What to Know in Washington: Trump’s Eco Report Targets Socialism

In setting out what it probably hopes will be themes for the 2020 presidential campaign, the administration spent one of the 10 chapters of the 705-page report outlining the costs of state control of the economy, replete with references to Karl Marx, Mao Zedong and present-day Venezuela.

“There is a lot of confusion about this,’’ Kevin Hassett, chairman of President Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters yesterday in explaining why the “Markets Versus Socialism’’ section made it into the report.

In that chapter, Hassett and his fellow CEA economists attacked the Medicare for All proposal first put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and since taken up by many Democrats.

In contrast to the ills of socialism, the Trump team portrayed itself as a promoter of free enterprise and competitive markets that has lifted economic growth through lower taxes and less regulation. Wage growth has accelerated, particularly for those on the lower pay scales, while numerous Americans have rejoined the labor force and gotten jobs, the economists said. Read more from Rich Miller.

Photographer: Alicia Vera/Bloomberg
Trump speaks during an event with the Venezuelan American community in Miami in February.

Politics & Elections

Ocasio-Cortez’s Campaign Finance Criticized: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) rode into office railing against the influence of big money and hidden donors in U.S. elections. Yet the political operation that helped elect her to Congress was itself less than transparent—exposing her to attacks from conservative foes.

Ocasio-Cortez raised a hefty $2 million for her 2018 election while refusing to take money from business-related political action committees. Of that, 61 percent came from individuals giving less than $200—the highest rate of small-dollar funding among current U.S. House members. At the same time, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign committee and two PACs paid almost $900,000 to a consulting company for campaign services, providing few details on what the money was for or who ultimately received it.

The unorthodox arrangement—she sat on the board of one of the PACs, both of which were co-founded by the person who is now her chief-of-staff, who also ran the consulting company—appears to have taken advantage of gaps in the law, including the low level of detail that campaigns and PACs are required to provide about their spending. Read more from Bill Allison.

Warren Town Hall: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) participated in a CNN town hall in Mississippi last night, where she called for the end to the electoral college and discussed reparations. “Get rid of the electoral college,” she said, adding that she supports a national popular vote and adopting a constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote.

“It’s time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country,” Warren said. She said she supports Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-Texas) bill that would appoint a congressional panel of experts to study the issue and report back with recommendations. On the question of direct payments, Warren deferred and said there are many ways to approach the issue.

Democrat Ryan Considers Run: Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said General Motor’s decision to close a plant in his Ohio district is playing a part in his decision over whether to run for president in 2020, Chelsea Mes reports. “I don’t know what I’m going to end up doing. I think I need to make a decision here in a couple of weeks. I’m continuing to go out and talk to people,” Ryan said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg Radio. “I’ve been watching this for a long time. This is the failure of leadership, the failure of government at the highest levels.”

Cruz Fined for Undisclosed Loans: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was fined $35,000 for failure to disclose with the Federal Election Commission more than $1 million in loans he received from Citibank and Goldman Sachs for his first Senate campaign in 2012, according to a settlement. The settlement follows years of questions about the loans and a declaration from FEC auditors in 2017—as Cruz was preparing to run for re-election—that he was required to amend his reports to include details about the loans. Read more from Kenneth P. Doyle.

What Else to Know Today

Trump and Bolsonaro: Trump will meet today at the White House with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, where the pair will hold a joint press conference. Trump and Bolsonaro are expected to announce energy and infrastructure deals during the visit, a senior Trump administration official told reporters yesterday. The U.S. will also seek to help Brazil succeed in its aim of joining the OECD, the official said. The U.S. has welcomed Brazil’s efforts, such as economic reforms, and a commitment to overcome past issues in order to gain acceptance into OECD, Justin Sink reports .

Bolsonaro, speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday, championed the expansion of trade relations with the U.S., Simone Iglesias reports. “Together with the United States, we can do a lot, leverage the economy and values that have been left behind,” he said. Bolsonaro also said that it is necessary to “solve the issue” of Venezuela. “Those people have to be set free.” During the event at the Chamber of Commerce, Brazil and the U.S. signed an agreement to use the Alcantara rocket launch base in Maranhao, Brazil.

U.S.-China Trade: China could as much as triple its purchases of American farm goods as part of a trade deal between the nations, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. When compared with the nation’s buying in 2017, “we could easily see, if we are able to come to a trade resolution, a doubling or tripling of that kind of number over a period of” two to five years, he said yesterday in an interview on Bloomberg Television with Shery Ahn.

That would dovetail with a proposal by Beijing to buy an additional $30 billion a year of American agricultural products. China’s U.S. agricultural imports were about $20 billion a year, before the trade war, Gregg Doud, the chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said earlier yesterday. Read more from Alexandra Semenova and Mike Dorning.

Boeing Jet Trouble: China is looking at excluding Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet from a list of American exports it would buy as part of a trade deal with the U.S., people familiar with the matter said. Boeing jets were featured on a draft list of American products China would buy to reduce its trade surplus with the U.S., the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private deliberations. Now, safety concerns are pushing China to examine whether to cut the 737 Max from the list altogether or replace it with other Boeing models, they said. Read more.

Trump Nominees and Vacancies: Trump yesterday announced his intent to nominate Christopher Landau, an appellate lawyer in Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s Washington office, to be U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Chelsea Mes reports.

Meanwhile, federal labor investigators, who last year approved a complaint against the Education Department for allegedly trying to bust the union that represents its employees, can’t do anything about it because Trump hasn’t nominated someone to fill the agency’s top lawyer role. Read more from Chris Opfer.

Dems’ Trump Probe: House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said yesterday the committee “has heard from a large number of the recipients” of letters it sent requesting documents related to its probe into allegations of obstruction of justice, public corruption and other abuses of power by Trump, his associates and members of his administration, Ben Livesey and Billy House report. “I am encouraged by the responses we have received since sending these initial letters two weeks ago,” Nadler said in a statement. “It is my hope that we will receive cooperation from the remainder of the list.”

Dems Probe Labor Official: The leading Democrat on the committee overseeing the Labor Department wants the agency to hand over information about an official who continued to work on a private lawsuit for months after joining the department. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, sent a letter to the department yesterday demanding more information on Associate Deputy Labor Secretary Michael Avakian’s involvement in the lawsuit. Scott wants to know when agency officials became aware that Avakian was still representing a steel company suing an Ironworkers Union in Indiana. Read more from Jaclyn Diaz.

Nunes Sues Twitter: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) filed a lawsuit seeking $250 million in damages from Twitter and users behind anonymous accounts, claiming the social media site suppressed conservative opinions and allowed users to smear him without penalty. Nunes alleged that Twitter shadow-banned him in 2018 “in order to restrict his free speech” and “to amplify the abusive and hateful content published” by accounts including @DevinNunesMom, which has now been suspended, and @DevinCow. Read more from Selina Wang.

Social Media Safeguards: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent a letter to Japanese Prime Minister and G20 Chair Shinzo Abe asking for other G20 leaders to have an opportunity to discuss issues on social media safety at the Osaka G20 Summit. Morrison said it is “imperative that the global community works together to ensure that technology firms meet their moral obligation to protect the communities which they serve and from which they profit.” He also called for transparency among technology firms to show how they are monitoring illegal and extremist content, managing reports of such content, and the number and types of complaints, Shoko Oda reports.

Social media platforms are facing scrutiny after a shooter accused of killing 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand live-streamed the murders, with the video widely available on a range of platforms hours after the attack.

Obstacles to Selling GM Plant: Trump has expressed his displeasure with GM’s decision to idle its Lordstown, Ohio, facility, tweeting yesterday that he wants the plant “opened or sold to a company who will open it up fast.” But selling the plant might not be an easy ride.

The most likely purchasers are foreign auto companies, which remain largely non-unionized in the U.S., and the plant’s history with the United Auto Workers union would present problems, said Marick Masters, a professor of management at Wayne State University and director of the school’s labor studies program. The fate of the plant is likely to be a topic of contract negotiations that will begin in July, said Masters. The UAW’s contract with the company expires in September. Read more from Andrew Wallender.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com

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