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Trump torpedoes G7 effort to ease trade spat and threatens auto tariffs

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U.S. President Donald Trump threw the G7’s efforts to show a united front into disarray after taking aim at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, adding he might double down on import tariffs by hitting the sensitive auto industry.

Having left the Group of Seven summit in Canada early, Trump’s announcement that he was backing out of the joint communique torpedoed what appeared to be a fragile consensus on the trade dispute between Washington and its top allies.

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“PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!” the U.S. president tweeted.

In his press conference, Trudeau had spoken of retaliatory measures that Canada would take next month in response to Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

“Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable but we also will not be pushed around,” Trudeau, the host of the two-day summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, told reporters.

Reacting to Trump’s tweets, Trudeau’s office said: “We are focused on everything we accomplished here at the summit. The Prime Minister said nothing he hasn’t said before – both in public, and in private conversations with the President.”

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Germany continued to support the “jointly agreed communique” despite Trump’s decision to back away, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement on Sunday.

In Paris, a French presidency official said France and Europe stood by the G7 communique and anyone departing from the commitments made at the summit would be showing their “incoherence and inconsistency”.

“International cooperation cannot depend on being angry and on sound bites. Let’s be serious,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

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SURPRISE REVERSAL

Trump’s salvo capped a dizzying two days of controversies that began with his suggestion Russia be readmitted to the G7, then what a French official described as a “rant” full of “recriminations” against U.S. trading partners, followed by Trump’s denial of any contention with leaders at the summit and his description of their relationship as a “10.”

By ordering his representatives to back out of the communique, Trump appeared to be asserting his oft-stated aim of upsetting the status quo whether by pulling out of the global climate accord or the international nuclear deal with Iran or threats to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The communique, which appeared to have papered over the cracks that have surfaced in the G7, said the leaders of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.

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“We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies,” the statement said.

Trump’s reversal, announced while he was en route to Singapore for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sent his G7 partners scrambling.

Trump’s counterparts in the G7 had sought this week to find some semblance of consensus with Washington on trade and the other key issues that have formed the basis of the 42-year-old grouping of industrialized nations.

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French President Emmanuel Macron had labeled the summit a success before Trump’s Twitter posts, saying there was relief within the G7 that an escalation of the trade dispute had been avoided.

“The nature of the debate we had was rather appeasement and it stopped the escalation in terms of behavior,” Macron, who had exchanged terse Twitter messages with Trump in the run-up to the summit, told reporters.

“It allowed a dialogue, where for weeks there were uncoordinated unilateral actions and non-cooperation.”

NERVOUS INVESTORS

Trump says his tariffs are meant to protect U.S. industry and workers from unfair international competition as part of his “America First” agenda.

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The prospect that he could be moving toward an even greater protectionist trade policy is likely to chill financial markets worried about tit-for-tit escalation that could lead to a full-blown global trade war.

Trump has announced tariffs of up to $150 billion on Chinese goods over U.S. complaints of Beijing’s trade practices and its alleged theft of U.S. technology. China has vowed to retaliate in equal measure.

Canada, Mexico and the EU also are moving ahead with their own levies on U.S. goods.

But tariffs on U.S. imports of cars and auto parts would devastate the Canadian auto industry, which is highly integrated with the U.S. sector. They could also damage Japan and Germany.

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The Trump administration announced two weeks ago that it would investigate whether auto imports hurt U.S. national security, the first step toward tariffs similar to the ones he imposed on steel and aluminum imports last week.

Earlier on Saturday, Trump told reporters it would be “very easy” to make the case for tariffs on auto imports using the rationale that they threaten national security.

“It’s economic. It’s the balance sheet. To have a great military, you need a great balance sheet,” he said.

Such a move could make it nearly impossible to renegotiate the terms of the 1994 NAFTA pact between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

On Saturday, Trump repeated his desire to have a sunset clause in an updated NAFTA deal, a demand Trudeau rejected again.

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Study finds that atheists would pay money to avoid your ‘thoughts and prayers’

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While some people may think the sentiment "I'm praying for you" might be a nice gesture, researchers have found that when it comes to 'thoughts and prayers,' some atheists would pay money to avoid them.

The study was conducted by Linda Thunström of the University of Wyoming and Laramie and Shiri Noy of Denison University, and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The study surveyed people in the wake of Hurricane Florence that hit North Carolina last year. The survey respondents, which included religious participants who identified as Christian and believed in God, and nonreligious participants who identified as either atheist or agnostic, were given $5 to be used for the project. In sum, participants could use the cash to receive “thoughts” from a random Christian or a random atheist, or “prayers” from a random Christian or a priest. Unsurprisingly, Christians put more value in prayers offered by a priest than another random Christian, but atheists were willing to pay to avoid the thoughts and prayers of Christians -- $1.66 to avoid prayer from a priest, and $3.54 to avoid prayer from a random Christian.

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Trump praises Corey Lewandowski as he turns House Judiciary hearing into a ‘complete farce’

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Former – and fired – Trump campaign director Corey Lewandowski is testifying before the Judiciary Committee in the House’s first official impeachment inquiry. Lewandowski played his part perfectly: a clown, an obfuscator, a disruptor, a disrespectful buffoon, and an instigator.

Just minutes into the hearing, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler accused Lewandowski – who is still close to President Trump and considering a run for the U.S. Senate – of filibustering.

https://twitter.com/JoyceWhiteVance/status/1174015222526423042

President Trump loved it. About a half hour into the proceedings, Trump tweeted out praise for his friend and former advisor.

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‘Anyone who tried to impact outcome of election should spend life in jail’: Lewandowski

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On Tuesday, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Lewandowski's appearance before Congress was significant because Donald Trump reportedly told him to tell Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of Mueller's Russia probe.

Lewandowski was defiant in his opening statement, slamming the investigation as biased and knocking Hillary Clinton. He also declared that any entity that tried to meddle in a U.S. election should be in prison.

He said that he handled as many as a thousand emails. "And unlike Hillary Clinton, I don't think I ever deleted any of those," Lewandowski said. "Many of them were either responded to with one-word answers or floated to other staff for additional follow-up. But throughout it all, and to the best of my recollection, I don't recall ever having any conversations with foreign entities, let alone any who were operating to manipulate the outcome of an election."

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