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'I am a Tariff Man': Can Trump get out of the trade crisis he created?

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: U.S. President Trump departs for Argentina from the White House in Washington
President Trump made several misleading claims about the American economy on Twitter.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Out of all the news this week — the death and funeral of George H.W. Bush, the latest in the Mueller investigation, the political power grab in Wisconsin and the allegations of election fraud in that NC-9 race — maybe the most consequential is the unresolved trade standoff with China.

And that standoff sure looks more problematic than it did days ago.

“Three days after Trump emerged from his dinner with [Chinese President] Xi touting an ‘incredible’ deal, U.S. and Chinese officials were offering different accounts of whether there was a 90-day deadline for progress in new trade talks, the schedule for China to increase its purchases of American farm and industrial products, and Beijing’s plans to reduce or eliminate specific tariffs,” the Washington Post writes.

Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday 1) to say he wants a trade deal with China, and 2) to threaten China if he doesn’t get his way. “President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will. But if not remember ... I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN.”

And this morning, the president added, “Very strong signals being sent by China once they returned home from their long trip, including stops, from Argentina. Not to sound naive or anything, but I believe President Xi meant every word of what he said at our long and hopefully historic meeting. ALL subjects discussed!”

Remember, this trade/tariff standoff with China is a crisis that Trump created. It’s also a crisis that he might not be able to solve because he doesn’t understand that tariffs mean higher prices for American business and consumers.

Funeral services for George H.W. Bush take place in D.C.

The funeral services for former President George H.W. Bush take place at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET.

“Mourners at the Washington services will be led by President Donald Trump and Melania Trump, the first lady. Bush's family, including his son George W. Bush, the 43rd president, and former first lady Laura Bush will be prominent,” per NBC News. “Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be there, along with former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, who canceled two European appearances this week to attend. Former President Jimmy Carter will attend the funeral service in Washington on Wednesday, a spokesperson said.”

Eulogies will be given by George W. Bush, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Sen. Alan Simpson and biographer Jon Meacham.

After the services, George H.W. Bush’s body will travel to Houston, Texas.

Mueller: Flynn provided 'substantial assistance' in the Russia probe

Despite all the redactions in special counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing recommendations for Michael Flynn, the biggest news in the memo released last night was Mueller’s claim that Flynn had provided “substantial assistance” to his investigation. As a result, Mueller said, he recommended little to no jail time for Flynn.

In the memo, Mueller said Flynn had participated in 19 interviews with Mueller and DOJ lawyers regarding 1) a redacted criminal investigation, 2) the Russia probe and 3) what appears to be a third redacted matter. On the Russia investigation in particular, Mueller said Flynn gave "firsthand information about the content and context of interactions between the transition team and Russian government officials."

And Mueller said Flynn’s cooperation encouraged other “firsthand witnesses” to cooperate. (Who are those people?) "Additionally, the defendant's decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming."

Wisconsin GOP passes measure to curb powers of incoming Dem gov

The AP: “The Wisconsin Senate voted just before sunrise Wednesday following an all-night session to pass a sweeping bill in a lame-duck session designed to empower the GOP-controlled Legislature and weaken the Democrat replacing Republican Gov. Scott Walker.”

“Republicans pushed on through protests, internal disagreement and Democratic opposition to the measures designed to reduce the powers of incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul. Both Evers and Kaul urged Republicans not to do it, warning that lawsuits would bring more gridlock to Wisconsin when the new administration, and the first divided government in 10 years, takes over. But Republicans forged ahead regardless, passing it 17-16 with all Republicans except one in support. All Democrats voted against it. The Assembly was expected to pass the bill later Wednesday, sending it on to Walker for his consideration. Walker has signaled support.”

The 2020 winnowing begins: Deval Patrick won’t run

First, Michael Avenatti said he wouldn’t run for president. And now comes this news, via Politico: “Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is calling close allies and informing them he is not running for president in 2020, sources close to the governor tell POLITICO. Patrick informed staff and advisers of his decision today, the sources say, with an announcement to come as soon as this week.”

By the way, the Washington Post notes that Beto O’Rourke met with Barack Obama in the former president’s DC offices on Nov. 16.

GOP wins secretary of state runoff in Georgia

“Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger was elected Georgia's secretary of state on Tuesday amid a debate over access to the polls and election security,” the AP writes. Raffensperger, 63, defeated Democratic former Rep. John Barrow in a runoff for the office, which had been held by Republican Gov.-elect Brian Kemp. The runoff was made necessary after neither candidate polled more than 50 percent on Nov. 6, with Raffensperger leading by about 16,000 votes out of more than 3.8 million cast.”

So far all of the Democratic talk about the unfairness coming from the secretary of state’s office during the 2018 gubernatorial race, their voters didn’t turn out in this runoff like they did a month ago. In November, it was 49 percent to 49 percent (a difference of some 16,000 votes). But last night, the margin was 52 percent to 48 percent (a difference of 57,000 votes).

Could N.H.’s famed secretary of state lose his job?

Speaking of secretaries of state, NBC’s Mike Memoli reports that New Hampshire’s famed secretary of state — Bill Gardner, who plays a key role in ensuring that the Granite State is always the first presidential primary — could very well lose his job today. “Gardner, a Democrat, has been in office since 1976 and won most of his 21 terms without contest. But quiet discontent in his party grew into an open rebellion in 2017 when Gardner agreed to serve on President Donald Trump’s so-called Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, formed in response to Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voting fraud.”

“Gardner’s status as the most prominent and influential secretary of state in the country could collapse on Wednesday, when the New Hampshire state House and Senate jointly convene to vote on constitutional officers. State House Democrats, who won back control of the chamber in the November midterm elections, voted overwhelmingly in a non-binding straw poll last month to support Gardner’s challenger, Colin Van Ostern, the party’s 2016 gubernatorial nominee.”