Trump downplays China trade 'squabble'

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

The president on Monday signaled he is considering slapping new tariffs on more than $300 billion of additional Chinese goods if Beijing fails to seriously re-enter the yearslong talks, which broke down a week and a half ago. He seems to be betting big on his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"The relationship I have with President Xi is extraordinary, it's really very good. But he's for China and I'm for the USA," he said.

Senate Republicans, especially from farm states, have consistently warned the administration against a trade war, but as of Tuesday it remained unclear where any of the conversations might lead.

Sen. Jerry Moran, for instance, told CQ Roll Call that he and others were being "very vocal at every opportunity in Congress and at the White House about the need to get this resolved, and the consequences of not."

But the Kansas Republican did not know whether the conversations would improve the situation. He did, however, suggest another path that Congress might take.

"While we're focused on tariffs and China, one of the things we could do is get USMCA approved, and that's something that could happen here," Moran said.

However, that new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico would require the buy-in of the Democratic-led House of Representatives, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has insisted on changes.

In recent days Trump has also hedged about a deal with China ever being reached. On Tuesday he touted his tariffs on billions of Chinese-made products saying there is "a lot of money being made by the United States" from the tariffs -- even though his chief economic adviser, Lawrence Kudlow, on Sunday acknowledged U.S. consumers and business will foot the bill.

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The president also was asked about Attorney General William P. Barr appointing a Connecticut prosecutor to investigate the origins of what became special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's Russia probe. He claimed he did not order Barr to launch that probe despite publicly advocating for it for months.

"I didn't know it. I didn't ask him to do it," the president said.

(Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.)

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