FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland takes part in a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland May 7, 2019. Mandel Ngan/POOL via REUTERS/File Photo
May 18, 2019
By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada will move quickly to ratify the new North American trade pact, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Saturday, a day after the United States agreed to lift tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
U.S. President Donald Trump had imposed the global “Section 232” tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum in March 2018 on both Canada and Mexico on national security grounds, invoking a 1962 Cold War-era trade law.
The metals tariffs were a major irritant for Canada and Mexico and had caused them to halt progress toward ratification of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the trilateral trade deal signed last year which will replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“We were very clear that as long as the 232 tariffs were there it would be very, very hard for us to ratify the new NAFTA, and that is why we did not table the legislation,” Freeland said in an interview broadcast by CBC radio.
“Now that that big obstacle is lifted, full steam ahead,” she said, without saying when the agreement would be presented to parliament, which closes down in June ahead of an October national election.
“I hope all members of the house will support this agreement,” she added.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday he would meet with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on May 30 to discuss “advancing” ratification.
While several U.S. Democrats applauded removal of the tariffs, some on Friday said USMCA was not yet ready for their support.
“When it comes to the new agreement, House Democrats continue to have a number of substantial concerns related to labor, environment, enforcement, and access to affordable medicines provisions. Those issues still need to be remedied,” said U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal on Friday.
Freeland said Canada was in the process of reaching out to American Democrats to allay their concerns.
“We have been meeting with many leading Democrats to talk to them about the new NAFTA,” Freeland said. “We have a good, strong conversation happening.”
Despite the breakthrough on tariffs and the USMCA agreement last year, Freeland said Canada was still worried about U.S. protectionism.
“I am still concerned about U.S. protectionism and I think it would be naive for anyone to think that there is any kind of permanent safety or security. The reality is that this U.S. administration is openly, explicitly, and proudly protectionist,” Freeland said.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by James Dalgleish)
Vice President Mike Pence was quoting the words of Jesus Christ while warning graduating students at Liberty University they will face religious persecution, and it was a “great message” to them, the Rev. Franklin Graham said Monday.
“Jesus said in John, Chapter 15. [When] He was talking to His disciples, His followers, that ‘If the world hates you, remember they hated me first,'” Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “He went on to warn them that ‘if they persecuted me, they are going to persecute you.'”
Graham said he appreciates that Pence quoted scripture and he is proud of him for speaking out.
“That was a great message to these students to remind them to be ready and be prepared,” Graham said.
He also addressed a comment made last week by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., when he said in a statement promoting his gun license proposal that he is “sick and tired of hearing thoughts and prayers for the communities that have been shattered by gun violence ― it is time for bold action.”
“It’s obvious he doesn’t understand the power of prayer,” Graham said. “God hears prayer. He understands prayer. And, listen, you can take all the guns in the world and collect them. People are still going to murder. People are still going to kill you.”
“You can take all the guns and put them in Central Park and have a mountain of guns,” Graham said. “The human heart has to change. And not one gun is going to walk out of the park and shoot somebody.”
Source: NewsMax America
Attorney General William Barr’s refusal to testify before the House Judiciary Committee last week doesn’t mark a “constitutional crisis,” despite Democrats’ claims, Vice President Mike Pence said Friday.
“This is not a constitutional crisis. Pence, who had represented Indiana in the House from 2001-2013, told Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” “This can be resolved. We’ll leave it to the attorney general to work out arrangements. But it’s time to dial down the rhetoric on Capitol Hill.”
Barr refused to testify before the committee because Democrats had agreed to allow him to be questioned by committee staff and attorneys rather than by members themselves. Pence said Friday that as a committee member for more than a decade under both Democratic and Republican presidents, he cannot remember any time when a cabinet member was questioned by committee staff.
Pence, who was interviewed in Minnesota, said he is touring the state to talk about trade, manufacturing, farming, and the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
“We have the USMCA that levels the playing field for American manufacturing, for American steel,” he said, “and it’s absolutely essential that the American people let the Congress know that they need to enact the USMCA this year. “
He also commented about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s subpoena of Donald Trump Jr., saying that for the past years, the Trump administration has fully cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller, and it’s “frustrating to millions of Americans” that the investigations are continuing.
Pence further Friday called for House Democratic leadership to remove freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee after he comments about Israel and for her blaming the United States for the problems in Venezuela.
Source: NewsMax Politics
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks on a range of subjects during an event to discuss a proposal to end surprise medical billing in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
May 10, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he was in “absolutely no rush” to finalize a trade agreement with China as negotiators from both countries prepared to continue talks in Washington, in a sign that discussions could go past this week.
In a blizzard of early-morning tweets, Trump defended his decision to slap additional levies on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, which went into effect earlier Friday, and said the tariffs would boost the United States more than any trade deal.
He also appeared to take aim at U.S. businesses for importing goods or parts from China, calling on them to make more products domestically to avoid paying any extra costs.
“Tariffs will bring in FAR MORE wealth to our country than even a phenomenal deal of the traditional kind,” Trump said in a tweet.
U.S. and Chinese officials are to resume negotiations on Friday morning for a second day as the world’s two largest economies seek an agreement.
“Talks with China continue in a very congenial manner – there is absolutely no need to rush,” Trump said. “We will continue to negotiate with China in the hopes that they do not again try to redo deal!”
“China should not renegotiate deals with the U.S. at the last minute,” he said.
Trump has erroneously insisted China would pay the tariffs but it is U.S. businesses that will shoulder the costs. Some have so far absorbed the levies but prices are up on numerous products as companies pass off the charges to consumers.
U.S. farmers and others are feeling the pinch from previous retaliatory tariffs imposed on their products by Beijing.
China on Friday also threatened to take measures in response to the latest additional tariffs imposed by Trump but gave no other details.
Trump struck a conciliatory note with the U.S. agriculture sector, promising to use federal funds to buy additional American farm products for overseas humanitarian aid.
But any funds from the U.S. tariffs would go into the U.S. Treasury’s general fund, and Congress – not the White House – directs U.S. spending.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, in an interview with Fox News taped on Thursday, sounded upbeat on a possible agreement.
“We believe a deal is possible,” he said in the interview that aired on Friday.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Jeff Mason; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Trott)
President Donald Trump promised an increase in emergency funding for Florida with some ribbing from state lawmakers Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Politico reports.
“No games, no gimmicks, no delays, we’re just doing it,” Trump said Thursday during a speech in Panama Beach.
“We’re not going to let anybody hold it up. . . . With Florida, you drive on. With Puerto Rico, it’s a little tougher.”
During a flight on Air Force One to Panama Beach on Wednesday, Rep. Gaetz and Sen. Rubio persuaded Trump to shell out more in hurricane aid for the state.
“They were worried about setting a precedent,” said Gaetz, referring to a 75 percent cost-share limit set by federal regulation.
“[Rubio] told the president a Category 5 storm is something different, and it’s something that has never happened in the Panhandle,” Gaetz added. “Our economy has tourism, it has military, and it has agricultural, and all three legs of that stool were knocked out.”
The House is expected to vote Friday on a multibillion-dollar disaster aid package for recent disasters including tornadoes, wildfires, and Hurricanes Florence, Michael, Harvey, and Irma. It includes an additional $3 billion for flooding in the Midwest and funding for Puerto Rico. Trump’s opposition to more hurricane aid for Puerto Rico has sparked a standoff with Democrats, though Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday signaled a willingness to drop objections to the bill.
Trump tweeted Thursday: “House Republicans should not vote for the BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill which hurts our States, Farmers & Border Security. We want to do much better than this. All sides keep working and send a good BILL for immediate signing!” he added.
Source: NewsMax America
Founder, Chairman, CEO and President of Amazon Jeff Bezos gives a thumbs up as he speaks during an event about Blue Origin’s space exploration plans in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
May 9, 2019
By Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, founder of rocket company Blue Origin, unveiled on Thursday a mockup of a lunar lander spacecraft and discussed missions to the moon in a strategy tailored to the U.S. government’s renewed push to establish a lunar outpost in just five years.
Bezos, the world’s richest man and also chief executive and founder of Amazon.com, told a rare media event in Washington that the lander, named Blue Moon, could deliver payloads to the moon’s surface and deploy payloads during journey to Moon.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in March called on NASA to build a space platform in lunar orbit and put American astronauts on the moon’s south pole by 2024 “by any means necessary,” four years earlier than previously planned.
“I love this,” Bezos said of Pence’s timeline. “We can help meet that timeline but only because we started three years ago. It’s time to go back to the moon, this time to stay.”
During his hour-long presentation at Washington’s convention center, Bezos waved his arm and a black drape behind him dropped to reveal the two-story-tall unmanned lander mockup, which he said can deploy up to four smaller rovers and shoot out satellites to orbit the moon.
“This is an incredible vehicle and it’s going to the moon,” he added.
Bezos unveiled a model of one of the proposed rovers, which was roughly the size of a golf cart. Bezos also presented a new rocket engine called BE-7, which can blast 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg) of thrust.
Privately held Blue Origin, based in Kent, Washington, is developing its New Shepard rocket for short space tourism trips and a heavy-lift launch rocket called New Glenn for satellite launch contracts. It is aiming to deliver the New Glenn rocket by 2021, while launching humans in a suborbital flight later this year atop its rocket-and-capsule New Shepard.
Blue Origin has also previously discussed a human outpost on the moon.
NASA has already set its sights on the moon’s south pole, a region believed to hold enough recoverable ice water for use in synthesizing additional rocket fuel as well as for drinking water.
Bezos, who has talked about his broader vision of enabling a future in which millions of people live and work in space, has been intent on moving Blue Origin closer to commercialization.
His announcement came about two months before the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, and he began his presentation with video of that event.
Bezos spoke of the importance of future human colonization of space and mentioned two important issues: reducing launch costs and using resources already in space.
“One of the most important things we know about the moon today is that there’s water there,” Bezos said. “It’s in the form of ice. It’s in the permanently shadowed craters on the poles of the moon.”
His vision is shared by other billionaire-backed private space ventures like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and aerospace incumbents like United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin.
While Bezos is angling to become a leading player in space exploration and win business from the U.S. government, he has been the target of repeated criticism from President Donald Trump, who has referred to him as Jeff “Bozo.” Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which Trump has frequently targeted in his broadsides about “fake news.”
(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington, D.C.; Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Will Dunham and Leslie Adler)
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country’s rightful interim ruler, arrives on stage to deliver a speech during a meeting with workers of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA in Caracas, Venezuela, May 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
May 9, 2019
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Wednesday that intelligence agents had detained his deputy, the first arrest of a lawmaker since Guaido tried to spark a military uprising last week to bring down President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which Guaido heads, said on Twitter that agents from the SEBIN intelligence agency were using a tow truck to drag his vehicle, with him inside, to one of their Caracas bases.
On Tuesday, Venezuela’s pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly ruled to strip Zambrano, and six other lawmakers, of their parliamentary immunity to allow their future prosecution.
The Supreme Court had earlier accused the lawmakers of conspiracy, rebellion and treason, and on Wednesday accused three other opposition legislators of the same crimes. The opposition says Maduro has stacked the court with his own supporters, and the U.S. government this week threatened to sanction all its members.
An attempted uprising last week led by Guaido, recognized as the legitimate head of state by the United States and other Western countries, failed to dislodge Maduro, as have a series of U.S. sanctions against his government. Maduro decried the events as an attempted coup.
“One of the principal conspirators of the coup has just been arrested,” Diosdado Cabello, head of the Constituent Assembly, said in comments broadcast on state television.
“They will have to pay before the courts for the failed coup that they attempted,” he said.
Zambrano said on Twitter that SEBIN agents had surrounded his vehicle by the headquarters of his Democratic Action party in Caracas’ La Florida district.
“We were surprised by the SEBIN, and after refusing to let us leave our vehicle, they used a tow truck to forcibly transfer us directly to the (SEBIN headquarters) Helicoide,” he said. It was not yet clear if Zambrano was already at the Helicoide.
“The regime has kidnapped the first vice president,” Guaido said on Twitter.
Guaido in January invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, denouncing Maduro as illegitimate after he secured re-election last year in a vote widely viewed as fraudulent. The Constituent Assembly removed Guaido’s parliamentary immunity in early April, but authorities have not tried to arrest him since then.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Supreme Court’s head, Maikel Moreno, rebuffed the U.S. government’s threats to sanction his court’s members if they did not reject Maduro’s government and Guaido.
The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions in 2017 on Moreno and the seven principal members of the court’s constitutional chamber for rulings that “usurped the authority” of the National Assembly.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday the Trump administration would soon sanction the 25 remaining members of the court. Pence said on Tuesday that the United States was lifting economic sanctions on a former Venezuelan general who turned against Maduro in order to encourage other Maduro allies to follow suit.
(Reporting by Angus Berwick and Mayela Armas; Editing by Peter Cooney, Rosalba O’Brien and Lisa Shumaker)
President Donald Trump has signed off on a new immigration plan being spearheaded by senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner that appeared to receive a positive reception from Republican senators briefed on it Tuesday.
A senior administration official told reporters after the meeting that the president had approved the effort to overhaul America’s immigration system and increase border security last week and that it should now be considered “the President Trump plan.”
Kushner is working to finalize a plan with two major components: Border security measures that would include efforts to secure ports of entry and a package of immigration proposals that would create a more “merit-based” system giving preference to those with job skills rather than relatives of immigrants already in the country. Under the plan, the same number of immigrants would be permitted to enter the country, but the composition would change.
The White House is also working with Sen. Lindsey Graham on additional legislation that would address the nation’s asylum system in an effort to stem the flow of migrants across the border, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to outline the plan.
Several GOP senators who attended complimented the effort, which the White House deemed “productive.” Democrats were not in attendance.
“The president and senators discussed a potential plan that would secure the border, protect and raise wages for the American worker, and move toward a merit-based immigration system,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a written readout of the meeting.
Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona complimented Kushner and the White House.
“They have done substantial work,” she told Fox News in an interview at the White House after the meeting.
After he returned to the Capitol, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas described a “very good productive conversation. … I heard large areas of agreement from everyone in the room.” Cotton said he still needs to see the details but things are “moving in the right direction.”
And Sen, Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota called it a “good starting point” that could be appealing to Democrats in the right situation.
“I think the environment right now with the booming economy, workforce demands, a crisis at the border that’s no longer deemed manufactured presents an opportunity for discussion,” he said.
Any immigration plan will be an uphill challenge on Capitol Hill where lawmakers have struggled for decades to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. Conservative Republicans are likely to oppose a plan that does not cut rates of legal immigration, while Democrats have made clear they will not accept changes without new protections of “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the country as children and are here illegally. Some Republicans, especially those from election swing states, would like to see protections for Dreamers as well.
Some have also reacted skeptically to Kushner’s involvement, given he has no previous background on the contentious subject. Kushner has nonetheless spent months meeting with various Republican groups, hoping to put together a proposal he believes can unite party members, following the playbook he used to help pass bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation last year.
Grassley, who favors stricter immigration enforcement, kept expectations in check before the meeting.
“Well I think anything I’m looking for they probably won’t have any chance of getting passed,” he told reporters.
Kushner said during an interview at the TIME 100 Summit two weeks ago that he would present a revised version to Trump “probably at the end of this week, next week” and that the president would then “make some changes, likely, and then he’ll decide what he wants to do with it when he wants to do with it.”
“My hope is that we can really do something that unifies people around what we’re for on immigration,” he said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday described the plan as “fairly comprehensive” and said it could include changes to the diversity visa lottery, which Trump has long criticized.
She also told Fox News Channel that Trump might be open to a deal that would address the plight of hundreds of thousands of “Dreamer” immigrants who were brought to the country as children and are here illegally.
“We’ll see,” she said, later telling reporters, “The president made very clear in January 2018 in the Cabinet Room that he was willing to do a deal on DACA and the Dreamers.”
A previous attempt by Trump to reach a comprehensive immigration deal with Congress collapsed last year and there is deep skepticism in Washington that there is any appetite on Capitol Hill for a wide-ranging agreement.
Trump put immigration at the center of his presidential campaign, including a promise to build a wall along the U.S-Mexico border. He is expected to continue to hammer the issue in his re-election campaign as he tries to energize his base of supporters.
At a lunch meeting of GOP senators, Vice President Mike Pence said support is growing for the White House’s approach on border security.
“He thinks that’s really turned in our favor,” said Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that the United States has lifted sanctions on Venezuelan General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, the former chief of the South American country’s intelligence service, who last week turned against President Nicolas Maduro.
“We hope this action will encourage others to follow the example of General Cristopher Figuera and other members of the military,” Pence said in a speech prepared for a conference at the State Department.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence President delivers remarks to the National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action’s (NRA-ILA) 148th annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
May 7, 2019
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is set on Tuesday to offer new incentives to Venezuela’s military to turn against President Nicolas Maduro, responding to an attempted uprising that fizzled out last week, a senior administration official told Reuters.
In a speech to the Americas Society at the State Department, scheduled for 3:25 p.m. (1925 GMT), Pence will also warn that the United States will soon move to sanction 25 additional magistrates on Venezuela’s supreme court, the official said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Pence will also offer assistance for refugees who have fled the country, and an economic aid package contingent on a political transition, according to the official.
Pence’s speech will be the first look at the Trump administration’s recalibrated strategy following massive street protests last week led by Juan Guaido, the opposition leader backed by the United States and most other Western countries.
Guaido had described the protests as the start of his “final phase” to oust Maduro, but mass military defections failed to come to fruition.
President Donald Trump has invested considerable political capital in the diplomatic and economic intervention in the Venezuela crisis.
Although Guaido’s attempted uprising failed to immediately dislodge Maduro, it exposed new fissures within the country, the official said.
“A week before last, all the media – including you guys, everybody – was writing about how there’s no way forward, complete stalemate,” the official said.
“Suddenly last week, everyone woke up.”
NEW CARROTS, AND A STICK
Guaido, the president of the country’s national assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution in January to declare himself interim president of the country, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
Maduro – who has said Guaido is a puppet of Washington – has sought to show that the military remains on his side, but opposition leaders and U.S. officials have said that support is tenuous.
“They sat back in the barracks and they’re there, but they don’t want to be identified as the institutional source of repression,” the official said.
Pence will offer new “carrots” to the Venezuelan military, the senior official told Reuters, declining to provide details of the incentives ahead of the speech.
“He’ll be showing where the opportunities lay if people do the right thing moving forward,” the official said.
Pence is also set to outline new assistance for Venezuelans who have fled the oil-rich OPEC member, which has been plagued by hyperinflation and shortages of food, water, power and medicine – and a “Day One” economic assistance plan for Venezuela contingent on Maduro’s departure, the official added.
The vice president in addition will deliver a “warning shot” to magistrates on Venezuela’s supreme court. The Treasury Department sanctioned the court’s president, Maikel Moreno, in 2017 and the seven principal members of its constitutional chamber – and is now preparing to sanction the 25 remaining members of the court, the official said.
“We feel like that’s where the pressure needs to be,” according to the official.
“All 32 magistrates in the TSJ are going to sink or swim together,” the official said, using the acronym for Tribunal Supremo de Justicia.
The court would be responsible for signing off on any warrant for an arrest of Guaido – a move the U.S. official emphasized would have severe consequences.
The United States imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in January. Oil provides 90 percent of export revenue for Venezuela.
The administration also continues to work on other responses to increase financial pressure on Maduro, including “secondary sanctions” on companies from other countries that do business with Venezuela, and additional shipping sanctions for oil, the official said.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney)