January 21, 2020

Despite Washington and Beijing having agreed to an initial framework, it might not be time to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to the U.S.-China trade war, says the Peterson Institute for International Economics' Chad Brown.

In fact, Brown says the so-called phase one "may be doomed from the start" thanks to "unrealistic" export targets. Brown finds it highly unlikely China will be able to purchase the additional $200 billion (and then some) worth of U.S. exports by 2021, even when working with generous projections.

If China does fall short of expectations, that could spell trouble for international trade. It could imperil other aspects of the agreement and re-ignite trade tensions by way of U.S. retaliation. But it wouldn't only harm the two superpowers. Brown suggests China could try to hit its U.S. numbers by diverting imports from other trade partners, which could potentially make other deals more challenging.

Other factors could also hamper China's ability to meet the Trump administration's goals, including the U.S. restricting exports on tech products on national security grounds, fallout from previous tariffs, and even the outbreak of African swine fever on China's pig stock, which has reduced the country's demand for key American products like soybeans.

All told, Brown hints that a lot could still go wrong. Read more at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Tim O'Donnell

11:53 a.m.

The campaign team for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) believes the Democratic presidential candidate is surging after a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary last week, but they're also acknowledging they face an uphill battle because of a lack of resources.

For example, per The Washington Post, the campaign had to drive the New Hampshire bus to Nevada because they didn't have one there, and Klobuchar's Iowa caucus specialist is handling the same task in the Silver State. "We're putting the airplane together as we're flying," an anonymous Klobuchar campaign adviser told the Post.

One of the key issues outside of Nevada they face is what to do about Super Tuesday in March, when 14 states will vote for the Democratic nominee, providing providing one-third of all delegates selected. The Klobuchar team reportedly spent hours this past weekend debating whether it's worth it to even really compete in some of the more delegate-rich Super Tuesday states like Texas and California given the amount of cash it could muster to make a dent. As one Klobuchar adviser said, "it's a little bit more difficult" in those situations given "the sheer dollars" necessary. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

11:09 a.m.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been re-elected to a second term with 50.64 percent of the vote, results released Tuesday reveal.

It's been five months since Afghans voted in that election, with concerns of fraud and mechanical error forcing recounts. Yet supporters of Ghani's rival Abdullah Abdullah have so far refused to accept the results and have even proposed creating an alternative government, putting a peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S. in question, The Washington Post reports.

Ghani received a majority of the vote, meaning there won't be a runoff in the election. Abdullah meanwhile earned 39.5 percent of the vote, according to Afghanistan’s election commission. Abdullah's backers say that commission was biased in favor of Ghani, and former vice president of Ghani turned top Abdullah supporter Abdul Rashid Dostum said last week that "if they announce a government based on fraud, we will announce a parallel government," per The New York Times.

The September vote was marred by Taliban attacks aimed at destabilizing the election, though President Trump's refusal to hold peace talks scheduled for that time eventually allowed the vote to proceed. U.S.-Taliban negotiations have since continued, and both sides said a few days ago they agreed to a conditional deal. But uncertainty in the government could jeopardize the next step after a U.S.-Taliban agreement, which involved negotiations between Afghanistan's government and Taliban leaders. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:17 a.m.

President Trump may have received the impeachment acquittal he hoped for, but that doesn't mean he's satisfied. Indeed, Politico reports, he now appears to be testing the limits of executive power through methods like firing White House staffers who testified against him during House proceedings or weighing in on active Justice Department cases over Twitter.

Per Politico, he's received little resistance from his attorneys, like White House Counsel Pat Cipollone who led Trump's defense during the Senate trial, or congressional Republicans. That means, in the eyes of some analysts, the presidency may continue to grow more powerful.

"It is beyond anything the presidency has achieved yet and beyond anything Nixon could have imagined," Michael Gerhardt, a professor of jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law, told Politico, referring to the 36th president of the United States. "There is literally no way to hold the president accountable in Pat Cipollone's worldview."

Cipollone's allies, on the other hand, reportedly believe the arguments Cipollone made during the trial simply sought to maintain and protect Trump's ability to exercise the same amount of executive authority as President Obama did during his tenure in the Oval Office. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

9:54 a.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is apparently letting the progressives get to him.

The billionaire and 2020 candidate is set to unveil his plan for regulating the financial industry on Tuesday, and as The New York Times reports, it "features ideas that wouldn't be out of place" for 2020 candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Diverging from his past criticism of Wall Street regulation, Bloomberg will propose tighter oversight rules that touch on hot-button topics such as student loans, per the Times.

In his Tuesday announcement, Bloomberg will propose a financial transactions tax of 0.1 percent, as well as create a Justice Department team devoted to corporate crime, the Times reports. That tax plan is "remarkable similar" to one that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has co-sponsored, the Times writes. Bloomberg also calls for strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Warren established during former President Barack Obama's administration, by "expanding its jurisdiction to include auto lending and credit reporting."

Bloomberg's plan stops far short of Sanders and Warren's pledges to cancel student loan debt, but does suggest putting student loan borrowers "into income-based repayment schemes and capping payments," per the Times. There's no sign of Sanders and Warren's pledges to break up big banks, or Warren's call for totally "transforming the private equity industry."

Read more about the plan at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:52 a.m.

The jury in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial is about to begin deliberating.

After the defense and the prosecution in the disgraced movie mogul's trial delivered their closing arguments at the end of last week, Judge James Burke on Tuesday will give jurors instructions before they start to deliberate, USA Today reports.

The sexual assault and rape charges against Weinstein center around the allegations of two women: Jessica Mann, who alleges Weinstein raped her in 2013, and Mimi Haleyi, who alleges Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006. Four other Weinstein accusers testified during the trial, while additional witnesses were brought in to back up the accusers' accounts. Testimony from Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra that Weinstein raped her in 1993 or 1994 could support the predatory sexual assault charge.

Weinstein pleaded not guilty, and his defense has argued the encounters with his accusers were consensual. His lawyers have pointed to the fact that Haleyi and Mann maintained relationships with Weinstein after he allegedly assaulted them, and they cited friendly email exchanges with him in court. During her closing argument, lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi told jurors that Weinstein "made sure he had contact with the people he was worried about as a little check to make sure that one day, they wouldn't walk out from the shadows and call him exactly what he was: an abusive rapist."

Meanwhile, Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno in her closing argument asked jurors to use their "New York City common sense" and ignore the "gut feeling" they may have had coming into the case to rely only on the evidence presented. CBS analyst Rikki Klieman observed Tuesday the jury "may take a long time because there's a lot of evidence in this case."

Weinstein himself did not testify during the trial. If the jury, which consists of five women and seven men, convicts him of predatory sexual assault, he could receive life in prison. Brendan Morrow

8:05 a.m.

The White House Correspondents' Dinner's break from comedians turned out to be short-lived.

Kenan Thompson will host the 2020 White House Correspondents' Dinner in April, where Hasan Minhaj will perform as the featured entertainer, the White House Correspondents' Association announced Tuesday.

This is a pivot back to the show's regularly-scheduled programming of having a comedian perform at the yearly gathering of journalists. Last year, in a break from this tradition, the featured speaker was instead historian Ron Chernow.

The year before, comedian Michelle Wolf had headlined and sparked some outrage with her roast, as when she joked that then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders "burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye." The New York Times reports Chernow's appearance in 2019 "was a direct consequence" of Wolf's controversial performance.

But the White House Correspondents' Association is bringing back the comedy this year, with Minhaj returning after performing the year before Wolf. WHCA President Jonathan Karl said on Tuesday per the Times, "I'd argue that humor is more important now than ever."

Still, although it had been a tradition for sitting presidents to attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner, it seems unlikely that Trump will go in April after skipping the event every year of his presidency so far. Last year, Trump briefly teased that he could potentially attend for the first time, only to not do so, calling the event "negative" and "boring." Brendan Morrow

8:03 a.m.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the crown prince of Dubai, doesn't want to brag — or maybe he does — but on Monday he posted a video of Dubai extreme sporting outfit X-Dubai showing off a wingsuit that allowed a man to take off from a pier, fly across a stretch of the Arabian Gulf, then shoot up 600 feet into the air, perform a roll and a loop, and parachute down to Earth. The jetpack outfit, flown by Jetman pilot Vince Reffet, reminded a lot of people of Marvel's Iron Man, minus the parachute landing.

The big breakthrough in this Feb. 14 test flight was taking off from the ground, not leaping from a helicopter or other raised platform, and ditching the parachute landing is next, Reffet said in a statement. "One of the next objectives is to land back on the ground after a flight at altitude, without needing to open a parachute. It's being worked on." The Marvel-like action starts at the 2:30 mark.

The "Mission: Human Flight" project is supported by Expo 2020 Dubai, the first world expo held in the Middle East, Africa, or South Asia. The carbon-fiber wingsuit, designed by Swiss aviation expert Yves Rossy and powered by four small jet engines, can travel at 160 mph and has a range of 34 miles, Esquire reports. It isn't for the fainthearted or the amateur, at least not yet: Reffet took his Iron Man suit on at least 50 preparatory flights, and practiced taking off and landing under controlled conditions more than 100 times. Much, we imagine, like Tony Stark would have done. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads