Good morning. Here’s your Early Warning for Friday, 17 August 2018. (All times Eastern.)
I met up with a former Trump campaign advisor and confidante last night over bourbon (he had a club soda), and we discussed politics and some other things. Last time we met up, he told me that he wasn’t sure that Trump would run for president again in 2020: Trump’s losing millions of dollars while outside the Trump Organization, Trump doesn’t enjoy the scrutiny of public life, he hates D.C., and won’t do this for another four years. He mentioned it again last night and I asked if he was doubling down. He said that it was just his intuition. It’s difficult for me to see Trump not running again, but it’s within the realm of possibility. After all, Trump could leave the White House on a high note (presumably) after having Made America Great Again.
I brought up recent polling numbers and asked what he thought of the Blue Wave. He shrugged it off, saying that poll numbers this far out don’t mean much. I also asked what the Right’s response should be with regard to the de-platforming on social media of right wing culture figures like Alex Jones (banned from Facebook and YouTube), Gavin McInnes, and a near miss with Stefan Molyneux, who was nearly banned from YouTube. He thought for a long while and said that it was a good question, but he didn’t have an immediate answer.
I asked how could it be that after Obama was elected, the staff could clean house and replace government officials with his own people, yet President Trump got stuck and has still retained Obama-era officials who may be working against policy from inside his own administration. He says it’s because President Trump didn’t understand the full potential of his power in the executive branch, and also because his staffers, like former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, were not aggressive in replacing officials still loyal to Obama-era policies.
We also talked about Paul Manafort. He thinks that Manafort could actually be acquitted in the ongoing court case, although that’s something he may have implied if I understood him correctly. Manafort faces 18 charges, and deliberations started Thursday morning. I mention that CNN had just reported that Special Counsel Mueller has “three times the evidence” on Manafort for the next case. He balks at the idea. Manafort faces another criminal case in D.C. federal court starting in September over his financial dealings while he was a political consultant in Ukraine. //
The President is scheduled to hold a roundtable meeting with supporters in New York before returning to Bedminster, NJ (presumably to the Trump National Golf Club there).
Among other events, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to meet with the Mexican Foreign Minister today. Mexico’s president-elect is likely using this meeting to pursue funding for his domestic plans, which include economic investment in his country and funding to boost security on Mexico’s southern border.
Yesterday afternoon, Secretary Pompeo announced the creation of the Iran Action Group (IAG) to study how best to deal with Iran, post-JCPOA. During the announcement, he said, “We are committed to a whole of government effort to change the Iranian regime’s behavior and the Iran Action Group will ensure that the Department of State will remain closely synchronised with our interagency partners. The IAG will also lead the way in growing efforts with nations which share our understanding of the Iranian threat.”
Of note: The Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security is on travel from 12-26 August to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Australia. In Indonesia, U.S. officials will meet to discuss expanding defense trade and regional security issues. All three meetings are likely central to the U.S. Indo-Pacific security strategy to prevent China’s dominance of the entire region.
Defense Secretary Mattis arrived in Colombia last night to attend meetings with the country’s defense officials. This is his last stop in South America, after having already visited Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Additional analysis on this trip appears in yesterday’s Strategic Intelligence Summary.
SECDEF is scheduled to be in the Indo-Pacific in September and will then travel to Europe.
The Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was last reported as having returned to port in San Diego.
The John Stennis (CVN-74) was last reported back as participating in an exercise off the coast of southern California.
The Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was last reported in port at Norfolk.
The Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was last reported has having departed port in Yokosuka, Japan.
The George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) was last reported as having returned to port in Norfolk.
Conflict requiring a Carrier Strike Group does not appear imminent.
Significant House Activity:
- Nothing significant to report.
Significant Senate Activity:
- Nothing significant to report.
* Reporting will appear in the Strategic Intelligence Summary or National Intelligence Bulletin.
– In yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, economic advisor Larry Kudlow said that GDP growth for the first half of this year came in at 3.1 percent, and it was 4.1 percent in the second quarter. Kudlow cited Atlanta Federal Reserve data which is right now predicting 4.3 percent growth in the third quarter, and said “it’s a very realistic estimate’. The Blue Chip Consensus, according to the Atlanta Fed, is just above three percent growth for Q3.
– In the same meeting, President Trump asks Kudlow how the Chinese economy is doing. Kudlow replies: “[T]heir economy is just heading south. Retail sales, business — business investment is collapsing in China, according to the numbers. Industrial production has fallen and now is plateauing at a low level. People are selling the currency; there may be some manipulation. But mostly, I think investors are moving out of China because they don’t like the economy, and they’re coming to the USA because they like our economy.”
– Also during the Cabinet meeting, President Trump directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to begin suing opioid manufacturers if they violated the law and contributed to the opioid crisis. President Trump wants federal lawsuits in addition to some states suing those companies.
The National Hurricane Center reports that Sub-Tropical Storm Ernesto has formed in the Atlantic, but is headed east and is unlikely to make landfall in the United States. A second disturbance is being reported off the coast of South America.
REMINDER: This hurricane watch section will remain in this report through the end of the season. I check the latest from the National Hurricane Center each morning and will provide details as necessary.
Drought conditions persist across much of the Southwest. This map is updated every Thursday.
What I’m Looking at this Morning
Chinese bombers active; Pentagon believes they’re practicing to strike U.S. targets
Norway: Marines to double numbers on Russian border (to 700)
U.S., Mexico to target drug cartels’ fortunes
“Well, Mr. President, we import lumber in this country, and yet there are billions of board feet that are on the forest floor rotting. Rotting. And whether you’re a global warmist advocate or denier, it doesn’t make a difference when you have rotting timber, when housing prices are going up, when a lot of Americans are right at that border of affording a house, and yet we are wasting billions of board feet for not being able to bring them to a local lumber mill. It is unconscionable that we would do that to our citizens.” – Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior