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Trump: ‘Hard for Me to Imagine’ Kavanaugh Assaulted Teen in 1982

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “it’s very hard for me to imagine” that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a teenage girl 36 years ago when both were in high school, an alleged attack the woman says left her fearful for her life.

Trump said he hopes Kavanaugh’s accuser, California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, testifies at a hearing next Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering Kavanaugh’s nomination for a life-time seat on the country’s highest court.

“I really want to see her, to see what she has to say,” Trump said of Ford, now 51. The U.S. leader said it “would be unfortunate” if she does not appear.

Ford’s lawyers late Tuesday called for an FBI probe of her claims before she testifies, but Trump and Republicans that control the Senate panel say an FBI investigation is unnecessary. Kavanaugh, who says he will appear at the Senate panel’s hearing, has adamantly denied knowledge of the purported 1982 party at a suburban Washington home and said he has never attacked any woman.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House as he headed to North Carolina to view vast flood damage from Hurricane Florence, praised the 53-year-old Kavanaugh as “an extraordinary man.” But Trump said “it’s really up to the Senate” to decide how to proceed with the confirmation process.

Meanwhile, Anita Hill, the law professor at the center of lurid 1991 confirmation hearings involving Clarence Thomas as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, supported Ford’s call for an FBI investigation of her claims.

Hill told ABC’s “Good Morning America” show, “The American public really is expecting something more. They want to know that the Senate takes this seriously.”

Hill, now a law professor at Brandeis University, said Republican leaders are in an unnecessary rush to confirm Kavanaugh.

“Either they don’t take this seriously,” she said, “or … they just want to get it over. I’m not sure which is in play. Maybe they’re not concerned, or maybe they don’t know how to handle this kind of situation.”

The specter of Hill’s allegations 27 years ago that Thomas often sexually harassed her when they both worked for a federal government agency hangs heavy over the current Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings.

 Hill’s accusations were largely dismissed then by the all-male Senate committee, but many American women sympathized with her claims against Thomas, saying they resonated with their own experiences in the workplace. Thomas was confirmed on a narrow Senate vote and remains a conservative stalwart on the court to this day.

The chairman of the Senate panel, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, said, “The invitation for Monday still stands” for both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify.

“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” Grassley said. “Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”

Republican lawmakers are trying to win Senate confirmation for Kavanaugh ahead of the court’s start of a new term on October 1, or if not by then, ahead of the November 6 nationwide congressional elections, to show Republican voters they have made good on campaign promises to place conservative judges like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

Ford’s lawyers told Grassley in a letter late Tuesday that some of the senators on the committee “appear to have made up their minds” and believe Kavanaugh.

“A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” the letter said.

Death threats

The lawyers also said Ford has become the subject of death threats and harassment, and expressed fears that the committee planned to have her “relive this traumatic and harrowing incident” while testifying at the same table as Kavanaugh and in front of national television cameras.

“Nobody should be subject to threats and intimidation, and Dr. Ford is no exception,” Grassley said in a statement later Tuesday.

The Republican senator said there were no plans to have Ford and Kavanaugh appear at the same time, and that the committee had offered her the opportunity to appear before a private hearing.

Ford alleged in a Washington Post interview that Kavanaugh groped her at the house party when she was 15 and he was 17. 

She said Kavanaugh, “stumbling drunk,” threw her down on a bed, grinding his body against hers and trying to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she was wearing over it. Ford said when she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth.

She said she feared Kavanaugh might inadvertently kill her before she managed to flee.

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Oregon Using Facebook to Remind Inactive Voters to Register

In this era of manipulators using social media to interfere in elections, Oregon officials moved Tuesday to use Facebook to bolster participation by reminding as many as hundreds of thousands of inactive voters to update their registration.

“Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to empower eligible voters isn’t just something we can do — it’s something we must do if we’re serious about outreach,” Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said in announcing what he called the first-of-its-kind program.

The initiative comes as Facebook tries to recover from a privacy scandal in which a political consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump improperly accessed the data of tens millions of Facebook users.

In addition, California-based Facebook stepped up policing of its social network after authorities said Russian agents ran political influence operations on its platform aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook applauded the Oregon initiative.

“We’re glad the Oregon Secretary of State’s office is able to use Facebook to help reach inactive voters and let them know how they can cast a ballot this fall,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.

Oregon law

Oregonians can become inactive voters after being mailed a ballot or other election material that is returned as undeliverable; not voting or registering in 10 years or as few as five years in some counties; if their ballot has been challenged; or if they’re imprisoned on a felony conviction.

Under Oregon law, the right to vote is restored upon release from incarceration. Oregonians receive ballots by mail and can either mail them back completed or deposit them in drop boxes.

Richardson’s chief of staff Deb Royal said the inactive voter list was cross-referenced with Facebook users who are Oregon residents.

“Facebook users who meet those two criteria will see the placement,” Royal said in an email. Oregon has 447,000 inactive voters, Royal said.

Having inactive status means a person is still registered to vote but won’t receive a ballot unless he or she provides a county with updated registration information to return their registration status to active. An inactive-status voter can also complete an online voter registration form at OregonVotes.gov to become active again.

Video outreach

As of August, 2.7 million people were registered to vote in Oregon — a 3 percent increase over 2017, according to elections division statistics. Oregon’s total population is around 4.1 million.

The video outreach features Richardson speaking directly to voters who have been listed as inactive, encouraging them to update their registration to receive a ballot in the mail. A link will be included for voters to take care of their registration, Royal said.

“Recent digital advances have created voter outreach opportunities never previously imagined,” Richardson said. A Republican, he holds the second-highest state office, second only to Democratic Governor Kate Brown in this predominantly blue state.

The outreach will run until the voter registration deadline on Oct. 16, his office said.

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Oregon Using Facebook to Remind Inactive Voters to Register

In this era of manipulators using social media to interfere in elections, Oregon officials moved Tuesday to use Facebook to bolster participation by reminding as many as hundreds of thousands of inactive voters to update their registration.

“Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to empower eligible voters isn’t just something we can do — it’s something we must do if we’re serious about outreach,” Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said in announcing what he called the first-of-its-kind program.

The initiative comes as Facebook tries to recover from a privacy scandal in which a political consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump improperly accessed the data of tens millions of Facebook users.

In addition, California-based Facebook stepped up policing of its social network after authorities said Russian agents ran political influence operations on its platform aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook applauded the Oregon initiative.

“We’re glad the Oregon Secretary of State’s office is able to use Facebook to help reach inactive voters and let them know how they can cast a ballot this fall,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.

Oregon law

Oregonians can become inactive voters after being mailed a ballot or other election material that is returned as undeliverable; not voting or registering in 10 years or as few as five years in some counties; if their ballot has been challenged; or if they’re imprisoned on a felony conviction.

Under Oregon law, the right to vote is restored upon release from incarceration. Oregonians receive ballots by mail and can either mail them back completed or deposit them in drop boxes.

Richardson’s chief of staff Deb Royal said the inactive voter list was cross-referenced with Facebook users who are Oregon residents.

“Facebook users who meet those two criteria will see the placement,” Royal said in an email. Oregon has 447,000 inactive voters, Royal said.

Having inactive status means a person is still registered to vote but won’t receive a ballot unless he or she provides a county with updated registration information to return their registration status to active. An inactive-status voter can also complete an online voter registration form at OregonVotes.gov to become active again.

Video outreach

As of August, 2.7 million people were registered to vote in Oregon — a 3 percent increase over 2017, according to elections division statistics. Oregon’s total population is around 4.1 million.

The video outreach features Richardson speaking directly to voters who have been listed as inactive, encouraging them to update their registration to receive a ballot in the mail. A link will be included for voters to take care of their registration, Royal said.

“Recent digital advances have created voter outreach opportunities never previously imagined,” Richardson said. A Republican, he holds the second-highest state office, second only to Democratic Governor Kate Brown in this predominantly blue state.

The outreach will run until the voter registration deadline on Oct. 16, his office said.

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Mattis Dismisses Reports He May Be Leaving Trump Administration

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday flatly dismissed reports suggesting he may be leaving President Donald Trump’s  administration in the coming months, saying flatly: “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all.”

“How many times have we been through this, now, just since I’ve been here? It will die down soon, and the people who started the rumor will be allowed to write the next rumor, too,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Just the way the town is,” he added. “Keep a sense of humor about it.”

The remarks were the most direct by Mattis to date about intensifying rumors about his future as Trump approaches the half-way mark of his four-year term amid speculation about changes to his cabinet after upcoming November mid-term elections.

Mattis has become a focus in media stories in recent weeks about the Trump administration, particularly after the release of a book this month by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward that portrayed Mattis privately disparaging Trump to associates.

Mattis strongly denied making any such remarks. Trump on Sept. 5 said he defense chief would remain in his job, adding: “He’ll stay right there. We’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories.”

But a New York Times report on Sept. 15 said Trump had “soured on his defense secretary, weary of unfavorable comparisons to Mattis as the adult in the room.”

It also noted this year’s arrival in the White House of Mira Ricardel, who now has the powerful post of deputy national security adviser and who current and former officials tell Reuters is believed to dislike Mattis.

Western officials privately extol Mattis, whose standing among NATO allies has risen as they become increasingly bewildered by Trump’s policies on trade and Iran and disoriented by his outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Inside-The-Beltway Journalism

Mattis has a dim view of journalism about inside-the-beltway politics in Washington, using the word “fiction” to describe Woodward’s book and similar reporting about closed-door conversations among U.S. national security leaders.

Asked about the recent reports speculating about his departure, Mattis said: “It’s like most of those kinds of things in this town.

“Somebody cooks up a headline. They then call to a normally chatty class of people. They find a couple of other things to put in. They add the rumors… Next thing you know, you’ve got a story,” he said.

Still, Mattis is not political by nature, and previously made no secret of the fact that he was not looking to become secretary of defense – or even return to Washington – when Trump was elected.

The retired Marine general had stepped down from the military in 2013 and taken a job at Stanford University. He told his Senate confirmation hearing last year he was “enjoying a full life west of the Rockies” when the call came about the position.

After answering questions about his future, Mattis was asked whether he never considered life after the Pentagon. Mattis joked: “Of course I don’t think about leaving.”

“I love it here,” he said with a smile. “I’m thinking about retiring right here. I’ll get a little place here down on the Potomac.”

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Mattis Dismisses Reports He May Be Leaving Trump Administration

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday flatly dismissed reports suggesting he may be leaving President Donald Trump’s  administration in the coming months, saying flatly: “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all.”

“How many times have we been through this, now, just since I’ve been here? It will die down soon, and the people who started the rumor will be allowed to write the next rumor, too,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Just the way the town is,” he added. “Keep a sense of humor about it.”

The remarks were the most direct by Mattis to date about intensifying rumors about his future as Trump approaches the half-way mark of his four-year term amid speculation about changes to his cabinet after upcoming November mid-term elections.

Mattis has become a focus in media stories in recent weeks about the Trump administration, particularly after the release of a book this month by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward that portrayed Mattis privately disparaging Trump to associates.

Mattis strongly denied making any such remarks. Trump on Sept. 5 said he defense chief would remain in his job, adding: “He’ll stay right there. We’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories.”

But a New York Times report on Sept. 15 said Trump had “soured on his defense secretary, weary of unfavorable comparisons to Mattis as the adult in the room.”

It also noted this year’s arrival in the White House of Mira Ricardel, who now has the powerful post of deputy national security adviser and who current and former officials tell Reuters is believed to dislike Mattis.

Western officials privately extol Mattis, whose standing among NATO allies has risen as they become increasingly bewildered by Trump’s policies on trade and Iran and disoriented by his outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Inside-The-Beltway Journalism

Mattis has a dim view of journalism about inside-the-beltway politics in Washington, using the word “fiction” to describe Woodward’s book and similar reporting about closed-door conversations among U.S. national security leaders.

Asked about the recent reports speculating about his departure, Mattis said: “It’s like most of those kinds of things in this town.

“Somebody cooks up a headline. They then call to a normally chatty class of people. They find a couple of other things to put in. They add the rumors… Next thing you know, you’ve got a story,” he said.

Still, Mattis is not political by nature, and previously made no secret of the fact that he was not looking to become secretary of defense – or even return to Washington – when Trump was elected.

The retired Marine general had stepped down from the military in 2013 and taken a job at Stanford University. He told his Senate confirmation hearing last year he was “enjoying a full life west of the Rockies” when the call came about the position.

After answering questions about his future, Mattis was asked whether he never considered life after the Pentagon. Mattis joked: “Of course I don’t think about leaving.”

“I love it here,” he said with a smile. “I’m thinking about retiring right here. I’ll get a little place here down on the Potomac.”

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In Iowa, McAuliffe Says He’s Not Ruling Out 2020 Campaign

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday in Iowa that he’s not ruling out a 2020 Democratic campaign for president, as he took his national campaign to promote Democratic candidates for governor to the early presidential testing ground. 

And while he said a decision remained months away, the former Democratic National Committee chairman touted his term as governor as a model for his party nationally.

“We took a red state and made it a blue state,” McAuliffe said in an Associated Press interview during a day of meetings with Democratic Party officials and activists in Des Moines.

McAuliffe was adamant that his chief purpose for visiting Iowa was to promote candidates running in the November midterm elections, chiefly Democratic nominee for governor Fred Hubbell. The governorship is among roughly 10 in states now occupied by Republicans that McAuliffe said are within reach of Democrats. Democrats occupy only 16 governorships.

Iowa is among 19 states McAuliffe has visited since leaving office this year, though none of the others come with the same potential implications as Iowa, host of the leadoff 2020 presidential caucuses.

McAuliffe is viewed as a moderate prospect in an emerging field that could include progressives such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Civil rights, fiscal policies

During the interview, he promoted civil rights policy such as his executive order to restore voting rights for felons, a move that reinstated roughly 173,000 people — disproportionately African-Americans — to the voter rolls in Virginia. Likewise, he cast himself as a fiscal steward, taking office with a budget deficit and leaving with a surplus.

Though Democrat Barack Obama carried Virginia twice as a candidate for president, it has been an emerging swing state over the past decade. Last year, Democrats achieved sweeping gains in legislative elections, a feather for McAuliffe as he tests his profile nationally.

“Clearly Terry’s looking hard at it,” said veteran Democratic strategist Jim Margolis, a top adviser to Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. “If he decided to, he could credibly make a run.”

McAuliffe also has influential friends in Iowa. He is in touch with Des Moines lawyer Jerry Crawford, a veteran operative and past campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton.

McAuliffe said he also plans to campaign for Democrats this fall in New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, and this month held a fundraiser in Washington for Rep. James Smith, the Democratic nominee for South Carolina governor. South Carolina hosts the first Southern primary in 2020.

“I don’t rule anything out,” McAuliffe said, though insisting his focus would remain on 2018 until after the election. “Then you have to make some decisions through the end of the year and into the first quarter of next year.”

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In Iowa, McAuliffe Says He’s Not Ruling Out 2020 Campaign

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday in Iowa that he’s not ruling out a 2020 Democratic campaign for president, as he took his national campaign to promote Democratic candidates for governor to the early presidential testing ground. 

And while he said a decision remained months away, the former Democratic National Committee chairman touted his term as governor as a model for his party nationally.

“We took a red state and made it a blue state,” McAuliffe said in an Associated Press interview during a day of meetings with Democratic Party officials and activists in Des Moines.

McAuliffe was adamant that his chief purpose for visiting Iowa was to promote candidates running in the November midterm elections, chiefly Democratic nominee for governor Fred Hubbell. The governorship is among roughly 10 in states now occupied by Republicans that McAuliffe said are within reach of Democrats. Democrats occupy only 16 governorships.

Iowa is among 19 states McAuliffe has visited since leaving office this year, though none of the others come with the same potential implications as Iowa, host of the leadoff 2020 presidential caucuses.

McAuliffe is viewed as a moderate prospect in an emerging field that could include progressives such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Civil rights, fiscal policies

During the interview, he promoted civil rights policy such as his executive order to restore voting rights for felons, a move that reinstated roughly 173,000 people — disproportionately African-Americans — to the voter rolls in Virginia. Likewise, he cast himself as a fiscal steward, taking office with a budget deficit and leaving with a surplus.

Though Democrat Barack Obama carried Virginia twice as a candidate for president, it has been an emerging swing state over the past decade. Last year, Democrats achieved sweeping gains in legislative elections, a feather for McAuliffe as he tests his profile nationally.

“Clearly Terry’s looking hard at it,” said veteran Democratic strategist Jim Margolis, a top adviser to Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. “If he decided to, he could credibly make a run.”

McAuliffe also has influential friends in Iowa. He is in touch with Des Moines lawyer Jerry Crawford, a veteran operative and past campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton.

McAuliffe said he also plans to campaign for Democrats this fall in New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, and this month held a fundraiser in Washington for Rep. James Smith, the Democratic nominee for South Carolina governor. South Carolina hosts the first Southern primary in 2020.

“I don’t rule anything out,” McAuliffe said, though insisting his focus would remain on 2018 until after the election. “Then you have to make some decisions through the end of the year and into the first quarter of next year.”

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GOP, Dems Unite Behind Senate Bill Fighting Addictive Drugs

Republicans and Democrats joined forces to speed legislation combating the misuse of opioids and other addictive drugs toward Senate passage Monday, a rare campaign-season show of unity against a growing and deadly health care crisis. 

The measure takes wide aim at the problem, including increasing scrutiny of arriving international mail that may include illegal drugs and making it easier for the National Institutes of Health to approve research on finding nonaddictive painkillers and for pharmaceutical companies to conduct that research. The Food and Drug Administration would be allowed to require drug makers to package smaller quantities of drugs like opioids and there would be new federal grants for treatment centers, training emergency workers and research on prevention methods.

Lawmakers’ focus on combating opioids comes amid alarming increases in drug overdose deaths, with the government estimating more than 72,000 of them last year. That figure has grown annually and is double the 36,000 who died in 2008.

Besides the sheer numbers, Congress has been drawn to the problem because of its broad impact on Republican, Democratic and swing states alike.

California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania each had more than 4,000 people die from drug overdoses in 2016, while seven other states each lost more than 2,000 people from drugs, according to the most recent figures available. The states with the highest death rates per resident include West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire, along with the District of Columbia.

West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin and Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson, both Democrats, are among those facing competitive re-election races in November’s midterm elections. Republicans are trying to deflect a Democratic effort to capture Senate control. 

Money for much of the federal spending the legislation envisions would have to be provided in separate spending bills.

The House approved its own drug misuse legislation this summer. Congressional leaders hope the two chambers will produce compromise legislation and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature by year’s end.

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GOP, Dems Unite Behind Senate Bill Fighting Addictive Drugs

Republicans and Democrats joined forces to speed legislation combating the misuse of opioids and other addictive drugs toward Senate passage Monday, a rare campaign-season show of unity against a growing and deadly health care crisis. 

The measure takes wide aim at the problem, including increasing scrutiny of arriving international mail that may include illegal drugs and making it easier for the National Institutes of Health to approve research on finding nonaddictive painkillers and for pharmaceutical companies to conduct that research. The Food and Drug Administration would be allowed to require drug makers to package smaller quantities of drugs like opioids and there would be new federal grants for treatment centers, training emergency workers and research on prevention methods.

Lawmakers’ focus on combating opioids comes amid alarming increases in drug overdose deaths, with the government estimating more than 72,000 of them last year. That figure has grown annually and is double the 36,000 who died in 2008.

Besides the sheer numbers, Congress has been drawn to the problem because of its broad impact on Republican, Democratic and swing states alike.

California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania each had more than 4,000 people die from drug overdoses in 2016, while seven other states each lost more than 2,000 people from drugs, according to the most recent figures available. The states with the highest death rates per resident include West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire, along with the District of Columbia.

West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin and Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson, both Democrats, are among those facing competitive re-election races in November’s midterm elections. Republicans are trying to deflect a Democratic effort to capture Senate control. 

Money for much of the federal spending the legislation envisions would have to be provided in separate spending bills.

The House approved its own drug misuse legislation this summer. Congressional leaders hope the two chambers will produce compromise legislation and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature by year’s end.

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As Midterms Near, Trump Gambles on his Hardline Trade Policy

Farmers worry about falling crop prices and lost sales overseas. Manufacturers fear rising costs and new foreign taxes on their exports. American allies overseas are furious.

 

By any conventional gauge, President Donald Trump’s uncompromising stance toward tariffs and the pain they’ve begun to cause U.S. individuals and companies so close to midterm elections would seem politically reckless. Yet Trump appears to be betting that his combative actions will soon benefit the country and prove a political winner.

 

Ditching decades of U.S. trade policy that he says swindled America and robbed its workers, Trump insists he can save U.S. jobs and factories by abandoning or rewriting trade deals, slapping taxes on imports and waging a brutal tariff war with China, America’s biggest trading partner.

 

“Prior presidents in both political parties have never really moved to try to help and protect the American economy and its workforce, its farmers, its manufacturing workers, in a way of creating a level playing field,” Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, told reporters last week. “They give it lip service, and then they back off. This president has no intention of backing off. None. Zero.”

 

Trump’s apparent belief is that he and congressional Republicans can rely on the unswerving support of core GOP voters — even in rural areas that have been economically hurt by his trade disputes — and maybe succeed in delivering better trade deals before Election Day. Still, as an insurance policy against failure, the administration is providing $12 billion in farm aid to soothe trade-war wounds in rural America.

 

All told, it’s a high-risk political gamble.

 

“It’s still unclear ultimately how the issue plays in November,” said Nathan Gonzales, publisher of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter.

 

The U.S. and China have imposed import taxes on $50 billion worth of each other’s products in a rumble over American allegations that Beijing uses predatory tactics to acquire foreign trade secrets and to try to overtake America’s global supremacy in high technology. Over the weekend, news reports indicated that the administration is set to announce tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese imports — a step that that would significantly escalate the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Beijing has said it would swiftly retaliate against additional U.S. tariffs.

Caught in the crossfire are U.S. soybean farmers, a prime target of Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs, whose exports to China account for about 60 percent of their overseas sales. These tariffs make U.S. soybeans prohibitively expensive in China. That means lost sales for American farmers.

 

Separately Trump has enraged U.S. allies like Canada and the European Union by declaring their steel and aluminum a threat to America’s national security as justification for slapping taxes on them.

 

On yet another trade front, the president would raise the stakes considerably if he carries out a threat to tax $340 billion in imported cars, trucks and auto parts — action that would raise prices for vehicles Americans buy.

 

What’s more, Trump has threatened to kick Canada out of a North American trade bloc if it doesn’t cave in to pressure to open its dairy market, among other things.

 

Trump is running into resistance in pockets across the country. American farmers who rely on exports are facing retaliation from U.S. trading partners, which depresses export sales and prices of agricultural commodities. Manufacturers that buy steel and aluminum are being hurt by higher prices and supply shortages resulting from the tariffs on imported metals.

 

Corporations fear that Trump’s drive to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement will disrupt the supply chains that they’ve spent the past 24 years building across the United States, Canada and Mexico. If the trade war with China further escalates, consumers would face higher prices at the mall and online. The affected imports would range from handbags, luggage and textiles to a range of consumer electronics, including the Apple Watch and adapters, cables and chargers.

 

On the basis of public opinion surveys, at least, the president’s approach poses political risks. A poll released Aug. 24 by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 61 percent of Americans disapproved of the president’s handling of trade negotiations.

 

“The Trump administration has handed Democrats in the midterms at least a talking point, not just with farmers but with consumers,” said Mickey Kantor, the top American trade negotiator under President Bill Clinton.

 

Missouri’s embattled Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, is trying to link her Republican challenger, Trump ally Josh Hawley, to a nail manufacturing plant that says it might have to close because the Trump steel tariffs have driven up its costs.

Likewise in North Dakota, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is running ads tying her Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, to Trump’s “reckless trade war.”

 

Besides unveiling $12 billion in aid to farmers hurt by the conflicts, Trump is seeking to reach trade deals to show that his brass-knuckles approach will succeed in the end. He has said he expects to sign a deal with South Korea later this month during the United Nations General Assembly. Earlier this month, he announced an agreement with Mexico to replace NAFTA — a move intended to pressure Canada to embrace a new North American accord on terms favorable to the United States.

 

Plans are underway for a delegation from China to resume trade discussions with the Trump team as early as this week. In addition, Trump says his team has started trade discussions with Japan and has received interest from India.

 

For the president, the bet is that America’s trading partners will capitulate promptly to his demands, rather than delay negotiations in the hope that Democrats will take control of the House and possibly the Senate and leave the president in a weaker bargaining position.

 

“There is some pressure to get results,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a White House economist under President George W. Bush. “They need to do something where they can say, `Hey, this different approach actually works.'”

 

Trump is also relying on the loyalty of his supporters in rural America. He has called farmers “patriots” who are willing to absorb economic pain in the short run to buy time for him to negotiate trade deals more advantageous to the United States.

 

Approval for Trump’s performance is still running at 53 percent in rural areas, compared with 39 percent overall, according to an NPR/Marist poll released last week. Even if they’re worried about the trade disputes, many rural Americans support Trump’s stands on social issues such as immigration — a sign that the president may have enough political leeway to drive forward with his hard line on trade.

 

“Trump,” said chief global strategist Greg Valliere of Horizon Investments, “has a lot of Teflon in the farm belt.”

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