US-China Trade War Fuels Recession Fears, Will It Hurt Trump In 2020?

The strength of the U.S. economy has been the central pillar of President Donald Trump's reelection strategy, and for every incumbent president, avoiding a recession has been a determining factor in whether or not they win a second term.

As Trump addressed a crowd of workers at the Shell Petrochemicals Complex outside of Pittsburgh, touting record low unemployment and half-million new manufacturing jobs, the effects of the U.S.-China trade war were looming.

On Monday, markets took a dive as it appeared trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing were at a total impasse and the Trump administration was poised to tax the remaining balance of U.S. trade with China by Sept. 1. Markets bounced back Tuesday on the news that the administration was postponing tariffs on consumer goods, including cellphones, laptops and toys through December.

Before leaving his New Jersey residence, Trump told reporters the delay was "for the Christmas season, just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. consumers."

Even with the good news, the trade war has prompted several top financial institutions to raise the specter of a recession. This week, Bank of America reported that the odds of a recession occurring within the next year had increased to 30%. They cited the trade war, slower economic growth and the limited ability of the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy with rate cuts.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell explained that the trade war hurts Trump's chances of reelection "in the sense that his calling card is the economy and history dictates, going back to FDR, that if you avoid a recession you will be reelected as an incumbent president."

It is also clear that barring a major economic, military or political disaster, 2020 will be a close election that will come down to a handful of battleground states. The states that are in play are largely in the industrial Midwest, parts of the south and the farm belt, where Trump's tariff policy has hit home.

"About four of those states are favorable to Trump's strategy but he's also recognizing there's only so much pain they can take at the moment," O'Connell said.

The Democratic primary has, so far, featured little discussion of those issues.

"It's clear that the Democrats, for whatever reason, seem to have no answer for China," O'Connell said. "They're barely even acknowledging what a longterm threat it is to the U.S. both economically and militarily. You'd think they just woke up to this fact."

Read more from Leandra Bernstein at WJLA

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Democrats’ Newest Climate Platform: Hammering Fossil Fuel Companies

Democratic White House hopefuls are getting increasingly aggressive on climate change — and calling for oil, gas and coal producers to pay for their role in climbing temperatures, rising seas and catastrophic weather.

The sharpened tone includes former Vice President Joe Biden’s promise to "take action against fossil fuel companies," as well as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ charge that the businesses committed "criminal activity" by knowingly producing the greenhouse gases that worsen climate change. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is proposing legislation that could pave the way for lawsuits against the companies, while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has accused fossil fuel producers of "killing people" and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to create a fossil fuel "excise tax."

The rhetoric echoes the fervor of the climate change activists who have pushed Democrats to embrace an ambitious “Green New Deal” that would wean the U.S. off fossil fuels in a decade or more, and comes amid lawsuits from states, cities and citizens accusing the companies of hiding the evidence that their products are harming the planet.

But Republicans say they welcome the trend, too, accusing Democrats of pushing a radical attack on an industry that has provided one of the brightest spots in the economy and has reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

"The deeper and the longer the Democrats talk about this, the happier the Trump campaign is," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who speaks regularly with the White House and President Donald Trump's reelection effort. "They see fodder not so much in the issue but in the solutions being proposed by the Democrats."

For climate activists angry over Trump's rollback of policies designed to fight greenhouse gas emissions, candidates' calls for aggressive action are long overdue.

But the American Petroleum Institute warned that many of the 2020 candidates' plans would hurt industry’s hundreds of thousands of employees across the country while raising energy costs for households. The group also points to a recent trend of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution declining as natural gas displaces coal in electricity generation.

Read more from Zack Colman at Politico

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2020 Dems Target Energy Industry In Climate Push

SETTING SIGHTS ON THE ENERGY INDUSTRY: Democratic presidential hopefuls seem to be channeling the fervor of climate activists who are aiming to hold oil and gas producers liable for the costs incurred from climbing temperatures, rising seas and catastrophic weather. Their opponents see an opening to paint the party as pushing a radical agenda to undermine an industry that's been a bright spot for the economy and has cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil, Pro's Zack Colman reports this morning.

"The deeper and the longer the Democrats talk about this, the happier the Trump campaign is," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. "They see fodder not so much in the issue but in the solutions being proposed by the Democrats."

Last month's debates offered a glimpse. Attacks on fossil fuel producers came from leading candidates Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who was perhaps the most vocal among the front-runners by saying the companies were engaging in "criminal activity" by promoting fossil fuels despite their knowledge they were driving climate change.

And Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been pushing legislation requiring more climate change disclosures by companies, a move that could help spark new lawsuits against the energy producers.

Environmental groups say there's room to sharpen government oversight. "The conversation has particularly evolved to the point where we're not just talking about what's happening, we are talking about getting to the root of the problem and who's responsible," 350.org spokeswoman Lindsay Meiman said.

Read more from Kelsey Tamborinno at Politico

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Trump's Greatest Allies For A 2020 Win: AOC And 'The Squad'

Will Joe Biden capture the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination because of the gravitational pull of Barack Obama? Or will it be Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, despite her self-serving and bogus claims to Native American ancestry? Perhaps it will be Sen. Kamala Harris of California who seems to have no idea where she stands on several key 2020 issues or possibly the socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont who supports allowing the convicted Boston Marathon bomber to vote in U.S. elections. If President Donald Trump gets his way, it may not ultimately matter.

Enter the über woke socialist quadruplets who refer to themselves as “The Squad:” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D- N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

What makes "The Squad" such a tantalizing and obvious political target for President Trump is that all four are on the wrong side of every major 2020 issue. From their calls to “abolish ICE” and the Department of Homeland Security, a position that even the ultra-progressive Center for American Progress suggests is bonkers, to their support of the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all, impeachment for Trump and outright disdain for Israel, they are the 2020 gift that keeps on giving for the Trump White House.

Let’s also not forget the squad’s over-the-top, incendiary rhetoric, which much of the mainstream press chooses to gloss over or outright ignore, coupled with the fact that these four individuals crave attention and media adulation like teenagers on Instagram. In fact, their social media presence is dwarfing the 2020 Democratic presidential field.

All of this is precisely what President Trump desires. He wants to make "The Squad" the 2020 face of the Democratic Party, and for good reason.

As it currently stands, the 2020 presidential race is likely to be an extremely close affair decided by a handful of states highlighted by Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And allies of both parties are flooding the zone in these four states.

According to internal Democratic polling, "The Squad" is beyond toxic for the Democrats in the 2020 swing states. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be popular among the Democratic base, but her favorability among voters the Democrats need in the states that matter is hovering around 22 percent. Further, only 9 percent of swing voters polled have a favorable view of Rep. Ilhan Omar, while socialism clocked-in at a not-exactly awe-inspiring 18 percent. Public polling from CBS News further confirms that many Americans view the squad unfavorably and that Trump has room to make them even more disliked among the electorate due to their currently limited name ID.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at The Hill

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Why America’s Big Cities Have Become The President’s Punching Bag

It didn’t take long Thursday night, at a rally in Cincinnati, for President Donald Trump to pull out his favorite punching bag: America’s big, diverse cities, most of them run by “Democrat politicians” and harmed by “the far left’s destructive agenda.”

As he has all week, President Trump singled out Baltimore. He didn’t name names, but he didn’t have to. The president has been punching hard at Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who represents much of Baltimore – and whose congressional committee recently approved subpoenas for Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law. On Friday morning, he tweet-trolled Congressman Cummings over an intruder who entered his Baltimore home last weekend.

That Mr. Cummings is African American is lost on no one. And following the president’s tirades against four minority female freshmen in Congress, known as “the squad,” the politics of race is aflame like at no other time in Mr. Trump’s presidency.

“There’s no question that in his approach to Cummings, he’s walking a tightrope,” says GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “But at the same time, he cannot allow unfettered media coverage to call him racist and a Russian puppet without making the case that the policies that are being prescribed by the very people who are calling him racist have let down Democratic voters and particularly minorities.”

Indeed, Mr. Trump’s pitch to African Americans in 2016 was essentially “what have you got to lose?” And while he won only 8% of the black vote, that was better than 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s 6%. Today, Mr. Trump touts criminal justice reform and low African American unemployment in his messaging to black voters.

Read more from Linda Feldmann, Patrik Jonsonn and Harry Bruinius at The Christian Monitor

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Experts Say U.S Democrats' Call For Trump Impeachment May Be Empty Threat

U.S. Democrats continue to bang their fists on the table and demand an impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump. But experts said the threats may never amount to action.

On Sunday, four additional Democrats called for an impeachment investigation against the U.S. president, moving closer to a majority of House Democrats who support such a move.

That makes nearly a dozen additional House Democrats since last week who have shown support for opening an impeachment inquiry, bringing the total number to 107, falling just 11 members short of a Democratic Caucus majority.

That suggests that the idea is gaining momentum, some experts said.

Democrats continue to accuse the president's 2016 campaign team of colluding with Russia in a bid to clinch the White House.

"The president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed," Mueller told a hearing last week before the House Judiciary Committee about his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

He told lawmakers that he would not say if the president had committed a crime.

After the Mueller hearings, Democrats continue to call for an impeachment inquiry. However, the threats may be just threats, experts said.

"They're not going to give it up, because they've backed themselves into a corner with their base. They continue to scream that there is collusion," Republican Strategist and TV news personality Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

"But at the same time, they haven't begun impeachment proceedings. And the reason is because they know that with Republican control of the Senate, and nothing coming out of the Mueller hearings, officially beginning impeachment proceedings would be political suicide," O'Connell said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Democrats Wrestle With 'Tough On Crime' Histories

Democratic presidential hopefuls, including former Vice President Joe Bidenand Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are wrestling with their past “tough on crime” positions as the primary battle heats up.

Biden, the frontrunner for his party’s nomination, has seen his role in the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act come under deep scrutiny.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Biden have engaged in a heated battle all week over issues of criminal justice, with the former Newark mayor offering pointed criticism of Biden’s past support for the crime bill. Booker said Biden’s crime bill had put “mass incarceration on steroids” and that the party needed a leader more in tune with its future.

The Biden campaign has responded by attacking Booker’s record as mayor of Newark, including the way Newark police stopped and frisked black men, and the city’s objection when the Justice Department took action against Newark’s police.

Harris, who served as district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California, has also faced questions about the role she played in sentencing guidelines. This included a state truancy law that, in certain cases, allowed parents whose children missed school to be arrested. She has since acknowledged “unintended consequences” related to the law.

Harris’s record as a prosecutor also has come under scrutiny from criminal justice reform advocates.  As California attorney general, her office fought to release fewer prisoners amid overcrowding in the state’s system, with lawyers from her office arguing in 2014 that the releases could deprive the state of a source of labor.

Criminal justice reform could be an issue in the general election.

President Trump, whose administration spearheaded a criminal justice reform bill through Congress last year, has already hit Biden over his support for the crime bill from the 1990s.

The First Step Act, combined with continual good economic news, could help Trump with minority votes, said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist and adjunct professor at The George Washington University.

It “definitely gives Trump some added ammo he didn’t have in 2016,” he said.

Read more from Zack Burdyck at The Hill

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Will The Divide Between Pelosi And Ocasio-Cortez Prove Detrimental Heading Into 2020

Former Obama deputy assistant secretary of state Joel Rubin debates former McCain-Palin campaign adviser Ford O'Connell.

Watch the video at Fox News

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West Wing Celebrates Mueller's 'Very Painful' Performance

West Wing denizens breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday as Robert Mueller’s long-waited testimony before Congress was widely panned by commentators on both sides of the aisle.

Politico.com characterized Mueller’s performance as flat, saying he offered “clipped, monosyllabic responses and repeatedly asked lawmakers to repeat their questions.” One source described the reaction in the White House to the hearings as one of “euphoria.”

Former Bush White House presidential adviser Bradley Blakeman confirms White House staffers were “extremely pleased” with Mueller’s appearance.

GOP Strategist Ford O'Connell tweeted Wednesday afternoon: "Who would have thought the #MuellerHearings would be exponentially worse for the Dems than the #MuellerReport?"

Many Democrats had a similar, if more subdued, reaction.

Read more from Bill Hoffmann and David A. Patten at Newsmax

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Trump's Attacks On Congresswomen Could Boost Biden Campaign

As U.S. President Donald Trump intensifies his efforts to brand four progressive congresswomen as the new face of the Democratic Party, its presidential front-runner, Joe Biden, has been quietly reminding voters in Iowa there remains a middle ground.

Trump’s vilification of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, in which he said the minority lawmakers were hostile to America and should “go back” where they came from, has largely left Biden out of this week’s political conversation.

But it may give Biden’s campaign the boost it needs after his widely panned debate performance last month.

Biden, who served eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president and 36 years as a U.S. senator, epitomizes a Democratic establishment the four congresswomen who dub themselves “the squad” have vowed to upend.

Biden, 76, has had to be careful in criticizing them in return, not wanting to alienate the party’s emboldened activist left whose votes he will need if he wins the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the November 2020 election.

At the same time, he is working to make clear to moderate voters that he would be a more palatable alternative than a Democratic nominee more in line with the congresswomen’s values, such as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Trump’s campaign advisers have long sought to paint the entire Democratic presidential field as “socialists.”

They believe they were aided in that effort in last month’s Democratic debate when several candidates on stage came out in favor of eliminating private health insurance, and a larger number supported providing healthcare for immigrants in the country illegally, and decriminalizing the unauthorized crossing of the U.S. border.

When Trump decided earlier this week to exploit the rift between Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez’s group, his campaign saw a way to use his tweets in its narrative that the four had become the new standard-bearers for the party, said Ford O’Connell, a Republican who works with the campaign on strategy and messaging.

The squad “is the perfect placeholder until you have a nominee,” O’Connell said.

Read more from James Elephant at Reuters

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