Political Roundup

In this week’s headlines…

Trump campaign deputy manager Rick Gates has been at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in trying to prove the Trump campaign’s connection to Russia. This week new information came from the Mueller investigation that Gates was in contact with one of Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s close colleagues, who worked for a Russian intelligence agency. Reportedly, Gates was aware of that fact in September and October of 2016 when he was part of the Trump campaign (CNN, “Source: Mueller pushed for Gates’ help on collusion,” 03.30.2018).

Head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt has sent Trump a proposition for lowering fuel efficiency standards. This would be very beneficial to the auto industry and would dramatically undercut one of Former President Obama’s biggest actions against climate change (Reuters, “EPA poised to announce rejection of Obama vehicle fuel efficiency rules,” 03.29.2018).

Trump announced on Thursday, March 29 that U.S. troops will be leaving Syria very soon. The President’s statement came only hours after the Pentagon’s recommendation that the U.S. remain in Syria. The Pentagon was not informed of the decision prior to the speech (CNN, “Trump says the US will withdraw from Syria ‘very soon,’” 03.29.2018).

After President Trump imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, China, on April 2, established tariffs on U.S. imports. The Chinese tariffs will affect 128 products including fruits, nuts and recycled aluminum, which are worth about $3 billion. While China claims that the tariffs are violating global trade rules, Trump argues they are a national security necessity. While the two countries have been holding trade talks, Trump has threatened further tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports (CNN Money, “China hits the United States with tariffs on $3 billion of exports,” 04.02.2018; “Tariffs, Trump and trade wars: Here’s what it all means,” 03.09.2018).

South Korea obtained an exemption from the tariffs imposed by President Trump by re-negotiating their current trade deal with the U.S. Under the new deal, the tariffs have been extended on the truck manufacturers and new quotas have been imposed on South Korea’s steel exports. Moreover, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Canada and the European Union have also obtained exemptions from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum (The Economist, “Even if America wins concessions, worry,” 03.28.2018).

Trump attacked Amazon last week, accusing the company on Twitter of paying almost no taxes. Officially, the attack on the retail giant comes as part of the policy of protecting small businesses. However, many questions have been raised regarding whether the motive behind the attack could be Trump’s personal dislike for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post, a newspaper that has publicly criticized Trump (Financial Times, “Amazon respite as big tech stocks bounce,” 03.29.2018).

A Facebook memo called “The Ugly” was leaked on March 29. In it, Facebook Vice President Andrew Bosworth wrote that Facebook’s goal of connecting people should continue and will always be a worthy objective, even if it sometimes results in negative consequences such as loss of life (Financial Times, “Facebook memo outlines ‘ugly truth’ behind its mission,” 03.29.2018).

Moreover, America’s Federal Trade Commission recently opened an investigation into Facebook’s privacy policies. This comes as a result of the scandal in which the data of 50 million Facebook users was obtained by the political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. Mark Zuckerberg has been asked to testify before Congress. The scandal is raising the question of how much responsibility Facebook should hold in the data breach, and many are anticipating increased regulation of social media. These scandals caused a significant drop in Facebook’s share price. As the protest against the mishandling of users’ personal data has ramped up in the past few weeks, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook has spread on social media (The Economist, “Getting a handle on a scandal,” 03.28.2018.)

Luxury car manufacturer Tesla recalled around 123,000 cars due to a potential steering fault. This represents the largest-ever vehicle recall for the company. Moreover, Tesla’s shares fell by eight percent due to Moody’s downgrade of their credit rating. This comes as a result of low production of the new Model 3 electric car and a rise in concern regarding self-driving vehicles after a deadly crash of one of their Model X cars last week (Financial Times, “Tesla recalls 123,000 Model S sedans,” 03.29.2018)

Around the world…

After the alleged Russian poisoning of the Russian former secret agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England, U.S., UK and several other European countries are expelling more than 100 Russian diplomats. Russia is responding by expelling around 150 Western diplomats, as well as closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. Both Skripals are still in the hospital, and while Yulia Skripal is improving rapidly, her father remains in critical, but stable condition. (Financial Times, “Russia to expel more than 150 western diplomats,” 03.30.2018)

On April 27, a high-level summit between North and South Korea will be held for the first time in a decade. This is a historic achievement in the relations between the two countries and could be a step in the direction of resolving a decades-old stand-off between the two countries and minimizing the threat of nuclear attack by North Korea (Financial Times, “Koreas lay groundwork for Kim-Moon summit,” 03.29.2018)

Keeping up with 2020 hopefuls…

A poll by SSRS for CNN revealed on [date] that Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently the most popular presidential candidate among Democrats, with 84 percent saying they are very likely or somewhat likely to support his possible nomination. The second in the polls was Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with 75 percent, and third place went to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with 68 percent. Three younger Democrats also rumored to be considering a presidential bid are Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), who obtained 58 percent, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who obtained 50 percent, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who obtained 48 percent (CNN Politics, “#2020Vision: Biden a popular 2020 pick; Holder plans early 2019 decision; Harris schedules several big appearances,” 04.01.2018)

On April 2, prospective Republican nominees, Ohio Governor John Kasich and entrepreneur Mark Cuban visited Ohio State University to discuss automation and innovation in the workplace. Both Kasich and Cuban are vocal critics of Trump and are reported to be considering challenging him in the 2020 Republican primaries (CNN Politics, “#2020Vision: Biden a popular 2020 pick; Holder plans early 2019 decision; Harris schedules several big appearances,” 04.01.2018)


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