- In a case of déjà vu, Washington, DC and those who follow its drama, are consumed with shutdown watch. Lawmakers have until midnight to pass a government spending plan and there’s no word yet on any compromise. As usual in this drama, Democrats are blaming Republicans for the pending shutdown and Republicans are blaming Democrats. The GOP-controlled House passed a one-month stop gap bill last night by a vote of 230-197 largely along party lines. Now the bill moves to the Senate where the Republicans hold only a slender majority. Right now at least two Republicans – Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul – have threatened to vote against a short-term spending plan. Meanwhile, President Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, has dubbed it the “Schumer Shutdown” after New York Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Mulvaney blames Schumer and Democrats for the pending shutdown for forcing a DACA fix to the spending plan. Although the DACA deadline isn’t until March, Democrats are demanding that Congress deal with the impasse right now regarding “dreamers” and DACA – an Obama-era executive order that granted protected status to some illegal immigrants brought to the country as children. Republicans say Democrats are holding the US military and the country’s national defense hostage. Senator Schumer visited Trump at the White House this afternoon for talks. Stay tuned. Tick tock…
- On Tuesday, the Dow Jones smashed yet another record, crossing 26K for the first time – this just seven trading sessions after surging passed 25K for the first time ever. It was the index’s fastest run to a fresh 1,000-point milestone in history. And yesterday brought the news that Americans are filing unemployment benefits at the lowest levels since 1973, signaling a major upswing in the US economy. All of this good news began with the election of Donald Trump and the so-called “Trump bump” – a bet on infrastructure spending, deregulation and tax cuts. In 2017, markets continued to rise on the back of strong corporate earnings growth.
- Tech giant Apple is one of the mega companies responding in a huge way to the tax plan pushed for and passed by President Trump and Congressional Republicans. Apple announced that the new tax law provided the incentives for the company to ramp up spending in the US – to the tune of $38 billion. It’s the largest sum announced in response to the Republicans’ major overhaul of the tax code that has seen numerous companies provide raises and bonuses to their employees across the US. The law included an incentive for US companies to bring home offshore holdings with a requirement to pay a one-time tax of 15.5% on overseas profits held in cash and other liquid assets. Apple is the world’s most valuable publicly traded company. It said Wednesday it would invest $30 billion in capital spending in the US over five years that would create more than 20,000 jobs and build a new US campus. American companies have long pushed for a change to enable them to repatriate overseas cash without taking an excessive tax hit. Apple cited the Republicans’ tax changes as the reason for its $38 billion payment. No Democrat supported the measure that was passed in December. Apple also told employees Wednesday it is issuing each of them a bonus of $2,500 in restricted stock, according to press reports.
- A four-page classified memo – one that astonishingly hasn’t yet leaked – has some Republicans claiming that what they’ve read is “shocking” and “far worse than Watergate.” The buzz started yesterday afternoon when the House Intelligence Committee voted in favor of a motion to circulate the memo to every member of the House. No Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the motion. Republicans who’ve read the memo say it will result in heads rolling at the FBI and the Department of Justice, even possible criminal prosecution, and will have a tremendous impact on Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. The memo is purported to detail Obama-era abuse and misuse of government authority under FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Service Act and the “weaponizing” of the US intelligence community allegedly used against the Trump team both during and after the 2016 campaign. North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows is one of a handful of lawmakers calling for the memo to be released to the public, and #ReleaseTheMemo is trending on social media (receiving a major boost, according to the Washington Examiner, over the past 48 hours, from more than 500 Twitter accounts suspected to have connections to Kremlin online propaganda efforts). "It's troubling. It is shocking ... Part of me wishes that I didn't read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much," Congressman Meadows said.
- President Trump became the first president today to address the pro-life March for Life. Thanks to technology, the President was able to make his remarks from the White House Rose Garden. (Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush expressed their support to the nation’s largest pro-life rally with phone calls during their terms.) Every year, tens of thousands of people gather on the National Mall before rallying at the Supreme Court steps marking the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade pro-abortion ruling. It is the 45th March for Life. In his remarks today, the President urged Congress to pass a ban on late term abortions.
- A glowing report from the White House physician this week on the President’s health has left some in the media apparently feeling sick. Mainstream news readers opted not to hide their disappointment on learning the news that the exam found the President in near “excellent” health – if not a little overweight – and had them offering their own personal diagnoses to those proffered by White House physician Ronny Jackson. CNN led the way, helpfully decreeing the President has heart disease and promising a future Presidential heart attack, as well as defining Trump as “borderline” obese, questioning his mental health, and calling into question the credibility of Dr. Jackson – a Rear Admiral who served the White House during both the George W. Bush and Obama tenures.
- Speaking of the media, on Wednesday night, so many people rushed to the Republican National Committee’s webpage to see the President’s much-hyped "Fake News Awards” that the GOP.com page crashed. But alas, the show must go on, and the Fake Awards were duly presented, ur, posted? Whatever. So who made the 2017 list? You can check it out yourself but the New York Times’ Paul Krugman – no Trump fan – tops the list. Krugman was (and is, to say the least) a little upset by Trump’s victory and so a year ago he predicted (perhaps under major duress) that the economy would recover – never! – from Trump’s win.
- A former CIA officer was busted Monday at Kennedy International Airport in NYC, suspected of helping China identify US informants and wreaking havoc on US spying ops. According to news reports, the damage done by former officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, is one of America’s worst intelligence failures in recent years and led to China dismantling US spy operations. The FBI has been intensely looking into Lee since 2012 – two years after the CIA began losing its informants in China and were both horrified and mystified by the number of names of CIA sources and secrets that wound up in Chinese hands. Lee, who left the CIA in 2007, has been living in Hong Kong and working for a well-known auction house.
- Meanwhile, some lawmakers want the former US chief spy prosecuted before the statute of limitations runs out. James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017, testified during a March 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the NSA was "not wittingly” collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Months later, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden totally debunked that testimony, revealing secret court orders that forced phone companies to turn over all US call records to the feds daily. Clapper wrote a “my bad” apology letter saying he simply forgot about the massive call-collection order but later gave a more murky response in TV interviews. Lawmakers worried about the privacy of ordinary Americans and government intrusion into their lives say meeting the looming March 12 deadline to establish charges for perjury and making false statements is urgent because nonprosecution would set a dangerous precedent that impedes oversight and executive-branch accountability.
New Team in Town
Your former US Ambassador to Canada was in Washington, DC on Tuesday where he attended an invitation-only lunch at the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute. That’s where Canada’s official Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, in his first foreign trip, was discussing the value of NAFTA and our bilat relationship.
It was wonderful to also visit with our old friend, deputy leader Lisa Raitt, trade critic Dean Allison, agriculture critic Luc Berthold and MP Colin Carrie.
Talkin’ in Toronto
From DC, Wilkins and our own Justin Meyers winged it up to Toronto where the two enjoyed a Thursday breakfast conversation at the law offices of Borden Ladner Gervais. Wilkins chatted with a group of distinguished businesspeople about doings in our bilateral relationship and issues in Washington, DC (read: no pressure, ha!)
At any rate, it was wonderful to catch up with wonderful friends including Gary Mar and Tony Clement. And we deeply appreciate the folks at BLG for their wonderful and warm northern hospitality.
Wilkins discusses the “new normal” a year into the Trump presidency with friends at the Borden Ladner Gervais law firm in Toronto this week.
Later in the day, Wilkins enjoyed catching up with former Minister Peter MacKay.
They Said What?
- “…Alarm at Mr. Trump’s vandalism to the dignity and norms of the presidency cuts both ways. Were it easy for a group of Washington insiders to remove a president using the 25th Amendment, American democracy would swerve towards oligarchy. The rush to condemn, or exonerate, Mr. Trump before Mr. Mueller finishes his inquiry politicizes justice. Each time Mr. Trump’s critics put their aim of stopping him before their means of doing so, they feed partisanship and help set a precedent that will someday be used against a good president fighting a worthy but unpopular cause,” – Leaders Section of The Economist evaluating the first year of the Trump presidency.
- "In terms of the bonus that corporate America received versus the crumbs that they are giving workers to kind of put the schmooze on is so pathetic. It's so pathetic,” – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressing her distain for the GOP tax package which she described as “Armageddon" and the “worst legislation in the history of Congress.”
- "So he’s one pound away from being in the obese category,” – CNN news reader Alyson Camerota searching for a silver lining in the news that President Trump, who neither smokes nor drinks alcohol but has a fondness for fast food and Diet Coke, received a clean bill of health from the White House doctor.
- “This is the same media that never questioned Hillary Clinton when she could barely stand up! The same media that never questioned Hillary Clinton when she collapsed trying to get into a van to make a fast getaway after almost having collapsed at a 9/11 ceremony…The same media that never questioned when Hillary couldn’t finish a single speech without a prolonged coughing fit. There was never any concern for Hillary Clinton’s health…” – Conservative radio talk show Rush Limbaugh on the media’s questions following the release of President Trump’s recent clean bill of health.
- “There has been a real attempt to undermine this President & it comes from the scariest of places. The key reason all Americans need to see this memo is that it names Names…#ReleaseTheMemo,” – Tweet by Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz regarding the 4-page classified memo Republicans claim is “explosive” and needs to be released to the public.