As Trade War Persists, Mnuchin Says China Talks Have ‘Broken Down’

The trade war between the United States and China showed no signs of yielding on Thursday, as Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told lawmakers there was no clear path to resolution and Beijing blasted the administration over its approach.

Mr. Mnuchin, who has tried to avoid calling the trade tensions with China a “war,” said talks with Beijing had “broken down” and suggested it was now up to China to come to the table with concessions. President Trump, speaking in Brussels on Thursday, described the trade talks with China as a “nasty” battle.

.. “The administration needs to explain to Congress where this is all headed,” Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the committee’s chairman, told Manisha Singh, an assistant secretary at the State Department, as she prepared to testify.

“To my knowledge, not a single person is able to articulate where this is headed, nor what the plans are, nor what the strategy is,” Mr. Corker said.

.. China has also had difficulty figuring out whom to negotiate with, after tentative agreements reached with Mr. Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, fell through.

“I think they’re coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter whether Mnuchin or Ross or anybody is in the front of the line, that it’s really going to be figuring out what Trump wants,”

.. “For the purpose of meeting domestic political needs and suppressing China’s development, the U.S. has fabricated a set of policy arguments that distort the truth about Sino-U.S. economic and trade relations.”

 

The Price of Getting Inside Trump’s Head

Michael Cohen has profited from it, but we’re all Trumpologists now.

Christie argued that pesky journalists and amateur Trump watchers were always getting the President wrong, making it out as if there were some “Machiavellian” grand plan by Trump that could explain many otherwise seemingly unexplainable moves. “There is no strategy,” he exclaimed.

.. Several mentioned White House aides or outside advisers, such as Christie, who seem to have the ability to read Trump’s quirks and offer reliable guidance about what a President who delights in the appearance of unpredictability will actually do. One White House reporter, for example, said that Stephen Miller, the combative young aide who writes many of Trump’s speeches and has helped shape his hard-line immigration policy, was “an authentic reflection of his boss,” citing him as a helpful resource “if you’re looking to decode what Trump is really thinking.” Others mentioned informal advisers including Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, and Christopher Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax and another regular Trump phone buddy; journalists such as the Times’ Maggie Haberman and the Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti

.. “The truth is, virtually everyone who claims to know what Trump is going to do has been wrong at some point,” one sharp analyst told me. “The best indicator, in my mind, is to go back and read his core campaign pledges and speeches. Those have been far more instructive than anyone in Congress, in the Republican Party, or on his own team.”

..  “All the same traits repeat themselves now,” the correspondent wrote to me. “The grandiosity, the impatience and impulsiveness, the repeated lies.

.. At the time, other observers, less schooled in Trump, wrongly thought that the heavy responsibilities of a job for which he was ill-prepared might change him. Not the Trumpologists. “He’s the same old Trump,

.. What did it mean that the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the leader of Germany’s pro-Russia oppositionists at a time of such tensions with the West, was right there in the front row? That Putin only shook hands with three people—Schroeder, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and a splendidly attired Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill

.. Indeed, the Putin inauguration scene made the former Moscow correspondent in me realize just how much Washington these days feels like Russia.

.. Of course, there’s always an element of Kremlinology in how we cover the White House.

.. But, at least in Administrations of old, there was a process to pay attention to, meetings where actual decisions were made, policy rollouts planned in advance as a result of those decisions. “Process protects you” was a favorite line of Obama’s process-obsessed second-term chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and most of his predecessors, from Republican and Democratic Administrations alike, agreed.

.. Many of this President’s major decisions—from appointing Cabinet secretaries to pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal—are completely opaque and, in many cases, shockingly process-free.