Trump, Citing Attack in New York, Calls for End to Visa Program – New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump touched off a sharply partisan debate over some of the most divisive issues in American life on Wednesday as he cited this week’s terrorist attack in New York to advance his agenda on immigration and national security while assailing Democrats for endangering the country.

A day after an immigrant from Uzbekistan was arrested on suspicion of plowing a pickup truck along a crowded bicycle path in Manhattan, killing eight people, Mr. Trump denounced the American criminal justice system as “a joke” and “a laughingstock,” adding that he was open to sending “this animal” instead to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

While the White House deemed it unseemly to have a policy debate on gun control immediately after the massacre in Las Vegas last month, Mr. Trump was eager on Wednesday to have a policy debate on immigration. He pressed Congress to cancel a visa lottery program that allowed the driver into the country, attributing it to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and called Democrats “obstructionists” who “don’t want to do what’s right for our country.”

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“We have to get much tougher,” the president told reporters. “We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct. We’re so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything.”

A moment like this was almost inevitable since Mr. Trump took office and sought to ban visitors from select countries with Muslim majorities. The terrorist attack in New York on Tuesday was the first by a foreign-born assailant on American soil since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, and few were surprised that he saw it as vindication for his tough-on-immigration approach.

It also provided fodder for him to shift the public focus away from the special counsel investigation that unveiled criminal charges against three former campaign aides this week. But in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Mr. Trump adamantly denied being concerned about the indictments.

“I’m not under investigation, as you know,” he said in a brief telephone call. Pointing to the indictment of his former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, the president said, “And even if you look at that, there’s not even a mention of Trump in there.” Noting that Mr. Manafort was charged with financial crimes stemming from his lobbying business, the president added: “It has nothing to do with us.”

Mr. Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, wasted little time Wednesday morning assigning fault for the attack along the bicycle path. “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program,” a Chuck Schumer beauty,” he wrote on Twitter. “I want merit based.”

Mr. Schumer responded from the floor of the Senate, noting that after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush brought Mr. Schumer and Hillary Clinton, then the other Democratic senator from New York, to the White House to demonstrate national unity.

“President Trump, where is your leadership?” Mr. Schumer asked. “President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be bringing us together and focusing on the real solution — antiterrorism funding — which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget.”

At a news conference updating the public about the attack, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York chided Mr. Trump for his Twitter posts, saying they “were not helpful,” were not “even accurate” and “tended to point fingers and politicize the situation.”

“You play into the hands of the terrorists to the extent that you disrupt and divide and frighten people in this society,” said Mr. Cuomo, who is a Democrat. “And the tone now should be the exact opposite by all officials on all levels. This is about unification, this is about solidarity.”

At his own public appearance later in the day, Mr. Trump took aim again at the diversity lottery visa program. “Diversity lottery — sounds nice,” he added. “It’s not nice. It’s not good. It hasn’t been good. We’ve been against it.”

Responding to questions by reporters, he said he was open to transferring the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, from civilian courts into the military system set up for foreign terrorists.

“I would certainly consider that,” he said at the beginning of a cabinet meeting. “Send him to Gitmo, I would certainly consider that, yes.”

Likewise, he vowed to toughen prosecution and punishment of terrorists without specifying how. “We need quick justice and we need strong justice, much quicker and much stronger than we have right now,” Mr. Trump said. “Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock.”

No one arrested on American soil has ever been sent to Guantánamo Bay, and no one captured on foreign soil has been sent there since 2008. Transferring the suspect from New York would raise a host of thorny constitutional and legal issues, and Mr. Trump seemed to be speaking off the top of his head since federal prosecutors later moved to process the suspect in civilian courts.

Asked later about his comment on Guantánamo, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, dismissed it as notional, saying that “he wasn’t necessarily advocating for it, but he certainly would support it if he felt like that was the best move.”

By the end of the day, the president came under criticism from conservative allies for not declaring Mr. Saipov an enemy combatant, which would have allowed interrogators more freedom to question him without granting him the rights of a civilian defendant. “The Trump administration missed an important opportunity to send a strong message to terrorists and make America safer,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “This is a huge mistake. Very sad.”

The diversity visa program cited by Mr. Trump was created in 1990 by a bill supported by Mr. Schumer, passed by bipartisan votes and signed into law by a Republican president, George Bush. Mr. Schumer supported getting rid of the program as part of a comprehensive immigration plan crafted by eight lawmakers and passed by the Senate in 2013. But the plan was blocked in the House by Republicans who objected to other elements they considered amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who has broken with Mr. Trump, came to Mr. Schumer’s defense on Wednesday. “Actually, the Gang of 8, including @SenSchumer, did away with the Diversity Visa Program as part of broader reforms,” Mr. Flake wrote on Twitter. “I know, I was there.”

The program creates a class of immigrants called “diversity immigrants” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. About 50,000 diversity visas are distributed annually, or roughly 5 percent of the total green cards issued by the United States. Nearly 14.7 million people applied last year, meaning less than 1 percent of those who seek such visas receive them.

The program has been a target of conservatives, who proposed eliminating it in legislation endorsed in August by Mr. Trump that would crack down on legal immigration. The legislation would slash legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of American citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country.

In his remarks, Mr. Trump stressed that he wanted “merit-based” immigration, suggesting that Mr. Saipov was admitted without consideration about whether he had skills that could benefit the United States. In fact, the program requires applicants to have a high school education or be employed for at least two years in jobs approved by the State Department.

Mr. Trump, who during last year’s campaign called for a complete ban on all Muslims entering the United States, has long sought to tighten the borders. He has signed several versions of the travel ban aimed mainly at predominantly Muslim countries even as courts repeatedly intervened.

Uzbekistan was not among the countries targeted for “extreme vetting” but Ms. Sanders said “that may be something that’s looked at.”

Follow Peter Baker on Twitter: @peterbakernyt.

Maggie Haberman, Eileen Sullivan, Ron Nixon, Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed reporting.

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Powell, Once an Also-Ran, Set to Chair Trump’s Bank-Friendly Fed – Bloomberg

A few months ago, Jerome Powell was reckoned to be too tough on banks to get President Donald Trump’s nod for a key supervisory post at the Federal Reserve.

Now he’s said to be in line for the top job as Fed chairman, with the expectation that he’ll make life easier for the financial industry. Three people familiar with the decision said Trump had told Powell he’s the nominee, though that hasn’t been confirmed by the White House, the Fed or the candidate himself. A public statement is due Thursday. Trump’s pick was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

University of California’s Brad DeLong discusses Jerome Powell would bring to the role of Federal Reserve chairman.

(Source: Bloomberg)

That’s a temperate version of Trump’s charge that red tape is choking the flow of credit to business. The president, a former real-estate developer, has also made it clear that he’s fine with the cheap money that’s characterized the Yellen era. Those preferences add up to a Fed chair who would stick with the program on monetary policy and loosen some restrictions on banks — an equation that’s led Trump to Powell.

Except for the fact that he’s rich, Powell is unlike Trump in almost every way. He’s a low-profile pragmatist, a team player who avoids making waves. In tapping him, Trump ignored pressure from his own party to put a disrupter like himself in charge at the Fed. Powell was chosen over rivals including Kevin Warsh and John Taylor — a favorite of Vice President Mike Pence — who were associated with calls for much higher interest rates and a fundamental shake-up at the world’s most powerful central bank.

By picking Powell, a known quantity, the president may be hoping that the economy and stock market can maintain the winning streaks they’ve enjoyed under Yellen. Her term expires on Feb. 3.

Crisis Leadership

What’s not known is how the 64-year-old Powell will react should disaster strike, in the form of a crisis or recession. While he had a taste of the former, as a mid-level Treasury official more than a quarter-century ago, Powell has never held a leadership position during a financial emergency. A lawyer by training, he’s also not spent his career monitoring the ups and downs of the economy — as Yellen has done.

“He does not have the extent of background and experience as Yellen, which does raise concerns about how he will respond when conditions in the economy change,” said Dean Baker, Co-Director of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Tricky Time

The Washington native would be taking over the Fed at a tricky time. Inflation is well below the central bank’s 2 percent target, while asset prices are at levels considered lofty by policy makers. Trump’s push for a massive tax cut to supercharge growth, in an economy that already has historically low unemployment, won’t make the task easier.

Powell hasn’t played a prominent public role in the formulation or explanation of policy, but has been supportive of Yellen’s strategy of gradually increasing interest rates — an approach he’s likely to maintain as Fed chair. He did voice private skepticism about the third round of quantitative easing launched by then-Chairman Ben S. Bernanke in 2012, but ended up voting in favor, according to Bernanke’s memoir.

Powell won’t be deploying a battery of economic theory to these questions. He’d be the first holder of the job since Paul Volcker in the 1980s not to have a Ph.D. in economics.

Monetary ‘Science’

Some see his lack of an economics degree as a hole in his resume.

“The chair should be an economist by training,” said former Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, himself a Ph.D. economist. “The nuance of monetary policy and the science of monetary policy have become much more complex and subtle and difficult.”

Powell faced similar skepticism from staffers when he joined the Fed in 2012. He won them over by displaying a willingness to dig deep into complexities, an ex-Fed official said. He was known for showing up at meetings carrying a huge binder full of materials.

While Powell has never dissented from a monetary-policy decision, a former colleague disputed suggestions that he was a yes-man. “There has been a recent tradition of governors not dissenting,” said ex-Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher. “That doesn’t mean he didn’t add an important dimension to the discussion.”

A former Treasury undersecretary, Powell spearheaded the Fed’s response to the 2014 “flash crash” in U.S. government debt, and the overhaul of the flawed London Interbank Offered Rate benchmark. Until recently, he presided over four of the Fed Board’s seven committees, handling such unglamorous duties as overseeing the financial payments system.

“He has taken on tasks that the other governors didn’t want,” said Fisher. “He now really understands what makes the place tick.”

‘Business Head’

Powell also oversaw the Fed’s 12 regional banks, an experience that would serve him well as he works with their presidents to fashion a consensus on monetary policy.

“He brought a very good business head to all the nitty-gritty questions we had to deliberate over,” former Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said.

Powell, who goes by ‘Jay’, spent much of his career outside government in finance — first at investment bank Dillon Read & Co. and then at private-equity firm Carlyle Group, where he set up an industrial unit and was seen as a prudent and picky investor.

“Jay was somebody who had experience in both business and in government and also had a legal background,” said Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein. “That’s a rare combination.”

It helped make him a multi-millionaire — like many Trump nominees. Powell’s 2016 financial disclosure form listed assets of as much as $55 million.

‘Fantastic Job’

Powell’s experience in official Washington dates back to President George H. W. Bush’s Treasury Department — where he served alongside Randal Quarles, who beat Powell to get the nod for the Fed supervisory post in July. It was in those years that he saw a financial emergency firsthand.

Salomon Brothers had tried to corner a Treasury debt auction using phony bids in 1991, and faced a potential bank run that summer. On vacation in Cape Cod, Powell spent a weekend conferring by phone with officials including Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady. He then acted as a go-between with Salomon investor Warren Buffett.

Powell “did a fantastic job,” Brady said. “I relied on him heavily.” Salomon survived the Monday market opening.

Harvard University professor Robert Glauber, who worked with Powell at the Treasury, said he valued the investment banking know-how that his former colleague brought to the job. “He’s not a person with sharp elbows,” added Glauber. “People respected and trusted him.”

True Believer?

Powell, who has an undergraduate degree in politics from Princeton University and a law degree from Georgetown, saw another crisis up close in 2011, when a budget deadlock raised the specter that the U.S. may not meet its debt obligations. From outside government — he was working, essentially gratis, at a Washington think-tank — Powell played a key behind-the-scenes role in helping to avert a default.

His work caught the attention of President Barack Obama, who tapped Powell for the Fed board. The Obama link has raised suspicions among some Republicans, who question whether Powell is a true believer in the deregulatory agenda — a skepticism fueled by the Fed governor’s preference for keeping many of his misgivings in-house. That said, Powell would be all-but-certain to win Senate confirmation, as Republicans are unlikely to oppose the pick of their own party’s president.

Married with three children, Powell has a reputation as a bit of an athlete. At Carlyle, he was known to spend lunch hours cycling, and he still regularly bikes the eight miles to work at the Fed from his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

“He complains about a bad back, then beats the hell out of me on the golf course,” Lockhart said.

Powell also has an unusual ability to repeat people’s sentences back to them — backwards. It shows how well he listens, according to those who know him.

He displays signs of a sense of humor, too. In Powell’s current office at the Fed, pride of place goes to a hat given him by a Wisconsin senator — a giant triangle of cheese-shaped yellow foam, the kind that fans of the Green Bay Packers football team wear to their games.

It’s not clear whether he’ll take it down the corridor if the Senate confirms him to the biggest job in the financial world.

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