Mar 1, 2018

Trump declares his trade war: targets steel, aluminum

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

I can’t overstate the effect of Trump's new tariffs, 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. (As we reported Sunday, he upped the recommended 24% on steel to 25% because it's a nice round number).

Why it matters: These tariffs have the potential to roil markets and affect relationships with allies. Trump is also touching the third rail of international trade law — he’s using an arcane trade law known as Section 232 to justify his actions. He’s saying “F You” to the World Trade Organization and arguing the global overproduction of steel and aluminum constitutes a national security threat to the U.S. He's also breaking with Capitol Hill and top officials — including Gary Cohn, James Mattis, Steven Mnuchin and Rex Tillerson — who have been arguing strenuously against these tariffs.

Mattis says they will be a national security problem if they’re broad-based and don’t allow allies off the hook. And one other thing — the loss of staff secretary Rob Porter contributed to the chaos here. Porter controlled the paper flow and oversaw the weekly trade meetings in the Roosevelt Room. What happened over the past 24 hours was a complete breakdown in White House process.

Flashback: Remember we wrote that story last August giving the fly on the wall account of the Oval Office meeting where Trump told Kelly and staff:

“I want tariffs! Bring me tariffs!”

Well, it’s March 2018, and Trump hasn’t changed his views one iota. He wants his tariffs and darn it, he’ll have them. The only two senior officials telling Trump this is a good idea are Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro. 

Watch for huge fallout: Will Gary Cohn and other free-traders stay after this? Trump just completely circumvented the interagency process and is executing a policy Cohn and others think is calamitous.

Perhaps the thing that will most unsettle Trump is the markets falling after his announcement. Cohn and Mnuchin had been using Trump’s love of his record-setting stock market as a way to convince him not to take any dramatic trade actions. Over the course of a year Trump watched his top officials — the free-traders versus the protectionists — duke it out in front of him, in meetings that sometimes descended into officials flat out insulting each other. These fights have happened in the Oval and more recently in the Situation Room.

The tariffs could rebound on Trump by increasing the the price that consumers pay for cars and trucks, canned drinks, aluminum foil and more. The Pentagon will pay more to make fighter jets.

The big picture:

  • Trump believes to his core that foreign countries are taking advantage of America and that America needs to fight back with tariffs.
  • He also believes that he can oversee a renaissance of steel production in the United States. He foresees a return to the Rust Belt smokestacks and the high-paying steel manufacturing jobs of yesteryear.
  • Some of his staff have been telling him those days are over, and a number of senior officials criticized Wilbur Ross’ report that underpinned this decision.
  • Some officials, including Cohn, told colleagues the report was “terrible” because it didn’t properly analyze the jobs that would be lost downstream in industries like the automotive sector that rely on steel and aluminum to make their products.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 716,101 — Total deaths: 33,854 — Total recoveries: 148,900.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 136,880 — Total deaths: 2,409 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health