Obama Calls Warren ‘Absolutely Wrong’ on Trade Opposition

President Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama accused Senator Elizabeth Warren and other fellow Democrats who oppose his trade agenda of playing politics and misleading the public.

During a Friday speech in Portland, Oregon, and in an interview with Yahoo News, Obama singled out members of his party, at times referencing Warren by name, in some of his harshest comments criticizing Democrats on trade. Obama said each of their arguments against trade deals have been off base.

“She’s absolutely wrong,” Obama said of Warren in an interview with Yahoo News published Saturday. “Her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”

Lacey Rose, a spokeswoman for Warren, didn’t immediately respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment on Saturday.

Obama’s criticism comes as he courts Democrats who are on the fence about supporting a bill to give him authority to negotiate the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and submit it to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

“They’re making stuff up,” Obama said of his critics Friday during the speech at Nike Inc. headquarters in Portland.

Warren, of Massachusetts, has been one of the most outspoken opponents of giving Obama trade promotion authority.

In a speech in Washington on Tuesday, Warren said giving the president such authority would allow future administrations to cut unamendable deals that roll back rules imposed on banks after the 2008 financial crisis.

“This is hardly a hypothetical possibility,” Warren said.

Responding to Warren’s claim, Obama called it just that.

“And this is all hypothetical, speculative,” he told Yahoo News of Warren’s claims.

‘A Politician’

Obama, who signed the Dodd-Frank financial regulations into law, said he’d “have to be pretty stupid” to sign an agreement that would undermine them.

“The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else,” he told Yahoo News. “And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that.”

Several top Democrats have voiced opposition to Obama’s trade deals, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senator Charles Schumer of New York. Like Warren, they have argued that the trade deals would harm workers and depress wages, benefiting only large corporations and foreign nations.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who is running for president as a Democrat, sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday asking him to cancel his trip to Nike’s headquarters due to the company’s history of outsourcing jobs. He said Nike, which supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is doing so because it would “make Nike more money and increase the compensation packages of its executives.”

During his visit to Nike on Thursday, Obama devoted part of his speech to Democratic critics of the trade deal. He said many of the opponents were reacting reflexively, rather than judging the deal on its merits.

“On every progressive issue, they’re right there with me,” he said. “And then on this one, they’re like whooping on me.”

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