The News Memo
Stories this week:
Government Shutdown Ends For Three Weeks
How did the shutdown get resolved?
Exactly one week ago, President Trump, the GOP, and the Democrats sparked a deal to temporarily reopen the government for three weeks (until Feb. 15), ending the 35-day partial shutdown.
What’s in The Deal?
Who Won the Shutdown Fight?
Most agree that the deal was a huge loss for Trump as he received no funding whatsoever for the border wall. He announced the deal as a victory in the Rose Garden last Friday, while conservative personalities and Trump supporters such as Anne Coulter, lashed out on Twitter, saying, “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”
Although President Trump conceded, he came out at the Rose Garden with the same strong rhetoric for the border wall, along with a stark warning that he may initiate a National Emergency to bypass Congress if a deal is not met within the three week period. “We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said during the address. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”
What are the chances of a long-term budget deal being struck?
The probability of a successful compromise bill passing is highly unlikely. In an interview, President Trump stated, “I personally think it’s less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board,” referring to the seventeen legislators from both sides hoping to a strike a deal. President Trump also signaled that he will not sign any deal that does not include the $5.7 billion for the border wall, indicating that another shutdown is “certainly an option.”
Nancy Pelosi is holding the position that no funding should be offered for the border wall. “Have I not been clear on a wall?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Friday. “I’ve been very clear on the wall.”
What’s a National Emergency?
If no deal is struck it is likely that President Trump will go with Plan B. Declaring a National Emergency would allow President Trump to allocate funds from other departments for the border wall and bypass the need for Congressional approval. President Trump has already drafted a National Emergency document and is more likely to use it now than ever. If initiated, it will likely receive legal challenges.
Chaos in Venezuela: Interim President and Family Under Threat
Quick Recap of the Situation in Venezuela:
Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and current president of the National Assembly (Venezuela’s legislative body), declared himself interim president of Venezuela on January 23rd. Guaido is opposing the current president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, whom the opposition claims ran a fraudulent election in 2018. Venezuela is experiencing a historic economic and political collapse, one that has forced some 10% of the population to leave the country due to the widespread poverty and violence.
Because the opposition believes Maduro is illegitimately holding office, they are claiming by Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, that Guaido is the interim president until free and fair elections are held. Guaido has the support of the U.S. and over 20 other countries who consider him the rightful president. Conversely, Maduro has the backing of powerful players such as Russia, China, and Mexico.
New developments this week
Guaido continues to assert himself as the true leader of Venezuela with the help of the U.S.
Meanwhile...Maduro has pushed back hard.
Remaining adamant in their support for Guaido, Trump has insisted that all options are on the table when it comes to Venezuela, especially if Guaido’s safety is compromised. In response, Maduro warned that any U.S. invasion would be ‘worse than Vietnam.’
U.S. and the Taliban Agree to Draft of Peace Deal
The U.S. and Taliban held six days of discussion and have agreed on a draft peace agreement between the two parties, seeking to end the 17-year long war in Afghanistan. “We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement," Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation told The New York Times in an interview.
The war in Afghanistan has been deadly, with an estimated 6,000 - 11,000 civilians being killed every year since the war started, according to the UN. The U.S. is considering a full-withdrawal of U.S. troops if the Taliban agrees to hold talks with the Afghan government, initiate a ceasefire, and commits to not let Afghanistan serve as a terrorist hub for groups such as Al-Qaeda. There are roughly 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Activist groups have voiced their concern of a U.S. troop withdrawal, as they provide essential protection for civilians, especially women, who are frequent targets of Taliban violence.
Who is the Taliban?
The Taliban is a military organization and political movement that abides by a strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic) law. They ruled Afghanistan between 1996-2001, until the U.S. invaded after 9/11. The Taliban protected Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations leading up to 9/11. Their influence in Afghanistan has surged since 2014, when many foreign troops left the country. Roughly half of the population in Afghanistan lives in regions controlled or influenced by the Taliban.
Justice Department Charges Huawei for Bank Fraud; U.S. and China Trade Talks Continue
On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department revealed 13 criminal charges against Huawei Technologies and its CFO, Meng Wanzhou. Wanzhou, daughter of the founder of Huawei Technologies, is being held on bail in Vancouver, after she was arrested in Canada by a U.S. extradition order in December. China has demanded her release. The charges leveled on Tuesday include bank and wire fraud, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, and obstructing justice in the current investigation. In an additional but separate indictment, U.S. authorities charged Huawei of conspiring to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile.
Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer and primary point of contention for the current trade negotiations, as the U.S. views Huawei as an imminent cyber security threat. It is likely that Huawei’s business dealings, as well as Wanzhou’s release will be a component of any trade deal reached between the U.S. and China.
Trade negotiations held in Washington
Amid the criminal charges against Huawei, two days of high-level trade talks commenced in Washington in an attempt to resolve the long-running trade dispute. Both countries pronounced the talks as productive, with China agreeing to import more U.S. agricultural and energy products, including the immediate purchase of 5 million tonnes of soybeans (soybeans had been largely cut off due to tariffs).
Despite the progress, much remains to be fleshed out, including key issues such as forced technology transfer, domestic subsidies, and how to enforce the trade agreements (to learn about forced technology transfer and domestic subsidies, read this Memo). Trade talks are planned to continue throughout February, with President Trump and President Xi Jinping expected to meet sometime late this month to try to finalize a deal - one which Trump has said could be “the biggest deal ever made.”
The trade talks are occurring during a 90-day trade truce which started in December. The U.S. agreed to postpone its plan to increase the tariff rate on some $200 billion of Chinese goods from the current rate of 10%, to 25% until March 2nd, unless a deal is reached by March 1. The tariff war has made its effects felt around the globe by dampening economic growth, giving both countries an incentive to strike a deal.
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The News Memo is edited by Madeline Krumel
Sources for this week’s Memo:
The New York Times
Trump to Meet China’s Xi to Try to Seal Trade Deal, Progress Reported
Taliban and U.S. Agree to Draft of Peace Plan
The Washington Post
Justice Dept. charges Huawei with fraud, ratcheting up U.S.-China tensions
The Wall Street Journal
Trump Gives Upbeat Assessment of Trade Talks with China
Trump skeptical he would accept any border deal
Venezuela crisis: Juan Guaidó says family has been threatened
Draft deal for Afghan peace deal ‘Agreed’
Venezuelan opposition leader to police: Leave my family alone