Vice President

FILE PHOTO: An oil pumpjack painted with the colors of the Venezuelan flag is seen in Lagunillas
FILE PHOTO: An oil pumpjack painted with the colors of the Venezuelan flag is seen in Lagunillas, Venezuela January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Isaac Urrutia/File Photo

March 25, 2019

By Devika Krishna Kumar and Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry have made winners out of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc, Gulf of Mexico offshore heavyweights, as refiners in need of substitutes are scooping up oil produced in the region.

Those two companies produce notable amounts of crude oil that refiners have settled on as the immediate replacement for the heavy Venezuelan crude that U.S. refiners relied on for years. Trading volumes in these grades of oil have surged to the highest in months, and prices touched five-year peaks after sanctions were imposed.

U.S. production has surged to a record 12 million barrels a day, but less than 5 percent of that is heavy oil. The sanctions have hamstrung refineries in the United States, as many giant Gulf Coast facilities need heavier oil to produce high-margin refined products like diesel and jet fuel.

Heavy crude accounts for nearly two-thirds of U.S. oil imports. Of that, Venezuela’s oil accounted for 10 percent of heavy crude imports in 2018 and about 13 percent in 2017, according to U.S. Energy Department figures.

Offshore Gulf oil prices – mostly Mars crude, considered the benchmark U.S. sour crude grade – have hit five-year highs, and sales are up sharply, according to company executives, market participants and data reviewed by Reuters.

“We’re buying more Mars for the current time,” said Marathon Petroleum Corp Chief Executive Gary Heminger. Marathon, one of the nation’s largest refiners, was not a major importer of Venezuelan crude. “Since we’re exporting so much in the light sweet crude markets, you’re going to have to bring in more medium sours.”

Shell operates the most Gulf platforms and BP has the highest volume of output from the region, according to figures provided by the companies. Representatives from the companies would not explicitly link the recent boost in sales of offshore crude to Venezuela’s sanctions, though they did acknowledge the market’s interest.

“We do understand that Mars crude is perceived well in the market right now. We’re happy for that and we take advantage of that,” said Rick Tallant, Shell’s vice president of deepwater Gulf of Mexico production.

Production in the Gulf of Mexico rose to a record 1.7 million barrels a day in 2018, and is expected to exceed 2 million bpd in the fourth quarter, according to U.S. Energy Department figures.

Sanctions have intensified the need for the oil that is being pumped out of these vast fields. Gulf production averaged 1.89 million bpd in March, up nearly 145,000 bpd from February, said Jodi Quinnell, oil analyst at Genscape.


Mars generally refers to a medium sour grade of oil produced from the Mars platform, a joint venture between majority owner Shell and BP located about 130 miles (210 km) off the coast of New Orleans.

Refiners including Valero Energy Corp and Marathon have been scooping up Mars from Shell’s trading unit in the weeks following the sanctions, sources familiar with the deals said. Other refiners, such as Phillips 66, were also seen buying Southern Green Canyon (SGC), a grade similar to Mars, from Shell.

Trading in those grades has surged. Volumes in the Argus Sour Crude Index (ASCI), a tool reflecting prices of three U.S. deepwater sour crudes including Mars, rose to 614,036 contracts for February, the most in nearly a year, data from price reporting agency Argus Media show.

Volumes in Mars for February delivery rose to 410,536 contracts, the highest since August 2018, the data showed.

Prices of other offshore grades such as Thunder Horse, Bonito and SGC also surged to the highest in five years after sanctions took effect.

Phillips 66 declined to comment and Valero did not respond to requests for comment.


In an auction of federal offshore leases this week, Shell submitted the most high bids for Gulf leases, winning 87 tracts of land valued at more than $84 million. BP grabbed the third-most parcels, winning 23 parcels priced at more than $15 million.

Shell’s pipeline partnership, Shell Midstream Partners, shipped 10 percent more crude on the Mars system to the Gulf Coast last year.

Both Shell’s Tallant and BP’s regional president for the Gulf of Mexico and Canada Starlee Sykes each said their company is continuing to actively invest in the Gulf, where they say crude can be produced at levels that were cost-competitive with that from shale formations.

With several new projects slated to come online as soon as this year, U.S. refiners could replace a good deal of heavy and medium-crude imports with Gulf barrels, said Sandy Fielden, director of commodities & energy research at Morningstar.

    “Because of their proximity and ease of access to this market, Gulf producers have a natural advantage selling new output to Gulf Coast refiners,” he said.

(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar and Jessica Resnick-Ault; additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump meets with former hostage Danny Burch and his family in the Oval Office at the White House
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question as he meets with former hostage Danny Burch, an oil engineer who was taken hostage in Yemen in September 2017, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

March 25, 2019

By David Lawder, Philip Blenkinsop and Michael Martina

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s blunt-force use of tariffs in pursuing his “America First” trade agenda has angered many, from company executives to allied governments and members of both parties of Congress.

But there’s one effort which has drawn broad support from those who oppose him on almost everything else – his push to force Beijing to change what are widely viewed as China’s market-distorting trade and subsidy practices.

As U.S.-China talks to end a trade war reach their endgame, politicians, executives and foreign diplomats are urging Trump and his team to hold out for meaningful structural reforms in China to address entrenched problems in the relationship that hurt U.S. and other foreign companies and workers.

Trump’s trade war “has let the genie out of the bottle” by lifting expectations that the trade war will force China to reform policies that businesses and foreign governments regard as unfair, said Steven Gardon, vice president of indirect taxes and customs at Lear Corp. Gardon’s firm is an automotive seating and electrical supplier with plants in 39 countries, including the United States and China.

“Now that all these issues have been raised, there’s a lot more domestic political support to address these issues, and I don’t think you can pull back from that,” Gardon said at a Georgetown Law School forum this month. “There’s now pressure politically that they have to be addressed for the long term.”

Gardon’s comments reflect a broad shift in U.S. and international business sentiment towards China’s economic and trade policies, one that is aligned with Trump’s goals, if not his tactics.

Trump’s trade team say they are in the final stages of negotiating what would be the biggest economic policy agreement with China in decades. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin head to Beijing this week to try to accelerate talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Liu is set to travel to Washington for another round of negotiations in early April.

Eight months into the trade war that has disrupted the flow of billions of dollars of goods between the world’s two largest economies, it is unclear if a deal acceptable to both sides can be done.

China’s President Xi Jinping is seen as reluctant to make economic reforms under pressure from the United States, and Trump has said he may keep tariffs on Chinese goods in place for “a substantial period” even if a deal is struck.

Xi may find it easier to live with the tariffs Trump has imposed on trade than to change China’s model for economic development.

As part of a deal, Beijing has offered to make big-ticket purchases from the United States to help reduce a record trade gap. Trump’s team has said those purchases would be worth more than a trillion dollars over about six years.

While big Chinese purchases might be tempting for Trump’s administration, they would do nothing to address what U.S. firms competing in China or against Chinese firms say are structural problems with a system stacked against them.

The United States complains China engages in systematic intellectual property theft, forces foreign firms to give up trade secrets for market access and spends huge sums subsidizing its own industry. Redressing those complaints would require policy reform at the highest level from Xi and China’s ruling Communist Party.

A survey released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China in late February showed that a majority of member U.S. companies supported increasing or maintaining tariffs on Chinese goods, and nearly twice as many as last year want the U.S. government to push Beijing harder to create a level playing field.

The U.S. tariff demands have even encouraged some reform-minded Chinese officials and private-sector business executives to call for a faster pace of reform in China as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first steps toward capitalism.

Lighthizer told lawmakers in late February that Chinese-American business people in particular have urged him to “hang tough” in the talks and not to “sell out for soybeans.”


When Trump delayed a threatened tariff increase well before a March 1 deadline for a deal, he stoked fears that he may be swayed by the big purchase order and leave longstanding structural problems unresolved.

Since then, a steady drumbeat of lobbyists, company executives, foreign diplomats and U.S. lawmakers from both parties have urged Trump to stay the course on his structural demands.

Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, one of the most pro-trade Republicans and a critic of Trump’s tariffs, recently joined that call.

“While we want China to buy more U.S. goods … it’s even more important for us to hold China accountable to meeting high international standards on intellectual property rights, subsidization, overcapacity, and the other structural ways in which China distorts the global economy,” he said at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing just days after the tariff delay was announced.

Last week, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a longtime China trade hawk, took to the Senate floor to urge Trump not to “back down” and take a deal based largely on Chinese purchases of American soybeans and other goods.

On Thursday, Schumer tweeted: “Now’s not the time to drop $200B in tariffs just because China’s close to a deal, @realDonald Trump.”


European Union members, traditional allies of the United States, are still smarting about the steel and aluminum tariffs Trump imposed on imports into the United States last year. The EU is also worried that Trump will impose duties on autos. But the bloc shares many of the same frustrations over China’s technology transfer policies and market access constraints.

“We get complaints every day from our companies,” one European official told Reuters in Beijing, noting that despite repeated pledges from the Chinese government to make life easier for foreign companies, little had changed.

    EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom’s assessment of China’s behavior sounds almost like it was written by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, charging that China has abused global trading rules.

China has “blurred the lines between state and private sector. The state has undue influence,” she said in a Washington speech this month. “Intellectual properties of companies are stolen. State subsidies, direct or indirect, are common. And these impacts are felt at home and abroad.”

Malmstrom says that while the U.S. and EU “agree on the diagnosis,” they differ on tactics, and she argues for a more multilateral approach, citing the EU’s work with the United States and Japan to address the issues through reform of World Trade Organization rules.

Some worry that Europe could lose out if Washington and Beijing strike a deal to purchase billions of dollars more in products to try to shrink the U.S. goods trade deficit with China.

“If China is buying more from America then inevitably it will buy less from Europe,” a second European official based in Beijing said, adding that could in particular affect large European multinationals.

But European diplomats and officials acknowledge a begrudging support for Trump’s goals, even if they are repulsed by his blunt tactics. Many are secretly rooting for his success.

“We are against unilateral measures, but nobody is exactly sorry for China. On content we think he does have a point,” said one EU diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity in Brussels. “Beijing has to understand that without reform, the system could just stop working.”

Trump administration officials insist that he has gotten the message and is holding out for “structural changes” to the U.S.-China relationship, along with an enforcement mechanism that holds China to its pledges.

Clete Willems, a White House trade adviser, told the Georgetown Law School forum that Trump is determined to fix problems with China’s trade relationship that he has railed against for years, long before he ever sought office.

“The notion that he’s just going to suddenly accept a bad deal is totally inaccurate. The president is going to walk away from bad deals,” said Willems, who announced on Friday that he is leaving the White House for family reasons.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Simon Webb and James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

Karl Notturno | Center for American Greatness

Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) recently appeared on the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert.

Gabbard’s bright red jacket along with Colbert’s unusually pointed, abrasive, and denigrating questions could have easily confused many in the audience — but yes, she is a Democrat.

But while many other Democrat presidential candidates have twisted themselves into identitarian knots and prostrated themselves on the altar of political correctness in order to placate an increasingly extreme Leftist wing of the party, Gabbard has primarily campaigned on removing the United States from foreign entanglements.

A combat veteran who fought in Iraq, Gabbard knows the cost of regime-change wars and has a deep distrust of the pseudo-intellectuals and supposed policy experts who start them. And she is not afraid to speak her mind, even if it displeases her Democratic colleagues in Congress and the media. She has already had plenty of experience standing up to the Democratic establishment.

Gabbard was one of the few Democrats who met with President-elect Trump shortly after the election, with many reporting that he was considering making her ambassador to the United Nations. Gabbard said that while she was defying the “rules of political expediency” by meeting with Trump, she would not “play politics” with American and Syrian lives.

Gabbard ruffled more feathers in the establishment by meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, once again showing timid policy wonks across the country that meeting and talking with enemies does not give them a magic shield of credibility. She was criticized by Democrats and the media, but she made the case for seeking peace through dialog and refused to back down.

Gabbard is one of the few Democrats who realize that while conversation may be distasteful, the lack of conversation can be fatal.

The media has largely marginalized Gabbard, opting to focus on the circus of other Democratic candidates cannibalizing each other over jokes, apologizing for complimenting their wives, and cooking up strategies to preemptively mitigate their white privilege. They do not want to give credence to a candidate who has echoed Trump’s insistence that without a “secure border, we don’t really have a country.”

As the rest of the Democratic field rushes to out-woke each other and alienate most moderate Americans, Gabbard is one of the few candidates who is sticking to her principles and continuing to fight for normal citizens who are far more concerned about maintaining peace than appeasing the radical identitarians.

It is clear that the Democratic establishment does not appreciate Tulsi Gabbard and will do everything in their power to ensure that she does not make it through the primary process. We should expect no less from the same party that rigged the 2016 primaries against Bernie Sanders.

But what should we do when a moderate Democrat gets a better reception on Tucker Carlson Tonight than on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert?

Conservatives — the non-neo-con ones — have a unique opportunity.

Many moderate Democrats privately despair at the radicalization of their party and the lengths their candidates have to go in order to emerge from the primary process relatively unscathed. Even Nancy Pelosi has a difficult time walking the tight-rope to ensure that she retains the support of the extremists without losing the rest of America.

Conservatives should make a concerted effort to reach out to open-minded moderate Democrats, engage them in good faith, debate their policy proposals, and find common ground to build a new pro-America coalition. We may disagree on many specifics, but at least we have the same goals and priorities.

There is a new political divide in the country between the people who want what is best for America’s citizens and those who would prefer to virtue signal by calling for increased foreign engagement, fundamental impairment of our economy, and continued identitarian strife.

This is a divide between those who believe that America — despite all of its flaws — is still a fundamentally good country and those who believe that it — despite all of its ideals — is a bad country that needs fundamental change.

Reasonable people can disagree on the efficacy of Medicare for All without tearing the country apart. But a house fundamentally divided against itself cannot stand. Self-hatred and the constant call for self-flagellation stokes internal animus, leaves the country weary, and eats at the morale of a nation that already faces existential threats.

Let’s unite a new coalition of politicians and constituents who put America first. The threat from the anti-America coalition is far greater than any petty internal squabbles we may have.

Karl Notturno (@KarlNotturno) is a fellow at the Center for American Greatness. He also serves as director of A Soldier’s Home, a nonprofit that helps homeless veterans. He graduated from Yale University with degrees in philosophy and history.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Source: The Daily Caller

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand delivered her presidential campaign kickoff speech in front of the Trump International Hotel Sunday as she struggles to stand out among an increasingly crowded field of candidates.

Gillibrand spent the bulk of her speech excoriating President Donald Trump for being a “coward” who crafted a career building “a shrine to greed, division and vanity,” referring to hotel she was standing beside. She also applauded those who attended her speech for being “brave.”

“The people of this country deserve a president worthy of your bravery,” Gillibrand said, referring to the audience. “A president who not only sets an example, but follows yours. Your bravery inspires me every day, and that is why I’m running for president of the United States.” (RELATED: 2020 Democratic Hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand Can’t Even Get Her Home Delegation To Back Her) 

She added: “He (Trump) demonized the vulnerable, and he punches down. He puts his name in bold on every building. He does all of this because he wants you to believe he is strong. He is not. Our President is a coward.” Gillibrand and other female 2020 candidates have struggled to make a name for themselves as their male counterparts continue to soak up most of the media attention.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announces he will not seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination with his wife Jill (R) at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announces he will not seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination with his wife Jill (R) at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Polls show that former Vice President Joe Biden and self-avowed socialist Democratic Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are leading in Iowa. The two septuagenarians are so far besting the likes of Gillibrand and Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris as they compete to see who can knock off Trump come 2020. Some Democratic operatives believe the media are giving preferential treatment to Gillibrand’s male opponents.

“I feel like the media is always captivated by the person they seem to think is a phenom: Bernie, Trump, Beto. But they always seem to be white men who are phenoms,” Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant, told reporters March 15. “In a year where we have more choices than ever, more women and more persons of color than ever, none of them seem to be deemed a phenom.”

Gillibrand has garnered one endorsement from a sitting member of Congress since announcing her 2020 run. Democratic New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney is the only member of Congress who had endorsed Gillibrand as of March 18. Democratic New York Reps. Sean Maloney and Kathleen Rice opted to endorse her rival, former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, instead.

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Potential 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Gillibrand arrives for a campaign stop in Manchester
FILE PHOTO: Potential 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) arrives for a campaign stop at Stark Brewing in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

March 24, 2019

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will deliver a fiery first speech as an official presidential candidate in New York City on Sunday, calling U.S. President Donald Trump a “coward” at the doorstep of one of his most famous properties.

The location in front of Trump International Hotel – which she plans to call a “shrine to greed, division and vanity,” according to excerpts from her prepared remarks – is intended to show voters that Gillibrand will attack Trump directly, in contrast to some Democratic rivals who have hesitated to focus on the Republican president early in the 2020 campaign.

“President Trump is tearing apart the moral fabric of our country,” she plans to say. “He demonizes the vulnerable and he punches down…Our President is a coward.”

While some candidates, most notably Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, have harshly criticized Trump, others have largely avoided using his name, as Democrats try out different tactics for confronting the divisive president.

“She’s trying to differentiate herself from the field,” said Maria Cardona, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. “It’s a pretty crowded field. She’s not really in the middle of it, and she needs to be in the middle of it.”

Though Gillibrand launched her formal campaign for the Democratic nomination only a week ago, she announced she was exploring a candidacy in January and spent the last two months visiting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina that will hold early nominating contests next year.

But she has struggled to build momentum among a group of more than 15 announced and potential candidates, including five other sitting senators and former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet decided but is expected to join the race.

“Gillibrand simply lacks the star power or national prominence that would lead to extensive free media time,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Polling Institute at Monmouth University.

In recent surveys, Gillibrand has remained stubbornly mired in the 1-percent range, while other first-time presidential candidates like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, both U.S. senators, have shown more competitiveness.

The race remains in its infancy, however, with the first nominating contest in Iowa still 10 months away.

“Most voters are just learning the candidates’ names,” said Jesse Ferguson, a senior spokesman for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “Right now, the priority for a candidate is to introduce themselves and show what their values are and how that’s the answer to what we have in the White House.”

Gillibrand, known as a moderate when she served as a congresswoman from upstate New York, has refashioned herself into a staunch progressive, calling for strict gun laws and supporting the environmental agenda known as the Green New Deal. Some liberal activists have viewed that shift with skepticism.

In recent years, she has led efforts to address sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, and she pushed for Congress to improve its own handling of sexual misconduct allegations. But she recently was forced to defend her office’s handling of a sexual harassment investigation, after a former employee said her allegations against a supervisor were mishandled.

The theme of her speech on Sunday will focus on what it means to be “brave.” Gillibrand will argue that she has stood up against big banks, sexual assault and most importantly Trump himself, with more votes against the Trump administration than any other senator.

“Symbols are powerful, and for Democratic primary voters, no symbol more clearly represents what’s wrong than the icon of Trump’s egotism that is Trump International,” Ferguson said.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by James Oliphant in Washington; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: NBA: Washington Wizards at Minnesota Timberwolves
FILE PHOTO: Mar 9, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Derrick Rose (25) looks on during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

March 24, 2019

The Minnesota Timberwolves announced on Saturday that guard Derrick Rose has undergone successful arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow and will be out indefinitely.

Minnesota had announced two days earlier that Rose wouldn’t play in the final 11 games of the season as the club was well out of the last playoff spot.

Rose had missed the four games prior to that because of a chip fracture and a loose body in his right elbow. He averaged 18.0 points and 4.3 assists in 51 games (13 starts).

Rose, 30, will be a free agent after this season.

–The Chicago Bulls are shutting down injured rookies Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison for the rest of the season, the team announced. The move to shelve both players was posted on Twitter by Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.

Carter, a 6-foot-10 center and first-round pick (seventh overall) out of Duke, hasn’t played since Jan. 15 because of a left thumb injury. He underwent surgery on Jan. 21 to repair the ulnar collateral ligament.

Hutchison, a forward who has an injury to his right toe, was the 22nd overall pick of the 2018 draft by the Bulls out of Boise State.

–Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball said he no longer is working with a family friend after $1.5 million from Ball’s personal and business bank accounts apparently remains missing.

The second-year player told ESPN that the man, Alan Foster, “used his access to my business and personal finances to enrich himself. As a result, I have decided to sever all ties with Alan, effective immediately.”

Foster owns 16.3 percent of the family’s Big Baller Brand and also has managed the family companies. He met the Balls about a decade ago through his son, who became friends with Lonzo Ball in seventh grade. Family patriarch LaVar Ball has said it was Foster’s idea to launch the Big Baller.

–Veteran forward Donatas Motiejunas may be back in Texas with the NBA soon, this time with the San Antonio Spurs, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The 28-year-old Lithuanian native last played in the NBA in 2017 for the New Orleans Pelicans and was a member of the Houston Rockets from 2012-16. He was the No. 20 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who traded his draft rights to the Houston the following day.

In 248 career NBA games, Motiejunas averaged 7.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists and shot 46.9 percent from the field.

–The Boston Celtics are bringing back a familiar face, signing center Greg Monroe to a 10-day deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Monroe, 28, averaged just 11.1 minutes in 38 games (two starts) for the Toronto Raptors this season, tallying 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest, but was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in February in exchange for cash considerations. The Nets then waived the ninth-year veteran.

A lottery pick (seventh overall) by Detroit in 2010, Monroe played with the Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics before signing a one-year, $2.2 million deal with Toronto as a free agent in August 2018.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

After news broke Friday that the Mueller report was finished and no more indictments were forthcoming, the walls “closed in” around an ominous phrase that many political and media figures used frequently over the past two years.

Presumably hoping that his two-year inquiry would lead to the president’s impeachment and removal from office, many verified Twitter accounts had described special counsel Robert Mueller as “closing in” around President Donald Trump at various times throughout the investigation, according to a popular meme circulating online and confirmed by The Daily Caller.

FILE PHOTO: Robert Mueller, as FBI director, listens during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing about the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Robert Mueller, as FBI director, listens during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing about the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo

One of the earliest uses of the phrase seems to be from a tweet by Foreign Policy magazine that touted a column by Max Boot, a Washington Post columnist and senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. “Trump should be scared,” the tweet warned. “Robert Mueller is closing in on him.”

Written June 2017, a month after the special counsel’s appointment, Boot’s piece claimed that Trump was terrified in light of Mueller’s character—”universally respected for his integrity and doggedness”—and the tenacious competence of his “hunter-killer team of crack investigators and lawyers.” He asserted that “what worries Trump is not that Mueller may be a Democratic partisan […] but that the Marine combat veteran cannot be bought off or intimidated.”

Boot teamed up later that year with Max Bergman, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, to write a December 2017 column for The Guardian about how much further Mueller had “closed in.” “Mueller is coming,” they predicted in the wake of the indictments of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn. (RELATED: Michael Flynn Charged With Making False Statement To The FBI)

Claiming that Mueller’s indictments were moving closer and closer into the president’s inner circle, Bergman and Boot argued that an indictment of Trump was inevitable, for which reason Congress was duty-bound to pass legislation preventing the investigation from being shut down.

Over the years, the “closing in” analogy seemingly became a mantra among those who anxiously awaited Mueller to issue the death knell of the Trump presidency.

Former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen departs after he testified behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen departs after he testified behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Former Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown went after Trump and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions on March 7, 2018, after the Department of Justice sued the state of California for failing to enforce federal immigration law. Brown dismissed the lawsuit as a “political stunt” enacted by an attorney general who could not be normal because Mueller was “closing in” and about to issue more indictments. (RELATED: California Gov. Channels Trump In Response To DOJ Lawsuit)

Outspoken liberal Hollywood director Rob Reiner, who became famous in the 1970s playing progressive layabout Michael “Meathead” Stivic on “All in the Family,” claimed on May 10, 2018, that Vice President Mike Pence’s call for an end to the Mueller investigation was an indication that “the special counsel is closing in on guilt” and that Trump “doesn’t know whether to shit or wind his watch.”

Former CIA Director John O. Brennan said Dec. 7, 2018, on “Morning Joe” that “Mr. Trump is seeing more and more of the walls closing in on him, which is why he’s becoming increasingly desperate.” (FLASHBACK: John Brennan Predicted Additional Mueller Indictments Just Two Weeks Ago)

Politico quoted multimedia journalist Chris Whipple in December 2018 as saying, “This White House is headed into a world of trouble — a Democratic Congress, Mueller closing in, and anybody who comes into this White House has to be thinking about lawyering up.”

The Democratic Party’s National Lawyers Council chair Andrew Weinstein scolded Trump for the impending government shutdown on Dec. 20, tweeting, “The economy is slowing, the Dow is tanking, Mueller is closing in, North Korea still has nukes, Putin is getting his way in Syria, and yet Republicans in Congress are willing to shutdown the government over Trump’s stupid wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for. What a disgrace.”

On the same day, executive producer of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Andy Lassner, tweeted, “Trump knows Mueller is closing in fast. So now, he’s gonna bring down the whole fucking thing with him. Brace yourselves.”

When BuzzFeed reported on Jan. 17, 2019 that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen told investigators that the president had instructed him to lie to Congress, former CBS news anchor Dan Rather tweeted that the bombshell, if true, was “a political earthquake” and concluded that “the walls do appear to be closing in” around Trump. Mueller’s office personally denied BuzzFeed’s story the next day, in a rare public statement. (RELATED: Mueller’s Office Disputes BuzzFeed’s Report)

Since Mueller delivered his report to Attorney General William Barr with no further indictments, many pundits have been comparatively muted as the walls have seemingly stopped closing in for now. As Reuters tweeted Friday, “Robert Mueller is closing up shop …”

Max Boot reminded his Twitter followers Saturday that “Trump is doing great damage even when he is not violating the law.”

“I figured I would go on Twitter to suggest we all give social media a break until we actually have something to read and talk about,” Dan Rather reflected Saturday afternoon. “Maybe take a walk? Call an old friend? Read a book? Check out college basketball…”

Source: The Daily Caller

Virginia Kruta | Associate Editor

Former Vice President Joe Biden and failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams have not hatched “a grand plan” to announce a joint ticket for 2020, according to their respective camps.

Rumors circulated earlier in the week that Biden, who has not officially declared a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination, might come out of the gate with his running mate already chosen: Abrams.

But by Friday afternoon, both camps had responded to the reports — in the negative. (RELATED: Biden Says He’s Almost All In On 2020, But Worries About Trump’s Take No Prisoners Approach)

Bill Russo, Biden’s communications director, tweeted that the former VP certainly has great respect for the failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate — “but these rumors about discussions on a pre-cooked ticket are false, plain and simple.”

Abrams’ former campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, admitted that the Georgia Democrat had met with Biden but added quickly, “There was no grand plan hatched and no additional conversations between the two of them or our teams since.”

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Source: The Daily Caller

A general view shows solar panels to produce renewable energy at the Urbasolar photovoltaic park in Gardanne
A general view shows solar panels to produce renewable energy at the Urbasolar photovoltaic park in Gardanne, France, June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

March 23, 2019

By Lynn Adler

NEW YORK (LPC) – Global standards set in place by loan trade associations this week that tie syndicated loan pricing to companies’ sustainability performance are expected to stimulate the budding U.S. green lending market.

Less than a handful of U.S. companies have issued sustainability-linked loans since the first deal for natural gas utility CMS Energy was completed last June, far lagging firms in Europe which are leading the global push to improve environmental performance.

The new sustainability standards, which were issued on Wednesday by the Loan Market Association (LMA), the Loan Syndications and Trading Association (LSTA) and the Asia Pacific Loan Market Association (APLMA), are expected to bolster borrowers’ and investors’ confidence in green lending. 

Sustainability-linked loans are any kind of loans that incentivize borrowers with margin reductions or increases depending on their ability to meet pre-set environmental performance targets.

A lack of direction and consistency in being able to identify and measure these goals has been stifling growth so far, bankers said.

“By having pricing tied to a borrower’s improvement in sustainability performance, it directly incentivizes borrowers to make improvements,” said Tess Virmani, the LSTA’s associate general counsel. “If market interest keeps gathering steam, then the sustainability-linked loans will find a good home in the corporate loan market.”

One of the main differences between sustainability-linked loans and green loans, which are linked to use of proceeds, is that they can be raised for general corporate purposes rather than specific projects. Loans for general corporate purposes are more widely issued, which is likely to boost sustainability-linked loans.  

Key characteristics of sustainability-linked deals include disclosing the loan’s tie to the company’s overall social responsibility strategy; having sustainability pricing targets arranged between borrower and lender; reporting on sustainability performance and external reviews, according to the new lending principles.


Global water technology company Xylem Inc became the fourth U.S. company to issue a sustainability-linked loan, with an $800 million revolving credit in early March. Xylem is the first general industrial company to commit to reducing its environmental footprint this way.

The four U.S. sustainability-linked loans that have come to the market so far — two this year and two last year — tally roughly $8 billion. Banks are targeting the sector as a growth area as they seek to improve their own credentials. 

“Banks want to show their growing commitment to sustainable development goals, and this is one of the products they might use to show that,” said Anna Zubets, vice president at Moody’s Investors Service.

Last year, sustainability-linked loans issued globally topped $36 billion, led by European companies, according to Moody’s.

Global issuance in the more mature green bond market, in contrast, could jump 20 percent to $200 billion this year, the rating agency said.

“The U.S. is a little behind on the discussion but you see it happening here as well. More than 80 percent of the S&P 500 listed companies are now issuing sustainability reports and it becomes a bigger discussion among shareholders and investors and asset managers, which is what we see among our client base,” said Anne van Riel, head of sustainable finance at ING.

“I expect that that will automatically carry over to more sustainable financing, whether green loans, green bonds or sustainable-linked loans.”

ING was the sustainability coordinator for Xylem’s deal, and helped the company to decide reasonable but ambitious performance targets to guide loan pricing.

Interest margins on Xylem’s general corporate purpose revolving credit will be based on social and corporate governance ratings by independent provider Sustainalytics. Citigroup, JP Morgan, ING, BNP Paribas and Wells Fargo were lead arrangers and bookrunners.

Pricing is initially based on ratings, opening at 110 basis points over Libor with a 15-basis points facility fee, and then will be adjusted up or down by up to 5 basis points based on its ability to achieve predetermined sustainability targets, according to a regulatory filing.

The other sustainability-linked loans completed in the United States so far include global logistics real estate group Prologis Inc in January, renewable energy and utility company Avangrid Inc last July and electric and natural gas utility CMS Energy and its main unit Consumers Energy last June.

“Some treasurers and CFOs are a bit more conservative, and when they see their peers doing it or see more market activity they will also follow,” said van Riel.

Having clear standards for the asset class is a way to hold management accountable for promises made, and make green identification more than a marketing tool.

“In order for money to continue to flow into these kinds of products, reporting standards are going to have to develop and mature so the market can be credible and management can be held accountable for goals,” Zubets said,

“Investors can have trust that if something is labeled as green it is actually going to deliver an impact.”

(Reporting By Lynn Adler; Editing by Tessa Walsh and Michelle Sierra)

Source: OANN

Trump's hosts a meeting with Caribbean leaders at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida
U.S. President Donald Trumps, seated with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan (C) and National Security adviser John Bolton speaks during a meeting with the leaders of The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

March 22, 2019

By Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The closure of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election does not mark the end of legal worries for President Donald Trump and people close to him. Other ongoing investigations and litigation are focusing on issues including his businesses and financial dealings, personal conduct, charitable foundation and inaugural committee.

These investigations, pursued by prosecutors at the federal and state level, could result in charges beyond those brought in Mueller’s investigation or civil liability. The special counsel on Friday submitted his confidential report on the investigation to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who must decide on how much of it to make public.

The U.S. Justice Department has a decades-old policy that a sitting president cannot face criminal charges, so such a case against Trump would unlikely while he is in office even if there were evidence of wrongdoing. Some legal experts have argued that the department is wrong and that a president is not immune from prosecution. Either way, Trump potentially could face charges once he is out of office.

Here is an explanation of some criminal investigations and civil lawsuits still underway.


Mueller charged 34 individuals and three companies. Several of those cases resulted in guilty pleas and one case went to trial, with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort convicted in August 2018 of eight criminal counts including bank fraud and tax fraud. Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone was indicted in January 2019 and pleaded not guilty but his trial is still pending. There are other cases involving indicted Russians that have not gone to trial. Other prosecutors within the Justice Department will likely take over criminal cases begun by Mueller, legal experts said.


Trump may face significant peril from federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to legal experts. His former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said in Feb. 27 congressional testimony that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is examining Trump’s business practices and financial dealings. Cohen already has implicated Trump in campaign finance law violations to which he pleaded guilty in August 2018 as part of the Southern District of New York investigation.

Cohen admitted he violated campaign finance laws by arranging, at Trump’s direction, “hush money” payments shortly before the 2016 presidential election to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal to prevent damage to Trump’s candidacy. Both women said they had sexual relationships with Trump more than a decade ago. He has denied that.

Prosecutors said the payments constituted illegal campaign contributions intended to influence the election. Under federal election laws, such donations cannot exceed $2,700 and need to be publicly disclosed. Daniels received $130,000. McDougal received $150,000.

The New York investigation has involved long-time Trump ally David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper, who admitted to paying McDougal for the rights to her story and then suppressing it to influence the election, an arrangement called “catch and kill.”

In his Feb. 27 hearing, Cohen said he was in “constant contact” with Manhattan federal prosecutors and said other crimes and wrongdoing by Trump are being investigated by them, though he did not offer details. Cohen said he could not testify about the nature of his last conversation with Trump in early 2018 because it was under investigation by the federal prosecutors in New York.


The Manhattan district attorney’s office is exploring criminal charges against Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, over financial crimes related to unpaid state taxes and possibly loans. In cases bought by Mueller, Manafort in 2018 was convicted of tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts in Virginia and pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges in Washington. He was sentenced to a combined 7-1/2 years in prison in the two cases. Trump has not ruled out granting Manafort a pardon. The president would not be able to pardon Manafort if he is convicted of charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney because they would not be federal crimes. However, New York has broad double jeopardy protections that usually prevent the state from prosecuting a person for crimes arising from the same criminal conduct the federal government has prosecuted before.


A defamation lawsuit against Trump by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on his reality television show “The Apprentice,” continues in New York state court after a judge in 2018 allowed it to proceed. Zervos sued Trump after he called her and other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct liars and retweeted a post labeling her claims a hoax.

Trump has agreed to provide written answers to questions from Zervos by Sept. 28, according to a court filing.

Zervos accused Trump of kissing her against her will at his New York office in 2007 and later groping her at a meeting at a hotel in California. More than a dozen women have accused Trump of making unwanted sexual advances against them years before he entered politics.

Marc Kasowitz, a lawyer for Trump, had argued that the lawsuit unconstitutionally impedes the president from performing his duties. An appeals court rejected that argument on March 14 by a 3-2 vote. Kasowitz said he would appeal the decision to the state’s highest court.

Separately, two lawsuits against Trump brought by adult film star Stormy Daniels were dismissed.


A lawsuit filed by the New York state Attorney General’s Office already led the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which was presented as the charitable arm of Trump’s business empire, to agree in December 2018 to dissolve, and the litigation continues.

The state is seeking an order banning Trump and his three eldest children from leadership roles in any other New York charity. Trump has said the lawsuit was concocted by “sleazy New York Democrats.” The state’s Democratic attorney general accused the foundation of being “engaged in a “shocking pattern of illegality” and “functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests” in violation of federal law.

The attorney general’s office alleged Trump and his family members used the charity to pay off his legal debts and purchase personal items. The foundation agreed to dissolve and give away all its remaining assets under court supervision.


Trump is accused in a lawsuit filed by the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia of violating anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution through his businesses’ dealings with foreign governments.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on March 19 in the Trump administration’s appeal of U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte’s 2018 rulings allowing the case to proceed.

The Constitution’s “emoluments clauses” bars U.S. officials from accepting payments from foreign governments and the governments of U.S. states without congressional approval. The lawsuit stated that because Trump did not divested himself of his business empire, spending by foreign governments at the Trump International Hotel in Washington amounts to unconstitutional gifts, or “emoluments,” to the president.


Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating whether the committee that organized Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 accepted illegal donations from foreigners, misused funds or brokered special access to the administration for donors.

Federal election law prohibits foreigners from donating to U.S. political campaigns or inaugural committees, and corruption laws ban donors from making contributions in exchange for political favors.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in December 2018 that the president was not involved in his inaugural committee. The $107 million raised by the committee, which was chaired by real estate developer and investor Thomas Barrack, was the largest in history, according to U.S. Federal Election Commission filings.


Under the U.S. Constitution, the president, vice president and “all civil officers of the United States” can be removed from office by Congress through the impeachment process for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives acts as the accuser – voting on whether to bring specific charges such as obstruction of justice – and the Senate then conducts a trial with House members acting as prosecutors and the individual senators serving as jurors. A simple majority vote is needed in the House to impeach. A two-thirds majority is required in the Senate to convict and remove.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

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