 percent tariff that the Trump administration had planned to impose Dec. 15 on another $160 billion of goods, including smartphones, laptops and footwear, would go into effect — or whether a 15 percent tariff imposed on consumer goods in September would remain.

“It makes for better theater to hold this to the last minute,” said Phil Levy, the chief economist at Flexport, which coordinates international shipments for companies. “It really doesn’t fit well with the world of global supply chains. And we’re talking to a lot of businesses who are having difficulty with that.

Even Mr. Trump’s supporters have trouble at times disguising their frustration with his focus on showmanship over substance and a nagging feeling that the president doesn’t want the show to end.

In a letter to the president in May, Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau, said farmers faced “near-unprecedented economic uncertainty and hardship” stemming from the escalation of tariffs in China and other key markets. He urged Mr. Trump to make a deal as soon as possible, saying “time is running out for many in agriculture.”

But Mr. Trump’s approach has complicated his ability to get a final deal, including securing the big farm commitments that he showcased last month. American negotiators are now left with the difficult task of translating the massive purchases Mr. Trump requested — larger purchases “than any time in our history, by far” — into the actual text of a trade agreement.

While China needs and wants to buy agricultural goods like soybeans and pork, it has balked on terms that would leave it exposed to accusations that it favors American products over other countries’, as well as agreements that could result in more American tariffs if its purchases do not come through.

Even if American negotiators secure better market access for beef, pork, dairy and genetically modified products, Washington-based analysts who have done the calculations say they have difficulty figuring out how the United States could increase its agricultural exports to China to much more than $30 billion a year, without diverting trade from elsewhere.

Mr. Trump’s tariffs also remain a source of uncertainty, with his administration sending mixed signals about whether any of the existing levies will be removed if a deal is reached.

The president announced the Phase 1 trade deal during a meeting in the Oval Office with Liu He, China’s top trade negotiator. While Mr. Trump canceled an increase in tariffs planned for Oct. 15, he made no mention of rolling back any levies. That has not gone over well with the Chinese, who have since been under pressure domestically for seemingly giving away too much to the United States.

“Without rolling back some of the tariffs, or reducing the uncertainty of not raising additional tariffs, then I would ask what is the additional incentive of implementing this deal on the Chinese part?” He Jianxiong, the former executive director for China at the International Monetary Fund, said at a Nov. 6 event at the Peterson Institute in Washington.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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

Trump’s Made-for-TV Trade War Has Few Entertained

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164275284_1ba88126-ff22-41f4-a606-d6c65fb638b4-facebookJumbo Trump’s Made-for-TV Trade War Has Few Entertained United States International Relations United States Economy United States Politics and Government International Trade and World Market Economic Conditions and Trends Customs (Tariff) China Agriculture and Farming

When President Trump’s advisers suggested that Beijing resume buying around $20 billion in American farm products as part of a trade deal, Mr. Trump wasn’t satisfied. In a dramatic public retelling in the Cabinet Room, he said he pressed his team to more than triple that figure, then trimmed that a little and asked for up to $50 billion in annual purchases.

“My people had $20 billion done,” Mr. Trump recounted in an Oct. 21 cabinet meeting. “And I said, ‘I want more.’ They said, ‘The farmers can’t handle it.’ I said, ‘Tell them to buy larger tractors. It’s very simple.’” The cabinet members gathered around Mr. Trump laughed.

Mr. Trump has brought his characteristic love of show business to trade talks with China, injecting public drama into typically staid proceedings. He has alternated displays of anger and warmth toward Beijing and assumed the role of the insatiable negotiator, pairing ambitious goals for a trade pact with even bigger threats should China not accede to his terms.

But more than a year and a half into the biggest trade war in modern history, Mr. Trump’s approach has not yet produced the grand finale he hoped for. Instead, the president’s cliffhanger tactics appear to have made it even harder to bring complex trade talks to a close and exacerbated economic uncertainty across the globe.

Despite Mr. Trump’s Oct. 11 announcement that the United States and China had reached a “historic” Phase 1 trade agreement, actually signing a deal has proved elusive. The two sides continue to negotiate and a final agreement could be reached in the next few weeks, if negotiators decide to compromise. But Mr. Trump continues to give mixed signals about whether he actually wants a deal and if any of his tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods will ever be removed.

“We’re taking in billions of dollars in tariff money from China,” Mr. Trump said on Nov. 8. “I like our situation very much. They want to make a deal much more than I do, but we could have a deal.”

A prolonged trade war offers Mr. Trump some political advantages: It allows him to maintain a tough public stance toward China and avoid Democratic criticism that he is caving to Beijing.

But businesses are not entertained. The unrelenting trade fight has prolonged financial pain for American farmers, companies and consumers, paralyzing firms that rely on robust trade flows between the world’s two largest economies.

Executives across the world say they have no choice but to postpone some hiring and investment, make sure any new expansions are not crippled by unforeseen policies, and conserve cash.

The uncertainty is weighing on the United States economy, particularly manufacturing, which has slumped over the past several months. Chinese economic growth has slowed to its lowest rate in nearly three decades, while Germany has barely avoided falling into recession.

“It’s striking that in almost every corner of the world geopolitical tensions are threatening to put the brakes on growth,” John Williams, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a speech last week. “The uncertainty created by current events is no doubt having a lasting effect on the economic conditions we’re experiencing today.”

Mr. Trump’s theatrical embrace is not limited to China. He has injected similar drama into trade talks with other partners, including Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, publicly threatening them with tariffs and suggesting he might leave some trading partners behind.

The president says his approach has created leverage — and in some cases, he is right. The threat of tariffs has prompted officials from Mexico, Canada, Japan and elsewhere to make concessions they might not otherwise have agreed to. It has also brought China, which is heavily reliant on exports to the United States, to the negotiating table.

But that strategy may now be discouraging China from bringing the talks to a close. Mr. Trump’s tendency to waver and increase his demands have made China wary of offering concessions, for fear that he will only demand more, people familiar with Chinese trade policy said.

Eswar Prasad, a trade professor at Cornell, said the president’s “mercurial temperament and predilection to undercutting his own negotiating team” had complicated the already challenging task of striking a deal. “By hyping up expectations and setting unrealistic goals for the trade talks, Trump makes the prospects for any sort of trade deal with China more uncertain and volatile,” he said.

The two sides have been unable to reschedule a meeting between Mr. Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Chile that was canceled because of domestic protests. Mr. Trump has since said that a deal signing would take place in United States “farm country,” but the Chinese have been reluctant to commit to a meeting until a deal that includes tariff reductions is finalized.

Without a set deadline, the two sides have lost a source of external pressure to get the deal done. Beijing is also concerned about the president’s unpredictable behavior — as demonstrated by his abrupt departure from a high-profile meeting last February in Hanoi with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. They fear that Mr. Trump may end up giving fewer concessions than they anticipate, resulting in an embarrassing trip for Mr. Xi, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Mr. Trump continues to insist his tactics will be worth it, saying he is the only president tough enough to take on China without fear of repercussions and that the United States will be better off. Many businesses agree that China has long taken advantage of the United States and support Mr. Trump’s efforts to remove trade barriers and end coercive practices that have disadvantaged American firms operating in China.

But they have struggled with his approach, which has repeatedly escalated tensions, prolonging the trade fight far longer than most expected. The lack of resolution has been discouraging, given that many analysts believe that the administration is tackling only the easiest issues in its Phase 1 deal, and leaving more contentious topics, like the subsidies that China gives to its industry, for later talks.

The roller-coaster ride has been exasperating for businesses that thrive on certainty and cannot easily shift supply chains or adjust shipments of products that need weeks to cross oceans. The most recent twists in the China trade talks have left firms uncertain whether a 15 percent tariff that the Trump administration had planned to impose Dec. 15 on another $160 billion of goods, including smartphones, laptops and footwear, would go into effect — or whether a 15 percent tariff imposed on consumer goods in September would remain.

“It makes for better theater to hold this to the last minute,” said Phil Levy, the chief economist at Flexport, which coordinates international shipments for companies. “It really doesn’t fit well with the world of global supply chains. And we’re talking to a lot of businesses who are having difficulty with that.

Even Mr. Trump’s supporters have trouble at times disguising their frustration with his focus on showmanship over substance and a nagging feeling that the president doesn’t want the show to end.

In a letter to the president in May, Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau, said farmers faced “near-unprecedented economic uncertainty and hardship” stemming from the escalation of tariffs in China and other key markets. He urged Mr. Trump to make a deal as soon as possible, saying “time is running out for many in agriculture.”

But Mr. Trump’s approach has complicated his ability to get a final deal, including securing the big farm commitments that he showcased last month. American negotiators are now left with the difficult task of translating the massive purchases Mr. Trump requested — larger purchases “than any time in our history, by far” — into the actual text of a trade agreement.

While China needs and wants to buy agricultural goods like soybeans and pork, it has balked on terms that would leave it exposed to accusations that it favors American products over other countries’, as well as agreements that could result in more American tariffs if its purchases do not come through.

Even if American negotiators secure better market access for beef, pork, dairy and genetically modified products, Washington-based analysts who have done the calculations say they have difficulty figuring out how the United States could increase its agricultural exports to China to much more than $30 billion a year, without diverting trade from elsewhere.

Mr. Trump’s tariffs also remain a source of uncertainty, with his administration sending mixed signals about whether any of the existing levies will be removed if a deal is reached.

The president announced the Phase 1 trade deal during a meeting in the Oval Office with Liu He, China’s top trade negotiator. While Mr. Trump canceled an increase in tariffs planned for Oct. 15, he made no mention of rolling back any levies. That has not gone over well with the Chinese, who have since been under pressure domestically for seemingly giving away too much to the United States.

“Without rolling back some of the tariffs, or reducing the uncertainty of not raising additional tariffs, then I would ask what is the additional incentive of implementing this deal on the Chinese part?” He Jianxiong, the former executive director for China at the International Monetary Fund, said at a Nov. 6 event at the Peterson Institute in Washington.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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

Trump’s Made-for-TV Trade War Has No One Entertained

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164275284_1ba88126-ff22-41f4-a606-d6c65fb638b4-facebookJumbo Trump’s Made-for-TV Trade War Has No One Entertained United States International Relations United States Economy United States Politics and Government International Trade and World Market Economic Conditions and Trends Customs (Tariff) China Agriculture and Farming

When President Trump’s advisers suggested that Beijing resume buying around $20 billion in American farm products as part of a trade deal, Mr. Trump wasn’t satisfied. In a dramatic public retelling in the Cabinet Room, he said he pressed his team to more than triple that figure, then trimmed that a little and asked for up to $50 billion in annual purchases.

“My people had $20 billion done,” Mr. Trump recounted in an Oct. 21 cabinet meeting. “And I said, ‘I want more.’ They said, ‘The farmers can’t handle it.’ I said, ‘Tell them to buy larger tractors. It’s very simple.’” The cabinet members gathered around Mr. Trump laughed.

Mr. Trump has brought his characteristic love of show business to trade talks with China, injecting public drama into typically staid proceedings. He has alternated displays of anger and warmth toward Beijing and assumed the role of the insatiable negotiator, pairing ambitious goals for a trade pact with even bigger threats should China not accede to his terms.

But more than a year and a half into the biggest trade war in modern history, Mr. Trump’s approach has not yet produced the grand finale he hoped for. Instead, the president’s cliffhanger tactics appear to have made it even harder to bring complex trade talks to a close and exacerbated economic uncertainty across the globe.

Despite Mr. Trump’s Oct. 11 announcement that the United States and China had reached a “historic” Phase 1 trade agreement, actually signing a deal has proved elusive. The two sides continue to negotiate and a final agreement could be reached in the next few weeks, if negotiators decide to compromise. But Mr. Trump continues to give mixed signals about whether he actually wants a deal and if any of his tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods will ever be removed.

“We’re taking in billions of dollars in tariff money from China,” Mr. Trump said on Nov. 8. “I like our situation very much. They want to make a deal much more than I do, but we could have a deal.”

Businesses are not entertained. The unrelenting trade fight has prolonged financial pain for American farmers, companies and consumers, paralyzing firms that rely on robust trade flows between the world’s two largest economies.

Executives across the world say they have no choice but to postpone some hiring and investment, make sure any new expansions are not crippled by unforeseen policies, and conserve cash.

The uncertainty is weighing on the United States economy, particularly manufacturing, which has slumped over the past several months. Chinese economic growth has slowed to its lowest rate in nearly three decades, while Germany has barely avoided falling into recession.

“It’s striking that in almost every corner of the world geopolitical tensions are threatening to put the brakes on growth,” John Williams, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a speech last week. “The uncertainty created by current events is no doubt having a lasting effect on the economic conditions we’re experiencing today.”

Mr. Trump’s theatrical embrace is not limited to China. He has injected similar drama into trade talks with other partners, including Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, publicly threatening them with tariffs and suggesting he might leave some trading partners behind.

The president says his approach has created leverage — and in some cases, he is right. The threat of tariffs has prompted officials from Mexico, Canada, Japan and elsewhere to make concessions they might not otherwise have agreed to. It has also brought China, which is heavily reliant on exports to the United States, to the negotiating table.

But that strategy may now be discouraging China from bringing the talks to a close. Mr. Trump’s tendency to waver and increase his demands have made China wary of offering concessions, for fear that he will only demand more, people familiar with Chinese trade policy said.

Eswar Prasad, a trade professor at Cornell, said the president’s “mercurial temperament and predilection to undercutting his own negotiating team” had complicated the already challenging task of striking a deal. “By hyping up expectations and setting unrealistic goals for the trade talks, Trump makes the prospects for any sort of trade deal with China more uncertain and volatile,” he said.

The two sides have been unable to reschedule a meeting between Mr. Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Chile that was canceled because of domestic protests. Mr. Trump has since said that a deal signing would take place in United States “farm country,” but the Chinese have been reluctant to commit to a meeting until a deal that includes tariff reductions is finalized.

Without a set deadline, the two sides have lost a source of external pressure to get the deal done. Beijing is also concerned about the president’s unpredictable behavior — as demonstrated by his abrupt departure from a high-profile meeting last February in Hanoi with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. They fear that Mr. Trump may end up giving fewer concessions than they anticipate, resulting in an embarrassing trip for Mr. Xi, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Mr. Trump continues to insist his tactics will be worth it, saying he is the only president tough enough to take on China without fear of repercussions and that the United States will be better off. Many businesses agree that China has long taken advantage of the United States and support Mr. Trump’s efforts to remove trade barriers and end coercive practices that have disadvantaged American firms operating in China.

But they have struggled with his approach, which has repeatedly escalated tensions, prolonging the trade fight far longer than most expected. The lack of resolution has been discouraging, given that many analysts believe that the administration is tackling only the easiest issues in its Phase 1 deal, and leaving more contentious topics, like the subsidies that China gives to its industry, for later talks.

The roller-coaster ride has been exasperating for businesses that thrive on certainty and cannot easily shift supply chains or adjust shipments of products that need weeks to cross oceans. The most recent twists in the China trade talks have left firms uncertain whether a 15 percent tariff that the Trump administration had planned to impose Dec. 15 on another $160 billion of goods, including smartphones, laptops and footwear, would go into effect — or whether a 15 percent tariff imposed on consumer goods in September would remain.

“It makes for better theater to hold this to the last minute,” said Phil Levy, the chief economist at Flexport, which coordinates international shipments for companies. “It really doesn’t fit well with the world of global supply chains. And we’re talking to a lot of businesses who are having difficulty with that.

Even Mr. Trump’s supporters have trouble at times disguising their frustration with his focus on showmanship over substance and a nagging feeling that the president doesn’t want the show to end.

In a letter to the president in May, Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau, said farmers faced “near-unprecedented economic uncertainty and hardship” stemming from the escalation of tariffs in China and other key markets. He urged Mr. Trump to make a deal as soon as possible, saying “time is running out for many in agriculture.”

But Mr. Trump’s approach has complicated his ability to get a final deal, including securing the big farm commitments that he showcased last month. American negotiators are now left with the difficult task of translating the massive purchases Mr. Trump requested — larger purchases “than any time in our history, by far” — into the actual text of a trade agreement.

While China needs and wants to buy agricultural goods like soybeans and pork, it has balked on terms that would leave it exposed to accusations that it favors American products over other countries’, as well as agreements that could result in more American tariffs if its purchases do not come through.

Even if American negotiators secure better market access for beef, pork, dairy and genetically modified products, Washington-based analysts who have done the calculations say they have difficulty figuring out how the United States could increase its agricultural exports to China to much more than $30 billion a year, without diverting trade from elsewhere.

Mr. Trump’s tariffs also remain a source of uncertainty, with his administration sending mixed signals about whether any of the existing levies will be removed if a deal is reached.

The president announced the Phase 1 trade deal during a meeting in the Oval Office with Liu He, China’s top trade negotiator. While Mr. Trump canceled an increase in tariffs planned for Oct. 15, he made no mention of rolling back any levies. That has not gone over well with the Chinese, who have since been under pressure domestically for seemingly giving away too much to the United States.

“Without rolling back some of the tariffs, or reducing the uncertainty of not raising additional tariffs, then I would ask what is the additional incentive of implementing this deal on the Chinese part?” He Jianxiong, the former executive director for China at the International Monetary Fund, said at a Nov. 6 event at the Peterson Institute in Washington.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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

Abortion Is New Litmus Test for Democratic Attorneys General Group

Westlake Legal Group 18ABORTION-AG-facebookJumbo Abortion Is New Litmus Test for Democratic Attorneys General Group United States Politics and Government United States Endorsements Elections, Attorneys General Democratic Attorneys General Association Attorneys General Abortion

WASHINGTON — An association of Democratic state attorneys general will become the first national party committee to impose an explicit abortion litmus test on its candidates, announcing on Monday that it will refuse to endorse anyone who does not support reproductive rights and expanding access to abortion services.

To win financial and strategic backing from the group, candidates will be required to make a public statement declaring their support of abortion rights. The group, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, recruits candidates and helps their campaigns with financial support, data analysis, messaging and policy positions.

The decision comes as a series of state legislatures have approved restrictive laws designed to provoke a renewed legal battle over abortion rights, with the aim to reach the United States Supreme Court and topple Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

“Attorneys general are on the front lines of the fight for reproductive freedom,” Letitia James, the New York attorney general, said in a video promoting the group’s decision, which featured news media coverage of the new state laws. “They have the power to protect your rights.”

The new standard is unlikely to have an immediate impact on incumbents: Of 27 Democratic attorneys general currently in office, just one — Jim Hood of Mississippi — describes himself as a “pro-life Democrat.” But officials believe it could have a ripple effect through the Democratic ecosystem, reflecting the changing mores of a national party that has moved sharply to the left in the Trump era and embraced a set of purity tests on divisive social issues.

“State attorneys general are now on the map as taking the lead when it comes to Democratic values,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon, who is a co-chair of the committee and seeking re-election next year. “We are going to be the ones to be right out in front and hopefully the other committees will follow right along.”

Attorneys general have emerged as one of the strongest points of resistance to President Trump’s conservative agenda, crafting joint lawsuits that challenge his efforts to deport immigrants, undo the Affordable Care Act, roll back environmental regulations and limit funding for family planning programs.

But the new litmus test worries some Democrats who fear it could hurt their party in rural areas and the more moderate, suburban districts that won Democrats control of the House last fall and may represent their path back to the White House.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who served two terms as her state’s Attorney General, described the decision as “wrongheaded.” She lost her seat representing her deep red state after voting against the confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh last year.

Ms. Heitkamp cited the example of Gov. John Bel Edwards, of Louisiana, a rare Democratic officeholder in the South, who won re-election on Saturday, after campaigning on his opposition to abortion and support for a state law barring abortion after the pulsing of what becomes the fetus’s heart can be detected.

“There are very principled people, who are Democrats, who feel very strongly about this issue for religious reasons and when you say you’re not welcome in our party I think it is exclusionary,” she said. “You have to look at the totality of a candidate.”

While the group’s executive committee began discussing their new standard three years ago, the conversations accelerated after Georgia passed a law in May that would effectively ban abortions as early as six weeks. A federal judge in the state temporarily blocked the statute last month as a lawsuit challenging it proceeds.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association is not dictating how Democratic attorneys general deal with laws restricting abortion rights, should they win office. So far, Democratic attorneys general have adopted a series of approaches when those laws have been challenged in court.

In Iowa, Tom Miller, the longest serving Attorney General in the country, has refused to defend a state abortion law that would ban the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, saying the statute is a violation of his “core belief.” But in Minnesota, Attorney General Keith Ellison, a staunchly liberal Democrat, is defending a slate of state laws restricting abortion access, despite his personal views on the issue.

Earlier this year, Democratic attorneys general in Michigan and New Mexico pledged not to prosecute people seeking abortions or providers should Roe be overturned. Both states have laws that would criminalize abortion if the Supreme Court upends the ruling.

“We trust in our Democratic attorneys general once they are in office to study their own laws and determine what their strategy will be,” said Ms. Rosenblum. “We’re not asking commitments for how they will handle a specific case.”

Officials at the organization believe their new policy will help attract more diverse candidates and increase the number of women who run for the office. Two years ago, they pledged that by 2022 at least half the party’s attorneys general would be women.

Traditionally, the attorney general position is a steppingstone for higher offices, including governorships and congressional seats.

Sean Rankin, DAGA’s executive director, said of the new policy: “It’s actually increasing the size of the tent.”

“Even in states like Georgia, Texas and Arizona, we’ve run pro-choice candidates who’ve done extraordinarily well, ” he said.

The committee has grown from a part-time operation to a robust organization during the Trump era, moving into new offices and expecting to raise nearly $35 million this cycle, about a third more than it raised for the 2018 races. A dozen attorneys general seats will be on ballots next year.

Public opinion on abortion rights is notoriously difficult to gauge because so much depends on how the question is phrased to voters. But according to Gallup, Americans have remained relatively consistent since 1975: Slightly more than half think abortion should be legal only in certain cases; about a quarter think it should be legal in any case; and just under a quarter think it should never be legal.

Democrats have been steadily moving to the left on abortion since the 2016 election, largely dispensing with the message that drove their politics for decades — that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.”

When Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was asked in the first primary debate if there was any restriction on abortion she supported, she didn’t name one. No other candidate on the stage did, either.

“We’ve been on defense for 47 years, ever since Roe was decided. And year by year, in state after state, the ground has crumbled under our feet,” Ms. Warren told Marie Claire magazine this fall. “I think it’s time to go on offense.”

Even former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a practicing Catholic who has struggled with the question of abortion over his entire political career, reversed his decades-long support earlier this year for a measure that prohibited federal funding for most abortions, after facing immense pressure from Democrats.

Only five Democrats who oppose some abortion rights remain in Congress. At least two of those lawmakers — Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas and Representative Dan Lipinski of Illinois — are facing primary challenges from women who have made their support for abortion rights a key part of their campaign message.

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

How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0

Westlake Legal Group 00DC-FEDEXTAX-01-facebookJumbo How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0 United States Politics and Government United States Trump, Donald J Taxation Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2017) Stock Buybacks Smith, Frederick Fedex Corporation Federal Taxes (US) Corporate Taxes

WASHINGTON — In the 2017 fiscal year, FedEx owed more than $1.5 billion in taxes. The next year, it owed nothing. What changed was the Trump administration’s tax cut — for which the company had lobbied hard.

The public face of its lobbying effort, which included a tax proposal of its own, was FedEx’s founder and chief executive, Frederick Smith, who repeatedly took to the airwaves to champion the power of tax cuts. “If you make the United States a better place to invest, there is no question in my mind that we would see a renaissance of capital investment,” he said on an August 2017 radio show hosted by Larry Kudlow, who is now chairman of the National Economic Council.

Four months later, President Trump signed into law the $1.5 trillion tax cut that became his signature legislative achievement. FedEx reaped big savings, bringing its effective tax rate from 34 percent in fiscal year 2017 to less than zero in fiscal year 2018, meaning that, overall, the government technically owed it money. But it did not increase investment in new equipment and other assets in the fiscal year that followed, as Mr. Smith said businesses like his would.

Nearly two years after the tax law passed, the windfall to corporations like FedEx is becoming clear. A New York Times analysis of data compiled by Capital IQ shows no statistically meaningful relationship between the size of the tax cut that companies and industries received and the investments they made. If anything, the companies that received the biggest tax cuts increased their capital investment by less, on average, than companies that got smaller cuts.

FedEx’s financial filings show that the law has so far saved it at least $1.6 billion. Its financial filings show it owed no taxes in the 2018 fiscal year overall. Company officials said FedEx paid $2 billion in total federal income taxes over the past 10 years.

As for capital investments, the company spent less in the 2018 fiscal year than it had projected in December 2017, before the tax law passed. It spent even less in 2019. Much of its savings have gone to reward shareholders: FedEx spent more than $2 billion on stock buybacks and dividend increases in the 2019 fiscal year, up from $1.6 billion in 2018, and more than double the amount the company spent on buybacks and dividends in fiscal year 2017.

A spokesman said it was unfair to judge the effect of the tax cuts on investment by looking at year-to-year changes in the company’s capital spending plans.

“FedEx invested billions in capital items eligible for accelerated depreciation and made large contributions to our employee pension plans,” the company said in a statement. “These factors have temporarily lowered our federal income tax, which was the law’s intention to help grow G.D.P., create jobs and increase wages.”

FedEx’s use of its tax savings is representative of corporate America. Companies have already saved upward of $100 billion more on their taxes than analysts predicted when the law was passed. Companies that make up the S&P 500 index had an average effective tax rate of 18.1 percent in 2018, down from 25.9 percent in 2016, according to an analysis of securities filings. More than 200 of those companies saw their effective tax rates fall by 10 points or more. Nearly three dozen, including FedEx, saw their tax rates fall to zero or reported that tax authorities owed them money.

From the first quarter of 2018, when the law fully took effect, companies have spent nearly three times as much on additional dividends and stock buybacks, which boost a company’s stock price and market value, than on increased investment.

The law cut the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, and allowed companies to deduct the full cost of new equipment investments in the year that they make them. Those cuts stimulated the American economy in 2018, helping to push economic growth to 2.5 percent for the year and fueling a boost in hiring. Business investment rose at an 8.8 percent rate in the first quarter of 2018, and was nearly as strong in the second quarter.

But the impact dwindled quickly.

In the summer, the economy grew at just 1.9 percent and business investment fell 3 percent, including a 15.3 percent plunge in spending on factories and offices. Over the spring, companies spent less on new investments, after adjusting for inflation, than they had in the winter.

Overall business investment during Mr. Trump’s tenure has now grown more slowly since the tax cuts were passed than before.

Some conservative economists and business leaders say the effects of the tax cuts were undercut by uncertainty from Mr. Trump’s trade war, which is slowing global growth and prompting companies to freeze projects. Other economists say the fizzle is predictable because high tax rates were not holding back investment.

“It did provide a short-term boost, but it wasn’t the big response that many people expected,” said Aparna Mathur, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who recently concluded that the 2017 law has not meaningfully changed investment patterns in America.

Mr. Smith, 75, a former Marine who built FedEx from a small package delivery service into a global logistics giant, was no stranger to pressing for lower taxes. He tried, without success, to get President Barack Obama to cut the corporate rate. But with Mr. Trump’s ascension, the corporate chief began a one-man campaign to convince Washington that now was the moment. He met with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Nov. 17, just days after the election, and appeared alongside the president at official events.

In a conference call with analysts the month after Mr. Trump’s election, Alan Graf, FedEx’s chief financial officer, called the prospect of a 20 percent corporate tax rate “a mighty fine Christmas gift.”

Mr. Smith teamed up with his competitor, David Abney, the chairman and chief executive of UPS, to push for a tax overhaul, including jointly writing an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

“Fred and I even jointly had some meetings about this with key people, and we were both pushing pretty hard,” Mr. Abney said in a recent interview.

FedEx spent $10 million on lobbying in 2017, in line with previous spending, with much of it focused on tax issues, according to federal records. Its team pushed hard to shape the bill behind the scenes, meeting regularly with House and Senate committee staff who were writing the provisions.

Mr. Smith met with Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in February 2017, and on May 26 he spoke on the phone with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, according to Mr. Mnuchin’s public calendar.

Eight months after Congress passed the law, Mr. Trump celebrated the tax cuts by hosting Mr. Smith and other business leaders at a dinner at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club. He singled out Mr. Smith several times, bantering with him about a term paper that Mr. Smith had written while a student at Yale. The paper formed the basis for the creation of FedEx.

The next week, Mr. Smith boasted of his company’s influence on the law in the company’s annual report, which noted that FedEx is “investing more than $4.2 billion in our people and our network as a result of the tax act.”

FedEx increased the size of its work force by around 4 percent in its 2018 fiscal year and around 7 percent in its 2019 fiscal year.

The company also accelerated previously scheduled wage increases for hourly employees by six months. It gave performance-based pay to other managers and said it would invest $1.5 billion over seven years in its Indianapolis shipping hub. The company also bought 24 Boeing freight jets for $6.6 billion, a purchase officials say would not have happened without tax cuts.

But the company ended its 2018 fiscal year having spent $240 million less on capital investments than it predicted it would in December 2017, shortly before the tax cuts passed. The company’s capital spending declined by nearly $175 million in fiscal 2019.

This year, the company cut back employee bonuses and has offered buyouts in an effort to reduce labor costs in the face of slowing global growth. The company has also added to its pension fund, a move that carried the benefit of reducing its tax liability even further.

FedEx reduced its tax liability in part by taking advantage of a provision in the law that allowed companies to immediately deduct the value of any capital investments they make in a given year. But its biggest gains were from the cut in the corporate rate. FedEx had been carrying a large amount of future tax liabilities on its balance sheet — and when the corporate rate fell to 21 percent, those liabilities shrank too.

“Something like $1.5 billion in future taxes that they had promised to pay, just vanished,” said Matthew Gardner, an analyst at the liberal Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington. “The obvious question is whether you can draw any line, any connection between the tax breaks they’re getting, ostensibly designed to encourage capital expenditures, and what they’re actually doing. And it’s just impossible to know.”

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Boeing Shaped a Law to Its Liking. Weeks Later, a 737 Max Crashed.

With a few short paragraphs tucked into 463 pages of legislation last year, Boeing scored one of its biggest lobbying wins: a law that undercuts the government’s role in approving the design of new airplanes.

For years, the government had been handing over more responsibility to manufacturers as a way to reduce bureaucracy. But those paragraphs cemented the industry’s power, allowing manufacturers to challenge regulators over safety disputes and making it difficult for the government to usurp companies’ authority.

Although the law applies broadly to the industry, Boeing, the nation’s dominant aerospace manufacturer, is the biggest beneficiary. An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 50 regulators, industry executives, congressional staff members and lobbyists, as well as drafts of the bill and federal documents, found that Boeing and its allies helped craft the legislation to their liking, shaping the language of the law and overcoming criticism from regulators.

In a stark warning as the bill was being written, the Federal Aviation Administration said that it would “not be in the best interest of safety.”

A labor group representing agency inspectors raised concerns that the rules would turn the F.A.A. into a “rubber stamp” that would only be able to intervene after a plane crashed “and people are killed,” according to internal union documents reviewed by The Times.

Weeks after the law was passed, a Boeing 737 Max jet crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing everyone on board. A second Max crashed in Ethiopia less than five months later, and the plane was grounded.

On both doomed flights, a new automated system on the Max, designed to help avoid stalls, triggered erroneously, sending them into fatal nose-dives. Mired in crisis, Boeing is still trying to fix the plane and get it flying again.

In the aftermath, lawmakers have seized on flaws in a regulatory system that cedes control to industry — an issue that is likely to put Boeing on the defensive this week when the company’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, testifies before Congress for the first time since the two crashes.

The F.A.A. never fully analyzed the automated system known as MCAS, while Boeing played down its risks. Late in the plane’s development, Boeing made the system more aggressive, changes that were not submitted in a safety assessment to the agency.

The Max was certified under the old rules. The new law, the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018, makes it even more difficult for the government to review manufacturers’ work.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160295604_b49b248c-f79a-4c0d-87c6-14186b943649-articleLarge Boeing Shaped a Law to Its Liking. Weeks Later, a 737 Max Crashed. United States Senate Nelson, Bill (1942- ) Muilenburg, Dennis A Lobbying and Lobbyists Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Aviation Administration Cantwell, Maria Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Bahrami, Ali Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters Airlines and Airplanes

President Trump signed the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 into law last October. Most of the attention on the legislation had been on a failed Republican effort to privatize the air traffic control system.Credit…Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosia

In the past, agency officials could decide whether to delegate oversight to the company or to maintain control, depending on the importance of a system or concerns about safety. Now, the agency, at the outset of the development process, has to hand over responsibility for certifying almost every aspect of new planes.

If F.A.A. officials decide a system may compromise safety, the new rules dictate that they will need to conduct an investigation or an inspection to make their case before taking back control. If the officials raise concerns, ask for changes or otherwise miss certification deadlines, any disputes are automatically elevated by law to managers at the agency and the company.

The law also creates a committee of mostly aerospace executives to ensure that the regulator is meeting metrics set by the industry, and the law allows companies to make recommendations about the compensation of F.A.A. employees.

“The reauthorization act mandated regulatory capture,” said Doug Anderson, a former attorney in the agency’s office of chief counsel who reviewed the legislation. “It set the F.A.A. up for being totally deferential to the industry.”

A spokesman for Boeing, Gordon Johndroe, said that the certification process is “part of an effective F.A.A. oversight of safety that permits them to focus on the most important issues that are critical to the safety of flight.” He added that “this authority has been a proven way for decades for government regulators across many industries to prioritize resources and rely on technical experts to maintain quality, safety and integrity.”

When the legislation was hashed out, the lobbying effort barely registered in the country’s vast political machine. Boeing’s push, and the use of industry language in the crucial paragraphs, was standard amid the deregulatory drive by many businesses. Most of the attention on the bill was focused on a failed Republican effort to privatize the air traffic control system.

Since the two fatal accidents, the law has set off worries in Washington about whether the rules championed by Boeing make company deadlines a priority over passenger safety.

The manufacturer helped author a report that congressional aides used as a reference while writing the law, borrowing language and ideas that had long been used by Boeing. Its executives pressed Michael Huerta, then the head of the F.A.A., for support, telling him that the regulator’s inefficiency was threatening Boeing’s ability to compete against its chief rival, Airbus of France. They also helped persuade Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington State, where Boeing has its manufacturing hub, to introduce language that requires the F.A.A. to relinquish control of many parts of the certification process.

“The method by which the F.A.A. certifies aircraft is in need of repair — I don’t think anyone could argue otherwise at this point,” Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington, who voted in favor of the legislation, said in an interview. “No matter what we did last year, we need to be pulling some of that back into the public sphere, and take some of it out of the hands of industry.”

In closed-door meetings with congressional staff members, in testimony on Capitol Hill, in memos to lawmakers, the talking points were all the same.

Starting in 2014, Boeing and its trade associations explained that streamlining certification would make American aerospace companies more competitive with overseas rivals, by allowing them to develop planes more efficiently.

They argued that F.A.A. employees were interpreting the rules in seemingly arbitrary ways and slowing down the development process, according to seven people involved in the discussions and documents reviewed by The Times.

In a 2015 memo sent to congressional staff members that was reviewed by The Times, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, which represents the business jet unit of Boeing, urged lawmakers to “fully implement” the so-called system of delegation. If disputes caused delays, the trade group called for “automatic escalation to appropriate F.A.A. and company management” so that issues didn’t languish.

The Aerospace Industries Association, which was headed during part of the lobbying campaign by Mr. Muilenburg of Boeing, echoed those priorities. Richard Efford, a lobbyist for the group, said in an interview that he emphasized the need to “fully utilize” delegation.

Boeing executives made the same pitch to Mr. Huerta at industry events and in meetings at the F.A.A., according to three people with knowledge of the matter. It became a routine discussion, they said.

And they made their case publicly as well, at times citing the company’s safety record.

In a 2015 hearing, Ray Conner, then the head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, pushed like others for making “full use” of the system. He said it took too long to get approvals for interiors, like seats and bathrooms, that company engineers could assess. He argued that European regulators outsource far more.

The language of their lobbying push was rooted in a 2012 report from an industry-dominated committee run by Christine Thompson, a Boeing executive, and Ali Bahrami, an F.A.A. official at the time who later became a lobbyist.

In aerospace speak, it called for “full utilization of available delegation,” outsourcing as much oversight as possible. It outlined six recommendations that “will result in the reduction of certification delays” and “enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S. aviation industry.”

“There was a consensus that they had good recommendations, and that we ought to put them into writing,” said Matt Bormet, who formerly worked for Mr. Larsen. “I heard no complaints about the report.”

Boeing and its allies found a receptive audience in the head of the House transportation committee, Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican staunchly in favor of deregulation, and his aide working on the legislation, Holly Woodruff Lyons.

The F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 was broadly meant to provide agency funding for the coming years. Lawmakers also used it to introduce new rules for drones, airport noise and the certification process.

As Ms. Lyons helped write the law, she was in regular touch with Boeing, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The critical paragraphs in the final bill borrowed heavily from industry language, instituting the “full utilization of F.A.A. delegation.”

“The certification reforms in the F.A.A. bill were strongly desired and had bipartisan support,” Mr. Shuster said in an email, noting that delegation “has worked well and safely for over 50 years.”

The evolution of the bill had the imprint of industry.

An early version that Ms. Lyons sent to lobbyists directed the F.A.A. to measure its own performance, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. In one circulated a month later, staff members had added a clause specifying that the agency would be judged in part by a committee dominated by aerospace executives, which would come up with metrics for the regulator.

As the Senate prepared its own version in early 2016, Boeing was in close contact with the office of Ms. Cantwell.

“Senator Cantwell is responsive to the needs of Washington State businesses,” said Nick Sutter, one of her former staff members. “Boeing people were in and out of the office all the time.”

In conversations with a top aide for the senator, Matt McCarthy, Boeing lobbyists pushed for language that would compel the F.A.A. to rely more on manufacturers, according to two people directly involved in the discussions. Mr. McCarthy took a job as a lobbyist for Boeing in September.

Regulators and companies agreed that the F.A.A.’s resources were best focused on new and high-risk systems, according to Peggy Gilligan, the agency’s head of safety back then, and several other officials.

Ms. Cantwell submitted an amendment that directed the F.A.A. to automatically give companies the right to approve anything deemed “low and medium risk” on an airplane. It was language that particularly helped Boeing, with its wide range of planes.

“Listening to your constituents is always the first step in legislating, but it’s certainly not the last,” said Ansley Lacitis, deputy chief of staff for Ms. Cantwell. “This concept of risk-based oversight was bipartisan, consensus-based and recommended by experts.”

The amendment passed without any debate. At the hearing, then-Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat of Florida, cheered the changes. The law, he said, “will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and — most importantly — create good jobs for Americans.”

F.A.A. officials tried to push back, raising concerns to congressional staff members and aerospace executives. But they were constrained in their efforts.

As a federal agency, the F.A.A. is forbidden by law to use government resources to influence and lobby Congress. At most, officials could provide comments and feedback, so-called technical assistance in the legislative process.

“It is true that we were supportive of delegation as a general philosophy,” said Mr. Huerta, the former F.A.A. chief. “It is not true that means the agency supported every proposal to expand delegation and impose limits on the agency’s ability to take back delegations.”

Early on, Ms. Gilligan, the former F.A.A. official, said industry lobbyists suggested that the law should give companies input on performance evaluations of individual F.A.A. employees overseeing the certification of their planes. Two other agency officials confirmed her account.

“It appeared they were looking to influence the individuals’ pay outcome in some way, and for the F.A.A. employees to know that potential pay impact,” Ms. Gilligan said.

The final bill did not completely satisfy her concerns. The law created a panel with industry representatives to help assess “performance incentive policies” for F.A.A. employees, as long as they “do not conflict with the public interest.”

Mostly, top F.A.A. officials worried about the unintended consequences of giving more authority to manufacturers. Boeing employees have described pressures from their managers to meet deadlines while approving systems.

Under the old rules, the F.A.A. could decide to take back oversight authority on a system if they were concerned about safety. The new law would require the agency to conduct an investigation or inspection to prove that there was a problem before stepping in, a potentially lengthy process.

Industry groups told congressional staff members that manufacturers were sometimes subject to the whims of individual F.A.A. employees, who could block approvals and delay production schedules, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

“It causes delays and a lot of frustration within the companies,” said Mr. Efford, the lobbyist.

But regulators were concerned that the new law would keep them from effectively doing their job.

In early 2015, Brian Morris, a safety official at the agency, prepared feedback for lawmakers, arguing that the legislation would prevent the regulator from acting until a dangerous system had already been introduced onto an aircraft. “With this language, Congress is asking us to wait till we find a hazard before removing delegation,” he wrote, according to an F.A.A. document reviewed by The Times.

A current and a former F.A.A. official said that Mr. Morris was collecting feedback from multiple departments, so the comments reflected the opinions of other agency staff members. The document notes that the comments were “provided in response to a congressional request.”

The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union, a small labor group that represents F.A.A. employees, had a similar warning. If the regulator could only intercede after documenting problems, it may not be able to stop manufacturers from installing risky systems.

“That will, as a practical matter, mean after the accident has happened and people are killed,” the union said in comments prepared for Congress in early 2016, which were reviewed by The Times.

Through a spokesman, Ms. Lyons, the congressional aide writing the law, said she did not receive comments from Mr. Morris or the union, but was aware of the F.A.A.’s worries.

“The concerns were discussed and considered in a bipartisan manner,” said the House transportation committee spokesman, Justin Harclerode. “Members did not agree with this interpretation of the language, and were not convinced the language would negatively impact the FAA’s ability to safely oversee the aviation industry”

He added that the F.A.A., under the law, could set the parameters of the investigation or inspection.

At a ceremony in the Oval Office last October, President Trump signed the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act into law, while Representative Shuster, who shepherded the legislation, looked over his shoulder.

The agency has already begun to make the required changes.

In August, it announced the formation of the advisory committee charged with setting goals for the regulator. The committee includes two union representatives and 17 industry officials, among them Beth Pasztor, one of Boeing’s top executives. The F.A.A. recently selected managers for an internal office that will help enforce provisions of the law.

As the rules take hold, some lawmakers who originally supported the legislation are backing away.

Mr. Nelson, the former senator who co-sponsored the law, said he did not fully understand the ramifications. “This was never brought to my attention,” he said in an interview. “Had I known about it, I would have tried to put the kibosh on it.”

Representative Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who is the chairman of the House transportation committee, celebrated the bill’s changes last year, saying it would maintain safety and “will help our manufacturers become much more competitive in the world market and introduce their products more quickly.”

Mr. DeFazio, who is currently leading a congressional investigation into the crashes, said in an interview that he was reconsidering the law and might introduce legislation to restore some of the agency’s oversight authority.

“If the F.A.A. basically deferred on a safety critical system and did not provide proper oversight, then either the individuals involved are going to be at risk, or the whole system itself isn’t working properly,” he said.

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Before Deadly Crashes, Boeing Pushed for Law That Undercut Oversight

With a few short paragraphs tucked into 463 pages of legislation last year, Boeing scored one of its biggest lobbying wins: a law that undercuts the government’s role in approving the design of new airplanes.

For years, the government had been handing over more responsibility to manufacturers as a way to reduce bureaucracy. But those paragraphs cemented the industry’s power, allowing manufacturers to challenge regulators over safety disputes and making it difficult for the government to usurp companies’ authority.

Although the law applies broadly to the industry, Boeing, the nation’s dominant aerospace manufacturer, is the biggest beneficiary. An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 50 regulators, industry executives, congressional staff members and lobbyists, as well as drafts of the bill and federal documents, found that Boeing and its allies helped craft the legislation to their liking, shaping the language of the law and overcoming criticism from regulators.

In a stark warning as the bill was being written, the Federal Aviation Administration said that it would “not be in the best interest of safety.”

A labor group representing agency inspectors raised concerns that the rules would turn the F.A.A. into a “rubber stamp” that would only be able to intervene after a plane crashed “and people are killed,” according to internal union documents reviewed by The Times.

Weeks after the law was passed, a Boeing 737 Max jet crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing everyone on board. A second Max crashed in Ethiopia less than five months later, and the plane was grounded.

On both doomed flights, a new automated system on the Max, designed to help avoid stalls, triggered erroneously, sending them into fatal nose-dives. Mired in crisis, Boeing is still trying to fix the plane and get it flying again.

In the aftermath, lawmakers have seized on flaws in a regulatory system that cedes control to industry — an issue that is likely to put Boeing on the defensive this week when the company’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, testifies before Congress for the first time since the two crashes.

The F.A.A. never fully analyzed the automated system known as MCAS, while Boeing played down its risks. Late in the plane’s development, Boeing made the system more aggressive, changes that were not submitted in a safety assessment to the agency.

The Max was certified under the old rules. The new law, the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018, makes it even more difficult for the government to review manufacturers’ work.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160295604_b49b248c-f79a-4c0d-87c6-14186b943649-articleLarge Before Deadly Crashes, Boeing Pushed for Law That Undercut Oversight United States Senate Nelson, Bill (1942- ) Muilenburg, Dennis A Lobbying and Lobbyists Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Aviation Administration Cantwell, Maria Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Bahrami, Ali Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters Airlines and Airplanes

President Trump signed the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 into law last October. Most of the attention on the legislation had been on a failed Republican effort to privatize the air traffic control system.Credit…Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosia

In the past, agency officials could decide whether to delegate oversight to the company or to maintain control, depending on the importance of a system or concerns about safety. Now, the agency, at the outset of the development process, has to hand over responsibility for certifying almost every aspect of new planes.

If F.A.A. officials decide a system may compromise safety, the new rules dictate that they will need to conduct an investigation or an inspection to make their case before taking back control. If the officials raise concerns, ask for changes or otherwise miss certification deadlines, any disputes are automatically elevated by law to managers at the agency and the company.

The law also creates a committee of mostly aerospace executives to ensure that the regulator is meeting metrics set by the industry, and the law allows companies to make recommendations about the compensation of F.A.A. employees.

“The reauthorization act mandated regulatory capture,” said Doug Anderson, a former attorney in the agency’s office of chief counsel who reviewed the legislation. “It set the F.A.A. up for being totally deferential to the industry.”

A spokesman for Boeing, Gordon Johndroe, said that the certification process is “part of an effective F.A.A. oversight of safety that permits them to focus on the most important issues that are critical to the safety of flight.” He added that “this authority has been a proven way for decades for government regulators across many industries to prioritize resources and rely on technical experts to maintain quality, safety and integrity.”

When the legislation was hashed out, the lobbying effort barely registered in the country’s vast political machine. Boeing’s push, and the use of industry language in the crucial paragraphs, was standard amid the deregulatory drive by many businesses. Most of the attention on the bill was focused on a failed Republican effort to privatize the air traffic control system.

Since the two fatal accidents, the law has set off worries in Washington about whether the rules championed by Boeing make company deadlines a priority over passenger safety.

The manufacturer helped author a report that congressional aides used as a reference while writing the law, borrowing language and ideas that had long been used by Boeing. Its executives pressed Michael Huerta, then the head of the F.A.A., for support, telling him that the regulator’s inefficiency was threatening Boeing’s ability to compete against its chief rival, Airbus of France. They also helped persuade Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington State, where Boeing has its manufacturing hub, to introduce language that requires the F.A.A. to relinquish control of many parts of the certification process.

“The method by which the F.A.A. certifies aircraft is in need of repair — I don’t think anyone could argue otherwise at this point,” Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington, who voted in favor of the legislation, said in an interview. “No matter what we did last year, we need to be pulling some of that back into the public sphere, and take some of it out of the hands of industry.”

In closed-door meetings with congressional staff members, in testimony on Capitol Hill, in memos to lawmakers, the talking points were all the same.

Starting in 2014, Boeing and its trade associations explained that streamlining certification would make American aerospace companies more competitive with overseas rivals, by allowing them to develop planes more efficiently.

They argued that F.A.A. employees were interpreting the rules in seemingly arbitrary ways and slowing down the development process, according to seven people involved in the discussions and documents reviewed by The Times.

In a 2015 memo sent to congressional staff members that was reviewed by The Times, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, which represents the business jet unit of Boeing, urged lawmakers to “fully implement” the so-called system of delegation. If disputes caused delays, the trade group called for “automatic escalation to appropriate F.A.A. and company management” so that issues didn’t languish.

The Aerospace Industries Association, which was headed during part of the lobbying campaign by Mr. Muilenburg of Boeing, echoed those priorities. Richard Efford, a lobbyist for the group, said in an interview that he emphasized the need to “fully utilize” delegation.

Boeing executives made the same pitch to Mr. Huerta at industry events and in meetings at the F.A.A., according to three people with knowledge of the matter. It became a routine discussion, they said.

And they made their case publicly as well, at times citing the company’s safety record.

In a 2015 hearing, Ray Conner, then the head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, pushed like others for making “full use” of the system. He said it took too long to get approvals for interiors, like seats and bathrooms, that company engineers could assess. He argued that European regulators outsource far more.

The language of their lobbying push was rooted in a 2012 report from an industry-dominated committee run by Christine Thompson, a Boeing executive, and Ali Bahrami, an F.A.A. official at the time who later became a lobbyist.

In aerospace speak, it called for “full utilization of available delegation,” outsourcing as much oversight as possible. It outlined six recommendations that “will result in the reduction of certification delays” and “enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S. aviation industry.”

“There was a consensus that they had good recommendations, and that we ought to put them into writing,” said Matt Bormet, who formerly worked for Mr. Larsen. “I heard no complaints about the report.”

Boeing and its allies found a receptive audience in the head of the House transportation committee, Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican staunchly in favor of deregulation, and his aide working on the legislation, Holly Woodruff Lyons.

The F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 was broadly meant to provide agency funding for the coming years. Lawmakers also used it to introduce new rules for drones, airport noise and the certification process.

As Ms. Lyons helped write the law, she was in regular touch with Boeing, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The critical paragraphs in the final bill borrowed heavily from industry language, instituting the “full utilization of F.A.A. delegation.”

“The certification reforms in the F.A.A. bill were strongly desired and had bipartisan support,” Mr. Shuster said in an email, noting that delegation “has worked well and safely for over 50 years.”

The evolution of the bill had the imprint of industry.

An early version that Ms. Lyons sent to lobbyists directed the F.A.A. to measure its own performance, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. In one circulated a month later, staff members had added a clause specifying that the agency would be judged in part by a committee dominated by aerospace executives, which would come up with metrics for the regulator.

As the Senate prepared its own version in early 2016, Boeing was in close contact with the office of Ms. Cantwell.

“Senator Cantwell is responsive to the needs of Washington State businesses,” said Nick Sutter, one of her former staff members. “Boeing people were in and out of the office all the time.”

In conversations with a top aide for the senator, Matt McCarthy, Boeing lobbyists pushed for language that would compel the F.A.A. to rely more on manufacturers, according to two people directly involved in the discussions. Mr. McCarthy took a job as a lobbyist for Boeing in September.

Regulators and companies agreed that the F.A.A.’s resources were best focused on new and high-risk systems, according to Peggy Gilligan, the agency’s head of safety back then, and several other officials.

Ms. Cantwell submitted an amendment that directed the F.A.A. to automatically give companies the right to approve anything deemed “low and medium risk” on an airplane. It was language that particularly helped Boeing, with its wide range of planes.

“Listening to your constituents is always the first step in legislating, but it’s certainly not the last,” said Ansley Lacitis, deputy chief of staff for Ms. Cantwell. “This concept of risk-based oversight was bipartisan, consensus-based and recommended by experts.”

The amendment passed without any debate. At the hearing, then-Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat of Florida, cheered the changes. The law, he said, “will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and — most importantly — create good jobs for Americans.”

F.A.A. officials tried to push back, raising concerns to congressional staff members and aerospace executives. But they were constrained in their efforts.

As a federal agency, the F.A.A. is forbidden by law to use government resources to influence and lobby Congress. At most, officials could provide comments and feedback, so-called technical assistance in the legislative process.

“It is true that we were supportive of delegation as a general philosophy,” said Mr. Huerta, the former F.A.A. chief. “It is not true that means the agency supported every proposal to expand delegation and impose limits on the agency’s ability to take back delegations.”

Early on, Ms. Gilligan, the former F.A.A. official, said industry lobbyists suggested that the law should give companies input on performance evaluations of individual F.A.A. employees overseeing the certification of their planes. Two other agency officials confirmed her account.

“It appeared they were looking to influence the individuals’ pay outcome in some way, and for the F.A.A. employees to know that potential pay impact,” Ms. Gilligan said.

The final bill did not completely satisfy her concerns. The law created a panel with industry representatives to help assess “performance incentive policies” for F.A.A. employees, as long as they “do not conflict with the public interest.”

Mostly, top F.A.A. officials worried about the unintended consequences of giving more authority to manufacturers. Boeing employees have described pressures from their managers to meet deadlines while approving systems.

Under the old rules, the F.A.A. could decide to take back oversight authority on a system if they were concerned about safety. The new law would require the agency to conduct an investigation or inspection to prove that there was a problem before stepping in, a potentially lengthy process.

Industry groups told congressional staff members that manufacturers were sometimes subject to the whims of individual F.A.A. employees, who could block approvals and delay production schedules, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

“It causes delays and a lot of frustration within the companies,” said Mr. Efford, the lobbyist.

But regulators were concerned that the new law would keep them from effectively doing their job.

In early 2015, Brian Morris, a safety official at the agency, prepared feedback for lawmakers, arguing that the legislation would prevent the regulator from acting until a dangerous system had already been introduced onto an aircraft. “With this language, Congress is asking us to wait till we find a hazard before removing delegation,” he wrote, according to an F.A.A. document reviewed by The Times.

A current and a former F.A.A. official said that Mr. Morris was collecting feedback from multiple departments, so the comments reflected the opinions of other agency staff members. The document notes that the comments were “provided in response to a congressional request.”

The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union, a small labor group that represents F.A.A. employees, had a similar warning. If the regulator could only intercede after documenting problems, it may not be able to stop manufacturers from installing risky systems.

“That will, as a practical matter, mean after the accident has happened and people are killed,” the union said in comments prepared for Congress in early 2016, which were reviewed by The Times.

Through a spokesman, Ms. Lyons, the congressional aide writing the law, said she did not receive comments from Mr. Morris or the union, but was aware of the F.A.A.’s worries.

“The concerns were discussed and considered in a bipartisan manner,” said the House transportation committee spokesman, Justin Harclerode. “Members did not agree with this interpretation of the language, and were not convinced the language would negatively impact the FAA’s ability to safely oversee the aviation industry”

He added that the F.A.A., under the law, could set the parameters of the investigation or inspection.

At a ceremony in the Oval Office last October, President Trump signed the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act into law, while Representative Shuster, who shepherded the legislation, looked over his shoulder.

The agency has already begun to make the required changes.

In August, it announced the formation of the advisory committee charged with setting goals for the regulator. The committee includes two union representatives and 17 industry officials, among them Beth Pasztor, one of Boeing’s top executives. The F.A.A. recently selected managers for an internal office that will help enforce provisions of the law.

As the rules take hold, some lawmakers who originally supported the legislation are backing away.

Mr. Nelson, the former senator who co-sponsored the law, said he did not fully understand the ramifications. “This was never brought to my attention,” he said in an interview. “Had I known about it, I would have tried to put the kibosh on it.”

Representative Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who is the chairman of the House transportation committee, celebrated the bill’s changes last year, saying it would maintain safety and “will help our manufacturers become much more competitive in the world market and introduce their products more quickly.”

Mr. DeFazio, who is currently leading a congressional investigation into the crashes, said in an interview that he was reconsidering the law and might introduce legislation to restore some of the agency’s oversight authority.

“If the F.A.A. basically deferred on a safety critical system and did not provide proper oversight, then either the individuals involved are going to be at risk, or the whole system itself isn’t working properly,” he said.

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

Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze by Early August, Undermining Trump Defense

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-aid-promo-facebookJumbo-v2 Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze by Early August, Undermining Trump Defense Zelensky, Volodymyr Volker, Kurt D United States Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2016 Office of Management and Budget (US) Mulvaney, Mick Giuliani, Rudolph W Defense Department

KIEV, Ukraine — To Democrats who say that President Trump’s decision to freeze a $391 million military aid package to Ukraine was intended to bully Ukraine’s leader into carrying out investigations for Mr. Trump’s political benefit, the president and his allies have had a simple response: There could not have been any quid pro quo because the Ukrainians did not know the assistance had been blocked.

Following testimony by William B. Taylor Jr., the top United States diplomat in Ukraine, to House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the freezing of the aid was directly linked to Mr. Trump’s demand for the investigations, the president took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to approvingly quote a Republican member of Congress saying neither Mr. Taylor nor any other witness had “provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld.”

But in fact, word of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

The problem was not a bureaucratic glitch, the Ukrainians were told then. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the interviews and records.

The timing of the communications about the issue, which have not previously been reported, shows that Ukraine was aware the White House was holding up the funds weeks earlier than United States and Ukrainian officials had acknowledged. And it means that the Ukrainian government was aware of the freeze during most of the period in August when Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and two American diplomats were pressing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to make a public commitment to the investigations being sought by Mr. Trump.

The communications did not explicitly link the assistance freeze to the push by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani for the investigations. But in the communications, officials from the United States and Ukraine discuss the need to bring in the same senior aide to Mr. Zelensky who had been dealing with Mr. Giuliani about Mr. Trump’s demands for the investigations, signaling a possible link between the matters.

Word of the aid freeze got to the Ukrainians at a moment when Mr. Zelensky, who had taken office a little more than two months earlier after a campaign in which he promised to root out corruption and stand up to Russia, was off balance and uncertain how to stabilize his country’s relationship with the United States.

Days earlier, he had listened to Mr. Trump implore him on a half-hour call to pursue investigations touching on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Zelensky’s efforts to secure a visit to the White House — a symbolic affirmation of support he considered vital at a time when Russia continued to menace Ukraine’s eastern border — seemed to be stalled. American policy toward Ukraine was being guided not by career professionals but by Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Taylor told the impeachment investigators that it was only on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw between Mr. Zelensky and Vice President Mike Pence that the Ukrainians were directly told the aid would be dependent on Mr. Zelensky giving Mr. Trump something he wanted: an investigation into Burisma, the company that had employed Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son.

American and Ukrainian officials have asserted that Ukraine learned that the aid had been held up only around the time it became public through a news story at the end of August.

The aid freeze is getting additional scrutiny from the impeachment investigators on Wednesday as they question Laura K. Cooper, a deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. This month, Democrats subpoenaed both the Defense Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget for records related to the assistance freeze.

As Mr. Taylor’s testimony suggests, the Ukrainians did not confront the Trump administration about the freeze until they were told in September that it was linked to the demand for the investigations. The Ukrainians appear to have initially been hopeful that the problem could be resolved quietly and were reluctant to risk a public clash at a delicate time in relations between the two nations.

The disclosure that the Ukrainians knew of the freeze by early August corroborates, and provides additional details about, a claim made by a C.I.A. officer in his whistle-blower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.

“As of early August, I heard from U.S. officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that U.S. aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it,” the anonymous whistle-blower wrote. The complainant said that he learned that the instruction to freeze the assistance “had come directly from the president,” and said it “might have a connection with the overall effort to pressure Ukrainian leadership.”

Publicly, Mr. Zelensky has insisted he felt no pressure to pursue the investigations sought by Mr. Trump.

“There was no blackmail,” Mr. Zelensky said at a news conference earlier this month. He cited as evidence that he “had no idea the military aid was held up” at the time of his July 25 call with Mr. Trump, when Mr. Trump pressed him for investigations into the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Mr. Zelensky has said he knew about the hold up of the military aid before his meeting in Poland on Sept. 1 with Mr. Pence, but has been vague about exactly when he learned about it. “When I did find out, I raised it with Pence at a meeting in Warsaw,” he said this month.

In conversations over several days in early August, a Pentagon official discussed the assistance freeze directly with a Ukrainian government official, according to records and interviews. The Pentagon official suggested that Mr. Mulvaney had been pushing for the assistance to be withheld, and urged the Ukrainians to reach out to him.

The Pentagon official described Mr. Mulvaney’s motivations only in broad terms but made clear that the same Ukrainian official, Andriy Yermak, who had been negotiating with Mr. Giuliani over the investigations and a White House visit being sought by Mr. Zelensky should also reach out to Mr. Mulvaney over the hold on military aid.

A senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue said on Monday that Mr. Mulvaney “had absolutely no communication with the Ukranians about this issue.”

Ukrainian officials had grown suspicious that the assistance was in jeopardy because formal talks with the Pentagon on its release had concluded by June without any apparent problem.

In talks during the spring with American officials, the Ukrainians had resolved conditions for the release of the assistance, and believed everything was on schedule, according to Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s former vice prime minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration.

But by early August, the Ukrainians were struggling to get clear answers from their American contacts about the status of the assistance, according to American officials familiar with the Ukrainians’ efforts.

In the days and weeks after top Ukrainian officials were alerted to the aid freeze, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were working with Mr. Giuliani to draft a statement for Mr. Zelensky to deliver that would commit him to pursuing the investigations, according to text messages between the men turned over to the House impeachment investigators.

The text messages between Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and the top Zelensky aide did not mention the hold up of the aid. It was only in September, after the Warsaw meeting, that Mr. Taylor wrote in a text message to Mr. Sondland, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

After being informed on Sept. 1 in Warsaw that the aid would be released only if Mr. Zelensky agreed to the investigations, Ukrainian officials, including their national security adviser and defense minister, were troubled by their inability to get answers to questions about the freeze from United States officials, Mr. Taylor testified.

Through the summer, Mr. Zelensky had been noncommittal about the demands from Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Mr. Giuliani for a public commitment to the investigations. On Sept. 5, Mr. Taylor testified, Mr. Zelensky met in Kiev with Senators Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, and Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.

Mr. Zelensky’s first question, Mr. Taylor said, was about the security aid. The senators responded, Mr. Taylor said, that Mr. Zelensky “should not jeopardize bipartisan support by getting drawn into U.S. domestic politics.”

But Mr. Sondland was still pressing for a commitment from Mr. Zelensky, and was pressing him to do a CNN interview in which he would talk about pursuing the investigations sought by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Zelensky never did the interview and never made the public commitment sought by the White House, although a Ukrainian prosecutor later said he would “audit” a case involving the owner of the company that paid Hunter Biden as a board member.

Mr. Giuliani has said he had nothing to do with the assistance freeze and did not talk to Mr. Trump or “anybody in the government” about it. “I didn’t know about it until I read about it in the newspaper,” he said in an interview last week.

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

Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze by August, Undermining Trump Defense

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-aid-promo-facebookJumbo-v2 Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze by August, Undermining Trump Defense Zelensky, Volodymyr Volker, Kurt D United States Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2016 Office of Management and Budget (US) Mulvaney, Mick Giuliani, Rudolph W Defense Department

KIEV, Ukraine — To Democrats who say that President Trump’s decision to freeze a $391 million military aid package to Ukraine was intended to bully Ukraine’s leader into carrying out investigations for Mr. Trump’s political benefit, the president and his allies have had a simple response: There could not have been any quid pro quo because the Ukrainians did not know the assistance had been blocked.

Following testimony by William B. Taylor Jr., the top United States diplomat in Ukraine, to House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the freezing of the aid was directly linked to Mr. Trump’s demand for the investigations, the president took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to approvingly quote a Republican member of Congress saying neither Mr. Taylor nor any other witness had “provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld.”

But in fact, word of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

The problem was not a bureaucratic glitch, the Ukrainians were told then. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the interviews and records.

The timing of the communications about the issue, which have not previously been reported, shows that Ukraine was aware the White House was holding up the funds weeks earlier than United States and Ukrainian officials had acknowledged. And it means that the Ukrainian government was aware of the freeze during most of the period in August when Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and two American diplomats were pressing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to make a public commitment to the investigations being sought by Mr. Trump.

The communications did not explicitly link the assistance freeze to the push by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani for the investigations. But in the communications, officials from the United States and Ukraine discuss the need to bring in the same senior aide to Mr. Zelensky who had been dealing with Mr. Giuliani about Mr. Trump’s demands for the investigations, signaling a possible link between the matters.

Word of the aid freeze got to the Ukrainians at a moment when Mr. Zelensky, who had taken office a little more than two months earlier after a campaign in which he promised to root out corruption and stand up to Russia, was off balance and uncertain how to stabilize his country’s relationship with the United States.

Days earlier, he had listened to Mr. Trump implore him on a half-hour call to pursue investigations touching on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Zelensky’s efforts to secure a visit to the White House — a symbolic affirmation of support he considered vital at a time when Russia continued to menace Ukraine’s eastern border — seemed to be stalled. American policy toward Ukraine was being guided not by career professionals but by Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Taylor told the impeachment investigators that it was only on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw between Mr. Zelensky and Vice President Mike Pence that the Ukrainians were directly told the aid would be dependent on Mr. Zelensky giving Mr. Trump something he wanted: an investigation into Burisma, the company that had employed Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son.

American and Ukrainian officials have asserted that Ukraine learned that the aid had been held up only around the time it became public through a news story at the end of August.

The aid freeze is getting additional scrutiny from the impeachment investigators on Wednesday as they question Laura K. Cooper, a deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. This month, Democrats subpoenaed both the Defense Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget for records related to the assistance freeze.

As Mr. Taylor’s testimony suggests, the Ukrainians did not confront the Trump administration about the freeze until they were told in September that it was linked to the demand for the investigations. The Ukrainians appear to have initially been hopeful that the problem could be resolved quietly and were reluctant to risk a public clash at a delicate time in relations between the two nations.

The disclosure that the Ukrainians knew of the freeze by early August corroborates, and provides additional details about, a claim made by a C.I.A. officer in his whistle-blower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.

“As of early August, I heard from U.S. officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that U.S. aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it,” the anonymous whistle-blower wrote. The complainant said that he learned that the instruction to freeze the assistance “had come directly from the president,” and said it “might have a connection with the overall effort to pressure Ukrainian leadership.”

Publicly, Mr. Zelensky has insisted he felt no pressure to pursue the investigations sought by Mr. Trump.

“There was no blackmail,” Mr. Zelensky said at a news conference earlier this month. He cited as evidence that he “had no idea the military aid was held up” at the time of his July 25 call with Mr. Trump, when Mr. Trump pressed him for investigations into the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Mr. Zelensky has said he knew about the hold up of the military aid before his meeting in Poland on Sept. 1 with Mr. Pence, but has been vague about exactly when he learned about it. “When I did find out, I raised it with Pence at a meeting in Warsaw,” he said this month.

In conversations over several days in early August, a Pentagon official discussed the assistance freeze directly with a Ukrainian government official, according to records and interviews. The Pentagon official suggested that Mr. Mulvaney had been pushing for the assistance to be withheld, and urged the Ukrainians to reach out to him.

The Pentagon official described Mr. Mulvaney’s motivations only in broad terms but made clear that the same Ukrainian official, Andriy Yermak, who had been negotiating with Mr. Giuliani over the investigations and a White House visit being sought by Mr. Zelensky should also reach out to Mr. Mulvaney over the hold on military aid.

A senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue said on Monday that Mr. Mulvaney “had absolutely no communication with the Ukranians about this issue.”

Ukrainian officials had grown suspicious that the assistance was in jeopardy because formal talks with the Pentagon on its release had concluded by June without any apparent problem.

In talks during the spring with American officials, the Ukrainians had resolved conditions for the release of the assistance, and believed everything was on schedule, according to Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s former vice prime minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration.

But by early August, the Ukrainians were struggling to get clear answers from their American contacts about the status of the assistance, according to American officials familiar with the Ukrainians’ efforts.

In the days and weeks after top Ukrainian officials were alerted to the aid freeze, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were working with Mr. Giuliani to draft a statement for Mr. Zelensky to deliver that would commit him to pursuing the investigations, according to text messages between the men turned over to the House impeachment investigators.

The text messages between Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and the top Zelensky aide did not mention the hold up of the aid. It was only in September, after the Warsaw meeting, that Mr. Taylor wrote in a text message to Mr. Sondland, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

After being informed on Sept. 1 in Warsaw that the aid would be released only if Mr. Zelensky agreed to the investigations, Ukrainian officials, including their national security adviser and defense minister, were troubled by their inability to get answers to questions about the freeze from United States officials, Mr. Taylor testified.

Through the summer, Mr. Zelensky had been noncommittal about the demands from Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Mr. Giuliani for a public commitment to the investigations. On Sept. 5, Mr. Taylor testified, Mr. Zelensky met in Kiev with Senators Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, and Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.

Mr. Zelensky’s first question, Mr. Taylor said, was about the security aid. The senators responded, Mr. Taylor said, that Mr. Zelensky “should not jeopardize bipartisan support by getting drawn into U.S. domestic politics.”

But Mr. Sondland was still pressing for a commitment from Mr. Zelensky, and was pressing him to do a CNN interview in which he would talk about pursuing the investigations sought by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Zelensky never did the interview and never made the public commitment sought by the White House, although a Ukrainian prosecutor later said he would “audit” a case involving the owner of the company that paid Hunter Biden as a board member.

Mr. Giuliani has said he had nothing to do with the assistance freeze and did not talk to Mr. Trump or “anybody in the government” about it. “I didn’t know about it until I read about it in the newspaper,” he said in an interview last week.

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

Contradicting Trump, Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze Before It Became Public

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-aid-promo-facebookJumbo-v2 Contradicting Trump, Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze Before It Became Public Zelensky, Volodymyr Volker, Kurt D United States Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2016 Office of Management and Budget (US) Mulvaney, Mick Giuliani, Rudolph W Defense Department

KIEV, Ukraine — To Democrats who say that President Trump’s decision to freeze a $391 million military aid package to Ukraine was intended to bully Ukraine’s leader into carrying out investigations for Mr. Trump’s political benefit, the president and his allies have had a simple response: There could not have been any quid pro quo because the Ukrainians did not know the assistance had been blocked.

Following testimony by William B. Taylor Jr., the top United States diplomat in Ukraine, to House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the freezing of the aid was directly linked to Mr. Trump’s demand for the investigations, the president took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to approvingly quote a Republican member of Congress saying neither Mr. Taylor nor any other witness had “provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld.”

But in fact, word of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

The problem was not a bureaucratic glitch, the Ukrainians were told then. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the interviews and records.

The timing of the communications about the issue, which have not previously been reported, shows that Ukraine was aware the White House was holding up the funds weeks earlier than United States and Ukrainian officials had acknowledged. And it means that the Ukrainian government was aware of the freeze during most of the period in August when Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and two American diplomats were pressing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to make a public commitment to the investigations being sought by Mr. Trump.

The communications did not explicitly link the assistance freeze to the push by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani for the investigations. But in the communications, officials from the United States and Ukraine discuss the need to bring in the same senior aide to Mr. Zelensky who had been dealing with Mr. Giuliani about Mr. Trump’s demands for the investigations, signaling a possible link between the matters.

Word of the aid freeze got to the Ukrainians at a moment when Mr. Zelensky, who had taken office a little more than two months earlier after a campaign in which he promised to root out corruption and stand up to Russia, was off balance and uncertain how to stabilize his country’s relationship with the United States.

Days earlier, he had listened to Mr. Trump implore him on a half-hour call to pursue investigations touching on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Zelensky’s efforts to secure a visit to the White House — a symbolic affirmation of support he considered vital at a time when Russia continued to menace Ukraine’s eastern border — seemed to be stalled. American policy toward Ukraine was being guided not by career professionals but by Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Taylor told the impeachment investigators that it was only on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw between Mr. Zelensky and Vice President Mike Pence that the Ukrainians were directly told the aid would be dependent on Mr. Zelensky giving Mr. Trump something he wanted: an investigation into Burisma, the company that had employed Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son.

American and Ukrainian officials have asserted that Ukraine learned that the aid had been held up only around the time it became public through a news story at the end of August.

The aid freeze is getting additional scrutiny from the impeachment investigators on Wednesday as they question Laura K. Cooper, a deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. This month, Democrats subpoenaed both the Defense Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget for records related to the assistance freeze.

As Mr. Taylor’s testimony suggests, the Ukrainians did not confront the Trump administration about the freeze until they were told in September that it was linked to the demand for the investigations. The Ukrainians appear to have initially been hopeful that the problem could be resolved quietly and were reluctant to risk a public clash at a delicate time in relations between the two nations.

The disclosure that the Ukrainians knew of the freeze by early August corroborates, and provides additional details about, a claim made by a C.I.A. officer in his whistle-blower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.

“As of early August, I heard from U.S. officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that U.S. aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it,” the anonymous whistle-blower wrote. The complainant said that he learned that the instruction to freeze the assistance “had come directly from the president,” and said it “might have a connection with the overall effort to pressure Ukrainian leadership.”

Publicly, Mr. Zelensky has insisted he felt no pressure to pursue the investigations sought by Mr. Trump.

“There was no blackmail,” Mr. Zelensky said at a news conference earlier this month. He cited as evidence that he “had no idea the military aid was held up” at the time of his July 25 call with Mr. Trump, when Mr. Trump pressed him for investigations into the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Mr. Zelensky has said he knew about the hold up of the military aid before his meeting in Poland on Sept. 1 with Mr. Pence, but has been vague about exactly when he learned about it. “When I did find out, I raised it with Pence at a meeting in Warsaw,” he said this month.

In conversations over several days in early August, a Pentagon official discussed the assistance freeze directly with a Ukrainian government official, according to records and interviews. The Pentagon official suggested that Mr. Mulvaney had been pushing for the assistance to be withheld, and urged the Ukrainians to reach out to him.

The Pentagon official described Mr. Mulvaney’s motivations only in broad terms but made clear that the same Ukrainian official, Andriy Yermak, who had been negotiating with Mr. Giuliani over the investigations and a White House visit being sought by Mr. Zelensky should also reach out to Mr. Mulvaney over the hold on military aid.

A senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue said on Monday that Mr. Mulvaney “had absolutely no communication with the Ukranians about this issue.”

Ukrainian officials had grown suspicious that the assistance was in jeopardy because formal talks with the Pentagon on its release had concluded by June without any apparent problem.

In talks during the spring with American officials, the Ukrainians had resolved conditions for the release of the assistance, and believed everything was on schedule, according to Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s former vice prime minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration.

But by early August, the Ukrainians were struggling to get clear answers from their American contacts about the status of the assistance, according to American officials familiar with the Ukrainians’ efforts.

In the days and weeks after top Ukrainian officials were alerted to the aid freeze, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were working with Mr. Giuliani to draft a statement for Mr. Zelensky to deliver that would commit him to pursuing the investigations, according to text messages between the men turned over to the House impeachment investigators.

The text messages between Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and the top Zelensky aide did not mention the hold up of the aid. It was only in September, after the Warsaw meeting, that Mr. Taylor wrote in a text message to Mr. Sondland, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

After being informed on Sept. 1 in Warsaw that the aid would be released only if Mr. Zelensky agreed to the investigations, Ukrainian officials, including their national security adviser and defense minister, were troubled by their inability to get answers to questions about the freeze from United States officials, Mr. Taylor testified.

Through the summer, Mr. Zelensky had been noncommittal about the demands from Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Mr. Giuliani for a public commitment to the investigations. On Sept. 5, Mr. Taylor testified, Mr. Zelensky met in Kiev with Senators Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, and Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.

Mr. Zelensky’s first question, Mr. Taylor said, was about the security aid. The senators responded, Mr. Taylor said, that Mr. Zelensky “should not jeopardize bipartisan support by getting drawn into U.S. domestic politics.”

But Mr. Sondland was still pressing for a commitment from Mr. Zelensky, and was pressing him to do a CNN interview in which he would talk about pursuing the investigations sought by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Zelensky never did the interview and never made the public commitment sought by the White House, although a Ukrainian prosecutor later said he would “audit” a case involving the owner of the company that paid Hunter Biden as a board member.

Mr. Giuliani has said he had nothing to do with the assistance freeze and did not talk to Mr. Trump or “anybody in the government” about it. “I didn’t know about it until I read about it in the newspaper,” he said in an interview last week.

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