When Donald Trump first announced his big plan for “a great, great wall on our southern border,” he declared, full of the sort of conviction that only a man who thinks he’s getting away with that “hair” could possess, that Mexico would pay for it. So insistent was he that our southern neighbors would actually pony up the dough that, early on in his tenure in the White House, he threw a fit when Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto suggested it was never going to happen, basically telling Nieto to either help him make good on his delusional campaign promise, or to stay home. Later, when it became clear that repeatedly asserting Mexico would cut the U.S. a check for the wall (memo line: “Who loves ya, baby?”) was making him sound as stupid as he looks, Trump changed his story: taxpayers would lay out the money to get construction on the wall underway initially, but Mexico would totally reimburse us for the cost. Shockingly, over time, that story has changed again and again, from Mexico will pay for the wall through import tariffs to Mexico will “pay for [the wall] indirectly through NAFTA,” to today’s new yarn: the wall will pay for itself.
Quoting a line from a story tweeted by Fox News, Trump wrote on Twitter that, “According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the $18 billion wall will pay for itself by curbing the importation of crime, drugs, and illegal immigrants who tend to go on the federal dole . . .” For those who are unaware, the Center for Immigration Studies is a group that “favors far lower immigration numbers and produces research to further those views.” Some of its greatest hits include a thoroughly panned claim that “immigrant households receive 41 percent more federal welfare than households headed by native-born citizens,” and another that immigrants are to blame for global warming. Unsurprisingly, it is a favorite source for members of the Trump administration, particularly senior adviser Stephen “White males should be a protected class” Miller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was accused on Tuesday by an outgoing ICE official of making “false” and “misleading” statements about immigration, or what he presumably calls “that scourge on society.”
The most recent “study” obviously got a retweet from Big Orange because it perpetuates two of his favorite myths: that immigrants are a drain on the economy, and that his passion project will be financed by anyone other than U.S. taxpayers. Incidentally, when Team Trump was having trouble selling its deficit-busting tax plan, it turned to a similar line of bullshit, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin producing a one-page report, seemingly typed up on his phone, that claimed the bill would totally pay for itself and then some, despite vast bodies of evidence to the contrary.
Anyway, stay tuned for next week when Trump claims Rex Tillerson will pay for the wall as part of a reverse severance package.
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Trump might actually be serious about hiring Larry Kudlow
Yesterday we had a little chat about Larry Kudlow, the perpetually wrong Reaganite who CNBC’s Jim Cramer claimed was the leading candidate to replace Gary Cohn as Trump’s National Economic Council director. Due to Cramer’s history of flamingly bad calls, and the fact that he is a friend and former colleague of Kudlow, we took his report with a grain of salt. But now Trump has weighed in, and it seems like this bad joke might actually happen, thanks to Kudlow changing his tune on the one opinion that gave him an ounce of credibility.
“I’m looking at Larry Kudlow very strongly,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “He now has come around to believing in tariffs.” (Previously, Kudlow, like virtually everyone, had come out against Trump’s tariffs, it appears he’s willing to do whatever dance necessary to get the job.) Troublingly for the economy, Peter Navarro, the administration’s Rent-an-Economist, thinks Kudlow would be a great hire:
Of course, the one thing Kudlow has going for him is that he hasn’t yet professed to believe that waterboarding is just another communication tool to get one’s point across. That view would belong to the other two people the president promoted this morning: Mike Pompeo for the position of secretary of state, and this charming woman for the head of the C.I.A.:
The C.I.A.’s first overseas detention site was in Thailand. It was run by Gina Haspel, who oversaw the brutal interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Mr. Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls, and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide.
The sessions were videotaped and the recordings stored in a safe at the C.I.A. station in Thailand until 2005, when they were ordered destroyed. By then, Ms. Haspel was serving at C.I.A. headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders.
According to market strategist Matt Miskin, though, the nominations of two alleged torture-loving individuals to the highest levels of government is basically much ado about nothing given the pace at which the Trump administration is losing staffers. “This is now what is expected to be normal,” Miskin told The Wall Street Journal.
Jamie Dimon, like everyone else, thinks Trump’s tariffs are a terrible idea
The JPMorgan Chase C.E.O. said the Business Roundtable he chairs is “very concerned” that the president’s trade policy “will do more harm than good to the economy” and that “one-off things” like the tariffs “tend to backfire.” Meanwhile, the measures will reportedly be the topic of conversation in Buenos Aires when G20 leaders meet, according to a letter discussing their plan to combat unfair trade practices and “inward-looking policies.”
Ryan Zinke: I wasn’t flying private jets on the taxpayer dime, I was being being ferried by “aircraft[s] driven by propellers”
If anyone knows what the point of distinction is here, please do drop us a line:
The former Navy SEAL flashed with anger when the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking Democrat pressed him on whether he could justify increasing access fees for working Americans when he has been spending taxpayer money on chartered airplane flights. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington asked Zinke if it was a mistake for him to spend $12,375 on a late-night trip in June from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana on a private jet.
“Well, first, insults and innuendos are misleading. I never took a private jet anywhere,” Zinke said, adding that all three flights he had taken on private planes as secretary were on aircraft driven by propellers, not jet engines.
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Rex Tillerson Has 180 Million Reasons Not to Return to Oil Industry (Bloomberg)
U.S. business chiefs warn on dangers of protectionism (Financial Times)
Britain Will Still Be Paying for Brexit in 2064, Forecasters Say (Bloomberg)
A start-up is pitching a mind-uploading service that is “100 percent fatal” (M.I.T. Technology Review)
Trump Blocks $117 Billion Deal, Biggest in Tech History (N.Y.T.)
Saudi Aramco international listing looks increasingly difficult (Reuters)
Elon Musk: we must colonize Mars to preserve our species in a third world war (Guardian)
“Fight fire with fire”: IMF’s Lagarde calls for bitcoin crackdown (Guardian)
Escaped bull leads police on chase in New York state (UPI)