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Trump’s Mexican tariffs test limits of U.S. emergency powers: legal experts

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Trump's Mexican tariffs test limits of U.S. emergency powers: legal experts

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to impose a tariff on all Mexican goods to push Mexico to halt a surge in illegal immigrants is likely to be challenged in court and will test the scope of the president’s emergency powers.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump visits the US-Mexico border in Calexico California, U.S., April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

Trump dramatically intensified his quest to limit a wave of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, including families fleeing violence in Central America, by threatening to impose the tariffs starting on June 10.

Financial markets reeled and business leaders on both sides of the border were taken by surprise, prompting discussions of legal action to curtail Republican Trump’s use of a law never previously applied to impose tariffs.

Jennifer Hillman, a Georgetown Law school trade law professor, questioned Trump’s citation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) in his announcement on Thursday night.

“If you read the text of IEEPA, it’s about the president being able to declare a national emergency to be able to stop financial transactions,” said Hillman, a former World Trade Organization judge.

The law has been used by presidents to impose sanctions on countries such as Iran and Sudan but Trump’s proposed novel application of it has never been addressed by the courts, according to legal experts.

“It’s clearly beyond the spirit of the law,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School. “But is it within the letter of the law? Possibly.”

Some legal experts said that unlike many of Trump’s immigration policies that have been blocked by courts, the tariff threat may survive a challenge because it was wrapped up as a national security measure.

Challengers would have to show the president was acting outside the letter of the law and national security interest, a difficult standard to meet because of the wide authority given to the executive branch under the act.

Lawyers who advise large corporations said clients were interested in pursuing legal action to block the tariffs, but declined to identify the corporations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major business lobby group, said it might sue.

The IEEPA gives the president power in times of “unusual and extraordinary threat” to regulate a wide range of economic activity. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, used the law to block all the assets in the United States belonging to Iran after Americans in Tehran were taken hostage. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the move, saying the IEEPA “was sweeping and unqualified.”

Using the law as a tool to cut the flow of immigrants arguably falls outside the intent of Congress, which adopted the IEEPA to respond to violent threats, said Raj Bhala, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Law who specializes in international trade.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said on Friday that Trump is acting within his authority to protect national security.

“Industry should be in communication with their counterparts in Mexico to encourage the Mexican government to work with the Administration and stave off the dangerous crisis at our southern border as quickly as possible,” Deere said.

OVERWHELMED

White House officials say the immigration system is overwhelmed by thousands of migrants, many of whom turn themselves over to U.S. border officials to claim asylum.

In April, Trump took a step back from an earlier threat to close the southern U.S. border to stanch the flow of people, under pressure from companies worried that a shutdown would cause chaos for businesses. Trump has been unable to get sufficient funding from Congress to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise to build a wall along the border.

The Mexican tariffs were going to be administered by the Department of Homeland Security, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. Hillman, the former WTO judge, said that was unusual.

Courts tend to defer to the president on national security, as the U.S. Court of International Trade did in March in ruling against a challenge to U.S. steel tariffs imposed by Trump under a different law.

There are other avenues to challenge the tariffs outside U.S. courts.

Bhala said the tariffs would almost certainly run afoul of both the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT. It is not yet clear how Trump’s tariff threat will affect the trade negotiations with Mexico to replace NAFTA.

Both agreements allow members countries to initiate disputes against one another, and NAFTA also allows investors to take action against governments.

However, Bhala said, the NAFTA and WTO dispute resolution processes are slow, taking years to reach a final judgment, and can be difficult to enforce.

Yet another avenue is to go to the U.S. Congress, said Steven Schwinn, a professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

“Congress doesn’t need to delegate this kind of authority to the president and particularly this president,” said Schwinn. “If Congress wants to take back that authority, they can take that back.”

(GRAPHIC-Trump vows high tariffs on all Mexican goods link: tmsnrt.rs/2Khd82D).

Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Brendan Pierson in New York; additional reporting by David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool

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Pelosi flexes muscle over party in impeachment debate, but ‘dam’ could collapse

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Pelosi flexes muscle over party in impeachment debate, but ‘dam’ could collapse

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has wielded her power to quash a faction of Democrats rallying for President Trump’s impeachment, but frustrated members within the party say the president is one misstep away from “that dam collapsing,” according to a Sunday report.

Since reassuming leadership over the house, Pelosi has thwarted her party’s liberal wing from going forward with impeachment proceedings, encouraging them to instead focus on other issues like health care.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reflects on President Donald Trump's statement that he would accept assistance from a foreign power. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reflects on President Donald Trump’s statement that he would accept assistance from a foreign power. 
(AP)

“I don’t think there’s anything more divisive we can do than to impeach a president of the United States, and so you have to handle it with great care,” Pelosi told CNN on Sunday. “It has to be about the truth and the facts to take you to whatever decision has to be there.”

Some lawmakers say their deference to Pelosi is out of respect for the speaker’s political expertise, and agree that impeachment would do more harm than good.

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“She is the single smartest strategist that we’ve ever had…People are not wanting to second guess her because she’s been right on so many fronts,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., told the Washington Post.

But other Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., admit they toe the party line out of fear.

“One, you want to be a team player and support the leader’s position, but secondly you’re worried about your own self and…what can happen if you don’t follow along,” Schrader told the paper.

Some argue that President Trump’s defiance of congressional investigators will eventually break the divide between moderate Democrats and its liberal wing.

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Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., described Pelosi’s hold over Democrats as “fragile” because “we’re kind of one event, one piece of explosive testimony, one action by Trump away from that dam collapsing.”

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The Democrats’ pro-impeachment camp howled this week after Trump said in an interview with ABC that he’d be willing to listen if a foreign government had dirt on an opponent. Yet despite the familiar refrain of impeachment, Pelosi didn’t budge an inch on impeachment after Trump’s comments.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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Trump asks Mulvaney to leave Oval Office for coughing during ABC interview

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Trump asks Mulvaney to leave Oval Office for coughing during ABC interview

President Trump was apparently so perturbed by his chief of staff coughing during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in the Oval Office last week, that he asked his staffer to leave the room, according to a transcript from the station.

Trump had been asked a question about his tax returns when someone off camera – identified as Mulvaney – reportedly begins coughing.

“I hope they get it, because it’s a fantastic financial statement,” Trump said Stephanopoulos amid apparent coughing before saying: “And let’s do that over, he’s coughing in the middle of my answer.”

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“I don’t like that, you know, I don’t like that,” Trump reportedly said of Mulvaney’s coughing. “If you’re going to couch, please leave the room. You just can’t, you just can’t cough. Boy oh boy.”

“Your chief of staff,” Stephanopoulos reportedly clarified.

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The interview, which was broadcast Sunday, proceeded with Trump saying although he wanted people to see his “phenomenal” financial statement, it’s “not up to me, it’s up to my lawyers.”

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Buttigieg says he won’t be first gay president, ‘almost certain’ we’ve had others

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Buttigieg says he won't be first gay president, 'almost certain' we've had others

Mayor Pete Buttigieg doesn’t believe he’ll be the first gay president if elected in 2020.

“I would imagine we’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn’t know which ones,” he told “Axios on HBO.”

“I mean, statistically, it’s almost certain.”

FILE: Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a grassroots event on Friday, June 14, 2019, in Alexandria, Va.

FILE: Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a grassroots event on Friday, June 14, 2019, in Alexandria, Va.
(AP)

Asked if he possibly knew which commander-in-chief was playing for the other team, the Democratic hopeful said: “My gaydar even doesn’t work that well in the present, let alone retroactively. But one can only assume that’s the case.”

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Buttigieg — who is mayor of South Bend, Ind. — has been rising in the polls as of late. He would be the first openly gay presidential candidate, if nominated next next year.

The 37-year-old has been asked in the past about the possibility of there ever being a gay president, with BuzzFeed posing the question back in March.

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“My gaydar is not great to begin with and definitely doesn’t work over long stretches of time,” he repeated. “I think we’ll just have to let the historians figure that out.”

To read more from The New York Post, click here

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