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US officials have reached out to China for new trade talks: sources

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The Trump administration has reached out to China for a new round of trade talks as it prepares to activate punitive U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Senior U.S. officials led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently sent an invitation to their Chinese counterparts, including Vice Premier Liu He, to hold another bilateral trade meeting.

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The timing and location of the proposed meeting were unclear, the people said. Mid-level U.S. and Chinese officials met on Aug. 22 and 23 with no agreements.

A U.S. Treasury spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The invitation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. A meeting among cabinet-level officials could ease market worries over the escalating tariff war that threatens to engulf all trade between the world’s two largest economies and raise costs for companies and consumers.

So far, the United States and China have hit $50 billion worth of each others’ goods with tariffs in a dispute over U.S. demands that China make sweeping economic policy changes, including ending joint venture and technology transfer policies, rolling back industrial subsidy programs and better protecting American intellectual property.

U.S. President Donald Trump last week said that in addition to preparing tariffs on another $200 billion worth of goods, he had tariffs on another $267 billion worth of goods “ready to on short notice if I want.”

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U.S. business groups are escalating their fight against Trump’s tariffs, with over 60 industry groups launching a coalition to put political pressure on the Trump administration to seek alternatives to tariffs.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by David Lawder and Ginger Gibson; writing by David Lawder; editing by Leslie Adler

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Republicans claim Democrats leaked John Bolton’s book that was given to the White House — then quickly back down

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In a bizarre twist, Republicans are blaming Democrats for releasing information included in John Bolton's.

Speaking in a line of Republicans, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) explained that it was clear Democrats were part of some kind of conspiracy to turn senators against the speedy trial the White House wanted. With the revelation that Bolton confirmed President Donald Trump was indeed trying to bribe Ukraine, a very few Republican senators are more willing to call him as a witness.

The problem, of course, with Meadows' accusations is that the manuscript was never sent to Democrats. According to the New York Times report, Bolton sent the book to the White House for security checks to ensure nothing he put in the book was classified.

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Ken Starr defends Trump as Bolton revelations roil trial

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Pressure mounted on Republicans on Monday to call former national security advisor John Bolton as a witness at Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial following explosive new revelations about the US president's dealings with Ukraine.

As Clinton impeachment investigator Ken Starr resumed the White House defense of Trump on the Senate floor, at least three Republican senators indicated they would favor hearing testimony from the 71-year-old Bolton.

According to The New York Times, Bolton, in a draft of his upcoming book, says that Trump told him in August that he wanted to freeze military aid to Ukraine until Kiev opened an investigation into his potential November election rival Joe Biden.

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White House lawyer says politicians must separate their business and political interests — even though Trump never has

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On Monday, White House lawyer Eric Herschmann tried to change the subject of the impeachment trial to GOP conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden's work for Ukraine — and made an impassioned argument for overhauling ethics laws to prevent conflicts of interest for senior government officials.

"I actually think that this is something that is undisputed, that Ukraine had a particularly bad corruption problem," said Herschmann. "It was so corrupt that dealing with corruption and solving the corruption was a priority for our U.S. foreign policy. Here is how one knowledgeable observer of Ukraine put it in 2015. Quote, 'It is not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a prosecutor fight corruption, the office of prosecutor general needs to be reformed, and the judiciary needs to be overhauled, and the energy sector needs to be competitive and ruled by market principles and not sweetheart deals. It is not enough to push through the laws to increase transparency with regard to the official sources of income. Senior elected officials have to remove all conflicts between their business interests and their government responsibilities.'"

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