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McConnell denounces Trump's plan for tariffs on imported aluminum and steel

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally broke his silence Tuesday and denounced President Donald Trump's threa...

Posted: Mar 6, 2018 6:31 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2018 6:31 PM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally broke his silence Tuesday and denounced President Donald Trump's threat to place controversial tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, saying he has "genuine concerns" that it could trigger a trade war.

The majority leader's first public comments on the issue -- which has dominated headlines since it was announced Thursday -- came on the heels of a torrent of unusually blunt criticism from other GOP leaders and top committee chairmen, who spoke out against the retaliatory trade move immediately after Trump announced it last Thursday and every day since.

"There is a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could sort of metastasize into a larger trade war," McConnell told reporters when asked at a news conference about the tariffs, which generally are considered against GOP free-trade orthodoxy. "Many of our members are discussing with the administration just how broad, how sweeping this might be, and there is a high level of concern about interfering with what appears to be an economy that is taking off."

Top economic adviser Gary Cohn leaves White House in wake of tariff rift

McConnell also defended the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has vowed to drastically change, saying it has been a "big winner" for his home state of Kentucky.

"I would just say from a Kentucky point of view, NAFTA has been a big winner," McConnell said. "We have benefited from it in every way. So I think the best way to characterize where most Republican senators are right now, including myself, is genuine concern that this not escalate into something much broader."

His staff wouldn't explain why he hadn't spoken out earlier but disputed the notion that he was late to engage in the debate. One aide suggested McConnell's weekly Tuesday news conference was his first opportunity to make his views known, even though the leader has many other forums available to him, including his nearly daily speech on the Senate floor, when he typically talks about matters before Congress and in the news.

McConnell spent much of the past few days -- in the weekly leadership meeting and in Tuesday's closed-door policy lunch -- gathering views from the unsettled members of his conference. He also attempted to get more information on the tariff proposal, which White House officials acknowledge publicly -- and, sources say, repeatedly in private to concerned lawmakers and aides -- remains far from complete or fully fleshed out.

"There's merit to not jumping the gun on this proposal given the guy who sits in the Oval Office," one Republican senator told CNN on Tuesday, noting that Trump can shift and vacillate on policies "depending on the day or who he spoke to last." The senator also pointed to what he called "an active effort" by White House aides opposed to tariffs to work behind the scenes to move the President off his position, one lawmakers have joined in both public statements and in private.

McConnell's caution may stem in part from hope that in the end Trump won't carry out his threat and will find another way to resolve his concerns about unfair trade.

"I think we need to wait and see what the White House finally decides to do on this," the majority leader said.

McConnell has a reputation as a disciplined politician who may prefer quieter, backdoor efforts to change Trump's mind instead of engaging in an open spat with the President, famous for his Twitter tirades. The senator's aides wouldn't specify what he's been doing to counter Trump's efforts but suggested he's done more behind the scenes than has been visible publicly.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 304023

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin641421113
Ramsey27059502
Anoka21526225
Dakota21268190
Washington13529113
Stearns13524108
St. Louis8433108
Scott820154
Wright746139
Olmsted653534
Sherburne570941
Clay483956
Carver455913
Blue Earth405214
Rice403136
Kandiyohi396821
Crow Wing353431
Nobles304929
Chisago304410
Otter Tail300522
Benton293348
Winona273730
Mower257423
Douglas250735
Polk248923
Morrison228029
Lyon213411
Beltrami211917
McLeod205011
Becker199815
Goodhue196728
Steele19137
Itasca185523
Isanti184917
Todd178413
Carlton177715
Nicollet158725
Freeborn15125
Mille Lacs149931
Le Sueur144911
Cass138610
Waseca137811
Brown136415
Pine13138
Meeker12398
Roseau11454
Hubbard111924
Martin111220
Wabasha10301
Redwood91619
Chippewa8527
Dodge8380
Cottonwood8333
Watonwan8334
Renville83124
Wadena7736
Sibley7724
Rock7569
Aitkin75529
Pipestone71018
Houston6854
Fillmore6770
Yellow Medicine63311
Pennington6277
Kanabec59613
Murray5783
Swift5758
Faribault5422
Pope5281
Stevens5063
Clearwater5058
Jackson4841
Marshall4758
Lake4066
Koochiching3855
Wilkin3715
Unassigned36759
Lac qui Parle3613
Lincoln3511
Norman3417
Big Stone3072
Mahnomen2904
Grant2726
Kittson2138
Red Lake2053
Traverse1461
Lake of the Woods951
Cook660

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 225897

Reported Deaths: 2345
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33451334
Linn14206164
Scott1116385
Black Hawk10849134
Woodbury10323124
Johnson948636
Dubuque918291
Story677621
Dallas633657
Pottawattamie624570
Sioux369125
Webster357833
Cerro Gordo351544
Marshall347846
Clinton327540
Buena Vista304114
Des Moines287920
Muscatine286468
Warren279611
Plymouth274242
Wapello255071
Jones229813
Jasper217443
Marion204320
Lee202217
Carroll197322
Bremer194212
Henry18227
Crawford174316
Benton169519
Tama153840
Jackson144313
Delaware143221
Washington140214
Dickinson138210
Boone136311
Mahaska126727
Wright12336
Clay11714
Buchanan116410
Hardin115010
Page11294
Clayton11105
Hamilton11059
Cedar107413
Harrison106729
Calhoun10617
Kossuth10566
Floyd104116
Mills10407
Fayette103310
Lyon10268
Butler10116
Poweshiek98913
Winneshiek96212
Iowa94612
Winnebago91723
Hancock8607
Louisa85816
Sac8578
Grundy85611
Chickasaw8494
Cherokee8374
Cass80823
Allamakee79911
Mitchell7884
Appanoose78710
Humboldt7695
Union7676
Shelby76211
Emmet76024
Guthrie75215
Franklin73521
Jefferson7112
Madison6804
Unassigned6620
Palo Alto6514
Keokuk5967
Pocahontas5574
Howard5529
Greene5220
Osceola5211
Ida48713
Clarke4824
Taylor4643
Montgomery46211
Davis4619
Monroe44312
Adair4408
Monona4332
Fremont3573
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Worth3550
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Decatur3160
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