Good morning. Here’s your Early Warning for 13 July 2018. (All times Eastern.)
Advanced Early Warning: President Trump gave an interview to a British newspaper in which he criticized Prime Minister Theresa May’s government for its so-called “soft Brexit” proposal which reportedly would tie much of the UK’s trade policy to the European Union — almost as if the UK had not voted to leave the EU at all. Trump told the paper that the soft Brexit trade policy meant the U.S. would still have to deal with the EU and because of that, a special trade deal between the U.S. and the UK was now less likely to happen. During a face-to-face meeting with May this morning, however, Trump walked back some of his criticism saying, “Whatever you’re going to do is OK with us,” and adding that his primary objective is to “make sure we can trade together.”
ALSO: President Trump is sending a high-level delegation to be led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Mexico today in a bid to shore up relations with incoming President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. “This is an important trip scheduled at a key moment in our bilateral relationship,” said a senior US State Department official in a background briefing on Thursday, according to Agence France Press. The delegation includes Trump’s son-in-law and senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner; Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
President Trump will be in the United Kingdom for the day, wrapping up with a visit to Trump Turnberry golf course in Scotland at 3:35 p.m. (The U.S. is five hours behind the UK)
Vice President Mike Pence is continuing to tour the Midwest campaigning for Republican congressional and gubernatorial candidates. He will be in Rosemont, Ill., later today with Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Secretary Pompeo is traveling to Mexico City. He will meet with current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at 11:30 a.m. local time, then, after visiting with diplomatic staff at the U.S. embassy, will sit down with President-elect Lopez Obrador at 1:20 p.m. Pompeo will meet other Mexican officials as well as he leads a delegation on behalf of President Trump.
Deputy Secretary John Sullivan will chair a Health Incidents Response Task Force meeting at the State Department with interagency partners at 10:30 a.m. Later, he meets with Hong Kong Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng and EU Brexit Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.
Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Francisco Palmieri is accompanying Secretary Pompeo to Mexico City.
Secretary Mattis will visit with defense officials in Croatia and Norway following the NATO summit.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. have no public or media events on their schedules.
Aircraft carrier activity:
The Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is now operating in the Pacific in the Hawaii Operating Area.
The Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) is on patrol in the Atlantic.
The Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is in the Philippine Sea.
All other carriers are in homeport.
No conflicts requiring a Carrier Strike Group appear imminent.
The House has a light hearing and floor schedule today. We will report on any significant House action in the appropriate weekly intelligence report.
The Senate has no committee hearings scheduled today and no floor actions scheduled.
Significant congressional/political reporting:
- So-called Republican “moderates” Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine are not signaling they will oppose Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, which virtually guarantees he will be confirmed since the GOP holds a 51-49 seat majority in the upper chamber. There could also be some Democratic defections from senators in states President Trump won in 2016 who are up for reelection this year, though the party’s Leftist base is urging all Democrats to vote against Kavanaugh.
- President Trump will hold face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki, Finland. The Hill reports that there are rising concerns and anxiety over this meeting after what some experts believe was an unproductive and raucous NATO summit. Other published reports noted that Trump said he’ll ask Putin about meddling in the 2016 election but “he may deny it.” As for Crimea, Trump said that occurred “on Obama’s watch, not on Trump’s watch,” adding he would not have let it pass if he were in the White House at the time.
- Some Democrats have crafted legislation to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, but Fox News reports they have now said they’ll vote against it after being told by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., he would put the bill up for a vote to get everyone on record. The bill’s principal authors and sponsors, Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Adriano Espaillat of New York, called that a “political stunt” and as such “plan to vote no and will instead use the opportunity to force an urgently needed and long-overdue conversation on the House floor.”
- Yesterday’s joint House committee hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok, noteworthy for his anti-Trump text messages shared with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, his one-time paramour, quickly devolved into chaos. Shouting matches occurred while Democrats argued with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., over rules and parliamentary procedures. Strzok told the joint committee hearing at one point that he was “not lying, I have never lied under oath, and I never will,” according to the Washington Post.
- A group of lawmakers is preparing to introduce legislation that would reign in President Trump’s authority to impose tariffs and other trade restrictions. According to The Wall Street Journal, the effort is being led mostly by Republicans who are “unshackled from the political consequences of opposing” the president. The legislation comes as Trump has levied tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, imposed tariffs on all steel imports, as well as all washing machines and solar panels. “I don’t think tariffs are a great solution. I think what’s more effective and constructive is to work with the administration to get the policy in a good place,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. who is retiring, told the WSJ.
(1) Despite efforts to curb the U.S. trade deficit with China, it grew (again) in June, hitting a new record. As Bloomberg reported, “The trade surplus with the U.S. stood at $28.97 billion, the highest in any month in data back to 1999. Exports climbed to $42.62 billion, also a high, the customs administration said on Friday.” Some of the increase came from a rush by manufacturers to sell goods ahead of scheduled tariffs, but the deficit has been trending upward anyway.
(2) Consumer sentiment is disappointing economists so far this month. Sentiment fell to 97.1, short of an estimated 98.2 according to economists surveyed by Reuters and reported by CNBC. It’s not clear yet why sentiment has fallen, but we’ll be watching it.
(1) There is an area of low pressure that is associated with the remnants of Beryl located some 300 miles west of Bermuda, bringing shower and thunderstorm activity. The system remains disorganized, however, and does not appear to be forming into something stronger that would threaten the U.S.
Yesterday’s Significant Reporting
“I don’t think there has been a more damaging meeting of NATO in my memory. Right now, the participants in NATO leave this meeting concerned about its future — statements to the contrary notwithstanding.” — David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a foreign policy expert, commenting on President Trump’s performance at the NATO summit this week.