By Elise Solé   Ivanka Trump will meet with the South Korean foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha (right), in place of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Photo: Getty Images)   Ivanka Trump is acting as secretary of state, meeting with the South Korean foreign minister in lieu of Rex Tillerson, whom President Trump fired earlier this week. On Friday, the White House confirmed the meeting between Ivanka and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha in a statement to Newsweek: “Ivanka and members of the NSC are meeting with the foreign minister, as they developed a close relationship during the Olympic Games. The foreign minister asked for the meeting while they were at the Olympics together.” The date and agenda of the meeting are not known, but the publication reports that it centers on summits between North and South Korea and between North Korea and the U.S., as part of President Trump’s intention to conduct talks with the North Korean dictator. Many on Twitter were shocked by the notion of Ivanka conducting foreign policy. Citizens for Ethics✔@CREWcrew When President Trump’s Secretary of State is fired and can’t meet with South Korea, Trump sends his daughter, who doesn’t have a full security clearance but does have business interests in the country. … 12:00 PM - Mar 16, 2018 South Korean minister to meet Ivanka after Tillerson was fired Ivanka Trump will meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha when she visits the U.S. following the abrupt ousting of secretary of State Rex Tillerson.   16 Mar The Hill✔@thehill South Korean foreign minister to meet with Ivanka after Tillerson's abrupt firing One Little Voice@1singlevoice Ivanka is not qualified to “fill in” for Tillerson with South Korea. That’s like having a Kardashian fill in for Mike Pompeo at the CIA until that position is filled. 10:39 AM - Mar 16, 2018   Martin Dillon@LeRapt Ivanka was sent to brief South Korea's president on the new NK sanctions, suggesting daddy may make her Tillerson's replacement. 8:26 PM - Feb 26, 2018     SingleGirl@SingleGirlLife Let’s be clear:@IvankaTrump is not Secretary of State, & has no business meeting with foreign dignitaries on behalf of the United States. This is blatant nepotism, & she should be stopped before further creditably of our country suffers #StopTrump 3:32 PM - Mar 16, 2018   On March 13, Tillerson, who had served as secretary of state since February 2017, was ousted from his position after clashing with Trump over a number of policies, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, and charges that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election. (Trump has called the claims “fake news,” while Tillerson directed a comment to Russia during an interview, “You need to stop.”) Trump plans to nominate former CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson. Ivanka Trump dined with South Korean President Moon Jae-In during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February. (Photo: Getty Images)   Despite February reports that Ivanka lacks complete security clearance, notes Newsweek, the first daughter is very involved in government affairs. In February, she led the U.S. delegation at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, dining with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-sook. Ivanka also garnered criticism for taking her father’s seat among world leaders at the G20 Summit in July, a move that Trump called “very standard,” and for leading Congress in a bipartisan roundtable discussion in May.  Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump When I left Conference Room for short meetings with Japan and other countries, I asked Ivanka to hold seat. Very standard. Angela M agrees! 4:31 AM - Jul 10, 2017    

By Glenn Kessler   The president has harsh words about trade imbalances, but his numbers don't always add up. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post) In defending his threatened new tariffs on steel and aluminum, President Trump has made a number of statements about trade deals and deficits. Here’s a guide to the rhetoric. Because this is a quick roundup, we’re not assigning Pinocchios, but many of his claims are highly exaggerated. “We lost, over the last number of years, $800 billion a year. Not a half a million dollars, not 12 cents. We lost $800 billion a year on trade. Not going to happen. We got to get it back.” — Trump, remarks to reporters, March 5 We are going to keep explaining this until we are blue in the face but countries do not “lose” money on trade deficits. For some reason, the president must have missed this lesson in economics class when he attended Wharton. A trade deficit simply means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country. Americans want to buy these products from overseas, either because of quality or price. If Trump sparked a trade war and tariffs were increased on Canadian or Chinese goods, then it would raise the cost of those products to Americans. Perhaps that would reduce American purchases of those goods, and thus reduce the trade deficit, but that would not mean the United States would “gain” money that had been lost. Meanwhile, trade deficits are also affected by macroeconomic factors, such as the relative strength of currencies, economic growth rates, and savings and investment rates. The president has said he wants to rescue jobs in the steel and aluminum industries. But many economists say more jobs could be lost in industries that rely on those materials for their products. Airplanes and airplane parts are one of the big export industries in the United States, helping to reduce the trade deficit, but the industry also uses a lot of aluminum. So higher costs for raw materials may increase the cost of jets and reduce sales overseas. The Trade Partnership, a consulting firm, released a report that concluded that five jobs would be lost for each one gained. In all, the report said, about 33,000 jobs would be gained, while 179,000 would be lost, for a net loss of about 146,000 jobs. (Caveat: Such estimates should be viewed with caution. We are only offering this as an illustrative example of the potential economic impacts. Still, when President George W. Bush imposed steel tariffs in 2003, his action may have saved as many as 10,000 jobs but cost up to 200,000 jobs.) The United States has an $800 Billion Dollar Yearly Trade Deficit because of our “very stupid” trade deals and policies. Our jobs and wealth are being given to other countries that have taken advantage of us for years. They laugh at what fools our leaders have been. No more! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2018 The U.S. trade deficit in 2017 was $566 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Trump gets his $800 billion number by looking only at the deficit for trade in goods ($810 billion) even though U.S. trade in services runs a substantial surplus of $244 billion. Interestingly, the recent annual report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, which the president signed, offers a relatively benign view of trade deficits. “The United States has a goods deficit and a services surplus with the world,” the report noted. “The services surplus is consistent with the structure of the private sector, which has evolved during the last few decades toward more services output as a share of GDP.” We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed. Also, Canada must.. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2018 “We’ve had a very bad deal with Mexico, a very bad deal with Canada. It’s called NAFTA. Our factories have left our country. Our jobs have left our country. For many years NAFTA has been a disaster.” — Trump, remarks to reporters, March 5 First of all, the United States has a trade surplus with Canada. Once again, Trump is ignoring trade in services to make a pejorative claim about the biggest export market for the United States — and the second-biggest trading partner. Second, long before he was a politician, Trump was dismissive of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But he consistently exaggerates the effects. Here’s how the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in 2017 summarized the impact of NAFTA: “The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP [gross domestic product]. However, there were worker and firm adjustment costs as the three countries adjusted to more open trade and investment.” Now, a quarter-century after NAFTA went into effect, the United States, Canada and Mexico constitute an economically integrated market, especially for the auto industry. Auto parts and vehicles produced in each country freely flow over the borders, without significant tariffs or other restrictions, as thousands of parts suppliers serve the automakers that build the vehicles. This is known as the “motor vehicle supply chain.” The manufacturing sector has declined as a source of jobs in the United States, but again Trump would be fighting against economic shifts long in the making. American manufacturing has become incredibly productive, so fewer workers are needed to make the same number of goods. We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years. Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2018 The industries are not dead. Trump is focused on aluminum smelting jobs, but that’s only 3 percent of total aluminum industry jobs in the United States, according to the Aluminum Association. The rest of the jobs are in aluminum production and processing, which has been relatively consistent since 1980. The North American aluminum market is integrated, with much of the smelting taking place in Canada, one of the United States’ closest allies, where electricity costs are lower because of  hydropower. (Aluminum smelting is an energy-intensive industry.)   Meanwhile, U.S. steel exports as a share of the domestic market are only 27.5 percent, about the level in 1997. Monthly crude steel production has been consistent since the Great Recession, according to data compiled by trade lawyer Scott Lincicome. Fewer workers are required because the factories are run more efficiently. When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018   The president is referring to a favorite example of his — Harley-Davidson motorcycles. India recently announced it would reduce the duties from 100 percent to 50 percent, but Harley already got around that higher duty by assembling in India most of the 4,500 motorcycles sold in the country. (Trump in the past has also accused India of selling “thousands and thousands” of motorcycles in the United States, but it’s only about 1,000.) Harley, for its part, says it is indifferent to the matter and has no objection to India’s import duties. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) also says the Wisconsin-based company opposes higher tariffs for steel and aluminum because of the potential negative impact on its sales.   Source: Washington Post

by Julia Horowitz     Why this oil CEO is worried about steel tariffs President Donald Trump's steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are now a reality. Trump on Thursday imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% on aluminum, but exempted Canada and Mexico. The tariffs will take effect in 15 days. For American companies that make metals, that's welcome news. But for businesses that consume steel and aluminum, like automakers and beverage producers, it will likely mean higher prices. Many have warned that could cut into profits and ultimately spur layoffs. Powered by Here's a look at some of the US companies that may be hit by Trump's latest protectionist move. Anheuser-Busch The aluminum used in beer cans is expected to get more expensive once the tariffs go into effect. Anheuser-Busch (BUD) has warned that it could threaten manufacturing jobs in the industry. The company employes more than 18,000 people in the United States. Auto parts manufacturers The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, which represents companies that make vehicle parts in the United States, has said the tariffs will make cars more expensive and could put the many of the more than 800,000 jobs in its industry at risk. Boeing The nation's largest single exporter uses aluminum and some steel parts to make planes. Boeing (BA) could also suffer if other countries decide to retaliate against US tariffs by buying planes from competitors like Airbus. The company has more than 140,000 employees in the United States and around the world. Caterpillar Making Caterpillar (CAT) construction equipment could get more expensive if steel and aluminum prices rise. The company employs more than 98,000 full-time workers around the world. About 42,000 are in the United States. Campbell Soup Company Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said that there's 2.6 cents worth of steel in a can of Campbell's soup, and consumers can expect prices to rise less than one cent as a result of tariffs. Campbell's (CPB) responded that "any new broad-based tariffs on imported tin plate steel — an insufficient amount of which is produced in the U.S. — will result in higher prices on one of the safest and more affordable parts of the food supply." Campbell's has about 18,000 employees. Craft breweries Craft breweries, which have been a breakout success over the past few years, worry that future growth will be stunted if beer cans get more expensive due to higher aluminum prices. Oskar Blues, a Colorado-based brewery with operations in North Carolina and Texas, said tariffs would put "a strain on the business." DowDuPont An executive at the chemical company told Bloomberg that it might need to start building plants in Canada or Argentina if the cost of construction goes up too much in the United States. DowDuPont (DWDP) has approximately 98,000 employees. Ford Ford (F) uses steel and aluminum in car production. Ford said in a statement that the tariffs "could result in an increase in domestic commodity prices — harming the competitiveness of American manufacturers," though it mostly uses American-made steel and aluminum in vehicles manufactured in the United States. Ford has about 202,000 employees worldwide. General Electric GE (GE) makes jet engines, power plant turbines, trains and other heavy machinery, all of which use steel and aluminum. Higher costs could inflict further damage on a company that already faces serious financial troubles. GE said in a statement that it's monitoring the situation but expects the impact to be "minimal." GE has about 313,000 employees total. About 106,000 are in the United States. General Motors GM (GM) cars contain steel and aluminum, though the company says that more than 90% of the steel it uses to make cars in the United States comes from American suppliers. It has more than 180,000 workers around the world. Molson Coors The maker of Coors Light and Miller Light has said that it makes an "increasing" number of beers in aluminum cans. Rising prices will "likely to lead to job losses across the beer industry," the company said on Twitter. The company has 17,200 employees globally, about 7,900 of which are in the United States. Oil companies Members of the oil industry have warned that Trump's steel tariffs could derail the country's energy boom by raising prices on foreign steel, which oil companies use in drilling and production, as well as in pipelines and refineries. Canary LLC, a Denver-based oilfield services company that employs about 300 people, said higher costs could force it to lay off up to 17% of its US workers. Whirlpool Whirlpool (WHR) recently got a boost when Trump slapped tariffs on imported washing machines. Now it could get more expensive to make household appliances like dryers and refrigerators in the United States as metal costs rise. Whirlpool has about 92,000 employees. 

It will no longer reference “inclusive” communities “free from discrimination.”   By Amanda Terkel   WASHINGTON ― Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is changing the mission statement of his agency, removing promises of inclusive and discrimination-free communities. In a March 5 memo addressed to HUD political staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, explained that the statement is being updated “in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.” The new mission statement reads:  HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.  “An organization’s mission is never static,” Thompson wrote in the memo, which was shared with HuffPost by a HUD employee. “A mission statement describes an organization’s purpose, what it intends to do, and whom it intends to serve. Most importantly, an organization’s activities must be embodied in its mission.” She said the mission statement had been developed with input from both Carson and his deputy. It’s not clear whether the new language is final. Thompson asked the political staff to send along any “comments or suggestions.” The Carson mission statement is quite different from the current one, which is still up on HUD’s website. That one promises “strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.” It also says these communities will be “free from discrimination”: HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business. HUD spokesman Raffi Williams said officials were considering “modest changes” to the mission statement, as has been done in previous administrations, to “make it a more clear and concise expression of the historic work this agency performs on behalf of the American people.” “You can be sure of one thing — any mission statement for this Department will embody the principle of fairness as a central element of everything that we do. HUD has been, is now, and will always be committed to ensuring inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans,” Williams added.  HUD is not the only federal agency changing its mission under President Donald Trump. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director recently informed employees that it was removing the phrase “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” from its mission statement.  Under President Barack Obama, HUD made advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights a priority. Shaun Donovan, who served as Obama’s first HUD secretary, was the first sitting Cabinet official in history to publicly support marriage equality. The agency worked to prohibit discrimination by HUD-funded housing authorities, recognized state and local laws that are more LGBTQ-friendly than federal ones and raised awareness of resources available to the LGBTQ community. Carson has a long history of making comments opposing equal rights for the LGBTQ community. New York Magazine recently reported that under Carson, HUD has pulled projects meant to help the LGBTQ community, which included online training materials for homeless shelters to ensure equal access for transgender people. “Self-sufficiency” has been a major focus of Carson’s. Last year, he said he didn’t want low-income Americans receiving federal assistance to feel too “comfortable” in their housing because it might make them say, “I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.”  In December, he announced a new initiative that would put “EnVision Centers” near federal housing developments to help train people in character and leadership, educational advancement, economic empowerment, and health and wellness. Carson recently came under scrutiny for the revelation that his office was set to be redecorated with a $31,000 dining room set. The secretary has claimed he knew nothing about the order.    Source: HuffPost

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has cast doubt on his own agency’s ability to combat foreign governments. By Nick Visser   Muhammad Hamed / Reuters   The State Department has spent nothing of $120 million allocated to combat foreign influence in U.S. elections, according to The New York Times. The State Department has spent $0 of $120 million allocated by Congress to combat foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Despite the massive budget, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has done little to thwart a sweeping influence campaign by the Russian government, and an office tasked with countering such efforts has no employees that even speak Russian due to an ongoing hiring freeze. Tillerson himself has continued to doubt the ability of his department to combat Russia, and just last month said that if Moscow wanted to meddle, it was “going to find ways to do that.” The report comes as American intelligence officials and lawmakers warn that the Kremlin is, once again, working to influence upcoming elections, using a coordinated campaign of social media trolls and disinformation in an attempt to sway voters. Congress directed the Pentagon to give $60 million to the State Department in late 2016 to combat such efforts. But the Times reported Tillerson took seven months deciding if he should spend the money, and when the agency finally asked for it, the fiscal year was almost over and the request denied. Another $60 million became available for the next fiscal year, but both State and the Department of Defense have been at loggerheads over how much money to send over. After media outlets, including the Times and Politico, began asking about the funding, the Pentagon said last Monday it would direct $40 million to the State Department sometime in April. The U.S. government also has vast resources and spends billions each year on cyberweapons, but those tools do little against trolling campaigns. Rather, State’s Global Engagement Center would use the funding to develop means to combat social media campaigns to influence voters. The Times notes the office could do so by crafting anti-propaganda projects, or amplifying pro-democracy voices. President Donald Trump has done little himself to combat Russian meddling. Rather, he’s moved to deny the influence of Moscow in his own election, despite many of the nation’s leading intelligence agencies saying otherwise. When Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians last month for such interference, Trump tweeted that his campaign “did nothing wrong” and once again emphasized that there was “no collusion!” Regardless of the president’s opinions, however, intelligence officials warned last month that Russia was using the internet once again to sow discord among American voters. “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate in February. “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

By Michal Kranz    President Donald Trump had one of his wildest weeks in months. Win McNamee/Getty Images   President Donald Trump has become increasingly emotionally unstable in recent weeks, and his friends blame this on his obsession with TV coverage and defensiveness in the face of perceived attacks against him. "The more pressure put on him and the more isolated he becomes, I think, his ability to do harm is going to increase," one person told the Washington Post. Trump has felt hampered by the Russia investigation and the scandals surrounding his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. His recently unstable demeanor was reflected in freewheeling policy decisions and behaviors this week. President Donald Trump's friends and confidantes are reportedly more worried about his emotional health than ever before. As Trump becomes ever more focused on perceived attacks against him, constantly obsesses over TV coverage, and lashes out at friends and foes alike in public, many close to him say he is approaching "pure madness," according to the Washington Post. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey did not mince his words about Trump's current mental state. "I think the president is starting to wobble in his emotional stability and this is not going to end well," he told the Post. "Trump's judgment is fundamentally flawed, and the more pressure put on him and the more isolated he becomes, I think, his ability to do harm is going to increase." But others say things will likely get worse before they get better. "We haven't bottomed out," one official told the paper. Unprecedented pressure   Hope Hicks is known as the Trump whisperer. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images   The Trump administration has been hampered by a quickening Russia investigation led both by the House Intelligence Committee and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is reportedly working his way "up the food chain" and may be eyeing Trump himself. White House communications director Hope Hicks testified before the committee on Russian election interference on Tuesday, and then announced her resignation on Wednesday. One of the president's closest confidantes who's been with him since the beginning, Hicks' departure will be a huge loss for Trump, who has fewer and fewer close, trusted allies in his White House. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner also lost his "top secret" security clearancethis week and gotten embroiled in several scandals simultaneously. In short, it's been a tough week for Trump. Chaos on the policy front Trump has recently undertaken significant policy measures, like the planned tariffs announced this week on steel and aluminum, without consulting or reviewing them with his advisers. A presidential ally who spoke with CNN said this week is "different" and that the president is spiraling. "This has real economic impact," the source said, referring to the market's rejection of the tariffs. "Something is very wrong." In the words of one official, Trump became "unglued" on Wednesday night. On Thursday, he invited business leaders to the White House without allowing the Secret Service to check their backgrounds and screen them for entry, NBC reports.   President Donald Trump is disappointed with his Attorney General Jeff Sessions.   On Wednesday, Trump had chided Republicans in a meeting for being "afraid of the NRA," and then invited members of the gun rights group to the White House the following night. Trump also escalated his public feud with attorney general Jeff Sessions, attacking him on Twitter Wednesday. Then a photo leaked of Sessions dining with a top official and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation since Sessions recused himself. The Post reported that Trump was "raging" about Sessions' disloyalty to friends the following morning. Former Rep. Timothy Roemer said in many ways, Trump's dark demeanor of late is exactly what voters asked for. "Many people voted for Trump in order to throw a hand grenade into national politics," the Indiana Democrat told The New York Times. "It seems he has done the same thing to Capitol Hill, and no one knows from a tweet to an exchange in an Oval Office meeting what's next."   Source: Business Insider

By Arjun Kharpal    Elliot Broidy, a republican donor, and his wife Robin Rosenzweig, discussed setting up a consulting contract with Jho Low, who is at the center of the 1MDB scandal. The contract proposed a $75 million fee for Broidy and his wife if they could get the Justice Department to drop its probe into 1MDB. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a cache of emails which revealed the connections.     A top republican donor close to President Donald Trump tried to negotiate a $75 million fee from the man at the center of the 1MDB scandal if he could get the U.S. to stop investigating the Malaysian state investment fund, the Wall Street Journal reports. Elliott Broidy, a longtime Republican donor, and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, discussed setting up a consulting contract with Jho Low, who has been accused of embezzling state funds, the WSJ, according to emails that the publication reviewed. One email showed a proposal that would have given Broidy and his wife $75 million if they got the Justice Department to drop its probe into 1MDB. Broidy also prepared talking points for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for his 2017 visit to Washington that included a meeting with Trump. Some of the talking points included talking up Malaysia's relationship with the U.S. in fighting North Korea and arguing against the legal pursuit of 1MDB. Chris Clark of Latham & Watkins LLP, on behalf of Broidy and Rosenzweig told the WSJ in a statement that at not time did "anyone acting on their behalf, discuss Mr. Low's case with President Trump, any member of his staff, or anyone at the U.S. Department of Justice."   Source: CNBC

By Clayton Swisher, Ryan Grim   The real estate firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City. The 30-minute meeting, according to two sources in the financial industry who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the potential transaction, included aides to both parties, and was held at a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. A real estate firm tied to Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment for 666 Fifth Avenue. A follow-up meeting was held the next day in a glass-walled conference room at the Kushner property itself, though Al Emadi did not attend the second gathering in person.  The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff. On Friday afternoon, NBC News reported that in late January and early February, Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. “considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country.” The Gulf crisis involving Qatar and its neighbors will likely be Kushner’s defining foreign policy legacy. The crisis followed a May visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Kushner and President Donald Trump, who subsequently took credit for Saudi Arabia and its allies’ efforts against Qatar. The fallout has reshaped geopolitical alliances in the region, splitting the Gulf Cooperation Council and pushing Qatar, home to the Middle East’s largest U.S. military base, closer to Turkey and Iran.  Mohammed Hitme, chief of staff to the Qatari finance minister, did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment. White House Spokesperson Hope Hicks referred questions to Kushner Companies, whose spokesperson Christine Taylor said, “We don’t comment on who Charlie meets with.” She added, “We don’t do business with any sovereign funds.”  The Kushner Companies meetings with the Qataris were held the week of April 24. While Al Emadi was in New York, he appeared on Bloomberg TV to talk about the strategy of the Qatar Investment Authority, or QIA, the nation’s sovereign wealth fund. A host asked Al Emadi about whether the investment fund did business on the basis of geopolitics. Al Emadi answered the only way he could. “I think if you look at what we do in QIA, or in our sovereign wealth fund, it’s purely commercially driven. So we go where we think we’re going to have value,” he said. “We like what we see here. We performed very well in the last two years. The market has been very good to us. And hopefully we can continue the same strategy in the U.S.” This was not the first time Charles Kushner solicited funds from the Qataris. This was not the first time Charles Kushner solicited funds from the Qataris, but it is the first direct pitch known to be made to the minister of finance himself. Notably, the play came after Trump’s election. The Intercept first reported last summer that Charles Kushner had also propositioned Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al Thani, a prominent businessman who previously served as the country’s foreign minister and prime minister. The deal proffered by HBJ, as he is known, was worth $500 million but ultimately fell through when Kushner Companies failed to secure other outside capital. That 2017 effort followed previous entreaties made in the region by Jared Kushner himself. The news of Kushner Companies’ direct pitch to the Qatari government puts a Wednesday report from the Washington Post into broader context. U.S. intelligence services, the paper reported, had determined that officials in four countries — the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico — had been privately discussing how to use Jared Kushner’s real-estate investments as a way to gain leverage over him in order to influence official U.S. policy. Kushner has divested from a small portion of Kushner Companies, but has retained substantial ownership. A balloon payment due in 2018 on the badly underwater property at 666 Fifth Avenue has been a ticking clock on the fortunes of the Kushner family, precipitating the global hunt for capital. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that the father-son pair, Jared and Charles Kushner, speak on a daily basis. The New York Times reported last month that just prior to Jared Kushner’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia in May 2017, his family real estate company “received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim,” described as one of Israel’s largest financial institutions.

By MARK LANDLER and MAGGIE HABERMAN   President Trump on Thursday at the White House. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times   WASHINGTON — For 13 months in the Oval Office, and in an unorthodox business career before that, Donald J. Trump has thrived on chaos, using it as an organizing principle and even a management tool. Now the costs of that chaos are becoming starkly clear in the demoralized staff and policy disarray of a wayward White House. The dysfunction was on vivid display on Thursday in the president’s introduction of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The previous day, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn, warned the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that he might resign if the president went ahead with the plan, according to people briefed on the discussion. Mr. Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president, had lobbied fiercely against the measures. His threat to leave came during a tumultuous week in which Mr. Trump suffered the departure of his closest aide, Hope Hicks, and the effective demotion of his senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was stripped of his top-secret security clearance. Mr. Trump was forced to deny, through an aide, that he was about to fire his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster. Mr. Kelly summed up the prevailing mood in the West Wing. “God punished me,” he joked of his move from the Department of Homeland Security to the White House during a discussion to mark the department’s 15th anniversary. When White House aides arrived at work on Thursday, they had no clear idea of what Mr. Trump would say about trade. He had summoned steel and aluminum executives to a meeting, but when the White House said only that he would listen to their concerns, it seemed to signal that Mr. Cohn had held off the tariffs. Yet at the end of a photo session, when a reporter asked Mr. Trump about the measures, he confirmed that the United States would announce next week that it is imposing long-term tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The White House has not even completed a legal review of the measures. Mr. Trump’s off-the-cuff opening of a trade war rattled the stock market, enraged Republicans and left Mr. Cohn’s future in doubt. Mr. Cohn, who almost left last year after Mr. Trump’s response to a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va., indicated he was waiting to see whether Mr. Trump goes through with the tariffs, people familiar with his thinking said. The chaotic rollout also reflected the departure of another White House official, Rob Porter, who as the staff secretary had a key role in keeping the paper flowing in the West Wing and who had backed Mr. Cohn in his free-trade views. Mr. Porter was forced out last month after facing accusations of spousal abuse. It was the second day in a row that Mr. Trump blindsided Republicans and his own aides. On Wednesday, in another televised session at the White House, he embraced the stricter gun control measures backed by Democrats and urged lawmakers to revive gun-safety regulations that are opposed by the National Rifle Association and most of his party. But late Thursday, he appeared to have changed his mind again, this time after a meeting with N.R.A. leaders that he described as “great.” “I always said that it was going to take awhile for Donald Trump to adjust as president,” said Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and an old friend of the president’s. In business, he said, Mr. Trump relied on a small circle of colleagues and a management style that amounted to “trial and error — the strongest survived, the weak died.” Mr. Ruddy insisted that Mr. Trump was finding his groove in the Oval Office. But his subordinates are faring less well. With an erratic boss and little in the way of a coherent legislative agenda, they are consumed by infighting, fears of their legal exposure and an ambient sense that the White House is spinning out of control. Mr. Trump is isolated and angry, as well, according to other friends and aides, as he carries on a bitter feud with his attorney general and watches members of his family clash with a chief of staff he recruited to restore a semblance of order — all against the darkening shadow of an investigation of his ties to Russia. The combined effect is taking a toll. Mr. Trump’s instinct during these moments is to return to the populist themes that carried him to the White House, which is why his trade announcement is hardly surprising. Mr. Trump has few fixed views on any issue, but he has been consistent on his antipathy for free trade since the 1980s, when he took out newspaper ads warning about American deficits with Japan — a concern that has shifted to China in recent years. “The W.T.O. has been a disaster for this country,” Mr. Trump said Thursday, asserting that China’s economic rise coincided with its entry into the World Trade Organization. “It has been great for China and terrible for the United States, and great for other countries.” But a president who has long tried to impose his version of reality on the world is finding the limits of that strategy. Without Mr. Porter playing a stopgap role on trade, the debate has been marked by a lack of focus on policy and planning, according to several aides. Morale in the West Wing has sunk to a new low, these people said. In private conversations, Mr. Trump lashes out regularly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a vitriol that stuns members of his staff. Some longtime advisers said that Mr. Trump regards Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as the “original sin,” which the president thinks has left him exposed. Mr. Trump’s children, meanwhile, have grown exasperated with Mr. Kelly, seeing him as a hurdle to their father’s success and as antagonistic to their continued presence, according to several people familiar with their thinking. Anthony Scaramucci, an ally of some in the Trump family, whom Mr. Kelly fired as communications director after only 11 days, intensified his criticism of the chief of staff in a series of news interviews on Wednesday and Thursday. Yet Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family’s real estate company and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded, according to two people familiar with his views. In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with. Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out. To some staff members, the chaos feels reminiscent of the earliest days of the Trump administration. Some argue Mr. Kelly should have carried out a larger staff shake-up when he came in. That has allowed several people to stagnate, particularly in policy roles, one adviser said.   Source: NY Times

By Sara Murray, Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell, CNN     US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump's international business deals, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, according to a US official and a former US official. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump. It's standard procedure to probe foreign contacts and international business deals as part of a background check investigation. But the complexity of the Trump Organization's business deals, which often rely on international financing and buyers, presents a challenge. The FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China, according to a US official.   The development -- a 616-foot beacon dotting the Vancouver skyline and featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa -- opened in February 2017, just after Trump took office. The Trump Organization does not own the building. Instead, like other Trump projects, it receives licensing and marketing fees from the developer, Joo Kim Tiah. A scion of one of Malaysia's wealthiest families, Tiah runs his family's Canada-based development company Holborn Group. President Trump's June financial disclosure form said the Trump Organization made more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property. The $360 million project, which features 147 guest rooms and 217 luxury residences, quickly became a magnet for foreign buyers. In the case of Vancouver, it's not clear why investigators are examining this particular deal. The timing of the deal -- as one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Trump took office -- could be of interest. The flow of foreign money, either from the developer or international condo buyers, could also be sparking scrutiny. Since Kushner took on his role as senior adviser to President Trump, officials in countries including China have discussed ways to use Kushner's web of business deals to manipulate him, according to The Washington Post. "CNN is wrong that any hurdle, obstacle, concern, red flag or problem has been raised with respect to Ms. Trump or her clearance application," said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump's ethics counsel. "Nothing in the new White House policy has changed Ms. Trump's ability to do the same work she has been doing since she joined the Administration." Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, said, "the company's role was and is limited to licensing its brand and managing the hotel. Accordingly, the company would have had no involvement in the financing of the project or the sale of units." White House spokesman Raj Shah declined to comment on Ivanka Trump's security clearance. The FBI declined to comment. The Holborn Group did not respond to requests for comment. Ivanka Trump, the Vancouver dealmaker For the Trumps, deal-making is a family affair. The developer in Vancouver, Tiah, bonded with Donald Trump Jr. But Ivanka Trump played a key role in getting the deal off the ground in 2013, two years before Trump officially launched his presidential bid. Tiah flew to New York for a meeting at Trump Tower. In the board room featured on The Apprentice, they hammered out the contours of the deal.   "One of the senior vice-presidents pulled me aside and said: 'Joo Kim, it's really important in your presentation that you connect with Ivanka. In other words: no one else is in the room, you have to understand that," Tiah recalled at the October 2015 launch of a "Trump Luxe" VIP service for condo residents. "In that meeting, it was clearly just me and Ivanka talking about the project," he recalled. After an agreement was reached, Ivanka Trump recalled at the same event that she worked closely with Tiah: "We were working on a lot on the design elements and really forming the vision." "Ivanka and myself approved everything, everything in this project," Tiah added. Holborn is backed financially by Tony Tiah Thee Kian, chairman of TA Enterprise, which controls several other businesses. The elder Tiah has a checkered business history, including securities laws violations and false statements to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, according to the Malaysia's Securities Commission. Joo Kim is the face of Holborn. As with other Trump properties, the Vancouver tower easily attracted foreign buyers. The Vancouver Sun reported last year that one of the buyers in the project has links to the Chinese government. What does this mean for Mueller? While it is not known whether Ivanka Trump's business deals are of interest to the special counsel's investigation, Mueller has been examining her husband's interactions with foreign investors. Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance amid Mueller's investigation into his contacts with Russians and financial dealings with foreigners. His interim security clearance was downgraded this week from top secret to secret. Because Ivanka Trump and Kushner are married, concerns that arise during one partner's security clearance investigation could stall or block both of them from receiving a full clearance, according to a US official. Any information that arises during the FBI's security clearance checks that could be relevant to the special counsel's investigation would be automatically shared, according to a US official. So far, the first daughter -- one of the President's closest confidants -- has largely managed to escape the glare of the Russia investigation. She has not been called to testify on Capitol Hill. She told NBC she has not met with Mueller for an interview. "Consistently we have said there was no collusion. There was no collusion," Ivanka Trump said in an interview this week with NBC News. "And we believe that Mueller will do his work and reach that same conclusion." But her low profile, particularly when it comes to Mueller's investigation, is baffling to some legal experts. "Why is he not interviewing Ivanka? The answer is, beats me," said Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor who previously worked for Mueller at the Justice Department. "Either he's just biding his time," Zeldin said, "or he has obtained this evidence elsewhere and he doesn't need her, or he appreciates the possibility of a major eruption were he to do that." Ivanka Trump accompanied the President as two key events unfolded that Mueller is looking into as part of an obstruction of justice investigation: the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and the misleading statement about the Trump team's meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in June 2016. While it's unclear what role she played in either of those instances, she may have been privy the President's thinking at the time. Trump's first-born daughter has long served as a trusted adviser, and she and her father often speak several times a day. She worked closely with her father and siblings in the family real estate business and counseled Trump throughout the presidential campaign and transition. She resigned from the Trump Organization in January 2017 and officially joined the White House staff in March. For the most part, congressional investigators have also shown little interest in speaking with Ivanka, although some have pressed for her testimony. Last month, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he'd like to speak with Ivanka Trump. But GOP members of the committee haven't backed his request to interview her. "I think it would be valuable for her to testify and come before the committee," Schiff said.

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