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Trump wants to start his trade war tomorrow

President Donald Trump
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump wants to sign a presidential proclamation tomorrow to set his steel and aluminum tariffs in motion, according to two senior administration officials. (More on how proclamations work below).

The big picture: Trump is impatient and he wants to act — or at least be seen as acting. He got fed up with staff, especially Gary Cohn and Rob Porter, not giving him his tariffs on steel and aluminum. And some of Trump’s nationalist-minded advisers are telling him these tariffs will help turn out voters in the upcoming special election in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district.

Yes, but: Keep in mind that this is what Trump has been telling staff he wants. These days — and in this White House — nothing is set in stone. Besides, the White House lawyers have been working overtime on these tariffs and sources tell me nothing is certain when it comes to timing.

What to watch from a proclamation:

  1. Are any countries exempted? If not, this is a global 25% tariff on steel, and 10% on aluminum.
  2. What, if any, steel and aluminum products are exempted? Past proclamations have listed specific products for targeted tariffs, but they were on different grounds than this round.
  3. What does the post-tariff exclusion process look like? How do they handle the potential exemptions for specific products or countries after the fact?

How it works:

  • The Trump administration used a proclamation earlier this year when it slapped restrictions on Chinese solar panels.
  • Most proclamations imposing tariffs — like Trump's move against Chinese solar, Obama's 2009 Chinese tire tariffs, or Bush's 2002 steel tariffs — are highly-detailed documents based on government trade reports.
  • They also tend to run through the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), but this round will not because they're using Wilbur Ross' Section 232 report, citing national security grounds.
  • This one is different: 232 is rarely invoked, but one example is Ronald Reagan's use of 232 in 1982, when he cited national security grounds for ending oil imports from Libya.

The backdrop: Next Tuesday's looming Pennsylvania election could be pushing Trump to act quickly, given that the race is taking place in industrial steel and coal strongholds in the southwestern corner of the state. Trump's preferred candidate Rick Saccone is struggling against Democrat Conor Lamb. Senior Republicans on the Hill and inside the administration are nervous and pessimistic about this race in a district they really ought to win.

Haley Britzky 3 hours ago
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DOJ eyeing tool to allow access to encrypted data on smartphones

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

The Justice Department is in "a preliminary stage" of discussions about requiring tech companies building "tools into smartphones and other devices" that would allow law enforcement investigators to access encrypted data, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: This has been on the FBI's mind since 2010, and last month the White House "circulated a memo...outlining ways to think about solving the problem," officials told the Times. Both FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, support finding ways for law enforcement to access data without compromising devices security.

Haley Britzky 3 hours ago
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Media tycoon Barry Diller talks #MeToo

 IAC & Expedia, Inc. Chairman & Senior Executive Barry Diller
IAC & Expedia, Inc. Chairman & Senior Executive Barry Diller. Photo: Cindy Ord / Getty Images for Yahoo

Barry Diller, chairman of mega-media and Internet company IAC, told the New York Times he thinks "all men are guilty," when it comes to "the spectrum" of the #MeToo movement.

"I hope in the future for some form of reconciliation. Because I think all men are guilty. I’m not talking about rape and pillage. I’m not talking about Harveyesque. I’m talking about all of the spectrum. From an aggressive flirt. Or even just a flirty-flirt that has one sour note in it. Or what I think every man was guilty of, some form of omission in attitude, in his views."

Why it matters: The #MeToo movement has rocked Hollywood and the media industry. Diller told the Times he sees the effects of this "in our companies, where the relationships between people are changing."