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Trump defends tariff plan, says ‘trade wars are good’ as markets drop

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President Donald Trump on Friday defended his controversial plan to slap huge tariffs on imported steel and aluminum amid intense GOP criticism and a growing global backlash, saying “trade wars are good, and easy to win” as international markets braced for more losses.

“When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win,” Trump tweeted early Friday. “Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore — we win big. It’s easy!”

A short time later, he returned to add, “We must protect our country and our workers.”

“Our steel industry is in bad shape. IF YOU DON’T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY!” he said.

Trump’s morning tweets were in reference to his announcement Thursday that the U.S. would levy tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum — a move that prompted fierce criticism from Republicans in Congress and dire warnings of retaliation from the country’s trading partners, as well as led markets to tank.

Key players on Capitol Hill, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, were not given any heads up about Trump’s tariff announcement, and many broke ranks with Trump in an unprecedented way, with one after another coming forward during the day to caution about the dangers of tariffs and plead with Trump to hold off on any action.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., slammed Trump’s concept of a “good” trade war in a statement Friday, and said fighting one would only lead to “so much losing.”

“Trade wars are never won. Trade wars are lost by both sides. Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families — and will prompt retaliation from other countries,” Sasse said. “Make no mistake: If the president goes through with this, it will kill American jobs — that’s what every trade war ultimately does. So much losing.”

Canada, a close U.S. ally and large trading partner, said Thursday that it viewed “any trade restrictions on Canadian steel and aluminum as absolutely unacceptable.” The nation’s minister of foreign affairs warned that her country could “take responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers.”

The prospects of a trade war pushed the Dow down over 400 points at the close of trading on Thursday — and the decline continued into Friday’s session. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 300 points, or 1.2 percent, in morning trading, before rallying to end the day down 0.3 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indexes both closed the day in positive territory after suffering losses earlier.

Trump’s decision, however, earned praise from at least one corner.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has been a proponent of tariffs and helped engineer the meeting that led to Trump’s surprise announcement on the actions, told CNBC that the controversy surrounding the tariffs was just “hysteria” and “a lot to do about nothing.”

In an unusual interview with the network that involved props, Ross, holding up at one point a can of Campbell’s Soup and at another point a can of Coca-Cola, claimed that the potential price increases on consumer products that could result from the steel and aluminum tariffs would be “no big deal.”

“Well I just bought this can today at a 7-Eleven down here, and the price was $1.99, so who in the world is going to be too bothered by six-tenths of a cent?” he said, holding up the Campbell’s can.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in brief comments to reporters Friday morning, acknowledged that some details still “needed to be finalized” on the plan, but said Trump remained “pretty committed” to his announcement.

When asked about Trump’s supporting the idea of a trade war on Twitter, Sanders replied that the “president is still focused on long-term economic fundamentals” and “incredibly focused on the American worker and feels like both the steel and aluminum industry are both the backbone of this country.”

She also dismissed reports that Gary Cohn, the White House’s top economic adviser, could leave his position in protest of the administration’s tariff plan.

“I don’t have any reason to think otherwise right now,” she said, when asked whether Cohn would leave.



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Tennessee to resume vaccine outreach efforts after ‘pause’ prompted by GOP backlash

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Tennessee’s top health official said Friday that the state is resuming its vaccination advocacy efforts after a “pause” to review marketing materials geared toward teenagers promoting inoculations against Covid-19, an initiative that provoked outrage among conservative politicians.

The scaling back of its vaccination outreach drew national attention when Tennessee’s top vaccination official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, a pediatrician, was fired last week after she said Republican lawmakers disapproved of her promoting Covid vaccines to eligible children.

On Friday, state Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey declined to discuss Fiscus’ departure, but addressed the larger issue with reporters, saying “there was a perception that we were marketing to children, and that totally was against our view of parental authority.”

“The reason we paused is because we wanted to leave no room for interpretation about where we are shooting: We are shooting to get the message to parents,” she said, adding “we strongly believe that parents are the best decision makers when it comes to medical decisions for their children.”

In June, Republican lawmakers rebuked the health department for how it targeted online posts toward children, including a digital graphic that had a photo of a child with a Band-Aid and the words, “Tennesseans 12+ are eligible for vaccines. Give COVID-19 vaccines a shot.”

The Tennessean, citing emails and an internal report, first reported last week that the state would halt all adolescent vaccine outreach, for all diseases. The newspaper also found that the health department had deleted some pro-vaccine posts on Facebook and Twitter and instructed employees to stop all vaccine-related posts aimed at teens before halting vaccine outreach posts altogether — and not only those related to the Covid vaccine.

The series of moves drew condemnation from state Democrats, who also blamed “anti-vaccine lawmakers from the controlling party” for removing Fiscus.

“A well respected member of the public health community was sacrificed in favor of anti-vaccine ideology,” state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, who represents Memphis, said in a statement. “This disgraceful hatchet job is going to endanger the lives of unvaccinated Tennesseans at a time when we have a safe and reliable way to protect our families from this virus.”

In an email to NBC News last week, Department of Health spokesman Bill Christian did not comment specifically on the reports that the state had halted all immunization outreach to minors, but said that the department “wants to remain a trustworthy source of information to help individuals, including parents, make these decisions.”

Fiscus said in an interview on MSNBC last week that her job was to roll out the Covid vaccine “across the state and to make sure that that was done equitably and in a way that any Tennessean who wanted to access that vaccine would be able to get one.” Her husband came forward to say she had received a dog muzzle at work only days before she was ousted.

She also said tension with GOP lawmakers escalated when she publicized a document on Tennessee’s “Mature Minor Doctrine,” a state Supreme Court ruling from 1987 that states Tennesseans ages 14 to 18 may be treated “without parental consent unless the physician believes that the minor is not sufficiently mature to make his or her own health care decisions.”

As the controversy mounted, Piercey had left the state on a vacation to Greece.

She said Friday that there may be “fringe and nuanced” situations in which a Covid vaccine may need to be given to a minor without parental permission, which The Tennessean reported contradicts a claim from Republican lawmakers who said the health commissioner had previously agreed to stop such a practice.

The fight over the vaccination of children in Tennessee comes as Piercey and public health officials have painted a grim picture with the surge in Covid cases and positivity rates — coinciding with much of the rest of the country — and said there’s been a 200 percent increase in Covid cases since July 1. About 97 percent of all hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated, and the state has struggled with a lagging vaccination rate, she added.

“We’re certainly going in the wrong direction for hospitalizations,” Piercey warned.

Antonio Planas contributed.

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Brexit outrage: Boris urged to hit back after Baroness Hoey exposes EU punishment plans

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BREXITEER outrage has erupted after Baroness Kate Hoey exposed attempts by the Republic of Ireland to worsen the ongoing rift between the EU and the UK.

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Trump 2017 inaugural committee chairman to be released on bail pending trial

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