* Today the president followed through on his opening shot at igniting a trade war. But there were some qualifications.

“We’re going to be very fair, we’re going to be very flexible but we’re going to protect the American worker as I said I would do in my campaign,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting…

The people briefed on the plans said all countries affected by the tariffs would be invited to negotiate with the Trump administration to be exempted from the tariffs if they can address the threat their exports pose to U.S. manufacturers. The people said the exclusions for Canada and Mexico could be ended if talks to renegotiate NAFTA stall.

That strikes me as exactly how Trump probably managed his businesses. He just broadcast that he’s open for bribes, which is how you define extortion.

* Here’s an interesting gem Trump tweeted yesterday.


Oops. He was only off by $99 billion.

The Trump administration is asking Beijing for a plan to cut the annual U.S. trade deficit with China by $100 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

* While Trump was busy attempting to extort other countries on trade and demonstrating that he’s an idiot when it comes to arm-twisting China, this happened today.

Eleven countries are expected to sign a landmark Asia-Pacific trade agreement in Santiago on Thursday as an antidote to the increasingly protectionist bent of the United States, which pulled out of the pact last year…The member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

* Margaret Carlson writes: “Trump’s Problem Isn’t Who’s Leaving—It’s Who’s Staying.”

Gary Cohn resigning as national economic adviser is bad for the adult quotient in the West Wing, as well as for the Dow Jones.

But just as big a worry as who’s leaving is who’s staying. Although not the shiny object that Cohn (or Hope Hicks, Rob Porter, or Steve Bannon), cabinet secretaries who would be long gone in any other administration are hanging on, redecorating (see HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s $31,000 desk while removing anti-discrimination language from his agency’s mission), flying flags over their headquarters to signal they are in charge while turning over public lands to oil drillers excepting his home state of Montana (Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke), and increasing security details with a new $25,000 safe room lest anyone hear him endangering clean water (EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt).

While each has violated norms in his own way, one thing unites them: the president is not insisting they leave because they haven’t violated his standard. And that standard is: If you don’t beat your wife with a picture that proves it, or dump all over Trump and his family in a best-selling book, you are doing a helluva job.

* This story continues to fly under the radar when it deserves a lot more attention.

A family of conservative multimillionaires owns Sinclair Broadcast Group. And Sinclair Broadcast Group is on the cusp of owning enough local television stations to reach 70 percent of American households. Every news station under Sinclair’s umbrella is required to syndicate commentary that comports with its owners’ ideological views. Over the past 13 months, this has meant regularly providing viewers with the insights of Sinclair’s chief political analyst, former Trump spokesman Boris Epshteyn. It has also meant featuring analysis from conservative pundit Mark Hyman, and updates from the “Terrorism Alert Desk” (sensationalized coverage of recent terror attacks from around the world) on a routine basis.

Now, Sinclair is taking its “covert state media” game to new, Orwellian heights: By the end of this month, Sinclair will require all of its local news anchors to condemn “national media outlets” for publishing “fake stories” and “using their platforms to push their own personal bias,” according to internal documents obtained by CNN. Those documents instruct local news directors to air these criticisms of “biased and false news” — criticisms that, of course, echo the president’s own — over and over again, so as “to create maximum reach and frequency.”

* Chalk this one up as another example of the fact that a lot of conservatives don’t have much respect for young people.

Of course she got called out on twitter by the Parkland students.

* At a time when talk of Trump’s “pee tape” resurfaces and his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels is all over the news, this one is sure to break any irony meters that might still be functioning.

Abstinence-only education — encouraging adolescents to wait until marriage for sex — is making a comeback under President Trump.

In a marked departure from the previous administration, conservatives at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are putting an emphasis on abstinence to reduce teen pregnancy rates.

* Finally, here’s a pallet cleanser after all that mess.

YouTube video

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