2018年2月28日 星期三

Overnight Defense: GOP chair says Russia hasn't paid a price for meddling | Senators revive pro-NATO group | Sanders, Lee look to end US role in Yemen war | Watchdog says VA aide's email wasn't hacked

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THE TOPLINE: The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Wednesday he shares a top admiral's concern that Russia has not paid a high enough price to deter it from future actions like its meddling in the 2016 election.

"An aggressor will always push forward and do more until he meets resistance," Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters. "We've seen that time and time again over history. There has to be a price to be paid."

Thornberry was responding to a question about Adm. Michael Rogers's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee the day before.

Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, told senators that he has not been given specific direction from President Trump to disrupt Russian cyberattacks targeting U.S. elections.

Rogers pushed back on the notion that the administration has done nothing to counter Russian interference, but he acknowledged that the response so far has been insufficient in deterring such behavior.

"They haven't paid a price, at least, that has significantly changed their behavior," Rogers said. "You know, more broadly -- not just the sanctions, but more broadly -- my concern is I believe that President [Vladimir] Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there's little price to pay here."

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has the rest here.


SANDERS, LEE PUSH FOR END TO US INVOLVEMENT IN YEMEN WAR: Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on Wednesday pushed the White House to end U.S. military involvement in Yemen's civil war, arguing it's unconstitutional that Congress has not had a say in entering the conflict.

The two lawmakers, along with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), earlier in the day filed a joint resolution questioning U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels in the country.

Sanders and Lee later in a press conference argued that the American intervention -- which includes selling the Saudis weapons, providing limited intelligence and helping with air refueling -- has never specifically been approved by Congress.

The lawmakers hope to invoke the War Powers Resolution, a federal law intended to check the president's power to commit the country to armed conflict without Congress' consent.

"If the president or members of Congress believe that support for this war is in U.S. interests and that we should be involved in it, then let them come before Congress, let them make their case and let the Congress vote on whether or not we stay in that war," Sanders said.

Lee argued the legislation "is neither liberal nor conservative."

"This is an American principle. ... It's constitutional." 

Read more here.


WATCHDOG: FORMER TOP VA AIDE'S EMAIL WAS NOT HACKED: The alleged hacking of a former top aide at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was unrelated to the travel scandal she was embroiled in and was limited to "relatively unsophisticated 'spoofing,' " according to a government watchdog.

At issue is the VA inspector general's allegation that Vivieca Wright Simpson, who has since resigned as chief of staff, doctored an email in order to gain approval to use taxpayer dollars to pay for VA Secretary David Shulkin's wife to accompany him on a trip to Europe.

Shulkin has said Wright Simpson showed him evidence backing up her denial that she sent the email in question and has suggested the email was sent by hackers looking to undermine him.

In a letter released Wednesday by the top Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, the VA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) says it believes that "the allegations of 'hacking' are limited to unrelated and relatively unsophisticated 'spoofing' of Ms. Wright Simpson's identity through messages sent from an external, non-VA email address."

Read the rest here.


BIPARTISAN SENATORS REVIVE PRO-NATO GROUP OVER RUSSIA CONCERNS: A bipartisan pair of senators on Wednesday relaunched a group meant to coordinate Senate efforts on NATO and demonstrate U.S. commitment to the alliance.

The Senate NATO Observer Group is being revived by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) after comments by President Trump during his campaign and early on in his tenure rattled NATO allies.

Both senators, though, downplayed the timing, saying Trump's previous statements were not the impetus for their effort.

"I wish I could draw that connection," Shaheen said at the launch event. "Really it's the result of the threats from Russia... This is another opportunity for us in the Senate to show our support for the efforts to deter Russia and to make sure there's support in the Senate for NATO."

Read about that here.



The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be ambassador to Finland and U.S. executive director of the European bank for reconstruction and development at 10 a.m. at Dirksen Senate Office Building room 419. 



-- The Hill: Iranian hacking group appears to expand international operations

-- The Hill: More than 30 White House aides stripped of top secret security clearances: report

-- The Hill: Opinion: American lives are worth budgeting for with biodefense

-- The Hill: Opinion: Pentagon must consider non-traditional approaches to military service

-- Defense News: F-35 program head blasts Lockheed for slow progress on contract


Join The Hill on Wednesday, March 21, for Leadership in Action: The Hill's Newsmaker Series featuring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.). RSVP Here


Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com, and Ellen Mitchell, emitchell@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@Rebecca_H_K@EllenMitchell23

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Overnight Finance: GOP lawmakers step up fight to save NAFTA | SEC launches cryptocurrency probe | US economic growth revised down | Gun stocks falter since Florida shooting

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Happy Wednesday and welcome back to Overnight Finance, where we're preparing for a much chiller April. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

See something I missed? Let me know at slane@thehill.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.


THE BIG DEAL: Republican lawmakers are fighting tooth and nail to save the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the White House talks over major changes with Mexico and Canada.

Nearly 30 GOP members, including the House Ways and Means Committee, met with Trump at the White House to discuss a wide range of pressing trade issues as negotiations continue this week on NAFTA.

Lawmakers have expressed concern over Trump's repeated threats to withdraw the United States from the 24-year-old trade deal. Republicans insist that withdrawing from NAFTA would cost the U.S. thousands of jobs with severe consequences for agriculture.

The seventh round of NAFTA talks began in Mexico City on Sunday, and the deal's defenders are looking to cement support for the pact.

Key congressional Republicans are threatening action to protect NAFTA if the White House pulls out. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a staunch Trump ally, promised "veto-proof' action from Congress if Trump pulls out of NAFTA.

Republicans are also speaking out about Trump potentially slapping tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. Senate and House GOP lawmakers have asked the White House to tread carefully when determining whether to impose steel and aluminum tariffs for national security reasons.

"I'm also committed to working with the president on narrow and targeted remedies that address China's distortions without hurting other U.S. industries and workers," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said.

Trump has until April to decide whether to apply tariffs or quotas on the two metals.

Vicki Needham has all the details here.


Trouble for solar? Meanwhile, U.S. companies are already facing the brunt of Trump's previously announced tariff on imported solar panels.

American solar energy provider SunPower has already started the process of laying off between 150 and 250 workers, largely from its research and development and marketing positions, CEO Tom Werner told The Hill's Miranda Green. The cuts will amount to about a 10 decrease in operational expenses.

SunPower estimates that with the new tariffs it will lose $50 million this year, about one-sixth of the company's overall operating costs. According to Werner, the company fears that next year's losses will be even more staggering, predicting the firm could lose closer to $100 million.


On tap tomorrow

  • Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney and Small Business Administration Chair Linda McMahon speak on small business lending at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 9 a.m.
  • Senate Banking Committee: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies on the Fed's semi-annual monetary policy report, 10 a.m.



SEC starts wide-ranging cryptocurrency probe: The Securities and Exchange Commission is digging deeper into cryptocurrencies, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter.

The SEC "has issued scores of subpoenas and information requests to technology companies and advisers involved in the red-hot market for digital tokens, according to people familiar with the matter," the Journal reports.


Just so you remember:

  • July 30, 2017: "Feds eye crackdown on digital coin investments"
  • Dec. 17: "Bitcoin boom brings new scrutiny from Washington"
  • Jan. 12: "Mnuchin says financial regulators will probe impact of cryptocurrencies"
  • Jan. 19: "SEC tells investment firms to hold off on cryptocurrency funds"
  • Jan. 19: "CFTC files charges in two cryptocurrency fraud cases"
  • Jan. 25: "Regulators ask Congress for more power to police cryptocurrencies"


Slumping gun stocks: Publicly listed gunmakers have seen their stock values drop following the school shooting that left 17 dead in Florida earlier this month.

Gun shares and school shootings have long had a complicated connection. In the past, shootings have led gunmakers' stock prices to increase in the short run because worries over new gun reforms leads to more sales.

Analysts say that the value of gunmakers' shares in the days since the Florida shooting suggest people are skeptical that gun laws will be passed quickly, according to a report in the Financial Times.

Fourth quarter growth revised down: The U.S. economy grew slightly slower in the final months of 2017 than first reported, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

Commerce revised its first estimate of economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 2.5 percent, down 0.1 percent from its earlier estimate. The economy grew 2.3 percent through 2017, up from 1.5 percent in 2016. http://bit.ly/2oBXGBE


Controversial OMB deputy confirmed: The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Russell T. Vought's as deputy White House budget chief by a 50-49 vote after months of keeping the nomination in limbo.

Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), were not present for the vote. 

As the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Vought will serve as the right-hand man to Director Mick Mulvaney. The Hill's Niv Elis tells us about his past comments about Muslims, and the reason why one powerful Republican blocked his nomination: http://bit.ly/2oEeJmL.


MARKET CHECK: Rough. All three major stock indexes extended their losses Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average taking the biggest hit. The Dow closed 1.5 percent lower Wednesday, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropped 1.1 and 0.78 percent each.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will testify before the Senate Banking Committee tomorrow, where he'll get another chance to either rattle or sooth the stock market. Powell's Tuesday appearance shook stocks a bit when he signaled the Fed could eventually unite behind four rate hikes in 2018 instead of the currently forecast three.


GOING DEEPER: Monetary policy edition

  • The Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip explores what could happen if a major inflation event sneaks up on us...
  • ...while The New York Times' Neil Irwin wonders how low unemployment can go.



  • The Treasury Department and IRS on Wednesday released a new online calculator that allows taxpayers to figure out if they should make changes to their tax withholding under the new tax law.
  • Deloitte agreed Wednesday to pay $149.5 million to settle Justice Department allegations that it failed to halt a huge fraud at a mortgage company that collapsed during the financial crisis.
  • Speaking of Treasury withholdings, Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) not to post a recording of a speaking engagement where students heckled him.
  • Forty-nine percent of Americans who expect to get tax refunds this year plan to put the money into savings, a survey released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics found.
  • Four political appointees at the Commerce Department lost their jobs on Tuesday because of problems in their background checks, The Washington Post reported.
  • A Georgia Senate committee has moved to scrap a tax break that would benefit Delta Airlines after the airline sought to distance itself from the National Rifle Association (NRA).



  • House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a letter on Wednesday the committee was probing Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson's "excessive spending" on the redecoration of his office. 

Join The Hill on Wednesday, March 21, for Leadership in Action: The Hill's Newsmaker Series featuring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.). RSVP Here


Write us with tips, suggestions and news: slane@thehill.comvneedham@thehill.comnjagoda@thehill.com, and nelis@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane,  @VickofTheHill@NJagoda, and @NivElis.

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News Alert: Five takeaways from Trump’s meeting on guns

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Five takeaways from Trump’s meeting on guns
President Trump shook up the gun control debate  — and many members of his own party — with a televised White House meeting with lawmakers that lasted more than an hour on Wednesday afternoon.

Trump expressed support for a number of gun control measures, including strengthened background checks and stricter age limits, even as he held fast to his insistence that schools should be made “harder” targets by permitting teachers and other personnel to be armed.

The reverberations from the meeting will continue for days, but what were the main takeaways?
Read the full story here
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