The US and China remain locked in trade negotiations after Donald Trump increased tariffs on more than 6,000 Chinese consumer goods by 25 percent to $200bn (£154bn), prompting Beijing to threaten retaliation.
Mr Trump, Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and chief US trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer dined with vice-premier Liu He on Thursday night and will continue discussions on Friday in the hope of finding a last-minute resolution after the president accused the rival superpower of “breaking the deal” and insisted: “They’ll be paying”.
“Over the course of the past two days, the United States and China have held candid and constructive conversations on the status of the trade relationship between both countries,” Mr Trump tweeted Friday.
“The relationship between President Xi and myself remains a very strong one, and conversations into the future will continue,” he added. “In the meantime, the United States has imposed Tariffs on China, which may or may not be removed depending on what happens with respect to future negotiations!”
The White House has meanwhile carried out a “mass purge” of journalists by revoking press passes and nominated acting secretary of defence Patrick Shanahan to the post full-time.
Mr Shanahan has been leading the Pentagon as acting secretary since 1 January, a highly unusual arrangement for arguably the most sensitive Cabinet position. He took over after Jim Mattis resigned.
“Acting Secretary Shanahan has proven over the last several months that he is beyond qualified to lead the Department of Defense, and he will continue to do an excellent job,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Moments later, Mr Shanahan spoke to reporters outside the Pentagon, saying he was very excited about the nomination and looking forward to a job he said requires him to “spin a lot of plates.”
“The biggest challenge is balancing it all. For me it’s about practicing selectful neglect, so that we can stay focused on the future,” he said, adding with a grin, “I called my mom. She was super happy.”
Indeed, in Mr Shanahan’s tenure at the department he’s had to deal with a wide array of international hotspots, ranging from missile launches by North Korea to the sudden shift of military ships and aircraft to the Middle East to deal with potential threats from Iran.
The announcement comes close on the heels of an investigation by the Defence Department’s inspector general over accusations that Mr Shanahan had shown favoritism toward Boeing during his time as deputy defense secretary, while disparaging Boeing competitors. The probe appeared to stall his nomination, but the IG wrapped up the investigation rapidly and cleared Mr Shanahan of any wrongdoing.
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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.
The US and China remain locked in trade negotiations after Donald Trump increased tariffs on more than 6,000 Chinese consumer goods by 25 percent to $200bn (£153bn), prompting Beijing to threaten retaliation.
Trump, Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and chief US trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer dined with vice-premier Liu He in Washington on Thursday night and will continue discussions on Friday in the hope of finding a last-minute resolution after the president accused the rival superpower of “breaking the deal” and insisted: “They’ll be paying”.
The rise from 10 percent to 25 percent comes as Trump - who prides himself on his reputation as a businessman, despite the $1.17bn (£897m) income tax losses we learned about from The New York Times earlier this week - seeks to address the $419bn (£322bn) trade deficit the US had with China in 2018.
The president tweeted this on Wednesday:
Addressing a MAGA rally in Panama City Beach in Florida later that evening, he told a cheering crowd: "I just announced that we’ll increase tariffs on China and we won’t back down until China stops cheating our workers and stealing our jobs, and that’s what’s going to happen, otherwise we don’t have to do business with them."
"They broke the deal. They can’t do that. So they’ll be paying. If we don’t make the deal, nothing wrong with taking in more than $100 billion a year."
The US is "the piggy bank everyone wants to rob", Trump told his supporters.
Yesterday he said that Chinese premier Xi Jinping had written him "a beautiful letter" in the hope of bringing an end to the stand-off and told reporters (incorrectly) the tariffs will be "paid for mostly by China, by the way. Not by us. A lot of people try and steer it in a different direction. Ultimately it is paid for largely by China".
Here's more from Harry Cockburn.
The Trump administration has committed a “mass purge” of press passes, preventing career reporters from easily accessing the White House.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank was one of several reporters who received notice their passes had been revoked and responded: "There’s something wrong with a president having the power to decide which journalists can cover him."
"I was part of a mass purge of ‘hard pass’ holders after the White House implemented a new standard that designated as unqualified almost the entire White House press corps, including all seven of The Post’s White House correspondents," he said.
The move arrives amid a sharp reduction in the number of daily briefings for journalists and continued tensions between the administration and reporters tasked with covering it, not least as a result of the president's hostile tweets attacking the "Fake News media".
Trump's press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced she would seek to limit the number of journalists with hard passes based on whether they need to be "physically present at the White House" for 90 or more days of their jobs during a 180-day period.
Chris Riotta has more.
Trump has nominated Patrick Shanahan to become secretary of defence full-time, an unenviable job given current tensions with Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.
The former Boeing executive has held the post on an acting basis since the departure of Jim Mattis in December in opposition to the proposed withdrawal of US soldiers from Syria following the "defeat" of Isis.
Here's Clark Mindock's report.
Former FBI director James Comey - whose firing by Trump in May 2017 triggered special counsel Robert Mueller's 22-month investigation into the administration and possible collusion with Russia to win the White House in 2016 - finds himself under fire from the president once again.
Interviewed by CNN's Anderson Cooper at a town hall event in Washington on Thursday, Comey was asked:
"Do you think the Russians have leverage over President Trump?"
"I don't know the answer to that," he answered.
"Think it's possible?" Cooper persisted.
"Yes," Comey responded, without hesitation.
This was sufficient to spark headlines and Trump responded angrily at the White House: "You look at the picture file and you see hundreds of pictures of [Mueller] and Comey."
In suggesting that Robert Mueller and Comey are friends - and inferring therein that they are conspiring against him - Trump overlooks the fact that Mueller has also long been pals with his own attorney general William Barr. So much so in fact that their wives attend the same Bible study group.
Obviously unable to let it go, he tweeted in the wee small hours of the morning:
Comey has previously addressed the subject before, coming out with this absolute peach of a quote in an interview with ABC last year:
"Honestly, I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It's possible, but I don't know."
Speaking of Bill Barr, he apparently finds the idea of being held in contempt of Congress funny.
Trump also addressed his son Don Jr's subpoena by the Senate Intelligence Committee before the press yesterday, particularly significant as it was issued by chairman Richard Burr, a Republican.
And also, rather wildly, suggested that Obama secretary of state John Kerry should be prosecuted.
The Democrats are the real scandal, you see.
And now for surely the most ridiculous story of the day.
The New York Times reports the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, is planning to fly out to Ukraine to gather information on disgraced former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and potential 2020 rival Joe Biden that he hopes will prove "very helpful" to his boss.
Giuliani is seemingly seeking to investigate Manafort's consulting work in Eastern Europe in the hope of exonerating him while also looking for dirt on "Sleepy Joe" to compromise his run for president.
Trump recently applauded The NYT for its story on Biden allegedly threatening to withhold $1bn (£768m) in US loan guarantees in 2016 (while serving as Obama's vice-president) unless Ukraine removed a top prosecutor who was investigating an energy company his son Hunter was a board member of.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko had previously launched an investigation into Manafort's work but has since lost his re-election bid, seemingly dooming the project. His successor, Volodymr Zelensky, takes office on 3 June.
"We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do," Giuliani told The NYT in an interview
He has a right to meddle?
"There’s nothing illegal about it,” Giuliani insists of his mission.
"Somebody could say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy - I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government."
This about sums it up:
House speaker Nancy Pelosi has been on explosive form of late, hitting out at the White House for stonewalling Congress by ignoring subpoenas.
On Thursday, she accused the president of being "self-impeaching".
Here's Clark Mindock with more on exasperation among Capitol Hill Democrats.
Trump hosted the Boston Red Sox at the White House yesterday.
While the administration gave its usual rosy account of its affairs on Twitter, matters got off to a bad start when staff mispelled the team's name and listed them incorrectly as "World Cup Series Champions".
More importantly, a number of African-American players boycotted the event in disgust at the president's policies.
Here's Abby Young-Powell.
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