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California Group Funds Candidates It, Trump Supporters Like

Sipping California zinfandel, eating deviled eggs and fretting about President Donald Trump, the guests attending a political fundraiser at a Silicon Valley executive’s home were the usual assortment of tech entrepreneurs and investors.

But the congressional candidate they had come to meet that March evening in the hills north of San Francisco was anything but typical.

Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat and former defense official, is running for Congress in Michigan’s 8th District, a pocket of Detroit suburbs, college campuses and farmland more than 2,000 miles (3,200 km) away. She is a gun owner, a supporter of constitutionally enshrined gun rights and a critic of single payer health care, hardly the kind of far-left candidate voters in the San Francisco Bay Area generally embrace.

But Slotkin, 41, and the party guests shared a goal: wresting control of the House of Representatives from Republicans in November’s congressional elections.

Swing districts

With no Bay Area Democrats facing serious challenges from Republicans, the party host, Brian Monahan, and a group of fellow technology and marketing executives have decided to look farther afield for candidates in swing districts that need financial support.

To focus their efforts, Monahan, technology investor Chris Albinson, executive recruiter Jon Love and a handful of others have formed a loose-knit organization they call Purple Project.

So far, the group has raised at least $210,000 for Democratic candidates in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The sum is a pittance compared to the money being spent on key races by fundraising Political Action Committees (PACs), which represent corporations and political interest groups and contribute millions of dollars each election cycle.

But in moderate districts with close races like Slotkin’s, such grassroots efforts can make a difference.

​‘Simply unacceptable’

Purple Project is one of a number of informal groups in solidly blue states such as California, Vermont and Massachusetts that have mobilized this year to back candidates in distant swing districts. So far, it has endorsed six candidates and plans to endorse 14 more by the end of July.

Love, a longtime executive recruiter for technology companies, spearheads candidate vetting. Many in the group have made the maximum allowable individual donation of $2,700 to each candidate.

For its participants, Purple Project is a way to channel months of political frustrations since Trump took office.

“Things are simply unacceptable and sitting on the sidelines just stewing on it isn’t helping anyone,” Monahan said. “You feel like out here in California your vote is worthless.”

That’s because House representatives from the San Francisco Bay Area are unwaveringly Democratic.

Bruising battle, outside money

To retake the House, Democrats would need to take 23 seats held by Republicans, as well as keep all the districts they now hold. That means races like Slotkin’s, in a competitive district with a mix of Republican and Democratic counties stretching from north of Detroit to the state capitol, Lansing, are pivotal.

She faces a bruising battle, however, trying to unseat two-term Congressman Mike Bishop, who won with 56 percent of the vote in 2016.

Out-of-state money has been the financial lifeblood of Slotkin’s campaign, putting her far ahead of her competitor for the Democratic nomination and nearly neck-and-neck with Bishop.

Slotkin had raised $1.5 million as of March 31, with just $304,000 coming from Michigan donors, approaching Bishop’s $317,000 in home-state contributions, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Slotkin raised more than $120,000 from individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area.

FEC filings generally do not include donations of $200 or less.

“Our campaign finance laws are so broken that in order to compete you have to raise a significant amount of money,” she told Reuters during a tour of her 400-acre farm in Holly, Michigan, when asked about Purple Project’s donations to her campaign. “If that means raising from outside the state I’d rather have that than the influence of a corporate PAC.”

At a house party in April in the small Michigan city of Brighton, about a dozen neighbors from a tidy middle-class neighborhood gathered to meet Slotkin and cheer her on, but not all were hopeful.

“I don’t give her much of a chance, but it’s good to have her there and maybe she’ll take a bite out of Bishop’s vote,” said Blake Lancaster, 74.

​Personal politics

Purple Project is a political organization with a deeply personal origin. Albinson, co-founder of San Francisco technology investment firm Founders Circle, said he was unnerved to learn his father-in-law in Michigan, Jerry Smith, voted for Trump. After 18 years as a registered Republican, Albinson, also a Michigan native, became an independent voter following Trump’s nomination.

He set about finding moderate congressional candidates he and his friends in Silicon Valley could support, but who would also appeal to Smith.

After Albinson met Slotkin, he subjected her to a litmus test: she had to visit his father-in-law.

Smith, 72, describes himself as a “common-sense Republican” worried about his health care costs. A retired small business owner who lives on a 40-acre farm just outside the 8th District, Smith said he and his wife, Barb, fret about spending down their savings “just for the regular monthly bills.”

Slotkin won over Smith, who said he was impressed by her resume and decency, and her views on improving President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, to keep health care costs down. From there, Purple Project has grown, with members scattered across the country.

To win the group’s backing, candidates must be able to appeal to Trump supporters and must have past service in the military, government or nonprofit sector. They also have to reject corporate PAC money and support affordable health care and infrastructure improvement, among other criteria.

The group offers more than money. Monahan, who was head of marketing at and an advertising executive at image-sharing and shopping website Pinterest, helps campaigns with digital marketing, for instance.

Last spring, Slotkin left Washington and a 15-year government career in defense and intelligence work to move back to the family farm in Holly. But some of her neighbors in this working-class town are not particularly interested in a newcomer Democrat.

Holly town supervisor George Kullis said he plans to vote for Bishop because the congressman helped him get federal funding for new signs for the national cemetery in town.

“Bishop has been good; he’s been ‘Johnny on the spot,’” Kullis said. “Besides, who is this Elissa Slotkin? I’ve never heard of her.”

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Environmentalists Slam US Interior Chief Over Yellowstone Chief’s Ouster

Environmentalists on Friday accused the Trump administration of political interference and retaliation in the ouster of Yellowstone National Park’s chief after his disputes with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over the park’s celebrated bison.

Dan Wenk, who has led one of the nation’s premier parks since 2011, on Friday described as “punitive” the decision by Zinke that he should retire early or be reassigned to a post in Washington, D.C.

Wenk said in an interview he was not given specific reasons for the ultimatum, which came after he had announced his intention to retire in 2019. He said he had had disagreements with Zinke about the number of bison at the park but had believed those to be resolved.

Environmentalists were quick to accuse Zinke of selling out parks, public lands and wildlife in the West to oil and gas developers, sportsmen and ranchers, among others.

“His decision to force out the superintendent of the world’s first national park should be seen for what it is: political interference and retaliation for a Park Service leader standing up for parks and wildlife rather than special interests,” the Sierra Club’s Bonnie Rice said in a statement on Friday.

The fracas over Wenk’s ouster is the latest controversy surrounding an Interior secretary who has been reviled by conservationists but hailed by industry and conservatives in Western states, where local governments have chafed against restrictions imposed on federally protected areas.

Review of Monuments

Zinke, a former Montana congressman, sparked controversy last year after reviewing more than two dozen national parks and protected areas, indicating some could be scaled back to allow for more hunting and fishing, as economic development.

The review has cheered energy, mining, ranching and timber advocates but has drawn widespread criticism and threats of lawsuits from conservation groups and the outdoor recreation industry.

The National Parks Conservation Association said diverse sides should be represented when it comes to places like Yellowstone.

“Dan Wenk stood up for wildlife and united voices around solutions and we need to ensure that same approach will continue,” Bart Melton, a regional director for the group, said on Friday.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift did not respond to a request for comment about criticism leveled at the secretary and declined to directly respond to Wenk’s belief his removal from the park was a form of punishment.

Wenk said Yellowstone bison should be managed like wildlife rather than livestock and the herd’s size should not be solely determined by ranchers who live outside the park in Montana. He added there was no basis to assertions that a segment of Yellowstone’s rangelands had been adversely affected by grazing bison rather than natural processes.

A ranchers association said it was “steadfast” about keeping the bison population at 3,000. The bison population is now around 4,000.

“We feel that number is realistic and sustainable and not only meets the needs of the park in reducing migration of bison outside its boundaries but also reduces the threat of the possible transfer of disease to domestic cattle,” said Jay Bodner, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

Bring Science to Issue

If Zinke was concerned about overgrazing in the park, Wenk said he sought to answer it by suggesting science should be brought to the issue.

“It’s okay to have differences of opinion and I thought we were working through those,” he said.

Environmental groups and tribes have been critical of the park’s years-long practice of sending bison to slaughter for wandering from Yellowstone into neighboring Montana in search of food in the winter as a method of controlling the population of the nation’s last herd of wild, purebred bison.

The policy is a concession to ranchers who worry bison exposed to brucellosis, a disease that can cause cows to miscarry, might infect cattle that graze outside the park, though such a case has never been documented in the wild.

Millions of American and international visitors crowd the park each year to view wildlife like bison and natural wonders like the Old Faithful geyser.

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G-7 Leaders Try to Bridge Wide Trade Gap With Trump 

Emotions were on display when U.S. President Donald Trump met other G-7 leaders at their annual summit in Canada on Friday, but the discussions were civilized and diplomatic, according to sources. 

Trump held firm on asserting the United States is disadvantaged when it comes to trade with its European allies. 

“The other leaders presented their numbers and Trump presented his,” a G-7 official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Reuters news agency. “As expected he did not budge. This is probably not because he does not understand, but because of domestic reasons.”

At a bilateral meeting later with the summit’s host, Justin Trudeau, the U.S. president joked that the Canadian prime minister had agreed to “cut all tariffs.” 

Despite the two leaders exchanging criticism of each other’s trade policies the previous day, Trump described the cross-border relationship as very good, stating “we’re actually working on cutting tariffs and making it all very fair for both countries. And we’ve made a lot of progress today. We’ll see how it all works out.”

In a subsequent sit-down meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump said “the United States has had a very big trade deficit for many years with the European Union and we are working it out. And Emmanuel’s been very helpful in that regard.” 

Macron responded that he had a “very direct and open discussion” with Trump and “there is a critical path that is a way to progress all together.”

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, confirms she met on Friday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss the tariffs and the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She said Canada, however, will not change its mind about the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs which she termed “illegal.”

Trump imposed the tariffs on the grounds that weak domestic industries could affect U.S. national security.

Retaliatory measures

America’s closest allies, Canada, Mexico and the European Union, are introducing retaliatory tariffs. 

“I think the only way this moves towards a deal is if the concern grows among the G-7 countries about the economic impact of this, that Trump begins to feel some pressure from farmers and small manufacturers and others that are harmed, that other countries are feeling the pressure from the decline in their steel and aluminum exports to the United States and it causes some reconsideration of the current positions,” says Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

On the eve of the summit, Trump had lashed out on Twitter at Macron and Trudeau, who had criticized Trump’s trade stance at a joint news conference on Thursday in Ottawa.The White House then announced Trump would skip some of the G-7 sessions and depart for Singapore on Saturday morning, several hours earlier than planned. 

Trudeau, alongside Trump, was asked if he was disappointed the U.S. president was leaving early. He did not reply but Trump grinned broadly and said “he’s happy” before appearing to stick out his tongue. 

Some attending the summit are openly expressing strong concern about Trump’s positions. 

“What worries me most is that the rules-based international order is being challenged,” Donald Tusk, the chairman of European Union leaders, said at a news conference just prior to the start of the G-7 talks. “Quite surprisingly not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor — the United States. Naturally we cannot force the U.S. to change its mind.”

Should Trump disassociate with the group, reducing it to a G-6, it would leave the collective virtually inconsequential, according to some analysts. 

“The United States accounts for more than half of the GDP of the total G-7. So, without the United States the G-7 really isn’t anything,” according to Sebastian Mallaby, a CFR senior fellow for international economics. 

Russia invite?

Before departing the White House for Canada, the president told reporters that Russia should be invited back to the summits of leading advanced countries.

Trump, speaking on the South Lawn on Friday morning before boarding the Marine One helicopter, said that while “I have been Russia’s worst nightmare…Russia should be in this meeting.”

One other G-7 leader, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, said in a tweet he supports Trump’s suggestion.

But other G-7 leaders said it was not going to happen at this time.

European Union leaders are in agreement “that a return of Russia to the G-7 format summits can’t happen until substantial progress has been made in connection with the problems with Ukraine,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. 

A spokesman at the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, brushed it all off.

“Russia is focused on other formats apart from the G-7,” Peskov said, according to the Sputnik news agency.

Russia was added to the political forum in 1997, which became known as G-8 the following year. But Russia was suspended from the summit of the top industrialized nations in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea, a part of Ukraine. Russia announced its permanent withdrawal last year.

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Trump Loses Bid for Total Secrecy for Cohen Probe Documents

A federal judge said U.S. President Donald Trump should publicly file his objections to findings of a court-appointed special master reviewing documents seized in a probe of the business dealings of his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

In an order issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan rejected efforts by Trump, the Trump Organization and Cohen to file their objections entirely under seal.

She agreed with the government that the filings should be public except as to portions that “divulge the substance of the contested documents.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Wood said she would decide later which portions could be sealed.

Joanna Hendon, a lawyer for Trump, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Todd Harrison, a lawyer for Cohen, did not immediately respond to similar requests.

The criminal probe into Cohen’s business dealings stems in part from a referral by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia to influence that year’s U.S. presidential election.

Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion, and Russia has denied interference. Cohen has not been criminally charged.

Former judge reviews seized materials

The special master, former federal judge Barbara Jones, is reviewing materials seized in April raids of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, to determine which are subject to attorney-client privilege.

On Monday, she said in a report that 162 files, out of more than 292,000 reviewed so far, were privileged or partially privileged, and seven were “highly personal.”

Roughly 3.7 million files were seized, Cohen’s lawyers have said. Jones is reviewing only those that lawyers for Trump, the Trump Organization and Cohen believe might be privileged.

The case is Cohen v U.S., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-mj-03161.

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Muhammad Ali Attorney Calls Trump Pardon ‘Unnecessary’

President Donald Trump said Friday he is considering a pardon for the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016 — despite the fact that Ali’s conviction for refusal of military service was overturned in 1971.

Trump told reporters Friday that Ali is on a list of 3,000 people he is considering for pardons because, in his words, they “really have been treated unfairly.”

Ali’s attorney, Ron Tweel, thanked the president, but noted that a pardon was not necessary. He told NBC News: “We appreciate President Trump’s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision in 1971.”

Ali — who changed his name from Cassius Clay when he converted to Islam in 1964 — said his refusal to be drafted in 1966 was based on his religious beliefs and his opposition to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.

Ali was arrested and convicted in federal court in 1967 for violating selective service laws. He was stripped of his boxing titles and license and fined $10,000. He faced a five-year prison sentence, but was allowed to remain free while appealing the decision. During the four years in which he could not fight, he was a social activist, speaking out against the war and in favor of racial equality.

In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction in a unanimous decision, accepting Ali’s argument that he should be excused on religious grounds. His license to fight was also reinstated and Ali spent the next 10 years fighting professionally, cementing his reputation as one of the country’s most prominent athletes.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter, on his first day in office, issued a blanket pardon for all of the hundreds of thousands of U.S. men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. Had the 1971 court action not already cleared Ali’s name, experts say, the Carter decision would have done so.

A presidential pardon does not render a person legally innocent of a crime, but it can clear the way for living pardon recipients to regain civil rights usually denied to ex-felons: the right to vote, to run for office, to serve on a jury, and to own a firearm, among others.

A pardon for the deceased can provide no such reinstatement of rights and thus is seen as merely symbolic. The U.S. Department of Justice says, in general, it does not accept applications for posthumous pardons because its time can be better spend on living persons.

But it notes that it has granted three posthumous pardons in recent years, in response to requests by President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, and Trump, who last month pardoned boxer Jack Johnson, who died in 1946.

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House Republicans Scramble to Avoid Immigration Fight

House Republican leaders Thursday tried to hammer out a deal on border security and the fate young undocumented immigrants protected from deportation in a last-minute meeting intended to unite a party divided on immigration. Without a deal, a group of moderate Republicans likely has enough signatures to force an immigration vote using a rare procedural move. VOA’s Congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more.

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Ex-Senate Aide Charged With Lying About Reporter Contacts

A former employee of the Senate intelligence committee, one of the congressional panels investigating potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, has been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI about contacts he had with reporters, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

James A. Wolfe, the longtime director of security for the panel, was charged with three counts of false statements after prosecutors say he denied having disclosed classified information to journalists.

In reality, according to the Justice Department, Wolfe was in regular contact with multiple journalists, including meeting them at restaurants, in bars and in a Senate office building.

Wolfe, of Ellicott City, Maryland, has been arrested and is to be in court Friday. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

The prosecution comes amid a Trump administration crackdown on leaks of classified information. President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have decried such disclosures, and announced a sharp increase in leak investigations.

Wolfe’s position on the committee gave him access to classified and top secret information.

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Trump ‘Will be Sticking to His Guns’ During G7 Showdown

U.S. President Donald Trump “will be sticking to his guns” at the upcoming Group of Seven summit despite criticism of his trade policies from allies, one of his key economic advisers told reporters on Wednesday.

“The president is at ease with all these tough issues,” said Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council. “There’s always tension about something” between the United States and other G7 members.

The comments in the White House press briefing room came shortly after both Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is hosting the G7 summit in Charlevoix, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel forecast difficult discussions on Friday and Saturday.

Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), said, “This is essentially a recipe for a G6 plus one.”

Protecting American workers

Kudlow, in his remarks, denied the United States is now engaged in a trade war with its strategic partners, as well as China, but that the United States will do what is necessary to protect American workers and industries.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it is too early to call the tariffs dispute a trade war and contended the United States is justified in demanding “fair and reciprocal” trade with its partners.

Mattis said disputes in the economic arena with allies are not expected to damage military and security relations.

Setting the stage for the G7 discussions in the province of Quebec, Kudlow declared, “The world trading system is a mess. It’s broken down.” But, he added, “don’t blame Trump. Blame the nations that have broken away from those conditions.”

It is now clear that the United States and the other G7 countries are “no longer singing from the same hymn book” and that has serious ramifications for the global trading order, said Lynn Fischer Fox, a former deputy assistant secretary for policy and negotiations in the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.

Fischer Fox, who led negotiations for a number of trade remedy disputes during former President Barack Obama’s administration, describes Trump’s approach to trade as upsetting and unpredictable.

Asked by VOA News if the administration will respect decisions of the World Trade Organization filed against the United States over recent tariffs imposed by Trump, Kudlow replied: “We are bound by the national interests here more than anything else. International multilateral organizations are not going to determine American policy.”

While there have been tensions between the United States and other G7 leaders previously on strategic issues, such as the placement of nuclear weapons in Europe and the Iraq War, this rift appears far more fundamental, according to some analysts.

International rules

The United States has always followed the international rules, Fischer Fox tells VOA News. “And we’ve confronted other nations that use this kind of tactic of saber-rattling or hostage-taking, as it were, to try to get what they want out of the international system, outside of the rules,” she says.

Fischer Fox contends, “Violating the rules doesn’t give you a means to negotiate around the rules. If they (the Trump administration) want to negotiate the rules to be different, that’s what they should be putting on the table.”

The leaders of the other countries have no political choice now but to confront Trump, the Peterson Institute’s Kirkegaard tells VOA News.

“If you do not sanction an American president who behaves like this, every president and administration after this will think that trade policy is something you can easily mess with,” Kirkegaard says.

Speaking in the Bundestag on Wednesday, Merkel warned that G7 countries “must not keep watering down” previous summit conclusions committing the group to fair multilateral trade and rejecting protectionism.

“There must not be a compromise simply for the sake of a compromise,” Merkel said. If an acceptable agreement can’t be reached, a “chairman’s summary” by the Canadian hosts “is perhaps a more honest path — there is no sense in papering over divisions at will.”

University of Denver international affairs professor Jonathan Adelman said the G7 meeting is relevant and that it is possible the members will make progress in less public moments.

“I think that one possibility is that when the doors are closed and the media isn’t there anymore that there will be some effort to negotiate something that is rational and reasonable,” Adelman told VOA.

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said on Wednesday that steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the United States coming into force on July 1 are illegal and the Canadian response will be measured and proportionate.

Trump will be seeing many of the G7 leaders again soon. He is set to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May in the United Kingdom next month. And he is also expected to attend the annual NATO summit to be held in Brussels in mid-July.

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Trump’s Solar Tariff Costs US Companies Billions

President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels has led U.S. renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of more than $2.5 billion in large installation projects, along with thousands of jobs, the developers told Reuters.

That’s more than double the about $1 billion in new spending plans announced by firms building or expanding U.S. solar panel factories to take advantage of the tax on imports.

The tariff’s bifurcated impact on the solar industry underscores how protectionist trade measures almost invariably hurt one or more domestic industries for every one they shield from foreign competition. 

Trump announced the tariff in January over protests from most of the solar industry that the move would chill one of America’s fastest-growing sectors.

​Utility-scale projects

Solar developers completed utility-scale installations costing a total of $6.8 billion last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Those investments were driven by U.S. tax incentives and the falling costs of imported panels, mostly from China, which together made solar power competitive with natural gas and coal.

The U.S. solar industry employs more than 250,000 people, about three times more than the coal industry, with about 40 percent of those people in installation and 20 percent in manufacturing, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Solar was really on the cusp of being able to completely take off,” said Zoe Hanes, chief executive of Charlotte, North Carolina solar developer Pine Gate Renewables.

Companies with domestic panel factories are divided on the policy. Solar giant SunPower Corp opposes the tariff that will help its U.S. panel factories because it will also hurt its domestic installation and development business, along with its overseas manufacturing operations.

“There could be substantially more employment without a tariff,” said Chief Executive Tom Werner.

​Lost profits, jobs

The 30 percent tariff is scheduled to last four years, decreasing by 5 percent per year during that time. Solar developers say the levy will initially raise the cost of major installations by 10 percent.

Leading utility-scale developer Cypress Creek Renewables LLC said it had been forced to cancel or freeze $1.5 billion in projects, mostly in the Carolinas, Texas and Colorado, because the tariff raised costs beyond the level where it could compete, spokesman Jeff McKay said.

That amounted to about 150 projects at various stages of development that would have employed 3,000 or more workers during installation, he said. The projects accounted for a fifth of the company’s overall pipeline.

Developer Southern Current has made similar decisions on about $1 billion of projects, mainly in South Carolina, said Bret Sowers, the company’s vice president of development and strategy.

“Either you make the decision to default or you bite the bullet and you make less money,” Sowers said.

Neither Cypress Creek nor Southern Current would disclose exactly which projects they intend to cancel. They said those details could help their competitors and make it harder to pursue those projects if they become financially viable later.

Both are among a group of solar developers that have asked trade officials to exclude panels used in their utility-scale projects from the tariffs. The office of the U.S. Trade Representative said it is still evaluating the requests.

Other companies are having similar problems.

Stockpiling panels

For some developers, the tariff has meant abandoning nascent markets in the American heartland that last year posted the strongest growth in installations. That growth was concentrated in states where voters supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

South Bend, Indiana-based developer Inovateus Solar LLC, for example, had decided three years ago to focus on emerging Midwest solar markets such as Indiana and Michigan. But the tariff sparked a shift to Massachusetts, where state renewable energy incentives make it more profitable, Chairman T.J. Kanczuzewski said.

Some firms saw the tariff coming and stockpiled panels before Trump’s announcement. For example, 174 Power Global, the development arm of Korea’s Hanwha warehoused 190 megawatts of solar panels at the end of last year for a Texas project that broke ground in January.

The company is paying more for panels for two Nevada projects that start operating this year and next, but is moving forward on construction, according to Larry Greene, who heads the firm’s development in the U.S. West.

‘A lot of robots’

Trump’s tariff has boosted the domestic manufacturing sector as intended, which over time could significantly raise U.S. panel production and reduce prices.

Panel manufacturers First Solar and JinkoSolar , for example, have announced plans to spend $800 million on projects to increase panel construction in the United States since the tariff, creating about 700 new jobs in Ohio and Florida. Last week, Korea’s Hanwha Q CELLS joined them, saying it will open a solar module factory in Georgia next year, though it did not detail job creation.

SunPower Corp, meanwhile, purchased U.S. manufacturer SolarWorld’s Oregon factory after the tariff was announced, saving that facility’s 280 jobs. The company said it plans to hire more people at the plant to expand operations, without specifying how many.

But SunPower has also said it must cut up to 250 jobs in other parts of its organization because of the tariffs.

Jobs in panel manufacturing are also limited because of increasing automation, industry experts said.

Heliene, a Canadian company in the process of opening a U.S. facility capable of producing 150 megawatts worth of panels per year, said it will employ between 130 and 140 workers in Minnesota.

“The factories are highly automated,” said Martin Pochtaruk, president of Heliene. “You don’t employ too many humans. There are a lot of robots.

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