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Trump, launching re-election bid, says Democrats ‘want to destroy our country’



ORLANDO, Fla. — President Donald Trump accused Democrats of trying to “destroy our country” as he officially kicked off his re-election campaign with a packed-house rally at the Amway Center here Tuesday night.

“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage,” he said, pointing to House efforts to investigate his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice by the president. “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it. Not acceptable, it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen.”

The federal Russia probes aren’t just an attack on him, he told the crowd — “they are really going after you. … They tried to erase your vote, erase your legacy of the greatest campaign and the greatest election probably in the history of our country.”

But in the political version of a revival meeting, Trump stuck mostly to familiar rounds of call and response.

One after another, he delivered familiar applause lines designed to induce chants — “build the wall,” “CNN sucks” and “lock her up” among them — that have been mainstays of his campaign rallies for four years now.

The tenor of Trump’s remarks wasn’t a huge surprise to observers. His strategy for re-election, say allies, isn’t based on persuading a significant share of the majority of Americans who disapprove of his job performance to vote for him. Rather, he’s trying to super-charge his fans with enough energy that they show up in force for him and spread the word to their friends and neighbors.

Instead, given both his inability to improve his approval ratings and Democrats’ failure to diminish them, Trump’s remarks appeared designed to appeal to the subset of potential voters already attracted to the messages he’s been driving all along.

That goal was evident in his decision to aim a message directly at his base during an appearance in Orlando, which sits at the heart of Florida’s I-4 corridor. The region is a traditional swing area in a swing state that is crucial to Trump’s fate, and his answer to that challenge was pumping up his existing supporters rather than reaching out across the political divide.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a leader of the moderate Blue Dog Democrats who represents a neighboring district, said Trump came to the right place, and that her party will have to find the right mix of swing voter outreach and base Democratic enthusiasm to defeat him.

“President Trump is strategic to target central Florida in his re-election campaign,” Murphy told NBC News. “In order for Democrats to win statewide, we need to recognize the complexities of our Democratic base, while also developing a strategic, well-funded and well-organized effort to persuade voters, especially independent voters in central Florida.”

Her concern, she said, is that members of her own party are playing into Trump’s characterizations of Democrats as too hidebound and too far to the left.

“America will never be a socialist country,” Trump said Tuesday night. “Republicans do not believe in socialism. We believe in freedom, and so do you.”

Murphy, who has been vocal in her criticism of the handful of her colleagues who embrace “democratic socialism,” said her party is in peril of helping Trump win a second term.

“National Democrats need to realize that what may be good politics in the Bronx or California can backfire in states like Florida,” she said. “Simply put, if we want to beat Donald Trump, we must put winning over political purity.”

While Trump played all the classic refrains for the faithful, he did hit a few new or rarely used notes in a speech that ran for more than 80 minutes, including a brief appearance by departing White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The biggest wrinkle was the voice vote Trump held on whether to maintain his old slogan “Make America Great Again” or change it to “Keep America Great.” The video boards on the sides of the arena featuring the latter strongly hinted at which choice his supporters were expected to pick.

“Keep America Great” won by a vocal landslide.

And then Trump told the crowd what it had come to hear.

“With every ounce of heart and might and sweat and soul, we’re going to keep making America great again and then we will indeed keep America great,” he said. “We will keep it so great, better than ever before. We’re going to keep it better than ever before. And that is why tonight I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second time as president of the United States.”

Lauren Egan contributed.

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Rapper Scarface of The Geto Boys in runoff for Houston City Council seat



HOUSTON — As a member of Houston’s pioneering rap group The Geto Boys, Brad Jordan co-wrote the early 1990s hip-hop anthem “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

Now, the 49-year-old rapper better known as Scarface is working to ensure Houston voters that no, their minds are not playing tricks on them: He is running for City Council, and he’s a serious candidate.

Jordan says he knows his celebrity carried him into a runoff election slated for Saturday. But he’s hoping he can persuade the voters who got him there to turn out again so he can represent the council’s District D.

“You can sit back and point out the problems or you can address them and bring solutions to the table,” Jordan said Tuesday, referring to chronic poverty and crime that afflicts his neighborhood.

With more than 200,000 residents, District D stretches into the south and southeast sides of Houston. 2017 data compiled by the current city council member, Dwight Boykins, says African Americans make up 53 percent of the district. Thirty percent of the population earns less than $25,000 a year, and although that figure has risen over the past two decades, it’s still a plurality.

While campaigning, voters ask him what he plans to do if he’s elected, but many can’t help themselves and ask to take a smartphone photo with him.

Though his name recognition is his chief asset in his mostly African American district, Jordan insists that his Scarface persona is part of his past, not his future.

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Political observers note that two big obstacles lie in Jordan’s path to getting elected.

“Voter turnout for runoffs is usually low,” said Mark Jones, a political science fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University.

Michael Adams, a political scientist at Texas Southern University, a historically black college that is in the district Jordan wants to represent, says the rapper also has to convince the most dependable voting bloc in his neighborhood to vote for him — black women over 60.

“He needs to improve voter turnout from his home ground in subdivisions like Sunnyside,“ Adams said. “Older African Americans may be not swayed by the notion a hip-hop artist can be in public office.”

Jordan’s opponent, Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, may be more to such voters’ liking.

“My belief is that City Council is not a training ground, it’s a proving ground. I’ve already proven my record,” said Evans-Shabazz.

The 66-year-old sits on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees and the executive committee of the local NAACP, and she worked for the Houston Independent School District as as an education evaluation specialist.

“I know she’ll get our potholes filled, our ditches dug out and more police in the neighborhood,” 81-year-old Lula Wilson said outside of the Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, which is a polling place. Wilson, clad in a Evans-Shabazz campaign T-shirt, said her preferred candidate has “always had a seat at the table.”

But Gerry Monroe said Jordan’s political outsider status is what attracted him to campaign for the rapper. “We have a serious gang issue in District D,” Monroe said this week outside of the polling station at the Sunnyside Multi Resource Center. As he spoke, a group of teenage boys down the street fought in a brawl that was quickly broken up when adults arrived.

“Who can go into one of these rough gang infested neighborhoods and have a conversation with gang members to put guns down? Carolyn (Evans-)Shabazz or Brad Jordan? I’m gonna ride with Brad because I’ve seen him do it,” Monroe said.

The weekend before the run-off, the two candidates were busy hitting up the district’s churches, temples and mosques, eager to be seen among the faithful and hoping turnout for the mayor’s race can drive their numbers, too.

There have also been lighter campaign moments — Evans-Shabazz’s husband, upon seeing his wife’s opponent, also asked for a selfie.

“Everything’s cordial, “ Jordan said.

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Brexit LIVE: Michael Gove to be given major promotion by Boris with key Brexit role



MICHAEL GOVE is tipped to become Boris Johnson’s new negotiator for post-Brexit trade deals with the EU and with the US as the Prime Minister’s Cabinet prepares to undergo a major transformation following Thursday’s election victory.

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What a second term Trump presidency would mean for the future of a China trade deal



Following the news that a phase one China trade deal had been forged, President Donald Trump tweeted that phase two negotiations would begin “immediately,” rather than after the 2020 election, as he had suggested in recent days.

Trade and market experts cautioned, though, that although the phase one deal included key market concerns such as some tariff reductions and a cancellation of sanctions on consumer goods that had been set to kick in on Sunday, it would take time to tackle more entrenched challenges such as forced technology transfers and Chinese state subsidies of key industries.

“Structural issues like subsidies and the role of state-owned enterprises must wait for additional phases of negotiations,” said Doug Barry, spokesman for the U.S.-China Business Council, adding, “The hope is that both sides will leverage the goodwill generated by this initial phase and build on it with additional agreements that level the playing field for U.S. companies.”

Many expressed skepticism that negotiators would reach a resolution before next November, though. “Trump and his advisers might still talk about trying for a phase two deal aimed at tackling China’s subsidies, but even they must realize now that it’s not going to happen,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics. “China has no interest in changing course on any of this,” he said.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s major economic plans such as “The Belt and Road Initiative” and “Made in China 2025” depend on practices American negotiators — and executives — see as trade deal breakers.

“If you include in phase two a lot of the really contentious issues, trade in advanced technology, investment — I just don’t see any way that can be resolved in the short run and possibly not even after the election,” said Peter Petri, a professor of international finance at the Brandeis International Business School. “They’re really fundamental to the differing strategies of the two countries.”

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The White House decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership cost the U.S. the kind of leverage it needed to effectively pressure Beijing. “Usually, in dealing with China, their hand is best forced when they’re approached by a large contingent of other countries, but so far, we’ve approached them alone,” said Jeff Mills, chief investment officer of Bryn Mawr Trust. “I think that makes it more difficult for us to make progress on some of those larger issues.”

Some experts say that regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, these issues are likely to remain entrenched — and that a second-term Trump presidency could add unpredictability and market risk.

“The China issue isn’t going away, and it’s not going to go away if we have another Trump presidency or if we have a Democrat,” said Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “These are all issues that are going to be with us for the long haul.”

One particular hurdle to forging a sweeping trade pact would be Beijing’s unwillingness to commit publicly to a deal with a president who has a habit of making pronouncements or commitments only to reverse them later, and who has threatened tariffs against economic and diplomatic allies over non-trade-related disputes.

“People won’t trust his delivery,” Petri said. “Trump is very keen both on the unpredictability of it and on using tariffs to gain negotiating leverage.”

To the extent that Trump views re-election as a mandate from the American people to get tough on China, experts warn that he could pursue a protectionist agenda without fearing repercussions from any economic fallout.

“If President Trump is re-elected, I expect the trade war with China will reintensify next year,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The president will view his reelection as a green light to take another crack at China’s trade practices. This will remain a cloud over the American economy,” he said.

“I think he would definitely be emboldened and he will continue to be ‘tariff man’ because he thinks they’re effective,” de Bolle said. “The fact that he wants to appear as if he’s playing nice with China now has absolutely no bearing on what he’ll do if he gets re-elected.”

This has implications not only for policymakers, but for corporate America, which has by and large been holding off on big investments until more clarity on trade emerges — clarity that could remain elusive in a second-term Trump presidency. “A big uncertainty facing [the] business community is that a re-elected Trump could go either way,” said David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“To the extent he remains in office and runs trade policy as he seems to be doing… there will be this on-and-off-again character that drives businesses mad,” Petri said. “It’s very difficult to plan and invest in this kind of environment.”

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