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Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker takes Trump to task on taxes, trade

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Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker takes Trump to task on taxes, trade

(Reuters) – Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker warned the Trump administration’s handling of domestic issues as well as trade talks with China is hurting the United States’ long-term prosperity.

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker speaks at a news conference in New York, June 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File photo

“We have not been on a constructive track,” Volcker told Bridgewater co-chief investment officer Ray Dalio, in a podcast video released on Tuesday. “I think that’s fair to say.”

Volcker, widely credited with ending the high levels of inflation seen in the United States during the 1970s and early 1980s, said Trump’s big tax cuts and spending increases underscore the lack of transparency of the president’s administration.

“We rammed through a massive tax bill. Whatever you think about that tax bill, it shouldn’t have been rammed through Congress without any debates at midnight on Dec. 31,” Volcker said.

On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, shrinking the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and cutting taxes on private businesses by about 20 percent. It was passed without a single public hearing.

Volcker cites Alexander Hamilton, his hero and first secretary of the Treasury, as saying “the true test of good government is its ability to administer” which Volcker said “we lapse in.”

Trump has had a strained relationship with the Federal Reserve. As Fed rate increases continued through last year, Trump called the central bank “crazy,” out of touch with markets, and according to reports, explored whether he could remove current Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Volcker said the China trade negotiations have been particularly worrisome for the United States’ future over the next 10 years.

“It sounds terrible but I respond more favorably to what the president of China is saying than the president of the United States,” Volcker said. “The president of China, at least, says he’s looking forward to a harmonious relationship over time…But looking for peaceable outcomes, where we are all threats and demands, so it’s a different story being told.”

U.S. and Chinese officials expressed hopes on Monday that a new round of talks would bring them closer to easing their months-long trade war. Beijing and Washington are trying to hammer out a deal before a March 1 deadline, without which U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

All told, Volcker said: “Faith of the America people in our government today is really distressing. There’s been polls taken every year that ask the same question … Do you trust your government to do the right thing most of the time? You get maybe 20 percent to say ‘yes.’ You ask about the Congress, it’d be less than 20 percent. It’s no great secret that we are torn about by ideological and other differences now.”

Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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Presidents Day protests decry Trump’s emergency declaration

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Presidents Day protests decry Trump's emergency declaration

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Activists in Washington, Chicago and dozens of other U.S. cities protested on Monday’s Presidents Day holiday against President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

A woman holds a sign during a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump on President’s Day near the White House in Washington, U.S., February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Calling Trump’s declaration an abuse of power and usurpation of Congress, organizers with the nonprofit advocacy group MoveOn.org and other participants said it was important to let the outrage over the move be heard.

“We disagree with the state of emergency declared by the president and stand with our immigrant colleagues and friends,” said Darcy Regan, executive director of Indivisible Chicago, which co-hosted the protest there.

Trump invoked the emergency powers on Friday after Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise. His move aims to let him spend money appropriated by Congress for other purposes.

The Republican president says a wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs coming across the border. Democrats and opponents of the wall say it is unnecessary.

The protests in Chicago and Washington each drew a few hundred people on Monday afternoon.

Protesters gathered in Chicago’s Federal Plaza carried signs that read “Dump Trump” and “Fake Emergency” and chanted “No wall, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”

Cheryl Krugel-Lee, a 32-year-old student, said she brought her 4-year-old daughter to the protest in freezing weather to set an example for her.

“This was a power grab by the Trump administration, and it’s immoral and illegal,” Krugel-Lee said.

Organizers said 250 events were planned, including in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Democrats have vowed to challenge the national emergency declaration as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. California state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in television interviews that his state and others would sue the Trump administration on Monday.

Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Dan Grebler

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Cory Booker calls warnings about Green New Deal price tag a ‘lie’

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Cory Booker calls warnings about Green New Deal price tag a ‘lie’

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, said it’s a “lie” for critics to say the Green New Deal is too expensive to implement.

GREEN NEW DEAL, ‘MEDICARE-FOR-ALL’ DRAW FRESH SCRUTINY FROM OTHER 2020 DEMS

“This is the lie that’s going on right now,” Booker told Fox News in Nashua, N.H., as he campaigned in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

The New Jersey senator was asked about the costs of the Green New Deal, which is supported by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives and aims to implement a range of big-government programs while pursuing a level of “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” — essentially, a total economic transformation toward clean energy that, among other points, includes building upgrades across the country.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported it cost nearly $2,000 per apartment for the New York City Housing Authority to switch to LED lighting, which lasts longer and consumes less energy than incandescent bulbs. Asked about that report, Booker said it’s possible to “revive your economy, and create a bold green future,” citing his experience as mayor of Newark, N.J.

“We environmentally retrofitted our buildings. Saves taxpayers money, created jobs for our community and lowered our carbon footprint,” Booker said.

He added, “This lie that’s being put out – that somehow being green and responsible with the environment means you have to hurt the economy – a lie.”

WHAT IS THE GREEN NEW DEAL? A LOOK AT THE ECONOMIC AND CLIMATE CONCEPT PUSHED BY PROGRESSIVES

The Green New Deal is a sweeping proposal designed to tackle income inequality and climate change at the same time. It’s modeled after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal package of public works programs and projects created to help the economy during the Great Depression — but in many ways goes much further.

The rollout itself was muddled by the release of Ocasio-Cortez documents that, among other things, promised economic security even for those “unwilling” to work.

The plan itself aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and agriculture and dramatically expand energy sources to meet 100 percent of power demand through renewable sources. The proposal also calls for a job-guarantee program and universal health care, among other things.

Republican critics have vehemently pushed back against the proposal, pointing in part to the price tag – estimated to be about $7 trillion. Republicans have also decried the job guarantee idea, calling it a “deeply flawed policy” that would be detrimental to small businesses.

Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.

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N.C. congressional contest marred by voter fraud scheme: official

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N.C. congressional contest marred by voter fraud scheme: official

RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) – An investigation into a disputed 2018 congressional election in North Carolina has uncovered a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme” to influence the vote’s outcome, a state election board official said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Mark Harris, Republican candidate from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina U.S., October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The scheme involved collecting absentee ballots in contravention of state laws, and, in some cases, filling out those ballots in favor of Republicans.

Investigators found evidence that a political operative working for Republican candidate Mark Harris collected absentee ballots from voters in the state’s 9th congressional district, the executive director of the state’s election board, Kim Strach, said at the start of a hearing that could lead to a new vote.

The scheme affected 1,019 ballot requests in Bladen and Robeson counties during the 2018 election, Strach said.

Harris declared victory in November over Democratic rival Dan McCready after early vote tallies showed him with a 905-vote lead, out of 282,717 ballots cast.

But the U.S. House of Representatives seat has remained vacant as state officials have refused to certify Harris’ apparent victory after voters said the Harris campaign team had collected their incomplete absentee ballots.

Republican political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless conducted an absentee ballot operation from April 2017 up to the 2018 elections while working for Red Dome Consulting, a firm hired by the Harris campaign, Strach said.

Lisa Britt, who said she worked for Dowless, testified that she collected unsealed ballots and filled them out in favor of Republicans at Dowless’ home or office.

Britt said Dowless tried to prevent her from testifying at Monday’s hearing by asking her to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Dowless paid workers $150 for every 50 absentee ballot requests they collected and another $125 for every 50 ballots collected, Strach said.

Investigators found Dowless tried to avoid detection by instructing those who worked for him to deliver ballots to the post office in small batches and to ensure the same color ink was used for forged witness signatures, Strach said.

State officials have named Dowless as a person of interest in their election fraud probe after voters in Bladen County said people working with Dowless came to their homes and collected ballots, which would violate state law.

Dowless and Harris both attended Monday’s hearing in Raleigh. Dowless’ lawyer, Cynthia Adams Singletary, has denied her client violated state or federal campaign laws, and Harris has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

Under state law, the five-member elections board could order a new vote if it finds sufficient evidence that fraud affected the outcome of the election. If it does not, it could certify Harris as the district’s congressional representative.

“We hope to have Dr. Harris certified so he can take his seat in the congressional district,” said David Freedman, a lawyer representing Harris.

Representatives for McCready did not respond to a request for comment.

If the Democrats pick up the seat, they would widen their 235-197 majority in the House after taking control of the chamber from President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the Nov. 6 election.

Reporting by Marti Maguire; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Tom Brown and Bernadette Baum

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