This Week on Planet Trump: President Goes High Risk With Trade Aggression and Olive Branch to Kim Jong-un

Monday: President Offers Ultimatum to NAFTA Nations

President Donald Trump on Monday dangled the possibility of lifting the new steel and aluminum tariffs he's imposed if NAFTA is renegotiated to terms more favorable to the US.

"We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed," Trump tweeted Monday morning.

Trump has said he is imposing a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNN Sunday that no country will be excluded from the tariffs.

The President didn't specify Monday whether the potential tariff rollback would be applied only to Mexico and Canada.

Meagan Vasquez, CNN

Tuesday: Tariffs Final Straw for White House Chief Economist

Gary Cohn, the hard-charging former Goldman Sachs president who eased market fears about President Donald Trump’s erratic presidency, said Tuesday he would leave in the coming weeks after losing a bruising internal battle over trade.

Trump so far has ignored Cohn’s advice, siding with nationalist advisers who strongly favor the tariffs. A meeting planned for Thursday at the White House with executives from companies that could be hurt by tariffs has now been canceled.

Cohn, known in his decades on Wall Street as a pugnacious trader, is not leaving the fight right away. He plans to stay on for at least a couple of weeks and continue to battle Trump and the White House nationalists to more carefully tailor the tariffs to avoid antagonizing allies and inviting retribution.

But he’s given up hope of winning the battle completely, people close to him said. One person close to Cohn called the loss over tariffs a “breaking point” for an adviser who drafted resignation letters last year after Trump’s response to a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Ben White, Politico

Wednesday: Sessions Wages Immigration War

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) blasted back at Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday after the Trump administration filed a lawsuit against his state’s immigration policies.

In a press conference at the state Capitol in Sacramento, just blocks from where Sessions announced the lawsuit at a meeting of the California Peace Officers’ Association, Brown said the attorney general was catering to a conservative base — and to President Trump.

“This is basically going to war against the state of California, the engine of the American economy. It’s not wise, it’s not right, and it will not stand,” Brown said.

The lawsuit, filed late Tuesday, targets three California laws aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants.

One law requires employers to give notice to employees if immigration authorities are going to conduct enforcement operations on the job site. Another allows California’s Department of Justice to inspect federal detention facilities where undocumented immigrants are held.  

Reid Wilson, The Hill

Thursday: Pennsylvania Race is forecast for Midterms

In a trip to western Pennsylvania in January, President Donald Trump promoted the recently passed Republican tax plan as a boon to workers and businesses in a region that helped to propel him to the White House.

Trump's visit came partly as an effort to boost Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone, who is running in a tight House special election in southwestern Pennsylvania's 18th District. On Saturday, the president is expected to head back there, in a new bid to promote Saccone's candidacy.

Ahead of November's battle for control of Congress, the Pennsylvania race is seen as a crucial gauge of Democrats' ability to win House seats in red areas like the 18th District, which Trump won by 20 points in 2016. A strong U.S. economy and the tax plan will be a key selling point for Republican candidates in this year's midterms.

Democratic leaders in Congress have cast it as a giveaway to the rich and corporations at the expense of the working class. Republicans have cited corporate announcements of one-time bonuses or capital investment as evidence that the plan worked, although stock buybacks have also shot up since the tax overhaul became law in December.

Unlike sentiment toward Trump's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, feelings on the tax plan in the district were largely defined by partisan allegiance.

Jacob Pramuck, CNBC

Friday: Summit with Kim Carries High Risk

President Trump certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

The announcement Thursday night that the president of the United States had accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un shocked the world.

That is the kind of phrase that is overused — in politics and sports, in particular — but it's appropriate in this case.

In diplomacy, it comes with incredible risk to subject a principal to a one-on-one meeting where results aren't guaranteed — or at least close. Typically, spade work is done by lower-level experts for months, if not years.

Trump is banking on the power of his personality for a breakthrough. But some recent domestic examples provide little evidence Trump will deal with this particularly thorny issue masterfully.

After Trump's televised meetings on immigration and guns, participants were left confused. Instead of command performances, there was disorganization and a lack of policy depth.

"His primary problem is sticking to talking points and really laying the kind of groundwork that has to be laid for the kind of serious negotiations that are going to take place," former Obama Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta told CNN.

Domenico Montanaro, NPR

Saturday: Former Aide Defends Russia Probe

Five and a half hours after testifying before a grand jury in the Russia probe, a former political adviser to Donald Trump told ABC News exclusively that he believes the investigation is “warranted.”

“No, I don't think it's a witch hunt,” Sam Nunberg told ABC News. “It's warranted because there's a lot there and that's the sad truth.”

He added, “I don't believe it leads to the president.”

Instead, Nunberg said he believes that many in his inner circle may face legal trouble, including his own mentor and former Trump campaign aide, Roger Stone.

Nunberg said his testimony focused on the campaign aides surrounding the president who were mentioned in the subpoena, like White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, former White House aide Steve Bannon, former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and Carter Page, Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, and the president's longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller.

He said there were also questions about Trump’s business and his political positions on Russia.

Lucien Bruggeman and Tara Palmeri, ABC News

Sunday: Inspired by Duterte, Trump Demands Death for Drug Dealers

Drug dealers kill people, destroy families and might deserve the death penalty or life in prison for their crimes, President Trump says.

Trump, speaking at a rally Saturday in Pennsylvania for congressional candidate Rick Saccone, said he got the idea from the leaders of China and Singapore. The U.S. criminal justice system, Trump said, is too soft on drugs.

Trump said he recently asked the president of Singapore if that country has a drug problem.

"He said 'We have a zero tolerance policy. That means if we catch a drug dealer, death penalty,'" Trump said.

Last May, Trump congratulated Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte for a "great job" in his crackdown on drugs. Duterte has boasted about personally shooting and killing at least three crime suspects. Human rights groups and the United Nations have condemned Duterte's vigilante-style campaign that has left thousands of suspected drug dealers and users dead.

John Bacon, USA Today

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