Trump Imposes Tariffs, Allies Embrace Free Trade Without U.S.
As Trump imposes tariffs, allies sign on to free-trade pact — without U.S. WaPo: "As the Trump administration took another step away from free trade on Thursday, 11 nations bordering the Pacific Ocean made an equally loud statement in favor of free trade. In a signing ceremony in Santiago, Chile — far removed from the Oval Office where Trump imposed new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports — the Pacific nations approved a far-reaching, multilateral free-trade accord that the United States had helped forge but from which Trump withdrew the United States on his first day in office. 'It’s quite a juxtaposition, one of the great ironies of today,' said Michael Froman, who had negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership as U.S. trade representative under President Barack Obama. 'The rest of the world is moving ahead without us. It shows the divergence of the United States from the rest of the world at the moment.'"
EPA Allows Top Staffers To Keep Side Gigs
These senior EPA officials can now moonlight for secret private-sector clients. EDF: "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an ethics waiver to one of Pruitt’s political appointees, John Konkus, to let him work for unknown outside private clients. These clients, and their political or commercial interests, won’t be divulged, raising troubling questions about possible conflicts of interest. We already know that Konkus – a Republican operative from Florida who worked for a political consulting firm with Koch Brothers’ entities and GOP candidates on its client roster – was screening EPA grants for political suitability. Konkus calls climate change 'the double C-word' and vets grants accordingly. He is now one of two employees in senior EPA leadership positions allowed to earn $135,000+ government salaries while also drawing paychecks from outside clients that may have a direct stake in EPA’s work."
Zinke Buys $139,000 Door With Taxpayer Money
Interior Secretary reportedly bought a $139,000 door with taxpayer money. ThinkProgress: "The Interior Department declined to further elaborate on the construction to the Associated Press, and a man who answered the phone at the company that performed the work reportedly hung up on the reporter when asked about Zinke’s office. But this would hardly be the first time that Secretary Ryan Zinke spent taxpayer money on an unusual expenditure. According to the Washington Post, Zinke has commissioned commemorative coins with his name on them to give to visitors, and has also instated a tradition of flying a special secretarial flag whenever he is at the Interior Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is unclear what the expense to the taxpayer is from the flag or the coins."
The Alt-Right Goes On Trial In Charlottesville
The alt-right is going on trial in Charlottesville. Vox: "A group of Charlottesville residents are fighting back against the white nationalists who took over their city. And they’re going to court with money from a new nonprofit group and with the lawyer who argued — and won — a landmark marriage equality case before the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs in Sines v. Kessler are arguing that the Unite the Right rally wasn’t an expression of free speech that got out of hand, but instead, as lead attorney Roberta Kaplan told me, 'a direct conspiracy to commit violence.' Kaplan’s team collected thousands of hours of chats and videos created by the defendants and leaked online — including white nationalist pundit Richard Spencer, rally organizer Jason Kessler, and Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website — that urged participants to prepare for and commit violence in Charlottesville."
Tax-Cut Bonuses Will Disappear
For most workers, the tax cut windfall will disappear. CNN: "Millions of workers have received a small cut of Corporate America's tax cut bonanza. Unfortunately, the windfall for most workers will be fleeting. 53% of the investments in workers announced by Russell 1000 companies have been one-time bonuses, according to an analysis shared exclusively with CNNMoney by the nonprofit group JUST Capital. In other words, most of the benefit to workers will be short-lived. Another 6% of the worker windfall has been in the form of one-time contributions to employee 401(k) plans, JUST Capital found after examining announcements by 93 companies in the Russell 1000. The index is home to 1,000 of the largest US public companies. Less than one-third of the investment in workers will be permanent. JUST Capital found that 29% of the money is going toward wage hikes, while another 2% is being set aside for ramping up 401(k) programs by raising matching contributions."