Trump tests presidential limits by threat to General Motors
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and ZEKE MILLER
Wednesday, November 28
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump tested the limits of his presidential authority and political muscle as he threatened to cut off all federal subsidies to General Motors because of its planned massive cutbacks in the U.S.
Trump unloaded on Twitter on Tuesday, a day after GM announced it would shutter five plants and slash 14,000 jobs in North America. Many of the job cuts would affect the Midwest, the politically crucial region where the president promised a manufacturing rebirth. It was the latest example of the president’s willingness to attempt to meddle in the affairs of private companies and to threaten the use of government power to try to force their business decisions.
“Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico & China,” Trump tweeted. “The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”
He added that his administration was “looking at cutting all GM subsidies, including for electric cars.”
Trump’s tweets came shortly after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the White House’s reaction to the automaker’s announcement was “a tremendous amount of disappointment, maybe even spilling over into anger.” Kudlow, who met with Barra on Monday, said Trump felt betrayed by GM.
“Look, we made this deal, we’ve worked with you along the way, we’ve done other things with mileage standards, for example, and other related regulations,” Kudlow said, referencing the recently negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. “We’ve done this to help you and I think his disappointment is it seems like they kind of turned their back on him.”
The White House rebuke appears to fly in the face of long-held Republican opposition to picking winners and losers in the marketplace. A day earlier, Trump issued a vague threat to GM to preserve a key plant in the presidential bellwether state of Ohio, where the company has marked its Lordstown plant for closure.
“That’s Ohio, and you better get back in there soon,” he said.
It’s not clear precisely what action against GM might be taken, or when, and there are questions about whether the president has the authority to act without congressional approval.
Buyers of electric vehicles made by GM and other automakers get federal tax credits of up to $7,500, helping reduce the price as an incentive to get more of the zero-emissions vehicles on the road. But GM is on the cusp of reaching its subsidy limit.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she did not have any additional information on the president’s threat.
Trump has long promised to return manufacturing jobs to the United States and particularly the Midwest. At a rally near GM’s Lordstown plant last summer, Trump told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are “all coming back.”
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, GM tried to appease the Trump administration while justifying the decisions it announced Monday. “We appreciate the actions this administration has taken on behalf of industry to improve the overall competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing,” the statement said.
Many of the workers who will lose jobs if the plants close could transfer to another GM factory where production is being increased, spokesman Patrick Morrissey said. For instance, GM plans to add hundreds of workers at its pickup truck assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, Morrissey said. Workers also will be added at an SUV factory in Arlington, Texas.
But those expansions aren’t enough to accommodate all the roughly 3,300 U.S. factory workers who could lose their jobs.
GM said it has invested more than $22 billion in U.S. operations since 2009, when it exited bankruptcy protection.
Trump has made direct negotiation with business leaders a centerpiece of his administration, including talks with defense contractor CEOs on bringing down prices on new systems, including the upcoming replacement to the aircraft that serves as Air Force One. He has never been shy about voicing his frustration with their decisions.
But Trump’s deal-making image is far from flawless. Three weeks after his election, Trump traveled to Indianapolis to announce a tax-incentive agreement partially reversing the closure of a Carrier factory, which was set to close, cutting about 1,400 production jobs.
Trump frequently criticized the closure plans during the 2016 campaign and promised to prevent similar occurrences. Under the tax-incentive deal, Carrier pledged to keep nearly 1,100 jobs in Indianapolis, including some 800 furnace production jobs it planned to cut with outsourcing. But about 550 jobs were still eliminated at the plant.
GM’s attempt to close the factories still must be negotiated with the United Auto Workers union, which has promised to fight them legally and in collective bargaining.
The factory announcements likely represented GM’s opening bid in contract talks with the union that start next year, said Kristen Dziczek, vice president of labor and industry with the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The factories slated for closure could get new products in exchange for items the company wants from the union, she said.
Keeping open a plant slated for closure is not without precedent for GM. In 2009, GM announced that it intended to close a huge assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan, north of Detroit. But it later negotiated concessions from the union and reopened the plant to build the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact car. The factory is still in operation and now builds the Sonic and the Bolt electric car.
The reductions could amount to as much as 8 percent of GM’s global workforce of 180,000 employees.
The restructuring reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from cars toward SUVs and trucks. In October, almost 65 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50 percent cars just five years ago.
Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian trade union UNIFOR, said Tuesday that GM’s CEO had insulted the president of the United States and the prime minister of Canada.
“If you are going to have a company that’s going to show us their middle finger, then I think our government should show them our middle finger as well,” Dias said.
Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Tom Krisher in Detroit, Rob Gillies in Toronto and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed reporting.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire and Miller at http://twitter.com/zekejmiller
Opinion: Trump’s Attacks on Mueller Are Nonsense
By David Waller
We thought it was bad when President Trump declared Special Counsel Robert Mueller “disgraced and discredited” in August. The president’s more recent tweets have labeled Mueller “highly conflicted” and described his investigation as “a total mess” that has “gone absolutely nuts” and “a disgrace to our Nation.” Anyone familiar with Mueller’s life and work knows that Mueller is a courageous, honorable man who has spent a career defending the country. Anyone who’s skimmed the headlines in the last 18 months has seen the fruit of his investigation.
The very beginning of Mueller’s career is littered with honors and distinctions. In Vietnam, Mueller was awarded the Bronze Star for saving a wounded Marine while under enemy fire. The medal is only awarded to a serviceman who has “distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service.” He also won the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal twice, and a Purple Heart for enduring a gunshot wound to the leg. After he recovered, he returned to leading his platoon.
As a federal prosecutor, Mueller secured convictions against terrorists, money launderers, corrupt public officials, narcotics rings and the mafia. As a Republican working in Northern California, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., in the 1980s and 1990s, he developed a reputation as “the quintessential straight shooter,” according to another prosecutor.
Mueller was appointed FBI director the week before 9/11, and led the way in preventing another large-scale attack. Appointed by George W. Bush, he was reappointed by Barack Obama and confirmed by a 100-0 vote in the Senate.
When Mueller was appointed by Trump-appointee Rod Rosenstein to head the Russia investigation, Newt Gingrich tweeted, “Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down.” Gingrich is hardly a #NeverTrumper. He is a staunch Trump ally who was once considered the front-runner to be Trump’s running mate. Did the Trump administration’s trust with such an important job or Gingrich’s praise disgrace Mueller? Some may think so, but the president shouldn’t.
Even Mueller’s handling of the most sensitive investigation in modern American history has been pristine. He has worked efficiently and — most important — quietly. There have been no leaks from the special counsel’s office in the 18 months since Mueller was appointed.
Far from being “discredited,” Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election has been honest and focused. (That’s more than can be said of most of the government recently.) Including the cases that were transferred to other U.S. attorneys’ offices, the special counsel’s office has secured 37 indictments. Seven of those indictments have resulted in guilty pleas, and the one that went to court, Paul Manafort’s trial in Virginia, ended in convictions on eight federal felony counts.
The thing about a witch hunt is that witches don’t exist. A jury of American citizens, including Trump supporters, decided beyond a reasonable doubt that the crimes Mueller and his team uncovered were real — not made up, mythical or invented by angry partisans.
Most important, Mueller’s indictments have exposed 13 Russian citizens, 12 Russian intelligence officers, and three Russian companies as masterminding the election interference campaign. Although none of these indictments will ever result in a trial, they demonstrate the extensive American capability to detect and track such interference, and they help neutralize those people and companies in the future.
With whom does the president think Mueller has lost credit? Certainly not with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. Not the American people, who believe that Trump should not fire Mueller by a margin of more than two to one (including a majority of Republicans). Not with Republicans in Congress, who have consistently voiced their support for Mueller (even when they’ve neglected to pass legislation protecting him). The administration demands that Senator Mitch McConnell prevent the special counsel protection bill from getting a vote, likely because they fear it could overcome a filibuster and pass.
There are serious disagreements to be had about what the special counsel should or should not be allowed to investigate (no one believes his remit should be limitless), and his speed and efficiency in conducting his investigation should be praised and encouraged. To claim that Mueller is conflicted or that his investigation is illegitimate is nonsense, especially when the president’s hand-chosen acting attorney general faces a serious constitutional challenge and mounting ethics charges.
Mueller is an honorable man running a clean investigation. All the president’s tweets don’t make it otherwise.
ABOUT THE WRITER
David Waller is legal adviser for Republicans for the Rule of Law. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Companies blocked from using West Coast ports to export fossil fuels keep seeking workarounds
November 28, 2018
Faculty, Graduate Program on the Environment, Evergreen State College
Associate Professor of Sociology, School of Public Policy, Oregon State University
Hilary Boudet received funding from the National Science Foundation and Oregon Sea Grant to study community responses to liquefied natural gas facilities in California and Oregon. Seattle University provided funding for our 2017 national survey.
Shawn Olson-Hazboun does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
A year after Washington state denied key permits for a coal-export terminal in the port city of Longview, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would proceed with its review – essentially ignoring the state’s decision.
This dispute pits federal authorities against local and state governments. It’s also part of a larger and long-running battle over fossil fuel shipments to foreign countries that stretches up the entire American West Coast.
We are sociologists who have studied how people respond to news about plans for big energy facilities in their communities. With President Donald Trump pushing hard for more fossil fuel production and exports, we believe it could get significantly harder for local communities to have a say in these important decisions.
Access to Asia
Oil and gas exports have dramatically increased nationwide over the past decade, ever since technological advances turned the U.S. from a top importer of these fuels to a growing exporter.
Energy companies have sought more access to West Coast ports for decades for routes to Asia and Australia. The region’s deepwater ports, railroad and pipeline networks, and proximity to some of the nation’s most productive oil, gas and coal fields make it particularly attractive for export terminals.
In some cases, exporting through the West Coast is the only economically viable option, as longer overland transportation routes would be too costly. Moreover, shorter trips by sea to reach China and other growing Asian markets cut costs.
Yet Western ports do not export as much crude oil as other American coastal areas.
In addition, there are no facilities yet in California, Oregon or Washington for exporting liquefied natural gas, a form of the fuel that has been cooled to very low temperatures for easier storage and shipping.
This is not for lack of trying. All the numerous export terminals energy companies have proposed for liquefied natural gas up and down the West Coast have faced significant public opposition that made securing permits hard if not impossible.
Likewise, relatively small volumes of coal are being shipped abroad from ports on the West Coast despite efforts to build new export terminals there.
With his “energy dominance” policy, Trump has emphasized expanding production and export of fossil fuels and weakening environmental regulations – including those that address climate change.
His administration is siding with energy companies and landlocked states like Wyoming and Colorado angling to ship coal, oil and natural gas mined and drilled within their borders to lucrative and growing Asian markets.
At the same time, many local and state governments on the West Coast are on board with demands made by environmental activists for renewable energy development and advocates for more local control over development.
Local supporters of fossil fuel exports point to the positive local effects these facilities can have. Labor unions, county governments, business councils and ports frequently argue that bolstering fossil fuel exports would create jobs, entice investment and increase the tax base.
Opponents argue that transporting, storing, handling and shipping fossil fuels – via railroads, pipelines and ships – endangers nearby communities and contributes to climate change.
They point to oil train derailments, the public health perils of increased diesel fumes and coal dust, and pipeline explosions and leaks. They also highlight the climate implications of shipping fossil fuels abroad that may affect the carbon footprints of other countries, where the fuel would be burned.
These people have maintained a virtual blockade against new export facilities so far. But in our study of this issue, we have found it remains unclear if the federal government will overturn or override local and state decisions to deny permits.
Public opinion research indicates both support and opposition for fossil fuel export depending on fuel type. Our 2017 national survey showed that about a third of U.S. citizens sampled opposed exporting natural gas, while about half supported it and almost a fifth were undecided. Our forthcoming survey of Washington residents found similar levels of opposition to natural gas exports. We also detected higher rates of disapproval of oil and coal exports, with about half of residents opposing them.
Activists in the Pacific Northwest have established what they call a “thin green line” of resistance against any big new fossil fuel infrastructure. Their protests have contributed to state and local decisions to deny permits, as well as the passage of ordinances and resolutions limiting such development. Cities like Portland, Oregon, have banned these projects altogether.
Tribal governments have actively opposed many of these proposals, too. For example, the Lummi Nation played an essential role in stopping the Gateway Pacific coal terminal proposed for Bellingham, Washington.
Legal fights have ensued. After Washington denied the permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export proposal, six interior states and several industry groups joined the company in a lawsuit. They allege that the state’s decision violated the Constitution’s commerce clause, which grants Congress – not states – the power to regulate trade.
In some cases, the courts have determined that local bans are not allowed. In others, companies have simply withdrawn proposals, especially after sustained public protests.
Silencing local voices
The administration is pursuing multiple workarounds for expanding fossil fuel export, including a recent proposal to set up export facilities on retired military bases. Energy companies and energy-producing states are trying to capitalize on the fossil-friendly administration.
For example, senators from Texas, Colorado and Montana have encouraged Trump to use his authority under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or the deal that may replace it, to override Washington state’s denial of the coal export permit.
These moves at the federal level appear to be restricting opportunities for public participation in siting decisions, a development we find troubling.
In the case of the Jordan Cove natural gas export project in Oregon, the federal agency with permitting authority over the proposal used a new process for soliciting public comments in 2017. Instead of taking part in a hearing where those attending could hear all comments, members of the public met one-on-one with agency staff and a stenographer.
In previous research, we have shown how public hearings on energy projects are critical to the formation of active community groups, who use these opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals.
While one-on-one meetings may seem more efficient and less prone to conflict, they may also stifle important local debates on these issues. And they could potentially push activists toward more confrontational tactics because they do not feel their voices are adequately heard through official channels.
In addition, some companies have used existing permits and zoning to start handling a different fuel or expand facilities without undergoing environmental review and associated public comment processes.
Despite years of successfully blocking fossil fuel exports from the West Coast, whether the thin green line will hold is far from clear. Its resilience will partly depend on what happens with global fossil fuel markets and the success of export proposals in Canada and Mexico. Its resilience will also depend on how hard the Trump administration is willing to push and how hard the West Coast is willing to push back.
Christopher Anderson, logged in via Google
Democrat voters (Socialists, leftists, liberals, etc.) need to determine something: Recognize the Tenth Amendment for what it is (limited Federal power and States superiority in all decisions), or a strong centralized Federal government. One cannot pick and choose.If the Tenth is wanted, then Roe v Wade becomes a states rights issue. Same with marriage, gun legislation, energy, internet control, etc.
That is the fundamental decision. What do you all want? YOu cannot have it all. BTW. no matter how much you wish to complain about Climate Change, why are all sort of $$$$ being spent on fossil fuel technology? By most of the major tech and energy corporations world wide? Remember: Man made climate change is because the world went from 2.6 Billion people after WWII to over 7.8 Billion today, with people worldwide living 14 years longer than in 1945. The problem are the number of people not the carbon. The world will survive and exist without us.