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AP

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."

  • Scope: This investigation could result in penalties that would be much broader than the anti-steel dumping measure the New York Times previewed last week.
  • Timing: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is running point on this executive order, and an administration source tells me it could arrive as early as late April. But there's no point getting too wedded to that timeline, because Trump has slowed the pace of executive actions and this is an especially sensitive one: If it's clumsy, foreign trading partners could see this as the first shot in a trade war.
  • What Ross says, through a spokesman: "Trade negotiations and discussions should happen in the board room, not in the press room."
  • The narrative: If this investigation leads to penalties on foreign trading partners, it will be a big (and much-needed) win for Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, and other economic nationalists in Trump's orbit. Given the Syria strikes and Bannon's demotion from the NSC, their clout has appeared to diminish. The Goldman wing, meanwhile, will likely oppose aggressive trade moves.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river seen via satellite on Sunday. The center of the storm is at the middle of the comma shape, due west of Washington State. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) and Sen. Joe Manchin at the U.S. Capitol in 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.