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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — It didn’t take long for newly empowered House Democrats to lose control of their message on the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump: less than a day.

A day which began with the spotlight on the incoming Democratic majority ended with it focused on how those members remain splintered over the merits, the politics and the timing of attempting to remove the commander in chief from his job.

The views range from freshman Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s colorful promise on Thursday that Democrats “are gonna impeach the motherf—er” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s careful formulation in a “Today” show interview hours earlier that “we shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason.”

That gap is powered by the competing desires of many Democratic voters to see the president driven from office and the varying degrees to which their elected representatives see that as a worthy, plausible and timely goal.

“There are people who believe the evidence is there and there are people who don’t really care if the evidence is there,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said, adding that he’s in a third camp that thinks the House should not act capriciously with “one of the most awesome powers” in the Constitution and is “not unmindful” that the Republican-led Senate would not vote to convict Trump anytime soon.

The discussion has put Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in an uncomfortable spot — caught between the urgent demands of the Democratic base, the risk of a backlash if they are seen to be politicizing a solemn process, the reality that it would take at least 20 Republican votes in the Senate to convict Trump and the deliberate nature of the impeachment process.

That tension could be seen in Pelosi’s response to Tlaib’s remarks.

“I do think that we want to be unified and bring people together,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s Joy Reid in an interview Friday morning. “Impeachment is a very divisive approach to take and we shouldn’t take it … without the facts.”

But rather than reprimand her junior colleague for the substance or tone of the remarks, Pelosi said the desire to impeach Trump is “legitimate” and that the profane name the Michigan lawmaker used for Trump is “nothing worse than the president has said.”

Pelosi, like most Democrats who spoke to NBC News Thursday, said they would not have used the same language as Tlaib.

Trump himself was harshly critical of Tlaib — saying in a Rose Garden press conference that she had “dishonored” both her family and “the United States of America” — but dismissed the significance of the threat.

“We even talked about this today” at the White House as he met with congressional leaders. “I said, ‘why don’t you use this for impeachment?’ And Nancy said, ‘we’re not looking to impeach you.’ I said ‘that’s good, Nancy, that’s good.’ But you don’t impeach people when they’re doing a good job.”

Other Republicans were quick to jump on Tlaib’s comments and present them as representative of a Democratic Party trying to score political points rather than make policy.

“I thought it was vulgar,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the chairwoman of the Republican Conference, told NBC News, adding that the charge to impeach Trump is “pretty indicative of the level of seriousness we’re seeing” on issues like the fight over Trump’s border wall. Democrats are engaging in “real partisanship and game-playing,” she said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., warned that it will be difficult for Republicans to work with Democrats on policy matters if Democrats are focused on ousting Trump.

“How do you work with anybody if this is what they really have planned?” McCarthy said. “Where are their priorities?”

That’s a problem senior Democrats are wrestling with in real-time, as many of their constituents — and some of their colleagues — are demanding action on impeachment sooner than later.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said he wouldn’t condemn Tlaib for expressing what she’s hearing from voters in her district every day.

“There are many in the country who want an expedited process,” he said. But, “any reasonable person should conclude that waiting for the Mueller probe to conclude is the best course of action.”

The debate won’t stay centered on Capitol Hill — it will soon be a hot topic out on the trail for the growing field of contenders for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, no matter what their take on the issue.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who is considering a presidential run, said Democrats will remove Trump from office “whether it’s at the ballot box or by Congress” and that it will be a race to see which comes first.

“I think we should give him a fairer investigation than he deserves,” Swalwell said. “If this was Donald Trump justice, Donald Trump would be impeached already.”

But he said “the last thing” he wants to do is make Trump a political martyr.

For Himes, there’s a similar, but perhaps deeper, fear.

“I worry that there could be very, very clear evidence of impeachable offenses and the Congress is unable to act,” he said. If Trump walked down Fifth Avenue and killed someone, he said, “most Republican senators would not vote to convict.”

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Factory workers at GM see layoffs, not benefits, after tax cuts

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By Kathryn Kranhold

This story was originally published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.

LORDSTOWN, Ohio — Cheryl Jonesco had a plum job installing backup cameras in the Chevrolet Cruze compact car at the storied General Motors plant here. Her work on the assembly line for the last decade provided the financial means to buy a home while raising her now-teenage daughter.

But now, at 40, Jonesco’s life has been upended. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, GM announced it was ending current production at the plant here and at four others in the United States and Canada, largely because of changing customer tastes, which now favor SUVs over compacts. GM idled the plant March 8. Meanwhile Jonesco and hundreds of co-workers have essentially been forced to move south to fill GM openings in Spring Hill, Tennessee — leaving behind their families and homes. For Jonesco, that meant saying good-bye to her daughter, Marisa, who stayed behind with her grandparents to finish high school.

The shutdown has ripple effects that are stretching as far as the White House, but the most profound impact is in the struggling Mahoning Valley in northeast Ohio. At a nearby GM supplier, Comprehensive Logistics, workers learned just days before Christmas that their jobs also would end. One longtime employee, George Conne, said he worried about paying for his teenage daughter’s college education. He already worked a second job as a basketball referee. “This isn’t your rich city that’s been blessed,” said the 50-year-old Conne, who put together 450 struts a day for the Chevrolet Cruze’s suspension system.

After losing her job at the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, Cheryl Jonesco had to leave her daughter, Marisa, with Jonesco’s parents to take a job at a GM plant in Tennessee. Marisa is painting a sign for a November rally to save jobs at the plant.Courtesy Cheryl Jonesco

This wasn’t supposed to happen, especially here. And especially now, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, one of the largest tax-cut laws ever. The legislation cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, handing businesses a $1.35 trillion windfall over 10 years. The law gave tens of billions of dollars more in breaks on business investments and foreign profits, too. The Trump administration sold the huge rate cuts, the driving force behind the tax law, as the way to bring back American jobs and keep companies from moving overseas.

This area has long been a backdrop for photo opportunities illustrating industrial heartland economic woes. It was less than two years ago that Trump showed up in nearby Youngstown and decried the jobs lost overseas. He famously urged a large crowd: “Don’t move. Don’t sell your house. … We’re going to get those jobs coming back.” Those were welcomed words at the rally, where manufacturing jobs had been disappearing for decades — and still are.

Click here to read the Center for Public Integrity’s version of this story.

But that’s not how it worked out for workers here in northeastern Ohio. In fact, the results, so far, have been the opposite of Trump’s promises. GM has shed roughly 3,000 hourly and salaried jobs in the area since the tax cuts.

“General Motors got this big tax break, and they are taking the jobs away here,” Jonesco lamented during an interview at a local hangout, Nese’s Country Café.

The pending closure has become a political fight, not just a corporate cost-cutting and repositioning move. This week, Trump, sensing the bad political optics of a tax law not bringing back jobs like he promised, went after GM leadership and its local union leader. He said he talked with GM Chief Executive Mary Barra. “I asked her to sell it or do something quickly,” tweeted Trump, who has made GM an ongoing target.

But Trump’s threats and promises about bringing back jobs to the area could be an empty one, as the tax law’s impact on the economy, as limited as it has been, may be coming to an end, economists say.

An American flag drapes the hood of the last Chevrolet Cruze as it comes off the assembly line at a General Motors plant where 1,700 hourly positions are being eliminated perhaps for good, on March 6, 2019, in Lordstown, Ohio.Tim O’Hara via AP file

“The sugar-rush is brief”

In the short run, the tax law coupled with federal spending acted as a stimulus, a “sugar rush,” economists say, that helped boost annual economic growth to 2.9 percent last year from 2.3 percent in 2017. After the release of the economic data, Trump was jubilant: “We have accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions.”

But multiple indicators show the economy is likely to slow this year, and in subsequent years, as the stimulus from the tax cuts fade, many economists say. This week, the Federal Reserve cut its projection for GDP growth this year to 2.1 percent. In its January report, the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan legislative agency, estimated 2019 GDP would grow by 2.3 percent, the same rate as the year before the tax cuts took effect. The Trump administration is sticking with a rosier economic outlook of 3.2 percent growth.

“For now, though, the slowdown in growth will serve as a reminder of the principle that big tax cuts can buy growth in the short-term, but that the sugar-rush is brief,” said Ian Shepherdson, of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

A key provision of the tax overhaul gave corporations a hefty break for investments in factories, equipment and intellectual property, which will save corporations more than $119 billion before it sunsets in 2026, according to a congressional estimate. In theory, business investments in factories and equipment should lead to more jobs, creating a tighter labor market. In turn, wages would increase for a sustained period of years to compensate for decades of stagnation.

Since the corporate tax cut, growth in business investment has bounced around quarter to quarter, from a robust high of 11.5 percent in the first quarter of 2018 to a weak low of 2.5 percent in the third quarter. Business investment, however, is expected to “slow markedly after 2018,” according to CBO.

The growth in business investment hasn’t impressed some economists. There is “no evidence suggesting the tax cut has provided sustained increase in business investment,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics.

Others have a slightly different take. While politicians may have oversold the tax cuts’ immediate impact, longtime industrial financial analyst Scott Davis said major manufacturing companies are weighing investments now that will kick in over the next three to four years. “Companies don’t make new factory decisions in six months period of time,” said Davis, co-founder of the independent research firm Melius Research.

Werner Lange greets Melissa Valinsky, who had just finished her last day after working at the GM Lordstown plant for 24 years, in Ohio on March 6, 2019.Jeff Swensen / Getty Images file

Davis credits the lower corporate tax rate with making U.S. companies’ more competitive globally and slowing the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas. Still, Davis cautioned that increased automation across manufacturing reduces the need for labor. “We’re not going to add nearly as many jobs as you would have historically,” he said.

February may have begun to indicate a slowdown. Manufacturing added only 4,000 jobs after a year in which manufacturing averaged 20,000 new jobs a month, the highest in nearly two decades. But manufacturing remains far below its peak in the 1970s when more than 19 million were employed in factories, driving America’s economy.

For Ohio, which had the country’s third-largest manufacturing workforce, growth in these blue-collar jobs has been conspicuously absent. The state is struggling with one of the worst unemployment rates in the country — 4.7 percent in January, ranking it seventh from the bottom for all 50 states. The situation is more dire in the Mahoning Valley surrounding GM’s Lordstown plant; December seasonally adjusted unemployment increased to 6 percent from the prior year. The rate is expected to climb even higher with the plant closure and layoffs at GM suppliers, The area will lose $3 billion in economic activity this year, according to a new study by Cleveland State University’s Center for Economic Development.

‘A kick to the gut’

On March 6, after 53 years of making GM vehicles, workers assembled what could be the last one: a white compact Cruze. (GM has left open the possibility that it could use the 6.2-million-square-foot plant to build another vehicle.) They draped an American flag over the front hood and took a few photos to commemorate the event.

The plant’s idling will end 1,628 jobs there, according to GM’s filings with Ohio, after two previous rounds of cuts. The first occurred two days after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 — when GM gave upbeat sales figures on the Chevrolet Cruze. A month later, in February 2017, Consumer Reports named the Cruze “compact car of the year.”

In June 2018, as Cruze sales started to fall, GM shed a second shift, affecting roughly 1,500 workers. Then another blow came: That same month, six months into Trump’s tax law, GM confirmed plans to build a new Chevy Blazer in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, where it also built a Cruze hatchback. A GM spokesman said GM bases production decisions, like the Blazer, on plants’ projected availability.

“It was a double kick to the gut,” said Tim O’Hara, who retired at age 59 during last summer’s layoffs after 41 years at the plant.

After losing her job at GM’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio, Cheryl Jonesco moved south for a job at the GM plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, leaving behind her hometown, family – and home. More than 18 months before she moved, President Trump told a crowd near Lordstown, “Don’t move, don’t sell your house. … We’re going to get those jobs coming back.”Kathryn Kranhold / Center for Public Integrity

GM appears undeterred by bipartisan political pressure from Trump and Ohio’s elected leaders who have criticized GM’s latest layoffs after the tax cuts. The corporation is enjoying a bevy of tax benefits, including $8.6 billion in U.S. tax credits partly carried over from losses prior to its 2009 bankruptcy, when it was bailed out by U.S. taxpayers during the financial crisis. It also has state tax credits, and under the first year of the new tax law GM reported an extra $104 million U.S. rebate in 2018. Since 2010, the first full year since coming out of bankruptcy, GM has reported $33 billion in income before taxes — including some years that they didn’t pay any taxes. GM booked $18.4 billion in net tax benefits, according to its annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

GM’s future plans fly in the face of Trump’s promises that the tax law will create more investment and bring jobs back to the United States. The company said it seeks to save $6 billion by 2020 through its November announced restructuring, which includes reducing investments by $1.5 billion and ongoing U.S. layoffs impacting as many as 7,950 salaried positions and 2,800 hourly workers. In the United States, GM increased its salaried payroll by 47 percent to 53,000 since 2013, while reducing its hourly employees to 50,000, according to company annual reports. GM has cut 5,000 U.S. hourly workers in the last two years but added 3,000 jobs in Mexico and Canada.

A company spokeswoman, in an email, said GM has invested $22 billion in U.S. manufacturing since coming out of bankruptcy. The November announcement is “a continuation of a [March 2015] strategy to transform our business to meet changing consumer preferences and lead the future of mobility,” the spokeswoman said. The reduction in business investment is a “return to a normal run rate” following increased investment over the last few years when GM “refreshed” crossovers and trucks, and developed new models for China and South America, the spokeswoman said.

Matt Gardner, a senior fellow with the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan, liberal think tank, said GM’s announcement confirmed economists’ arguments regarding the tax cuts.

“Corporations will always base their investment and job-creation decisions on market fundamentals and consumer demand, not on incremental tax giveaways,” Gardner wrote on his blog. “No amount of tax cuts could change this calculus for GM.”

Uncertain future

With uncertain futures, employees are leaving their homes for openings at other plants nationwide. So far, 417 of about 1,200 currently affected hourly Lordstown employees are moving for jobs elsewhere, according to GM spokesman Dan Flores. “We are legitimately trying to minimize the impact on our workers,” he said.

But the retired O’Hara, who’s a local union leader, said GM’s employee numbers do not account for the more than 3,000 positions previously eliminated at the plant in 2017 and 2018. O’Hara said many workers are not in a position to move for a job, and they can’t afford to retire.

The Lordstown plant is part of a bigger GM strategic puzzle that will play out in the coming months. A number of factors are at work, from UAW negotiations and potential automobile tariffs to politics and industry economics. The national UAW contract is up for negotiations in September, and one critical item that will be subject to negotiation is whether GM will retool one of the now “idling” plants to manufacture a new vehicle.

The impact of the GM closures is just starting to sting. (Every GM job creates 8.6 indirect supplier jobs, making everything from car seats to glass, according to a 2015 Center for Automotive Research report.) Since the Thanksgiving news, local Lordstown suppliers have started to file layoff notices; Comprehensive’s assembly line employees have begun applying for unemployment.

“It started out so well, so promising,” said former Comprehensive worker Conne. “We were the number one selling car.”

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.

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End of Mueller’s investigation doesn’t mean Trump’s in the clear, former prosecutors warn

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By Phil McCausland

Former federal prosecutors said the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month probe into Russian collusion on Friday does not spell the end of litigation against President Donald Trump and his associates.

As no details of Mueller’s final report have been released, the special counsel’s conclusions currently remain unknown. However, there will be no more indictments from Mueller’s office now that the investigation has concluded, NBC News reported.

But that doesn’t mean that people like the president, his son Donald Trump, Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner are not in the crosshairs of ongoing investigations at the state or federal level, the prosecutors said.

“One of the big-ticket questions was what really happened at the Trump Tower meeting, and you can’t have that unless you interview Don Jr. and Jared Kushner — but Mueller didn’t do that,” said NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, a longtime federal prosecutor who worked with Mueller at the Department of Justice. “And why didn’t he do that? It wasn’t an oversight. He’s the most thorough investigator I’ve ever met. That was a tactical measure.”

Kirschner said that Mueller likely did not subpoena those individuals, who met with a Kremlin-connected attorney during the 2016 election at Trump Tower, because they remain targets of ongoing investigations.

Download the NBC News mobile app for breaking news alerts and full coverage of the Mueller report.

The former prosecutor also emphasized that the special counsel was tasked with producing an investigative report — not prosecuting crimes, which would have taken many more years of work.

“I think this was phase one of what will likely be a multi-phase process,” Kirschner said. “The rest of the phases will be undertaken by the Department of Justice and all its components.”

Cases operated by other jurisdictions may also limit what is ultimately disclosed by Attorney General William Barr in the public and congressional release of the Mueller report.

Mimi Rocah, an NBC News legal analyst and former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, said that Mueller may have passed along portions of his probe to other arms of the Justice Department, which will limit what Barr can share.

Rocah warned that those who want a full disclosure should be prepared for disappointment.

“If there are ongoing investigations that he referred out, then there will be information that he has gathered that he doesn’t want to come out now,” Rocah said. “The same way we’ve seen in every court document that he’s filed.”

That is one of the reasons Barr is reportedly in deep consultation with Mueller about what can be released. Another reason is that — as Richard Serafini, a former Justice Department prosecutor who also worked with Mueller, put it — the federal agency is not in the business of indicting people in the court of public opinion.

“Certainly the Justice Department does not want to disclose information that would prejudice an ongoing investigation,” Serafini said.

The public has heard a bit about some of the state investigations that are looking into the Trump family and their businesses. Though the special counsel investigation’s is over, those continue.

“Now the question is how many other heads of the monster are out there,” Rocah said. “Are there new ones that will turn up now that Mueller has wrapped up?”

Serafini, Kirschner and Rocah agreed that the release of the Mueller report likely means that state probes along with inquiries led by numerous Justice Department arms — such as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — will be able to ramp up their efforts in earnest.

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Brexit timeline: The SEVEN events happening TODAY you NEED to know about

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THERESA MAY has faced a weekend of speculation and protests as she prepares for a week of Brexit debate and convincing MPs to back her deal for a third time. Here are the seven key events happening today for Brexit.

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