Donald Trump Stepping Away From Business

President-elect Donald J. Trump announced on Wednesday that he would hold a news conference with his children on Dec. 15 to announce that he would be “leaving” his “great business in total,” but details were scant. More immediately, he will travel to Indiana to announce the saving of 1,000 jobs with the Carrier air-conditioning company.

Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that he would leave his “great business in total” before moving into the Oval Office, promising further details next month about his efforts to avoid conflicts of interest as he becomes the nation’s 45th president.

It is unclear whether the steps Mr. Trump is prepared to take would be enough to satisfy ethics experts who say that putting his children in charge of the business would not be enough to ensure that his official decisions are independent of his personal financial ones. His daughter Ivanka has attended several meetings with heads of state since the election, and she would be one of the main officers of the Trump Organization.

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Confirmed: Donald Trump Picks Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross for His Cabinet

Mnuchin will be Treasury Secretary, Ross will lead the Commerce Department.

President-elect Donald Trump has filled more top posts on his economic team — picking former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and financier Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department.

Mnuchin is confirming that he and Ross are joining Trump’s Cabinet, pending confirmation by the Senate.

He tells CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in an interview Wednesday that “we’re thrilled to work for the president-elect and honored to have these positions.”

Mnuchin says “sustained economic growth” is the chief priority of the incoming administration and he says “we can absolutely get to sustained 3 to 4 percent” in the gross domestic product.

He’s also outlining what he calls “the largest tax change” since President Ronald Reagan — cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, a “big” middle-class income tax cut and simplifying taxes.

Mnuchin led Trump’s finance operations during the presidential campaign and became close to the president-elect and his family.

Ross is a billionaire investor who’s considered the “king of bankruptcy” for buying beaten-down companies with the potential to deliver profits.

Mr. Trump praised Mnuchin as a “world-class financier, banker and businessman” in a statement.

“Steve Mnuchin is a world-class financier, banker and businessman, and has played a key role in developing our plan to build a dynamic, booming economy that will create millions of jobs,” he said.“His expertise and pro-growth ideas make him the ideal candidate to serve as Secretary of the Treasury.”

In his own statement, Mnuchin said he was “honored” To have a role in the incoming administration.

“I understand what needs to be done to fix the economy,” he said. “I look forward to helping President-elect Trump implement a bold economic agenda that creates good-paying jobs and defends the American worker.”

Mnuchin spoke with reporters Wednesday at Trump Tower about his appointment and his priorities for the incoming administration.

“Our first priority is going to be the tax plan and the tax plan has both the corporate aspects to it — lowering corporate taxes so we make U.S. companies the most competitive in the world, making sure we repatriate trillions of dollars back to the United States, and the personal income taxes where we’re going to have the most significant middle income tax cut since Reagan,” he said. He added that the administration intends to implement the president-elect’s child care program, which Mnuchin predicted would be a “tremendous boon to the economy.”

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Composite:Getty Images/ AP

Trump prepares for a Victory Tour

President-elect is set to return to the heart of a state that helped deliver him his victory earlier this month. On Thursday evening, Trump will kick off a “thank you” tour in Ohio, with a massive rally at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, according to a source familiar with the planning.

Trump has said he wants to get back to the trail and revisit the states he won, on a victory tour where he can re-energize the base of white, working class voters who put him in the White House. It’s also where Trump still feels most comfortable.

Privately, insiders said, Trump is still in postmortem mode, rehashing with friends his unexpected victory, even as his day to day is consumed with looking forward. He’s not alone: His top advisers still flash iPhone videos from their biggest rallies, with “everyone was wrong but us” pride.

But the victory tour comes as Trump has yet to settle on some main Cabinet positions, most glaringly, secretary of state, which has become a proxy war for the rival factions of his incoming administration.

And it offers Trump, a master of reading a crowd, who has revealed a more moderated version of himself in meetings with the New York Times and with President Barack Obama, the dangerous possibility of returning to some of his most divisive and fiery rhetoric on the trail, with his base.

The Trump transition team has yet to provide details on the full scope of Trump’s post-election tour, but George Gigicos, the director the campaign’s advance team, told reporters on Nov. 17 that the president-elect would be traveling “obviously to the states that we won and the swing states we flipped over.”

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Donald Trump Proposes Jail For Flag Burners

President-elect Donald Trump  stated this morning that people who burn the American flag should be stripped of their citizenship or spend a year in the slammer:

The Supreme Court decades ago determined flag burning in protest is a Constitutionally protected right. Trump’s communications director Jason Miller, however, disagreed with the court this morning when CNN, among news outlets, bit:

Flag burning is completely ridiculous…I think you know that, and I think the vast majority of Americans would agree,” Miller smiled at Chris Cuomo, pivoting to the “big news” of that day, which he insisted was the “two additionally administration picks appointments that will have a big impact on repealing Obamacare.”

He was referencing the Trump administration’s pick of Rep Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Seema Verma as Administrator of Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“I want to talk about those,” Cuomo promised, but insisted, “when the president-elect says something, we gotta listen…When he says that something should be illegal that is a protected Constitutional right…you gotta respect people’s ability to say what you don’t like to hear.”

Miller’s turn:

“Absolutely should be illegal,” he scofffed. “We know why we’re here this morning; we’re going to talk about transition team; we’re going to talk about what this government is going to do for the American people. I think most Americans would agree with me that flag burning should be illegal. It’s completely despicable.”

Back to you, Chris.

“What do you want this country to be? Only what you like, what President-elect Trump likes? That’s what now okay behavior in America?”

“Flag burning should be illegal. End of story. Let’s talk about how we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare and these fantastic picks the president-elect announced,” Miller stoutly persisted.

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It is official, Donald Trump won Michigan

Donald Trump has officially won Michigan, the final state to be awarded and the capstone of Trump’s unlikely run of narrow victories in the Midwestern states that will deliver the first-time political candidate to the White House.

Michigan’s Board of Canvassers certified the results on Monday afternoon in Lansing. Trump won 2,279,543 votes (47.6 percent), according to the certified results,  10,704 more than Hillary Clinton’s 2,268,839 (47.4 percent).

Trump becomes the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Michigan since George H.W. Bush won it in 1988, breaking a six-cycle Democratic winning streak.

That adds Michigan’s 16 electoral votes to Trump’s already impressive tally of triumphs in the Midwest. Trump carried Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — states that had last voted Republican in 1988 and 1984, respectively, by margins only slightly larger than his advantage in Michigan.

Trump also easily flipped Iowa and Ohio, perennial battleground states that President Barack Obama had carried twice.

But like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, there are indications that Green Party nominee Jill Stein is planning to contest the results in Michigan. Stein, who won 51,463 votes (1.1 percent) in Michigan, according to the official canvass, has hired former state Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer and has until Wednesday to request a formal recount, which is estimated to cost nearly $800,000.

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Trump’s Big Test in the Middle East

The president-elect will encounter a region convulsed by change.

After decades of global stability, anxiety and unpredictability are now ubiquitous. A vacuum of American leadership is eroding long-standing alliances and emboldening challengers to the international order. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the Middle East. The region’s conflagrations, its array of power-brokers, old alliances, and new coalitions, will test Donald Trump, and demand that his administration clearly define America’s priorities and interests there. Europe and Asia will be watching.

Trump has criticized the Iraq War, and forswore repeating such costly interventions—hinting that he will continue the Obama administration’s pivot away from the region—but his posture toward the Islamic State and Iran could put the United States on the same path that led to that conflict. Trump promises closer collaboration with traditional Arab allies, who want the United States to help end the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Yet that conflicts with the priorities of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has thrown his support behind the Assad regime, but with whom Trump would like to make common cause. Nor can the United States defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria—Trump’s top priority—while also confronting Russia and Iran, which backs some of the most powerful militias fighting the Islamic State. It cannot, in other words, choose both its Arab allies and Russia in Syria, nor both fight ISIS in Iraq while picking a fight with Iran.

While defeating ISIS in its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa is a key step, it is only a first step. For Trump, preventing the rise of a successor to ISIS will require a diplomatic effort aimed at reaching political settlements in both Iraq and Syria. That means taking stock of the region’s changing needs.

Since Republicans last held the White House, the long-standing regional order that Washington relied on for decades has disappeared. In its place: a contagion of conflict fueled by popular protest against sclerotic authoritarian regimes, and sectarian and tribal fighting over scraps of broken states. All this, as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey jockey for influence to protect their interests where they must, and further them where they can.

Obama largely sidestepped dealing with any of this, focusing instead on defeating ISIS. What would happen after ISIS was his successor’s concern. Trump cannot afford such insouciance. The Middle East overshadowed Obama’s pivot to Asia, and it could do the same to the president-elect’s foreign and domestic priorities. The task for Trump is to arrive at a new regional order, one that would repair the frayed map of the Middle East and shore up its governments.

For decades, the United States relied on dictatorships to ensure regional stability. That bedrock is no more. The so-called Arab Spring popular uprisings buffeted state institutions, first provoking social strife, and in the worst instances, civil war. Sects and tribes—filial identities long hidden behind the edifice of dictatorship—saw threat and opportunity in the ensuing chaos, igniting paroxysms of violence that led to more disorder.

The most intense competition is between Sunnis and Shiites. This is a political rivalry that has been enshrined in the division of power in states across the region, from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq in the north, to Bahrain and Yemen in the south. More broadly, it also afflicts Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Every turn in the regional collapse has ineluctably stoked the Iranian-Saudi rivalry.

As a consequence, the Arab world has been pulverized. Iraq and Syria are, for all intent and purposes, no longer nation-states in control of their territories. Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates have been spared the worst of the upheaval. But after long relying on America for their security, they now lack the capacity to manage the region on their own. Saudi Arabia’s strength has also been sapped by low energy prices, uncertain leadership, and its taxing war in Yemen.

Power in the Middle East has moved from its Arab heartland to Turkey and Iran. Turkey weathered a failed coup, but does not seem to have lost a beat in aggressively pursuing its regional agenda. In a replay of the erstwhile Ottoman-Safavid division of the Middle East, Turkey and Iran are now poised to step into the regional vacuum. The two frequently coordinate their positions on the Kurds, and have signaled a willingness to shoulder some of the burden that Washington either cannot take or does not want.

Turkey’s efforts to cultivate regional influence have had mixed success. Its hopes of swaying power in Egypt, Libya, and Syria, were dashed early on, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Ottoman ambitions remain strong. Whereas America’s Arab allies have largely shunned direct military involvement in Iraq and Syria, Turkey has sought a greater role in operations to push ISIS out of its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Its primary focus is to contain Kurdish nationalism, but it also sees itself as protector of Sunni interests in Iraq and Syria.

Iran is an even more important factor in the region’s future. It has long sown regional instability, while also doing much of the fighting against ISIS, emerging as the sole regional power wielding influence in Baghdad, Damascus, and Sanaa. It is in Washington’s best interests that Iran use that influence constructively.

Throughout the campaign, Trump depicted America’s military adventures in the Middle East as wasteful fool’s errands. Yet he also vowed to defeat ISIS, which implies that unless he reverses course and embraces costly interventions, he’ll have to work with Arab allies, Turkey, and Iran. Similarly, any tenuous peace to be achieved in the region will require regional actors’ support for, and enforcement of, political settlements in Iraq and Syria, given the role of their respective clients in the conflict.

Russia is already following this strategy, engaging both Iran and Turkey in planning for the endgame in Syria. If the United States cooperated closely with Putin over Syria, it would have to join his framework. It would be better if the United States, rather than Russia, were the architect of such a framework. The United States could extend it to include Iraq as well, but also gain the support of the Arab world. In so doing, it could limit Russia’s ability to maneuver in the region, and leverage those gains in Europe. Yet from the perspective of America’s own objectives, it would be better if the United States, rather than Russia, outlined and worked toward its own vision of a settlement—one that included Iraq as well, and could garner broader support in the Arab world. Doing so could limit Russia’s ability to maneuver in the region.

Turkey is a NATO ally Washington can work with. But relations between Ankara and Washington have been frayed. Trump would have to repair the damage. Turkey’s domestic politics will be a point of contention, but greater investment in diplomacy and trust-building could facilitate an agreement over the future status of Syria’s Kurdish region, paving the way for closer collaboration in launching operations against ISIS. That would be the basis for a broader agreement over the final status of Syria.

Iran is unlikely to emerge as a working partner for the United States any time soon. Still, the two nations have reduced tensions through the nuclear deal, which has served as the basis for tacit cooperation in rolling back ISIS in Iraq. Scrapping the deal will not help build on those gains in the pursuit of regional stability. Rather, it would further destabilize the Middle East. U.S. gains in Iraq could unravel, the Syria war would continue to fester, and the specter of greater instability would spread everywhere that Iran has influence, from Afghanistan, to Yemen, to Lebanon. Washington would be faced with fighting Iranian influence, while contending with Sunni extremism without Iran’s help.

Better, then, for the Trump administration to accept the nuclear deal and further its implementation. Isolating Iran may satisfy the critics of the nuclear deal, but it will not serve America’s broader interests in the Middle East.

Those interests lie in pursuing order in the Middle East, not in expanding the scope of its conflicts. Washington’s leverage with Turkey and its Arab allies, the nuclear deal with Iran, and gains it has made against ISIS in Iraq, could be a basis for achieving broader political settlements in both Iraq and Syria, and ultimately the region. That may not be easy, but living with the alternative—calamitous wars, more refugees, and terrorism— will be infinitely harder.

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OECD Says Trump Tax and Spending Plans Will Boost Global Economy

Global growth will pick up faster than previously expected in the coming months as the Trump administration’s planned tax cuts and public spending fire up the U.S. economy, the OECD said on Monday, revising up its forecasts.

In its twice-yearly Economic Outlook, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated global growth would accelerate from 2.9% this year to 3.3% in 2017 and reach 3.6% in 2018.

The Paris-based organization was slightly more optimistic about the U.S. outlook, with a forecast for growth next year of 2.3%, up from 2.1% in its last set of estimates dating from September.

 U.S. growth would pick up further in 2018 to reach 3.0%, the highest rate since 2005, as the incoming Trump administration cut taxes on business and households and embarked on an infrastructure investment program.
 That would in turn drive the unemployment rate in the world’s biggest economy down from 4.9% this year to 4.5% in 2018, the OECD estimated.

As the U.S. labor market becomes increasing tight and wages rise, the OECD forecast inflation would increase from 1.2% in 2016 to 2.2% in 2018, prompting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates gradually to 2.0% by end-2018.

A resurgent U.S. economy would help offset softness elsewhere in the world.

The OECD was slightly less pessimistic about Britain’s outlook than it was in September, as the central bank has helped ease the economic impact of the country’s decision to leave the European Union.

Britain’s economy was seen growing 2.0% this year, revised up from 1.8% previously, although the rate would be halved by 2018.

China, which is not a member of the 35-country OECD, was seen slowing from growth this year of 6.7% to 6.4% in 2017, both slightly better than previously expected.

Stronger U.S. import demand was seen offsetting weak Asian trade for Japan, where growth was revised up to 0.8% for this year from 0.6% previously and lifted to 1.0% in 2017 from a 0.7% estimate in September.

The euro area’s outlook was also slightly brighter despite uncertainties about Britain’s future relationship with the continent.

Boosted by loose monetary policy, euro area growth was seen at 1.7% this year and 1.6% in 2017 with both years revised slightly higher from the OECD’s September estimates.

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Photo:The Washington Post