All posts by MPolitics

Ohio Race Shows How NRA Flexes Its Political Muscle

The National Rifle Association pounced when former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, declared at an AFL-CIO event in Cleveland that the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “happened at a good time.”

Scalia remains a hero to many gun owners and the NRA alerted its members to Strickland’s disrespect. It was part of a barrage by the group to portray its one-time ally as an anti-gun politician interested only in money and power.

“That was painful,” said Strickland, recalling the NRA’s effort to tear down the public trust he’d spent years building. “They were out to get me.”

The anti-Strickland campaign in the battleground state of Ohio two years ago is a window into how the influential gun rights group wields its political muscle. That clout will be on display heading into the 2018 midterm elections as gun control advocates demand swift action following the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Florida.

The NRA’s deep pockets and bare-knuckled approach leave the impression it effectively purchases loyalty from lawmakers. But the NRA actually donates small amounts of money to candidates when compared to the large sums it spends on potent get-out-the-vote operations and ad campaigns.

NRA-funded advertisements that air on cable networks and travel across the internet during the months and weeks before an election are carefully crafted to warn members of candidates that, if elected, will come for their guns. The NRA’s political action committee, the Political Victory Fund, also grades elected officials on an A to F scale, a shorthand voting guide that steers members to pro-gun candidates.

The Political Victory Fund and the NRA’s lobbying arm spent about $52.5 million overall during the 2016 elections on “independent expenditures,” according to political money website OpenSecrets.org. There’s no limit on this type of campaign spending and it includes money for television and online advertising, mailers and other forms of communication designed to support or oppose a particular candidate.

Nearly 70 percent of the NRA’s 2016 budget was used to target Democrats, with Hillary Clinton topping the list of candidates the group sought to defeat. The rest went to backing Donald Trump and congressional Republicans who’ve consistently shot down attempts by Democrats to approve gun control measures in the wake of mass shootings in the United States.

But pressure for at least modest firearms restrictions is heavy after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which in turn raises the stakes for the NRA. Trump stunned his GOP allies last week when he sided with Democrats by urging quick and substantial changes to the nation’s gun laws. Yet later, after meeting with Trump, NRA leaders declared the president and his administration “don’t want gun control.” The mixed messages brought action on gun legislation in Congress to a halt.

The figures compiled by Open Secrets show that in Ohio the NRA spent nearly $1.6 million to oppose Strickland in the 2016 Senate race, while devoting about half as much to support the Republican incumbent, Sen. Rob Portman, who defeated Strickland by a wide margin.

The NRA donated $9,900 directly to Portman’s campaign, the same amount the group gave to 12 other Republican lawmakers. Unlike independent expenditures, donations from individuals and PACs are capped for each election cycle. Portman said the NRA’s money represented just a fraction of the more than $25 million his campaign raised in 2016 and he denied the gun group acquired any leverage through the donations.

“I never make a decision based on a contribution,” Portman said. “That’s just not how you operate.”

The NRA’s Political Victory Fund ran its first ad against Strickland in July when the Ohio Senate race was still competitive, and the 30-second spot illustrates the gun group’s tactics. Strickland is portrayed as a traitor for turning his back on gun rights.

“Ted Strickland. Out for power. Out for money. Out . . . for himself,” the narrator said as suspenseful music plays in the background.

Strickland said the NRA succeeded in shifting the impression many Ohioans had of him. Suddenly it didn’t matter as much that he was a steelworker’s son who’d grown up on a dirt road in the state’s Appalachia region. Or that he was raised among guns and just a few years before the Senate race had earned the NRA’s coveted A+ rating.

All that mattered to the NRA was that Strickland, troubled by a spate of mass shootings, had changed his mind. After stepping down as governor, he joined a liberal advocacy group and backed comprehensive background checks for gun buyers and a ban on assault-style rifles.

David Niven, a professor of American politics at the University of Cincinnati, said the NRA almost certainly wanted to punish Strickland for being an “apostate” on top of ensuring the gun-friendly GOP maintained its majority in the Senate. Political action committees and other outside groups tend to sweep in during the last stages of an election, but Niven said the NRA got an early start in Ohio.

“I don’t think there’s any question that they intended their participation in this race to send a message,” Niven said. “There was something intolerable to them about having an ally turn into a skeptic.”

Strickland served in Congress for more than a decade until 2006, when he successfully ran for governor with the NRA’s backing. He got the group’s support a second time when he ran for re-election in 2010, but lost to Republican John Kasich as the governor’s race centered on economic woes gripping the state.

The NRA’s endorsement commended Strickland as “an unwavering defender of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms” and noted his opposition to a 2004 ban on certain semi-automatic weapons while in Congress and his signature on an update of concealed carry laws.

But that opinion changed drastically after Strickland in 2014 became president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action, which the NRA called a “radical anti-gun group” for proposing gun control measures.

When Strickland sought to unseat Portman two years later, the NRA “reframed the race in ways that were detrimental to me,” he said. Trump won Ohio by about 447,000 votes. Scioto, Strickland’s home county on the border with Kentucky, backed Trump and Portman overwhelmingly.

The NRA’s opposition had an effect, Strickland said, but he didn’t believe it was the deciding factor in his loss to Portman.

Portman raised $25 million, more than twice as much as Strickland did, and won over labor unions that had once been firmly in Strickland’s corner. As Strickland failed to gain traction with voters, national Democrats pulled millions of dollars in planned pro-Strickland ads out of the state more than a month before the election.

The NRA wasn’t the only one funneling money into Ohio. Outside groups, including those tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, spent upward of $30 million on anti-Strickland ads focused on Ohio’s economy during his governorship, which coincided with the national recession.

The NRA struck out in Nevada and New Hampshire, where the Democratic candidates won despite the gun group’s opposition. In Nevada, a battleground state like Ohio, the NRA plowed $2.4 million into the race to stop Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. She narrowly won.

“They spent millions of dollars to try to beat me and didn’t,” said Masto, a former federal prosecutor who served for eight years as Nevada’s attorney general before her Senate run. “It was ridiculous.”

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Roles Reduced, Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s Fate Uncertain

They spent their first year in Washington as an untouchable White House power couple, commanding expansive portfolios, outlasting rivals and enjoying unmatched access to the president. But Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have undergone a swift and stunning reckoning of late, their powers restricted, their enemies emboldened and their future in the West Wing uncertain.

Kushner, long the second-most powerful man in the West Wing, is under siege. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law has lost influential White House allies. He remains under the shadow of the Russia probe and has seen his business dealings come under renewed scrutiny. He has been stripped of his top security clearance, raising questions how he can successfully advance his ambitious agenda — including achieving Mideast peace, a goal that has eluded presidents for generations.

Kushner’s most powerful patron, the president himself, has wavered recently on whether his daughter and son-in-law belong in the White House anymore.

A frustrated Trump has griped about the wave of bad headlines generated by probes into Kushner’s business dealings and the status of his security clearance, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations. The president also has wondered aloud if the couple would be better off returning home to New York.

At the same time, though, Trump has said he believes many of the attacks against Kushner are unfair and has lamented that the couple is going through such a turbulent time, according to the two people.

“I think he’s been treated very unfairly,” Trump said late last month. “He’s a high-quality person.”

Kushner’s woes mushroomed in the past month, when accusations of spousal abuse emerged against White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Initially, the resulting firestorm — including questions about how Porter had interim clearance for top-secret information despite red flags in his background — threatened to engulf Chief of Staff John Kelly, the retired Marine hired to bring order to Trump’s chaotic West Wing.

Kelly seemed to stabilize his own standing, in part by ordering a reform of the White House security clearance process. And among senior aides, that change fell the hardest on Kushner, who had been working with interim access to top-secret information. And he was doing that as investigators worked through his family’s complicated real estate dealings and as special counsel Robert Mueller probes Russian connections to the Trump team.

A week ago, Kushner’s security clearance level was downgraded, leaving White House aides to wonder just how many indignities Kushner and Ivanka Trump are willing to suffer. Even if recent events and revelations don’t trigger a departure, they have demonstrated that the West Wing clout of “Javanka,” as the couple is often referred to, is a far cry from what it once was.

Since taking office last year, Kelly has prioritized creating formal lines of authority and decision-making. Kushner resisted efforts to formalize his role — which early in the administration made him something of a shadow secretary of state — and he has grown frustrated with the chief of staff’s attempts to restrict the couple’s access to the president. The couple perceives Kelly’s crackdown on security clearances as a direct shot at them, according to White House aides and outside advisers.

Kelly, in turn, has been angered by what he views as the couple’s freelancing. He blames them for changing Trump’s mind at the last minute and questions what exactly they do all day, according to one White House official and an outside ally. Kushner prevailed in previous power struggles within the White House, including one against former chief strategist Steve Bannon, but allies of the president on the outside openly cheered the power couple’s weakened position.

“Only a son-in-law could withstand this sort of exposure and not be fired,” said Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for President Barack Obama. “Kushner’s vulnerable and in an accelerated fall from grace. Even though his departure would leave Trump even more isolated, a decision could be made that it’s just not worth it for him to stay.”

Those close to the couple insist the duo has no plans to leave Washington. But a soft landing spot has emerged if they choose to take it.

At a senior staff meeting Wednesday, Kushner spoke about the 2020 campaign at Kelly’s behest, talking up the selection of Brad Parscale to run the campaign, according to an administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly about internal discussions. Kushner has a close relationship with Parscale, whom he recruited to work on the 2016 campaign.

News of Parscale’s appointment was first reported in the Drudge Report, a favored outlet of Kushner’s, in a move that was seen by some in the West Wing as an attempted reminder of Kushner’s clout just hours before his humbling security clearance downgrade became public.

One veteran of the 2016 campaign suggested that there had always been a tentative plan for Kushner to resume a role on the re-election campaign but not this early in the president’s first term.

In a White House populated with attention-seekers, Kushner has been an ascetic, discreet figure. Almost always standing at the periphery in dark business suits, Kushner is rarely heard in public, his impact felt but not seen. His diplomatic trips abroad have either been shrouded in secrecy or conducted with minimal media coverage.

“I am not a person who has sought the spotlight. First in my business and now in public service, I have worked on achieving goals, and have left it to others to work on media and public perception,” Kushner told congressional investigators in a prepared statement last July.

But it is not immediately obvious what he’s achieved. There has been little progress on Mideast peace and relations with Mexico, another top Kushner priority, remain contentious over Trump’s proposed border wall. Kushner’s much ballyhooed project to reinvent the federal government has gained little traction. And questions persist about his family business’s global hunt for cash just a year before a $1.2 billion mortgage on a Manhattan skyscraper must be paid off by the company.

The Kushner Co. says it is in solid financial shape, but skeptics note that the company has been scrambling to raise funds from investors in nations with which Kushner has had government dealings and questions about potential Kushner conflicts of interest have scuttled some efforts.

Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, promotes the administration’s tax overhaul, including a family-friendly tax credit she championed. She continues to talk with lawmakers about paid family leave and recently led the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

But her role has come with unique challenges and calculations. Trump has portrayed herself as an advocate for women and families within the administration, which at times puts her in an awkward position given the allegations against her father and some of his public comments about women.

Trump recently said in an NBC interview that she believes her father’s denials of sexual misconduct, but argued that questions to her on the topic were “pretty inappropriate” — an answer that prompted eyerolls in some quarters of the West Wing yet again.

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Roles Reduced, Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s Fate Uncertain

They spent their first year in Washington as an untouchable White House power couple, commanding expansive portfolios, outlasting rivals and enjoying unmatched access to the president. But Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have undergone a swift and stunning reckoning of late, their powers restricted, their enemies emboldened and their future in the West Wing uncertain.

Kushner, long the second-most powerful man in the West Wing, is under siege. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law has lost influential White House allies. He remains under the shadow of the Russia probe and has seen his business dealings come under renewed scrutiny. He has been stripped of his top security clearance, raising questions how he can successfully advance his ambitious agenda — including achieving Mideast peace, a goal that has eluded presidents for generations.

Kushner’s most powerful patron, the president himself, has wavered recently on whether his daughter and son-in-law belong in the White House anymore.

A frustrated Trump has griped about the wave of bad headlines generated by probes into Kushner’s business dealings and the status of his security clearance, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations. The president also has wondered aloud if the couple would be better off returning home to New York.

At the same time, though, Trump has said he believes many of the attacks against Kushner are unfair and has lamented that the couple is going through such a turbulent time, according to the two people.

“I think he’s been treated very unfairly,” Trump said late last month. “He’s a high-quality person.”

Kushner’s woes mushroomed in the past month, when accusations of spousal abuse emerged against White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Initially, the resulting firestorm — including questions about how Porter had interim clearance for top-secret information despite red flags in his background — threatened to engulf Chief of Staff John Kelly, the retired Marine hired to bring order to Trump’s chaotic West Wing.

Kelly seemed to stabilize his own standing, in part by ordering a reform of the White House security clearance process. And among senior aides, that change fell the hardest on Kushner, who had been working with interim access to top-secret information. And he was doing that as investigators worked through his family’s complicated real estate dealings and as special counsel Robert Mueller probes Russian connections to the Trump team.

A week ago, Kushner’s security clearance level was downgraded, leaving White House aides to wonder just how many indignities Kushner and Ivanka Trump are willing to suffer. Even if recent events and revelations don’t trigger a departure, they have demonstrated that the West Wing clout of “Javanka,” as the couple is often referred to, is a far cry from what it once was.

Since taking office last year, Kelly has prioritized creating formal lines of authority and decision-making. Kushner resisted efforts to formalize his role — which early in the administration made him something of a shadow secretary of state — and he has grown frustrated with the chief of staff’s attempts to restrict the couple’s access to the president. The couple perceives Kelly’s crackdown on security clearances as a direct shot at them, according to White House aides and outside advisers.

Kelly, in turn, has been angered by what he views as the couple’s freelancing. He blames them for changing Trump’s mind at the last minute and questions what exactly they do all day, according to one White House official and an outside ally. Kushner prevailed in previous power struggles within the White House, including one against former chief strategist Steve Bannon, but allies of the president on the outside openly cheered the power couple’s weakened position.

“Only a son-in-law could withstand this sort of exposure and not be fired,” said Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for President Barack Obama. “Kushner’s vulnerable and in an accelerated fall from grace. Even though his departure would leave Trump even more isolated, a decision could be made that it’s just not worth it for him to stay.”

Those close to the couple insist the duo has no plans to leave Washington. But a soft landing spot has emerged if they choose to take it.

At a senior staff meeting Wednesday, Kushner spoke about the 2020 campaign at Kelly’s behest, talking up the selection of Brad Parscale to run the campaign, according to an administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly about internal discussions. Kushner has a close relationship with Parscale, whom he recruited to work on the 2016 campaign.

News of Parscale’s appointment was first reported in the Drudge Report, a favored outlet of Kushner’s, in a move that was seen by some in the West Wing as an attempted reminder of Kushner’s clout just hours before his humbling security clearance downgrade became public.

One veteran of the 2016 campaign suggested that there had always been a tentative plan for Kushner to resume a role on the re-election campaign but not this early in the president’s first term.

In a White House populated with attention-seekers, Kushner has been an ascetic, discreet figure. Almost always standing at the periphery in dark business suits, Kushner is rarely heard in public, his impact felt but not seen. His diplomatic trips abroad have either been shrouded in secrecy or conducted with minimal media coverage.

“I am not a person who has sought the spotlight. First in my business and now in public service, I have worked on achieving goals, and have left it to others to work on media and public perception,” Kushner told congressional investigators in a prepared statement last July.

But it is not immediately obvious what he’s achieved. There has been little progress on Mideast peace and relations with Mexico, another top Kushner priority, remain contentious over Trump’s proposed border wall. Kushner’s much ballyhooed project to reinvent the federal government has gained little traction. And questions persist about his family business’s global hunt for cash just a year before a $1.2 billion mortgage on a Manhattan skyscraper must be paid off by the company.

The Kushner Co. says it is in solid financial shape, but skeptics note that the company has been scrambling to raise funds from investors in nations with which Kushner has had government dealings and questions about potential Kushner conflicts of interest have scuttled some efforts.

Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, promotes the administration’s tax overhaul, including a family-friendly tax credit she championed. She continues to talk with lawmakers about paid family leave and recently led the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

But her role has come with unique challenges and calculations. Trump has portrayed herself as an advocate for women and families within the administration, which at times puts her in an awkward position given the allegations against her father and some of his public comments about women.

Trump recently said in an NBC interview that she believes her father’s denials of sexual misconduct, but argued that questions to her on the topic were “pretty inappropriate” — an answer that prompted eyerolls in some quarters of the West Wing yet again.

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Trump Puts Aside Feud With Media For Annual Dinner

President Donald Trump engaged in a good-natured duel of one-liners with political rivals and the press at the annual Gridiron Dinner this weekend, largely putting aside his ongoing criticism of the media for a night.

Trump dished out sharp one-liners throughout his comments Saturday night, occasionally lapsing into recurring themes about the 2016 election and media bias.

“Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do. It’s not even close,” said Trump, who skipped last year’s dinner. He also said: “I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That’s why I accepted.”

The annual dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation, now in its 133rd year, traced its history to 1885, the year President Grover Cleveland refused to attend. Every president since has come to at least one Gridiron.

“Rest assured, Mr. President, this crowd is way bigger than Cleveland’s,” Club President David Lightman, congressional editor for McClatchy News, told the white-tie audience at the Renaissance Washington Hotel. The organization said the event attracted about 660 journalists, media executives, lawmakers, administration officials and military officers.

Members of the Washington press corps sharpened their wits for musical and rhetorical takedowns of the president, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama. Trump’s speech lasted more than a half hour and included plenty of one-liners.

A sampling:

— On his son-in-law: “We were late tonight because Jared could not get through security.”

— On Vice President Mike Pence: “He is one of the best straight men you’re ever going to meet … he is straight. Man.” Trump also said, “I really am proud to call him the apprentice ”

— On Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “I offered him a ride over and he recused himself. What are you going to do?”

— On The New York Times: “I’m a New York icon. You’re a New York icon. And the only difference is I still own my buildings.”

— On former chief strategist Steven Bannon: “That guy leaked more than the Titanic.”

— On the first lady: Trump said he doesn’t understand why everyone says #Freemelania. He said she’s actually having a great time.

Toward the end of his comments, Trump couldn’t resist some of his favorite themes, revisiting his election night victory and chiding reporters to be fair.

He closed by saying: “I just want to say this, this is one of the best times I’ve had with the media — this might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night.”

He recalled the close race in Michigan, saying the media wouldn’t call it for him, even though he had a good margin of victory. And he accused some reporters of not being impartial in their coverage.

For much of the night he was a good sport — laughing and applauding at times during the evening’s entertainment. Hours earlier, Trump had fired off a sharp tweet at the national press:

“Mainstream Media in U.S. is being mocked all over the world. They’ve gone CRAZY!” He linked to a story by a conservative pundit saying Trump and his family are victims of “unparalleled” press attacks.

The major political parties found themselves skewered in parody songs in musical skits. By Gridiron tradition, comments came from one Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and one Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Cotton made light of what he called the source of his personality: the common touch of Harvard, the sensitivity of the Army, and the personal touch of Dick Cheney. On the Russia investigation, he said, “Everyone knows the Trump campaign couldn’t collude with the RNC in Pennsylvania.” The only senator in his 30s says he’s looking for a role model and “the search continues.”

With an eye on the president, Landrieu said: “We’re both overweight and balding. I just have an easier time admitting it.” Noting that Trump had a lonely job, the mayor remarked, “I understand lonely because I’m a Democrat from the South.” The New Orleans official also observed, “No matter how many times we say it, we don’t drain the swamps either.”

The Gridiron Dinner’s reputation as a night of bipartisan mirth was evidenced by those who accepted invitations, including last year’s headliner, Vice President Pence. Also accepting invitations were at least eight members of Trump’s Cabinet, six senators, four House members, and presidential relatives-turned-advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the foundation said in a statement.

By tradition, the evening’s musical entertainment revolved around musical skits and takeoffs of well-known songs performed by journalists pretending to be newsmakers.

A cast member playing House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi turned to “I’m Against It,” a song from the Marx Brothers film “Duck Soup,” to explain her attitude toward Trump: “I don’t know what Trump has to say/It makes no difference anyway/Whatever it is, we’re against it/Even if our own side once professed it/We’re against it.”

A cast member playing Hillary Clinton offered her version of the song “You’re So Vain,” the title referring to her, but the lyrics aimed at the president: “You walked into my West Wing/My White House or so I thought/Your tie strategically dropped below your belt/Your hair it was apricot.”

A charitable organization, the Gridiron Club and Foundation contributes to college scholarships and journalistic organizations. Active membership is limited to 65 Washington-based journalists.

Trump wrapped up the evening on an upbeat note.

“I want to thank the press for all you do to support and sustain our democracy,” he said in closing.

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Trump Puts Aside Feud With Media For Annual Dinner

President Donald Trump engaged in a good-natured duel of one-liners with political rivals and the press at the annual Gridiron Dinner this weekend, largely putting aside his ongoing criticism of the media for a night.

Trump dished out sharp one-liners throughout his comments Saturday night, occasionally lapsing into recurring themes about the 2016 election and media bias.

“Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do. It’s not even close,” said Trump, who skipped last year’s dinner. He also said: “I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That’s why I accepted.”

The annual dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation, now in its 133rd year, traced its history to 1885, the year President Grover Cleveland refused to attend. Every president since has come to at least one Gridiron.

“Rest assured, Mr. President, this crowd is way bigger than Cleveland’s,” Club President David Lightman, congressional editor for McClatchy News, told the white-tie audience at the Renaissance Washington Hotel. The organization said the event attracted about 660 journalists, media executives, lawmakers, administration officials and military officers.

Members of the Washington press corps sharpened their wits for musical and rhetorical takedowns of the president, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama. Trump’s speech lasted more than a half hour and included plenty of one-liners.

A sampling:

— On his son-in-law: “We were late tonight because Jared could not get through security.”

— On Vice President Mike Pence: “He is one of the best straight men you’re ever going to meet … he is straight. Man.” Trump also said, “I really am proud to call him the apprentice ”

— On Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “I offered him a ride over and he recused himself. What are you going to do?”

— On The New York Times: “I’m a New York icon. You’re a New York icon. And the only difference is I still own my buildings.”

— On former chief strategist Steven Bannon: “That guy leaked more than the Titanic.”

— On the first lady: Trump said he doesn’t understand why everyone says #Freemelania. He said she’s actually having a great time.

Toward the end of his comments, Trump couldn’t resist some of his favorite themes, revisiting his election night victory and chiding reporters to be fair.

He closed by saying: “I just want to say this, this is one of the best times I’ve had with the media — this might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night.”

He recalled the close race in Michigan, saying the media wouldn’t call it for him, even though he had a good margin of victory. And he accused some reporters of not being impartial in their coverage.

For much of the night he was a good sport — laughing and applauding at times during the evening’s entertainment. Hours earlier, Trump had fired off a sharp tweet at the national press:

“Mainstream Media in U.S. is being mocked all over the world. They’ve gone CRAZY!” He linked to a story by a conservative pundit saying Trump and his family are victims of “unparalleled” press attacks.

The major political parties found themselves skewered in parody songs in musical skits. By Gridiron tradition, comments came from one Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and one Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Cotton made light of what he called the source of his personality: the common touch of Harvard, the sensitivity of the Army, and the personal touch of Dick Cheney. On the Russia investigation, he said, “Everyone knows the Trump campaign couldn’t collude with the RNC in Pennsylvania.” The only senator in his 30s says he’s looking for a role model and “the search continues.”

With an eye on the president, Landrieu said: “We’re both overweight and balding. I just have an easier time admitting it.” Noting that Trump had a lonely job, the mayor remarked, “I understand lonely because I’m a Democrat from the South.” The New Orleans official also observed, “No matter how many times we say it, we don’t drain the swamps either.”

The Gridiron Dinner’s reputation as a night of bipartisan mirth was evidenced by those who accepted invitations, including last year’s headliner, Vice President Pence. Also accepting invitations were at least eight members of Trump’s Cabinet, six senators, four House members, and presidential relatives-turned-advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the foundation said in a statement.

By tradition, the evening’s musical entertainment revolved around musical skits and takeoffs of well-known songs performed by journalists pretending to be newsmakers.

A cast member playing House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi turned to “I’m Against It,” a song from the Marx Brothers film “Duck Soup,” to explain her attitude toward Trump: “I don’t know what Trump has to say/It makes no difference anyway/Whatever it is, we’re against it/Even if our own side once professed it/We’re against it.”

A cast member playing Hillary Clinton offered her version of the song “You’re So Vain,” the title referring to her, but the lyrics aimed at the president: “You walked into my West Wing/My White House or so I thought/Your tie strategically dropped below your belt/Your hair it was apricot.”

A charitable organization, the Gridiron Club and Foundation contributes to college scholarships and journalistic organizations. Active membership is limited to 65 Washington-based journalists.

Trump wrapped up the evening on an upbeat note.

“I want to thank the press for all you do to support and sustain our democracy,” he said in closing.

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AP Fact Check: Is a Trade War ‘Easy to Win?’

In agitating for a trade war, President Donald Trump may have forgotten William Tecumseh Sherman’s adage that “war is hell.”

The Civil War general’s observation can be apt for trade wars, which may create conditions for a shooting war.

A look at Trump’s spoiling-for-a-fight tweet Friday:

TRUMP: “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!”

THE FACTS: History suggests that trade wars are not easy.

The president’s argument, in essence, is that high tariffs will force other countries to relent quickly on what he sees as unfair trading practices, and that will wipe out the trade gap and create factory jobs. That’s his motivation for announcing that the U.S. will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

The record shows that tariffs, while they may help certain domestic manufacturers, can come at a broad cost. They can raise prices for consumers and businesses because companies pass on at least some of the higher costs of imported materials to their customers. Winning and losing isn’t as simple a matter as tracking the trade gap.

The State Department’s office of the historian looked at tariffs passed in the 1920s and 1930s to protect farms and other industries that were losing their markets in Europe as the continent recovered from World War I. The U.S. duties hurt Europe and made it harder for those countries to repay their war debts, while exposing farmers and consumers in the U.S. to higher prices. European nations responded by raising their tariffs and the volume of world trade predictably slowed by 1934.

The State Department says the tariffs exacerbated the global effects of the Great Depression while doing nothing to foster political or economic cooperation among countries. This was a diplomatic way of saying that the economic struggles helped embolden extremist politics and geopolitical rivalries before World War II.

Nor have past protectionist measures saved the steel industry, as Trump says his tariffs would.

The United States first became a net importer of steel in 1959, when steelworkers staged a 116-day strike, according to research by Michael O. Moore, a George Washington University economist. After that, U.S. administrations imposed protectionist policies, only to see global competitors adapt and the U.S. share of global steel production decline.

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AP Fact Check: Is a Trade War ‘Easy to Win?’

In agitating for a trade war, President Donald Trump may have forgotten William Tecumseh Sherman’s adage that “war is hell.”

The Civil War general’s observation can be apt for trade wars, which may create conditions for a shooting war.

A look at Trump’s spoiling-for-a-fight tweet Friday:

TRUMP: “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!”

THE FACTS: History suggests that trade wars are not easy.

The president’s argument, in essence, is that high tariffs will force other countries to relent quickly on what he sees as unfair trading practices, and that will wipe out the trade gap and create factory jobs. That’s his motivation for announcing that the U.S. will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

The record shows that tariffs, while they may help certain domestic manufacturers, can come at a broad cost. They can raise prices for consumers and businesses because companies pass on at least some of the higher costs of imported materials to their customers. Winning and losing isn’t as simple a matter as tracking the trade gap.

The State Department’s office of the historian looked at tariffs passed in the 1920s and 1930s to protect farms and other industries that were losing their markets in Europe as the continent recovered from World War I. The U.S. duties hurt Europe and made it harder for those countries to repay their war debts, while exposing farmers and consumers in the U.S. to higher prices. European nations responded by raising their tariffs and the volume of world trade predictably slowed by 1934.

The State Department says the tariffs exacerbated the global effects of the Great Depression while doing nothing to foster political or economic cooperation among countries. This was a diplomatic way of saying that the economic struggles helped embolden extremist politics and geopolitical rivalries before World War II.

Nor have past protectionist measures saved the steel industry, as Trump says his tariffs would.

The United States first became a net importer of steel in 1959, when steelworkers staged a 116-day strike, according to research by Michael O. Moore, a George Washington University economist. After that, U.S. administrations imposed protectionist policies, only to see global competitors adapt and the U.S. share of global steel production decline.

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China Joins Chorus, Warns of ‘Huge Impact’ of Trump’s Tariff Plan 

China has warned about the “huge impact” on global trading, if U.S. President Donald Trump proceeds with his plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum products.

Wang Hejun, head of China’s commerce ministry’s trade remedy and investigation bureau, said in a statement late Friday the tariffs would “seriously damage multilateral trade mechanisms represented by the World Trade Organization and will surely have huge impact on normal international trade order.”

The Chinese official added, “If the final measures of the United States hurt Chinese interests, China will work with other affected countries in taking measures to safeguard its own rights and interests.”

Allies weigh in

Meanwhile earlier Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Trump’s tariff plans were “absolutely unacceptable.”

Trudeau said Friday he is prepared to “defend Canadian industry.” Canada is the United States’ biggest foreign source of both materials. He warned that the tariffs would also hurt U.S. consumers and businesses by driving up prices.

The European Union was also stung by Trump’s plan, as evidenced by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s warning that the EU could respond by taxing quintessentially American-made products, such as bourbon whiskey, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Juncker told German media Friday that he does not like the words “trade war.” 

“But I can’t see how this isn’t part of warlike behavior,” he said.

Trump had tweeted earlier in the day: “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

The director of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, responded coolly, saying, “A trade war is in no one’s interests.”

Currency markets 

The currency market responded with a drop in the value of the U.S. dollar against most other major currencies. It ended the day at its lowest level against the yen in two years. The euro gained a half-percent against the dollar Friday.

And the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the trading week with its fourth decline in as many days, ending at 24,538.06. The Nasdaq and S&P 500, however, rose slightly after a three-day losing streak.

Trump spent Friday defending his threat to impose the tariffs, saying potential trade conflicts can be beneficial to the United States.

A Japanese government official told VOA that Tokyo “has explained several times to the U.S. government our concerns,” but declined to comment further on any ongoing discussions with Washington.

“While we are aware of the president’s statement, we understand that the official decision has not been made yet,” the Japanese official said. “If the U.S. is going to implement any measures, we expect the measures be WTO-rules consistent.”

Trump said Thursday the tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports will be in effect for a long period of time. He said the measure will be signed “sometime next week.”

In 2017, Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico accounted for nearly half of all U.S. steel imports. That year, Chinese steel accounted for less than 2 percent of overall U.S. imports.

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