Don't blink, or you'll miss a geopolitical earthquake
These two events do not appear connected. Nor were they news for many Americans. But in retrospect, we may look back on Wednesday as the day Donald Trump solidified an anti-China administration and a full detente with Russia — a nice curtain-raiser for his Twitter call to a nuclear arms race!
First up, Trump's China news: The president-elect says he'll appoint Peter Navarro to lead a new presidential office focused on trade policy. Navarro, a business professor at University of California, Irvine, loathes China. He argues the Chinese intentionally hurt the American economy and fueled the decline of American manufacturing. (Guardian) There's little doubt Beijing will see Navarro's placement in the administration as the moment when Trump's months-long campaign attacks on China began to be implemented as policy. Which is not even to mention that call with the president of Taiwan. With Trump purposefully antagonizing the Chinese, President Barack Obama's "pivot to Asia" approach already feels like the Qing dynast — ancient history.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Russia's relationship with the U.S. is "frozen," adding that Putin expects Trump to offer a "fresher and more constructive approach." (ABC News) Trump's team signaled over the weekend that the president-elect would accept a unified intelligence assessment that Russians were hacking to influence the American election. (Note that the director of national intelligence, who speaks for all 17 intelligence agencies, reached that conclusion weeks ago.) But Trump's reticence to condemn Putin, as Obama and many Republicans have, has been noted worldwide.
It is not an understatement to say these major relationship shifts could impact your daily life. Chinese companies manufacture tons of products sold in the U.S. for a fraction of the cost attached to the "made in America" label. A trade war with China may mean no iPhone, or at least one that is far more expensive — not to mention a much broader blow to the U.S. economy. And Russia's international entanglements in the Middle East, particularly its support of the Syrian government, is stoking a dangerous, smoldering tinderbox that could eventually pose a direct threat to the U.S. and, if it sparks, oil markets.
As Business Insider recently noted, the foreign relations reset Trump could usher in extends beyond Russia and China. Even after the Russian ambassador was assassinated in Turkey's capital, the Turks, who have NATO's second largest military force, have been at the table with Russia and Iran to negotiate a solution in Syria — without the United States.
See if you can tell what Trump is saying here:
Oh and in case things weren't bad enough, Trump tweeted on Thursday morning that he wants the U.S. to beef up its nuclear weapons arsenal. (Mic) So geopolitical upheaval with new alliances hardening enemies, and MOAR NUKES! What could possibly go wrong?!?
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Billionaire to rip up regulations — and get richer?
Billionaire investor and small-government conservative Carl Icahn will help Trump find federal regulations that need to go away. (Mic) Icahn will not have a formal government job, and therefore will not be subject to the same rules as other Trump administration officials. That has given some Trump watchers pause. Since Icahn will not have to divest his reported $16.5 billion net worth, he will be able to advise Trump about industries that could yield Icahn a profit if certain regulations are slashed.
Though Icahn will not be formally joining the cabinet, this is another administration pick from America's financial elite. Trump's D.C. leadership is already by far the wealthiest in modern history, worth tens of billions of dollars. The Wall Street Journal wrote that picking Icahn and Navarro will rile the D.C. establishment focused on trade and regulation — a promise Trump made on the campaign trail. (Wall Street Journal)
News and insight you cannot miss:
— The president-elect briefly took questions about recent terrorist attacks on Wednesday, drawing headlines for seemingly forgetting his own response to the attack in Berlin. Trump's prepared statement called it a "slaughter" of Christians. But Wednesday, when a reporter prompted him on that point, Trump countered, "Who said that?" (Mic)
— More from Trump: The president-elect also suggested he will follow through on his proposed registry of Muslims in the wake of the Berlin attack, saying, "You know my plans." (New York Times)
— A smart read from Mic's Emily Singer on how Republicans are too fearful of rabid Trump supporters (often on social media) to speak out against his remarks or policies. (Mic)
— The North Carolina legislature did not repeal a law that bans cities from adding protections for people not covered under the state's anti-discrimination law. The law generated great frustration among LGBTQ advocates earlier this year because it was viewed as a Republican effort to keep transgender Americans from having equal access to public bathrooms. (Mic)
— 62% of Democrats and independents do not want to see Hillary Clinton campaign again in 2020. Instead, they're seeking a change they can believe in. ¯\_(?)_/¯ (Politico)
— Senate Democrats launch a campaign against Trump's treasury pick. Their focus? Steven Mnuchin's time spent working in the financial industry, especially during the housing crisis. (Wall Street Journal)
— For Trump, qualifications for a cabinet position can take a back seat to physical appearance — something the president-elect learned from his time on television. (Washington Post)
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This newsletter is produced by Will Drabold at Mic.