Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

With China’s economy cooling, President Trump and his aides are emboldened on the hardline tariffs strategy that they increasingly believe is jamming President Xi Jinping, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: For West Wing policy advisers, China has become a rare unifying issue, while deep rifts remain on other trade issues, especially the wisdom of Trump’s plan to impose massive tariffs on car imports.

The Wall Street Journal reports in today's lead story: "The Trump administration is moving closer ... to levying tariffs on nearly half of Chinese imports despite broad opposition from U.S. business."

Here's why:

A member of Congress who recently spoke at length with Trump about trade said: "He thinks he’s right and he thinks he’s winning."

  • "He's resolved to be the guy that changes the world trading system. ... He's willing to take some pain to do it."
  • "Trade is the one policy issue he feels comfortable with: He owns it, and he's 100 percent convinced he's right."
  • Most administration aides and congressional Republicans oppose the imposition of auto tariffs, although Trump remains warm to the idea.
  • But no one is pushing back on China.

Based on news reports out of China (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 14, from Beijing: "China’s Growth Engine Sputters as It Battles U.S. Over Trade"), some administration officials believe Trump is winning his fight with Beijing.

  • "They're shaken up," one senior official told us.
  • Sources who have spoken to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow marvel that the famous free-trader is an unapologetic "China hawk" (although he has been confrontational with China going back to his CNBC days).
  • A senior administration official said: "The president is all-in, 100 percent on China."
  • After an administration negotiating trip to China, there was internal speculation that there might be what the hawks called "an appeasement deal" where China bought off Trump with an agreement to buy more soybeans and other American products.
  • But that's now off the table, in part because the White House feels China has made no changes in practices the U.S. objects to, including its theft and heavy-handed acquisition of American companies' intellectual property and technology.

The member of Congress said: "They think internally that because China sells so much more to the U.S. than the U.S. sells to China, this is a war they can win."

  • However, many economists remain skeptical. And the administration has little true visibility into what Xi thinks.
  • One Trump adviser told us that they urged the president to limit the number of trade fights he picks around the world: "The goal is to isolate China."
  • So fights over NAFTA and Europe become a distraction.

Most of Trump’s top economic and trade officials adamantly oppose these auto tariffs. Trade adviser Peter Navarro is a lonely internal advocate alongside the president.

  • Two sources who recently spoke to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis came away thinking that he would not support a national security argument for the imposition of auto tariffs.

Be smart: If Trump carries out his threats on auto tariffs, it could be the act that provokes a Republican rebellion on Capitol Hill.

Go deeper

Schumer: "Nothing is off the table" if GOP moves to fill Ginsburg's seat

Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told fellow Democrats on a conference call Saturday that "nothing is off the table next year" if Senate Republicans move to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat in the coming weeks.

What he's saying: “Our number one goal must be to communicate the stakes of this Supreme Court fight to the American people.”

  • “Let me be clear: if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year," Schumer said, according to a source on the call. "Nothing is off the table.”

ActBlue collects record-breaking $30 million in hours after Ginsburg's death

A makeshift memorial in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 19. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

ActBlue, the Democratic donation-processing site, reported a record-breaking $30 million raised from 9 pm Friday to 9 am Saturday in the aftermath of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, NPR writes and ActBlue confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters via the New York Times: "The unprecedented outpouring shows the power of a looming Supreme Court confirmation fight to motivate Democratic donors."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 30,557,899 — Total deaths: 952,981— Total recoveries: 20,822,644Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 6,730,304 — Total deaths: 198,679 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 93,150,052Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19 — Massive USPS face mask operation called off — How the American diet worsens COVID-19.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety net.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.
  7. World: Guatemalan president tests positive for COVID-19.