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The Trump administration is working on an executive order that would initiate investigations into "unfair" product dumping from foreign companies — an action that could lead to tariffs on a wide range of products.
These plans are very fluid, and internal disagreements remain about how aggressive this order should be. Here's what I've learned from administration sources:
Steel and aluminum will be targeted. Other products, including household appliances, could be targeted as well. If the investigations result in new import duties — as some senior Trump officials believe should happen — it could make some consumer goods more expensive and could hurt the stock prices of American companies that rely on cheap steel imports. A good number of American manufacturing companies, however, could benefit from this hit to their low-cost competitors.
A White House official said this investigation is part of Trump's effort to protect American jobs and end unfair trade practices like dumping and foreign government subsidization.
"The administration will use the results of that investigation to determine the best path forward, which could potentially include everything from no action at all to the levying of supplemental duties," the White House official said. "But whichever action we take will be informed by the results of the investigation and not by predetermined conclusions."
Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson may need to talk. The Trump administration's two most prominent foreign-policy figures went on the Sunday shows to sell the President's Syria strikes — and made two opposite arguments. Haley, the UN ambassador, pushed for regime change in Syria, while Secretary of State Tillerson argued that could make things worse. The president hasn't publicly commented on the regime change question since the strikes.
Why this matters: The interventionist forces in the Trump administration won the first skirmish — Bannon argued against the Syrian strikes, and lost — but don't expect the America Firsters to back down easy. The fact that their divisions are so public suggests they aren't talking to each other. Which is unusual.
Also important: Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs reports K.T. McFarland has been asked to step down as Deputy National Security Adviser. The former Fox News commentator is the third controversial figure to leave the NSC, following Gen. Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon. Count this another step in the mainstreaming of the NSC under new boss, Gen. H.R. McMaster.
Mark Saturday, April 15, as the next big moment for the progressive resistance against Trump.
A Democratic operative involved in the planning tells me a "who's-who of progressive power" will join a "Tax March" to demand Trump release his tax returns:
Why this matters:
The Trump tax-returns issue won't matter unless people start publicly organizing around it. That organization may be starting. Also, the marches will highlight a progressive alternative to Republicans' waiting-for-lift-off tax reform plan. The operative says it's no coincidence the march will come exactly eight years after the April, 15, 2009, rally that was seen as the big kick off of the Tea Party.
Around midweek, Mick Mulvaney's Office of Management and Budget will send a "guidance" letter to federal agencies ordering them to create plans to make themselves significantly smaller and less costly. It's part of Mulvaney's effort to make the federal government more efficient.
This could be a big deal, and it fits in with Bannon's plan to deconstruct — or, as Kushner would have it, reconstruct and reimagine — the "administrative state."
The guidance stems from Trump's March 13 executive order, which called for a "comprehensive plan" to reorganize the executive branch. Agencies will likely consider selling real estate, laying off personnel, and eliminating programs deemed redundant. It's possible some agencies or components could be closed down or folded into other agencies.
What's next: Expect updates throughout the year, culminating with a final proposal around 2019 budget time next April.
The Steve Bannon—Jared Kushner soap opera has reduced every White House "palace intrigue" story to the same reductive battle: the populist nationalists versus the New York liberals. If Trump fired Bannon, every newspaper would likely call it the death of the nationalists and dawn of the liberals.
But that would miss an important element of this White House: movement conservatives. They aren't as cable news-friendly as Kushner and Bannon — every cable bookers' dream duo — but they have quietly shaped much of the president's domestic agenda. Their priorities include substantial domestic budget cuts, the elimination of federal funding to Planned Parenthood, a sweeping executive order on religious liberty, repealing Obamacare, and gutting the EPA.
Most important, these people — with one or two exceptions — have avoided unforced errors and distracting drama. That's why they get so little coverage, and why they're poised to become the true counterweight to Kushner and co.
The most visible figures in this camp are Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, and Mick Mulvaney. But there are a host of others installed at the White House who movement conservatives trust: