Balance of Power: High-Stakes Asia Tour Keeps Pressure on TrumpBy and
Donald Trump is about to trade one pressure cooker for another.
The U.S. president departs for a 10-day Asia tour today, leaving behind an administration more mired than ever in the federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
His longest foreign trip yet, with stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, provides Trump an opportunity to look presidential and talk tough about North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. But the diversion isn’t without peril for a commander-in-chief known for off-the-cuff pronouncements and awkward encounters with world leaders.
A weapons test by Kim when Trump is in the region could compel a forceful response. And U.S. officials are playing down the prospects of getting Chinese President Xi Jinping to approve structural economic changes that U.S. companies say are needed to level the playing field and draw down the trade deficit.
South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, meanwhile, will be looking for clear assurances Trump won’t let trade disputes upset their security alliance, and some Southeast Asian nations will want a reaffirmation of Obama administration efforts to counter China’s rising influence.
Both at home and abroad, there are few signs that Trump’s challenges are waning.
Tax bill moving | Republicans did their best to paper over divisions during their long-awaited tax legislation rollout, but cracks are already showing. The first major test is Monday when the House tax-writing committee begins considering the proposal. At the same time, a Trump-aligned advocacy group plans a $1 million ad campaign promoting the bill featuring the president’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Click here for more on how business — not the middle class — might be the plan’s biggest winner.
The Fed pick whisperer | Jerome Powell should be thanking Steven Mnuchin. The U.S. treasury secretary helped sway Trump to select Powell to head the Federal Reserve, Bloomberg’s Washington bureau reports. His appointment is viewed as a move by Trump to stay the course on gradual rate increases, and will likely give Wall Street what it’s been expecting on de-regulation.
Venezuela pulls the plug | Blaming a U.S. financial blockade that’s making it increasingly difficult to raise money from international investors, President Nicolas Maduro said he’ll seek a “complete reformatting” of Venezuela’s global debt, after the state-owned oil company makes one last payment. It’s a step Maduro and his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez, rejected for two decades.
Bank of England links rates to Brexit | After raising interest rates for the first time in more than a decade, Governor Mark Carney effectively said future decisions will depend on the outcome of Brexit talks, which remain deadlocked. Prime Minister Theresa May, distracted by a Westminster sex scandal that’s already led one minister to quit, has just weeks to come up with a proposal on a divorce bill payment — the main sticking point before negotiations proceed.
A rare invitation for talks with the Saudi King | The Muslim kingdom, which has no Christian churches and parishes, has invited Lebanon’s Catholic patriarch to meet King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who’s leading a drive to modernize Saudi Arabia’s traditionally ultra-conservative society. The historic trip by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Al Rai, one of the most prominent Christian figures in the Middle East, is set to take place in the coming weeks.
And finally... It was the error message seen around the world. Twitter says a departing customer-support employee is to blame for the 11-minute deactivation of Trump’s personal account. The incident last night could lend fodder to lawmakers seeking to install more security controls on social media companies to prevent Russia and other foreign powers from again using their networks to influence U.S. elections. It also elevates Twitter’s critics, who say the company should banish Trump for violating its terms of service.
— With assistance by Chris Fournier