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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 6/3/19

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader in a speech on May 28, uttered one of the most hypocritical and cynical statements that have been made in recent memory.  Mr. McConnell made it clear that if a vacancy appeared in the Supreme Court in 2020, that he would move it through the Senate because there was a Republican President.  All of the nonsense which he spewed in 2016 about Judge Garland was a lie.  He wallows deep in the swamp. 

Allan Lichtman, someone you may never have heard of, but he has predicted the outcome of Presidential elections since 1984, using thirteen factors to reach his conclusion.  He makes it very clear that Democrats must proceed to impeachment if they are to increase their chances of beating Mr. Trump.  I, for one, have not been of that mindset, but when you predict nine straight outcomes, you need to be listened to.  Mr. Lichtman is a professor at American University in Washington, DC, and he was the most prominent voice predicting Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016.

Two Republican lawmakers have stalled the disaster aid package in the House by objecting to a voice vote, which would have allowed passage during the recess.  The fact that they have decided to exercise this right, which I suspect many would consider nothing more than a stunt or grandstanding, actually raises a much more concerning issue.  One of the reasons that Congressman Massie indicated was the fact that this $19 billion package would add to the debt and deficit.  There is eerie silence, however, on the much larger deficits being run by the Trump administration.  When I was in Congress, Republicans pounded the Obama administration about running deficits which increased the debt.  Again, the hypocrisy is mindboggling. 

The Trump administration announced on May 25, that they were removing E. Francis Cissna as Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (commonly known as USCIS) and tapping former Virginia Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli.  Mr. Cuccinelli is a person who has extreme right leaning views, has no experience in immigration, and fits into the category of persons who Mr. Trump nominates for positions like Mr. Herman and Mr. Miller for the Fed, incompetent and uninformed nominee. 

The Senate GOP has declared war on conservative troublemakers. It appears certain conservative groups are prepared to support primary challengers against incumbent Republican Senators.  Obviously, these groups come from the far right, and the Senate GOP is rallying around its incumbents.  The tactic being used by the Senate GOP is one which I think makes a great deal of sense. If you are a consultant such as a pollster, someone who assists candidates with advertising, campaign literature, a fund raiser, and you support a challenger, you will not work for the Senate re-election committee.  That’s a good use of economic clout.   

I wrote within the last several weeks, about the possibility that China would use their investment in US Treasuries as part of the trade war.  It appears that this tactic is actually emerging in China, as I pointed out, this could have dramatic impacts on the US economy, as it could easily force a raising of interest rates in order for the US government to resell those bonds. China also announced it would ban US companies from doing business in China in retaliation for US moves against Huawei.  China is using all of its tools.

In 2016, when Mr. Trump was running for President, he posed the following question “Does President Obama ever discuss the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor while he is in Japan?  Thousands of American lives were lost.” Does Mr. Trump plan on asking that question during his visit, or is this just another blustering statement that he does not have the courage to say face-to-face with the Prime Minister of Japan?  My guess is the latter. 

The Toronto Globe and Mail observed on May 26 in an editorial that the Canada/US trade   relationship under the USMCA looks a lot like the old one under NAFTA.  I have commented on several occasions recently that there is very little new, or for that matter, beneficial to the economies of both countries in the new agreement.  There are some situations where a particular industry will benefit from changes, but that did not require the re-negotiation of the entire agreement and the tawdry and demeaning comments made by Mr. Trump about Canada and Prime Minister Trudeau. 

The most surprising event of the week was the imposition of tariffs against Mexico in an effort to control immigration starting at 5% and potentially increasing to 25%.  This will certainly help passage of the USMCA.

The White House asked the Navy to “Hide” the USS John S. McCain during Mr. Trump’s visit to Japan on May 27, 2019.  There was no reason given, but one can certainly speculate that Mr. Trump might be embarrassed by the acknowledgement of a real patriot.  The Navy couldn’t hide the ship, so they gave all the sailors a day off, and forbid them from attending Mr. Trump’s speech.  Talk about odd behavior.

Special Counsel, Mueller held a press conference on Wednesday, May 29, and advised in somewhat opaque language that his office had not cleared Mr. Trump of obstruction.  Does this put more pressure on Speaker Pelosi to take action?  I think it does and certainly gives those in the Democratic Party who desire impeachment more ammunition.  It also raises troubling questions about Attorney General Barr.  Mr. Trump raged on Twitter.  

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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