Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, is stepping down from his role as a special advisor to President Donald Trump, becoming the latest high profile businessman to cut ties with the administration.
But unlike the chief executives who have quit Mr Trump’s advisory groups this week in protest over the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacists, Mr Icahn said he was leaving because he did not want “partisan bickering” and questions over potential conflicts of interests to distract from the administration’s work.
In a letter addressed to the president and published on his website, Mr Icahn denied he has profited in any way from his role, which he maintained was never formal nor did it involve policymaking.
“Contrary to the insinuations of a handful of your Democratic critics, I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest,” he wrote.
“Indeed, out of an abundance of caution, the only issues I ever discussed with you were broad matters of policy affecting the refining industry. I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole.”
Donald Trump has decided to abandon plans for a third business council.
The White House on Thursday announced that it would not go ahead with a planned Infrastructure Council that would have advised the president on how best to deliver the $1tn he promised to invest in roads, bridges and other vital public works projects during last year’s campaign.
“The President has announced the end of the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum. In addition, the President’s Advisory Council on Infrastructure, which was still being formed, will not move forward,” a White House spokesperson said on Thursday. The disbanding of the council was first reported by Bloomberg.
On Monday, as the president’s councils on manufacturing and policy disbanded, a conference call was convened for the members of the informal infrastructure group, according to one person familiar with the matter.
As the new US sanctions against Russia are debated not only in Washington, but also in many European countries, Austrian political expert Gerhard Mangott commented on the issue, saying that the decision on the sanctions could severely affect US President Donald Trump’s political image and Washington’s relations with Europe.
According to the expert, the sanctions will almost certainly be adopted, as both the Democrats and the Republicans believe that they must be introduced.
“This is a very rare occurrence in the United States. President Trump could veto this law, but he won’t do it, because it will be overcome by this very unity in both houses of Congress. In this case Trump will suffer not only political, but also personal defeat,” Mangott told Sputnik.
The analyst noted that there is huge pressure on Trump in domestic politics, especially amid the investigation into alleged ties between the US president and Russia.
The US House of Representatives has passed legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran by an overwhelming majority, setting the legislation on a collision course with President Donald Trump.
The bill, HR 3364, passed the House on Tuesday with 419 votes for and 3 votes against.
In particular it imposes new sanctions on Russia in response to alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election that saw Mr Trump victorious, citing a January 2017 assessment from the US intelligence community.
The bill also requires the president to receive congressional approval before the sanctions on Russia can be repealed. The bill’s sanctions on North Korea, added by the House, will next be vetted by the Senate – where the bill originated – before the legislation heads to the president’s desk to be signed or vetoed.
Mr Trump has spent recent days railing against his former close campaign adviser, attorney-general Jeff Sessions, who upset the president in March when he recused himself from the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Trump stressed that he was very “disappointed” that Mr Sessions had recused himself from the investigation, which has engulfed the White House since the president was inaugurated in January.
If Mr Trump vetoes the bill it will require a two-thirds majority vote in the House to still become law – likely a minor obstacle in light of the near-universal bipartisan support shown on Tuesday.
When Donald Trump arrived in Paris for his first official visit to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Bastille Day celebrations, the media was fascinated whether their “sequel” handshake would be another white-knuckle affair of the “not too innocent” kind, as Macron described his famous first handshake with the US president. In retrospect, it was a bit of a letdown, perhaps because since then the two had several opportunities to work on their greetings and appeared both more at ease, although questions did emerge about Trump’s handshake with Brigitte Macron, which among other things, afforded Trump the opportunity to say the first lady was in “great shape.”
But if the introductory handshake was less than remarkable, nobody was ready for the most recent Trump-Macron poignee de mains, which the Independent described as a “strange, shifting, exruciating coming together that appeared to have a life of its own.”
Many who witnessed the handshake, as the men walked down the Champs-Élysées, said it looked bizarre, however it appeared anything but for the US President who was so at ease with his French host and the Bastille Day crowds, that the handshake lasted no less than 30 seconds.
Twelve seconds into the handshake – with both men on the move at this point – Trump put one hand on Macron’s chest and, a few moments later, placed his left arm on the shoulder of Ms Macron, while still holding on her husband with his right. Then Trump briefly takes the French First lady with both hands, while Macron keeps holding onto Mr Trump’s right hand as well. Finally, with the timer on 28 seconds, Mr Trump grips Mr Macron’s hand once more, taps his fingers and finally lets him go. A full half-minute of presidential flesh-pressing has taken place.
Meanwhile, it was difficult to decipher what Melania Trump made of this manual ménage à trois: she stoically watched and smiled a full 30 seconds before her husband and the Macrons appeared to realize she was there. Then they finally held hands with her too. Ultimately, the event was deemed sufficiently dramatic for CNN to create a “second-by-second” analysis of the Trump-Macron handshake.
So what is the verdict from Comey’s historic testimony?
It depends on who you ask: turning to CNN, reading the NYT or WaPo, or any source of left-leaning news, and virtually every commentator will be certain that Trump’s political career has been terminally truncated as a result of today’s events. Alternatively, and inversely, the right will claim the opposite: Comey failed to do any damage to the president, the Russian collusion narrative is now over, and that it is Comey’s own actions that should be probed.
Both are to be expected.
But what about the reaction by an impartial arbiter such as the market? Conveiently, that’s what PredictIt is for, and as the chart below shows, Trump’s 2017 impeachment odds dropped by 4 points, from 21% to 17%, following Comey’s testimony.
Group of Seven leaders on Saturday managed to project a united front in fighting protectionism as they closed a two-day annual meeting here. But the meeting also highlighted a divide between the U.S. and the four European countries in the group.
In the joint communique released after the meeting, the leaders reiterated their commitment “to fight protectionism.” This wording was initially opposed by the U.S. But the “to fight protectionism” phrase is followed by a comma, and the rest of the sentence goes on to say, “while standing firm against all unfair trade practices.”
It is believed the wording was added at the behest of the U.S.
their “strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement.”
The communique also notes North Korea’s “new levels of threat of a grave nature to international peace and stability.”
In a separate statement, the leaders condemned Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester and called for reinforcing anti-terrorist measures, including the involvement of internet service providers in counter-terrorism operations.
What sell-off? In a feat that has not been accomplished in more than a week, the S&P 500 on Wednesday notched a fresh record closing high.
The S&P 500 gained 0.25 per cent to 2,404, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.36 per cent to 21,012.4, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.44 per cent to 6,163.
Last week, equities markets took a blow from rising concern over the political fortunes of US President Donald Trump.
The former businessman’s election last year helped stoke sharp gains for equities on expectations that his policies will support corporate America. That enthusiasm has ebbed and flowed as Mr Trump has struggled to dig-out of numerous scandals.
Still, after Wednesday’s gains, the most recent bout of selling has been entirely reversed and then some. The S&P 500 index is up 7.4 per cent for the year.
Investors on Wednesday parsed through minutes from the Federal Reserve’s May meeting, which set the table for next month’s meeting, which could see it raise rates for the second time this year. Investors interpreted the news as dovish on margin, however, with the US dollar slipping 0.26 per cent against a basket of six peers.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 0.0298 per cent to 2.2502 per cent.
Investors will keep a close eye on US politics next week as US President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip coincides with a growing White House scandal at home.
Here’s what to watch in the coming days.
Donald Trump kicks off his first overseas visit since becoming US president by travelling to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz this weekend. Mr Trump is set to agree to a $10bn weapons sale to Saudi Arabia as the US seeks to boost business and diplomatic ties with Riyadh.
The nine-day tour will also see Mr Trump visit Israel and continue on to Rome before heading to a Nato summit in Brussels. The meeting comes as the president’s attempts to give Nato a more formal role in the anti-Isis coalition has faced resistance from France and Germany. Mr Trump will also attend a G-7 meeting in Sicily.
The overseas trip comes with Mr Trump under siege at home following revelations that he pressed James Comey, the FBI director who was abruptly dismissed last week, to drop a probe into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia. Mr Comey has been invited to testify before Congress on Wednesday.
Further complicating matters, new Russia claims were published just after Mr Trump departed Washington on Friday, casting more clouds over the trip even as it got underway.
After yesterday’s violent gap up in stocks across the globe in response to the “expected” outcome from the French election, today the risk on sentiment has continued if to a lesser extent, with stocks in Europe, Asia all rising while S&P futures point to a higher open. Yen, gold decline, while the euro traded as high as 1.09 this morning before fading some gains; oil is up modestly.
While today’s surge may have been more muted, world stocks hit a new record high on Tuesday, with investors still cheering Macron’s victory in the first round of the French presidential election, supported by speculation about U.S. tax reform and the overnight report that Trump has conceded on the border wall, eliminating a government shutdown as a potential risk. As shown below, the MSCI All World Index has jumped to a new all time high, boosted by strong Asian markets.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6%, hovering near its highest level since June 2015 hit earlier in the session, on its fourth straight day of gains. Japan’s Nikkei rose more than 1 percent to a three-week high aided by a weaker yen. South Korea’s also advanced 0.7 percent to its highest level since April 2015. China equities climbed from a three-month low on speculation that a selloff over concerns of a regulatory crackdown were overdone. Australia and New Zealand were closed for Anzac Day.
European stocks hovered near a 20-month high, with the Dax flirting with all time highs. The Stoxx Europe 600 index edged 0.2% higher after jumpin 2.1% on Monday to the highest since August 2015, with property and technology shares helping to underpin a global rally. French shares pulled back 0.1 percent, having risen 4.1 percent on Monday in their biggest daily gain since August 2012. Futures on the S&P 500 added 0.1 percent. The index climbed 1.1% Monday to within 1% of its all-time closing high.
These gains helped push MSCI’s world stocks index to a fresh all-time high after chalking up its biggest rise since shortly after Britain’s vote last June to leave the European Union.