Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Russia Scandal: WaPo reports Trump White House tried to block Sally Yates from testifying before Congress. Yates, a holdover from the Obama DOJ, was the acting Attorney General before Sessions. The Democrats see this as more White House obstruction of their inquiry, reinforcing their distrust of chairman Devin Nunes.
According to the letters [seen by the Post], the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers her possible testimony — including on the ouster of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for his contacts with the Russian ambassador — to be off-limits in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by attorney-client privilege or the presidential communication privilege. –Washington Post
Comment: It was Yates who supposedly warned the Trump White House that Flynn’s name had been unmasked. She was a holdover from Loretta Lynch’s department and, naturally, the Trump people don’t trust her. The fact that they let her serve as acting AG indicates how inexperienced they were and the price they paid because Senate Democrats slow-walked the Trump nominees, including Jeff Sessions at DOJ.
◆ Trump, surrounded by coal miners, signs orders overturning some Obama-era environmental regulations Fox Business speaks of coal miners “rejoicing.”
But industry executives warn that these regulatory changes “can’t bring jobs back.” (Mining.com) Robert Murray, who founded and runs the largest private coal-mining company, explains:
Trump has consistently pledged to restore mining jobs, but many of those jobs were lost to technology rather than regulation and to competition from natural gas and renewables, which makes it unlikely that he can do much to significantly grow the number of jobs in the industry, said Murray.
“I suggested that he temper his expectations. Those are my exact words,” said Murray. “He can’t bring them back.” –Mining.com
◆ Britain set to formally begin exit from European Union (BBC). The technical term is “invoking Article 50”
The three main areas companies will be watching in the Brexit talks are: migration, customs, and tariffs. . . .
The prime minister [Theresa May] made it clear in January that her plan was for the UK to leave the EU single market and potentially the customs union.
Unless a new trade deal is put in its place, UK companies face tariffs on imports and exports with the EU, tighter customs checks and more controls on EU workers.
Firms need to know as soon as possible about the new trading relationship, says Steven Altmann-Richer, head of EU policy at business lobby group CBI.
If a trade deal isn’t possible in the next two years, interim arrangements are essential, he adds. –BBC
Comment: Further complicating this already-vexing negotiation is Scotland’s renewed demand to vote on whether to remain within the United Kingdom. (Report on that here at the Washington Post)
Feeble U.S. economic growth since the Great Recession is due almost entirely to a plunge in homeownership to more-than-50-year lows, according to new data released Monday.
A return to more normal homeownership levels could have added more than $300 billion, or an additional 1.8 percent in growth, to the economy last year, a Rosen Consulting Group study found. –CNBC
Comment: The longer-term question is whether the generation now in its 30s and 40s will resume buying houses, as their parents and grandparents did, or continue renting.
Starting today, all users will soon have access to the new Facebook Camera feature that lets them overlay special effects on photos and videos. They can then share this content to a Snapchat clone called Facebook Stories that appears above News Feed on mobile and works similarly to Instagram’s 24-hour ephemeral slideshows. Users also may share these posts to News Feed, individual friends through the new Facebook Direct private visual messages that disappear once digested or any combination thereof. –TechCrunch