Gunman Wounds Several at Alexandria, Virginia, Baseball Park

A police officer mans a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia

A gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress practicing for a charity baseball game this morning at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, police, and witnesses said.

At least five people were injured, including House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise. The city’s police chief Michael Brown told reporters the wounded were transported to local hospitals, including the suspect.

In a dramatic blow-by-blow account, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama told CNN the gunman was armed with a rifle and appeared to be a white male.

Brooks said he saw the man only for a second, and that he was shooting from a chain link fence behind the third base position on the field where the congressional group was holding an early morning practice ahead of a game against Democrats this week.

“There must have been 50 to 100 shots fired,” he told CNN. “I hear Steve Scalise over near second base scream. He was shot,” said Brooks, adding he helped apply a tourniquet with his belt to a congressional staffer who was shot in the leg.

“One of our security detail was shooting back, but it was our pistol versus the shooter’s rifle,” Brooks said. “The only weapon I had was a baseball bat.”

Republican Senator Jeff Flake told local ABC-TV Scalise was shot in the left hip. Flake said the gunman was shot.

US President Donald Trump said in a Twitter message that Scalise, “a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”

Scalise’s position as whip in the Republican-controlled House makes him one of the most senior figures in Congress. He is a representative from Louisiana.

The shooting took place in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, about 7 miles away from the White House in Washington, D.C., where a number of members of Congress were practicing for the annual charity congressional baseball game that was scheduled to be played on Thursday. Only Republican members of Congress were at this practice; Democrats practiced separately earlier in the morning.

“It’s pretty well known in the neighborhood who those folks are on the baseball field,” Brooks said. “It’s not a secret we are practicing … He was going after elected officials.”

Reba Winstead lives across the street from the parking lot of the park where the shooting occurred.

“I was on my front porch and that is when I heard the first round of shots. There was about a dozen shots. There was a pause. Then there was more shooting. I called 911.”

Trump, a Republican, said in a statement that he and Vice President Mike Pence were monitoring developments closely.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected,” he said.

Steve Scalise is the third-highest ranked member of the Republican leadership in the House and has the difficult job of trying to keep order in the fractious party ranks and rounding up votes for bills.

US Intel Community Backs Bill Allowing Collection of Overseas Data

The White House and US intelligence community on Wednesday said they backed making permanent a law that allows for the collection of digital communications of foreigners overseas and that pass through US phone or internet providers, escalating a fight in Congress over privacy and security.

“We cannot allow adversaries abroad to cloak themselves in the legal protections we extend to Americans,” White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert wrote in an op-ed published in the New York Times on Wednesday.

Fourteen Republican senators, including every Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are backing a bill introduced on Tuesday that would make part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as Section 702 permanent.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, speaking on behalf of other intelligence leaders, told the panel on Wednesday the statute should be made permanent, saying it was necessary to keep the United States and its allies safe from national security threats.

A bloc of conservative senators support that move, setting the stage for what is likely to be a contentious debate with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives who want transparency and oversight reforms to Section 702 and a limit on searches of US communications.

The statute, which allows the National Security Agency a wide berth in the collection of foreigners’ digital communications, normally comes with a “sunset” clause roughly every five years to allow lawmakers to reconsider its impact on privacy and civil liberties.

Privacy advocates panned the push to make Section 702 permanent, arguing that regular reviews of the law were necessary to conduct appropriate oversight and prevent potential abuses.

“After months of criticizing the government for allegedly spying on his presidential campaign, President Trump is now hypocritically endorsing a bill that would make permanent the NSA authority that is used to spy on Americans without a warrant,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Reuters reported in March that the Trump administration supported renewal of Section 702 without any changes, citing an unnamed White House official, but it was not clear at the time whether it wanted the law made permanent.

Republicans Are Now the ‘America First’ Party

Flag scarf and button on a Donald Trump supporter at a campaign event.

For most of my career, the Republican Party was pretty easy to define. It stood for small government, an internationalist foreign policy, free trade, and moral and religious conservatism. Ronald Reagan was the party’s North Star. Of course, there have always been Republicans who veered from that line — but everyone understood what the party meant.

Of all the people still trying to process Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, perhaps none are more confused than my generation of conservatives, who came of age under Mr. Reagan and drank deeply of that old orthodoxy. We are, by now, the establishment — the senators, governors, think-tank presidents and columnists who, until Mr. Trump came along, got to define what “Republican” and “conservative” meant. My cohort simply cannot accept that Mr. Trump has taken away that coveted role and revolutionized not just our party, but also the very terms of the American political divide.

But we need to. Because as Mr. Trump recognized, the new schism in American life is not about big versus small government, or more or less regulation. It is about immigration, free trade and the broad and deep impacts of globalization on America’s economy and culture. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he told the Republican National Convention.

It is obvious to all but the most blinkered Republicans that with or without Mr. Trump, the Reagan era is over. The conservative-donor and think-tank consensus has been exploded. The next smart, ambitious young Republican politician with national aspirations will not adopt Ted Cruz’s strategy of trying to revive the rotting flesh of Reaganism. He will read out of Mr. Trump’s playbook, attacking globalism rather than big government. And he’ll win, because he’ll be talking about what worries voters.

When William F. Buckley founded National Review in 1955, he argued that individual freedom needed to be protected from liberalism’s drift toward collectivism. Mr. Reagan’s vigorous anti-Communism put this into practice, as did his support of deregulation and tax cuts to promote economic freedom. My generation of conservatives inherited this framework.

Over time, however, that iteration of Republican conservatism became less salient, in large part because it won. In 1989 we saw the fall of the Berlin Wall. Soon after, Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over. Barack Obama bailed out Wall Street, promoted the further extension of free trade and was a cheerleader for Silicon Valley billionaires. By 2016, only a thoroughly catechized conservative believed Democrats were strangling economic freedom. Democrats have also assumed a large piece of the libertarian mantle, especially when it comes to sexuality and drugs.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party stood still. True, the positions Mr. Buckley outlined over the years were supple enough, but their advocates were not: Their unthinking and increasingly ritualized loyalty to that phase of conservatism led the Republican establishment into political irrelevance, as Mr. Trump’s takeover of the party so brutally revealed. Given a clear, brash alternative, the Republican base tossed aside the orthodoxies of Reaganism.

Most commentators struggle to explain Mr. Trump’s electoral success, because they assume he has no coherent political philosophy. This is myopic. As a public figure, Mr. Trump has articulated a consistent message that speaks to a fundamental political challenge facing the 21st-century West: We must affirm nationalism and fight globalism.

This basic political message is dramatized by his populist rhetoric. At his campaign rallies he did not get cheers for denouncing government waste or championing tax cuts. His applause lines spoke of building a wall, deporting illegal immigrants, renegotiating trade deals and bringing back jobs. The America First, antiglobalist themes won him the election, not freedom-oriented, anti-government ones.

I’m not surprised. Both parties — but not the average American voter — have been moving in a globalist direction for years. In his 2013 Inaugural Address, President Obama championed the qualities of innovation and mobility that will allow our nation to thrive in “this world without boundaries.” He was not proposing to eliminate passports, but he was expressing a sentiment that regards borders, limits and boundaries as necessary but regrettable, while openness and diversity are inherent goods.

This way of thinking is everywhere, which makes it seem like common sense, rather than a political choice. Woodrow Wilson formulated Princeton’s informal motto: “Princeton in the nation’s service.” In 1996 it was extended to include “and in the service of all nations,” and then recently revised to read “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” Undoubtedly, administrators thought they were adapting to new global realities, rather than taking a controversial stance.

The same goes for Stanford’s president, John Hennessy, who raised $750 million to fund a new program to gather “the world’s brightest minds” who can work “toward solving global challenges.” Isn’t this an admirable, sensible and responsible adaptation to the direction things are going?

In contrast, Mr. Trump does not presume that the world must become flat. His Inaugural Address contrasted sharply with Mr. Obama’s 2013 speech. He spoke of renewing borders and solidarity, and called for national reconsolidation. This does not mean putting a stop to global trade or shutting down immigration, any more than Mr. Obama meant to bargain away American sovereignty or “destroy America,” as some conservative pundits insisted during his administration. But these two speeches, only four years apart, reflect a stark difference in emphasis. What Mr. Obama presented as a happy evolution Mr. Trump frames as something to be resisted. As he said in his recent address to the joint session of Congress: “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

Mr. Trump’s shocking success at the polls has done our country a service. Scholars may tut-tut about the historical connotations of “America First,” but the basic sentiment needs to be endorsed. Our country has dissolved to a far greater degree than those cloistered on the coasts allow themselves to realize. The once vast and unifying middle class has eroded over the last generation. Today we are increasingly divided into winners and losers. This division involves more than divergent economic prospects and income inequality. Globalism is an ideology of winners who stand astride our society as it is being remade by dramatic economic, demographic and cultural changes.

Mitt Romney wrote off nearly half the American population as “takers.” Hillary Clinton made her notorious remarks about “deplorables.” These sentiments, widely shared by elites on the right and left, have become toxic. Caterpillar recently announced it is moving its corporate headquarters from Peoria, Ill., to Chicago. The unspoken reason? “C-suite level” talent bridles at relocating to flyover country. In today’s America, the rich, well-educated and globalized people on top, whether Republicans or Democrats, do not want to live among those who populate our country. The leaders increasingly hold them in disdain.

After World War II, Mr. Buckley adopted an exaggerated approach to postwar American liberalism (which was hardly inclined toward socialism) because he thought the stakes were high. We face different dangers. In 2017, a growing economic divide and continuing cultural fragmentation, and even animosity, are grave threats that now define our politics. The Cold War is now domestic. Easy talk about the world becoming flat or global trade lifting all boats disguises, explains away and exacerbates the damage being done to the body politic. Mr. Trump’s stark juxtaposition of globalism and Americanism is crude and hyperbolic, but necessarily so.

The generation of conservatives tutored by Mr. Buckley’s polemics against collectivism developed a healthy skepticism of big government. But they did not dismantle the modern welfare state; instead, they sought to limit its excesses and reduce long-term dependency. In the same spirit, rejecting globalism need not entail renouncing America’s role as leader of the international order or attacking global trade.

Rather, we need to become much more skeptical of post-national ways of thinking. For too long a globalist utopianism — Mr. Obama’s happy, peaceful and inclusive world without boundaries — has tempted us to neglect one of the fundamental tasks of political leadership, which is to promote the kind of national solidarity that binds a country’s leaders to its people.

Globalism poses a threat to the future of democracy because it disenfranchises the vast majority and empowers a technocratic elite. It’s a telling paradox that the most ardent supporters of a “borderless world” live in gated communities and channel their children toward a narrow set of elite educational institutions with stiff admissions standards that do the work of “border control.” The airport executive lounges are not open and inclusive.

John Q. Public is not stupid. He senses that he no longer counts. And he resents the condescension of globalist elites, which is why Mr. Trump’s regular transgressions against elite-enforced political correctness evoke glee from his supporters.

After Auschwitz, nationalism inevitably frightens many. I prefer to speak of patriotic solidarity, or a renewed national covenant. Whatever we call the antithesis to utopian globalism, it need not mean wholesale endorsement of Mr. Trump’s harshest rhetoric, which is often narrow and inarticulate. There’s a great deal more to our country than he allows, including traditions of secular and religious universalism that make the idealistic internationalism Mr. Obama sometimes articulated paradoxically very American. Nevertheless, we’ve tilted too strongly in the globalist direction. In our divided country, conservatism — and liberalism as well — needs to lean in the direction of nationalism.

For many in the conservative camp, this seems unnecessary, even irresponsible. They think Mr. Trump has betrayed the movement Mr. Buckley shaped. We need to remember, however, that the Cold War gave drama and relevance to Mr. Buckley’s way of framing our fundamental political commitments. But the Soviet Union collapsed a generation ago. Our commitments must be made against a different horizon.

(The New York Times)

Republicans Take Historic Step for Trump Supreme Court Pick

Washington- United States Republicans swatted away decades of tradition Thursday by changing Senate rules to ensure Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, bypassing the first-ever successful opposition block on a high-court nominee.

President Donald Trump’s pick, embraced by conservatives but opposed by most Democrats, failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to end debate on his nomination and move to a simple majority confirmation vote in the 100-seat Senate.

In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to change the rules to ensure that a simple majority suffices to advance Gorsuch — and all subsequent Supreme Court nominees — from the debate to a confirmation vote.

The rule change — known as the “nuclear option” — was approved along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate, landing like a political earthquake in a chamber already straining to adhere to its traditions of consensus and bipartisanship.

“Our Democrat colleagues have done something today that is unprecedented in the history of the Senate,” McConnell said in seeking to justify his potentially far-reaching step.

“Unfortunately, it has brought us to this point. We need to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate and get past this unprecedented partisan filibuster.”

From this point on, any effort in the Senate to hold up a presidential nominee can be overcome with a simple majority.

That is what happened minutes after the rule change, with the Senate voting again to advance Gorsuch’s nomination — this time successfully, by a vote of 55 to 45.

A final confirmation vote on Gorsuch is now set for Friday.

The tit-for-tat maneuvers — filibuster followed by nuclear option — are almost certain to change the tone and temper of the Senate, and lead to more fringe high-court justices being approved on either political side.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer pointed the finger at Republicans, but said he took “no solace” in blaming his political rivals because the consequences of the change will be so dramatic.

“The nuclear option means the end of a long history of consensus on Supreme Court nominations,” he said ahead of the vote, describing the Senate’s ability to use the 60-vote threshold as “the guardrail of our democracy.”

“The answer is not to undo the guardrails, the rules. It’s to steer back to the middle, and get a more mainstream candidate.”

Stop Blaming. Start Governing.

Who’s to blame for the failure of the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare? Who cares? What matters now is that Democrats stop gloating, Republicans stop sulking, and each party come to the table to improve a health-care system that both parties agree needs work.

After the bill collapsed on Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump accused the Democrats of obstruction, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer accused the president of incompetence, Speaker Paul Ryan said health care was done, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi bragged that it was a great day. No one had the courage to pick up the pieces and point the way forward.

The Affordable Care Act has provided health-care coverage to millions more Americans, but there are still some 30 million with no insurance. Premiums are too high. The individual mandate isn’t encouraging enough people to buy into the system. Some of its regulations and taxes make little sense. Insurance markets are too thin, providing consumers too little choice. Health-care savings accounts do too little to encourage savings.

Republicans have viable ideas to address these issues, including high-risk insurance pools and capping the tax exclusion that companies get for providing employees with health insurance. It’s regrettable that none of these ideas were seriously considered in the rush to repeal Obamacare.

Equally regrettable is that Republicans appear to be giving up and moving on to other issues. If they can’t get everything they want, they seem to have concluded, they’ll take nothing. It’s a bad strategy. As Senator John McCain said Saturday, Republicans need Democrats to reform health care. The art of governing is compromise – and not just within the majority party. The sooner Ryan accepts the fact that Democrats can be a cudgel to use against the Freedom Caucus, the more successful he and Congress will be.

Ronald Reagan was known to say that he would happily take 70 or 80 percent of what he wanted and come back for the rest later. Yet instead of living by Reagan’s rule, Republicans are hung up on the Hastert Rule, named for Dennis Hastert, the former (and now disgraced) House speaker: Generally speaking, only bills that can get through without Democratic votes are brought to the floor. This led the party to produce a deeply flawed health-care bill that, ultimately, did not win strong support from the Republicans’ moderate or Tea Party wings.

At the same time, Democrats steadfastly refused to reach across the aisle to produce a bipartisan alternative. Gloating only makes that more difficult.

On Friday, Schumer said that Democrats are ready to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act on one condition: that Republicans take repeal off the table. This is not an auspicious step. Democrats ought to allow Republicans to call a new bill whatever they want. The details are what matters, not the label.

Bloomberg

US Republicans, Democrats: Russia Sanctions Must Stay

United States Republican and Democrat Senate top Banking Committee said on Wednesday that sanctions imposed on Russia over involvement in Ukraine must not be lifted.

Senator Mike Crapo, the panel’s Republican chairman, said reducing sanctions could encourage Moscow to continue aggressive actions. The Senate said that Russia must lead drastic change in order to mitigate of lift the sanctions.

“Russia remains a hostile, recalcitrant power, deploying its military, cyber-enabled information espionage activities and economic tactics to harm the United States and drive a wedge between it and its allies,” Crapo said. US President Trump has said he intends, at least for now, to maintain US sanctions.

President Trump’s fellow Republicans and Democrats in congress have both expressed concern that Trump might reduce sanctions on Russia imposed under his predecessor, Democratic former President Barack Obama, because of Trump’s expressed desire to improve relations with Moscow.

Senator Sherrod Brown, the ranking Democrat, said the panel should look at increasing sanctions.

“We should strengthen, not weaken, Russian sanctions, and the president must work with Congress on a Russia policy that is clear-eyed about our adversaries and their behavior,” Brown said in his opening statement at the hearing.

Brown also said a surge in violence in Ukraine since Trump was elected president in November is a test by Moscow of the US resolve to support the Kiev government and the Ukrainian people.

Trump: I Have Done in a Month in Office More than What My Ancestors Have Done in 100 Days

President Trump smiles while speaking to a meeting of the National Governors Association, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, at the White House in Washington.

Washington – US President Donald Trump said that during his first month at the White House, he managed to achieve more than what the previous presidents had done in 100 days.

Trump spoke during an interview with Fox News Channel, during which he blamed former President Barack Obama for the protests against him and the leaks. The president had the interview hours before heading to his first speech at the Capitol Hill.

Trump expressed his belief that President Obama was behind the protests because his people were certainly behind it.

“Some of the leaks possibly come from that group, which are really serious because they are very bad in terms of national security. But I also understand that is politics. In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue,” he added.

Earlier, transcripts of Trump’s phone calls with both presidents of Mexico and Australia were leaked. Trump blamed “Obama people” for the embarrassing leaks of private phone calls.

“It’s a disgrace that they leaked because it’s very much against our country,” Trump told Fox News.

In response, he vowed to replace the White House and National Security Council staff holdovers from the Obama administration with his own people.

“A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have,” Trump said, adding that: “Many of those jobs I don’t want to fill. I say, isn’t that a good thing? That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. We’re running a very good, efficient government.”

When asked if he’d decrease his tweets, Trump said that Twitter allows him to go around dishonest media.

“Most of the people that want me to stop it are the enemies, I’ll be honest with you. If I felt the media were honest, all of it, or most of it, I wouldn’t do it. But it is a modern day form of communication,” he insisted.

Trump concluded the interview by saying that despite ending his first month in office with the lowest approval rating of any president in the US history, a recent poll showed “the level of enthusiasm for me is as strong as they’ve ever seen,” adding that he had managed to achieve in the first 4 weeks more than any previous president had done in 100 days.

Later, Trump gave his first speech before the Congress where he was expected to draw the highlights of the political and legislative guidelines.

Analysts believe that Trump’s announcement of a $54 billion increase in defense spending won’t be welcomed by Democrats or even Republicans.

They believe that this will also create huge clashes on fundamental policy ideas with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan has made a career out of pressing difficult truths on federal spending. For years, he has maintained that to tame the budget deficit without tax increases and prevent draconian cuts to federal programs, Congress must be willing to change, and cut the programs that spend the most money — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Social Security, health care and net interest now comprise nearly 60 percent of all federal spending, and that figure is expected to soar to 82 percent over the next 10 years.

Analysts believe that this is not simply a fight for an ideological core but rather a question of what can pass Congress.

According to the analysts, a budget with no entitlement cuts and one that does not balance most likely has no chance of passing the House, and could be rejected by Senate Republicans, as well.

If Congress fails to pass a budget blueprint for the fiscal year that begins in October, Trump’s promise to drastically rewrite the tax code could also die because the president was counting on that budget resolution to include special parliamentary language that would shield his tax cuts from a Democratic filibuster.

Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and federal budget expert believes that President Trump has talked about deeper domestic spending cuts than even House and Senate Republicans have talked about.

“I think to a certain degree congressional Republicans understand they are going to have to drive the train on balancing the budget,” Riedl said.

Yet, Riedl thinks that the question is how far Republicans can go with Trump in the White House because they don’t expect him to barnstorm the country talking about how to rein in federal spending.

Senate to Back Trump’s EPA Pick, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

The United States Senate is expected to approve President Donald Trump’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday over the objections of Democrats and green groups worried he will gut the agency, as the administration readies executive orders to ease regulation on drillers and miners.

Trump’s nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is likely to pass the vote, with the support of nearly all the Republicans in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Pruitt’s nomination has been controversial in progressive circles. He sued the agency he intends to lead more than a dozen times while top prosecutor of his oil and gas producing state, and has expressed doubts about the science behind climate change.

But many Republican lawmakers view him as a welcome change at the EPA, an agency they say declared war on the coal industry during Barack Obama’s presidency with rules against carbon emissions.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin said on Thursday he was concerned Pruitt’s opposition to Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from coal and natural gas burning plants would hurt the environment and U.S. leadership in international efforts to curb climate change.

Other opponents of Pruitt’s nomination have expressed concerns about his ties to the energy industry. An Oklahoma court this week ruled Pruitt will have to turn over 3,000 emails between his office and energy companies by Tuesday after a watchdog group, the Center for Media and Democracy, sued for their release.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell had moved to “strap blinders” on his fellow Republicans by not waiting for the release of Pruitt’s emails.

Pruitt needs 51 votes in the 100-member chamber to be approved. Nearly all 52 Republicans, except Senator Susan Collins, who announced her opposition on Wednesday, are expected to vote for him.

Two Democrats from energy-producing states, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, are expected to vote for Pruitt.

Trump likely will issue executive orders to reshape the EPA if his pick is approved, sources said.

Trump has promised to slash environmental rules as a way to bolster drilling and coal mining but has vowed to do so without compromising air and water quality.

Trump Avoids Making a Trade Promise He Can’t Keep

Trump

Donald Trump’s first week as president has been a bad one for free trade. He suggested a new 20 percent tariff for imports from Mexico. He formally withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and said he would start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Then there’s the shoe that didn’t drop: He met with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, and they emerged together to announce … well, not much.

There’s an appetite on both sides for new negotiations for a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement, given last year’s referendum in the U.K. to exit the European Union. Earlier this month, Trump told the Times of London that he would work hard to get such a deal done “quickly and properly.” May has promised her own citizens that a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement would be the key to British prosperity after Brexit.

And yet at a joint appearance at the White House on Friday, capping the first visit of a foreign leader to Trump’s White House, both Trump and May studiously avoided saying they would begin these negotiations. The closest either leader came to talking about the bilateral agreement was when May said the two discussed “laying the groundwork” for such a deal.

Why so cagey? Because the U.K. is not yet free to begin negotiations. Under Article 50 of the EU treaty, the U.K. is not allowed to even start trade negotiations with another country until it has formally left the union. Even though the Brexit vote happened more than six months ago, the U.K. has yet to formally announce its intention to withdraw from the union.

“The precise moment when the United Kingdom will be free to negotiate a separate trade deal will only be known when the Article 50 negotiations are concluded,” the EU ambassador to Washington, David O’Sullivan, told me in an interview Thursday. Article 50 foresees a period of two years to negotiate the exit of any union member.

But even that two-year period is optimistic. O’Sullivan said this could take even longer if the U.K. negotiated a plan to remain in the customs union for the E.U. or sought to keep certain agreements in place for a longer period of transition.

Add to this the potential for delays after the U.K. has left the bloc. Because the U.K.’s current status inside the World Trade Organization is based on its membership in the EU, it will have to renegotiate its schedule of tariffs with that organization. Dan Ikenson, the director of the CATO Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies, told me that the EU, like any other member of the organization, would have a veto on any new agreement for the U.K.’s membership. So May is wise to not get ahead of what the EU allows; if the union feels slighted by the U.K. now, there could be ramifications on all of its trade relationships for years to come. “The U.K. needs to be mindful of what the EU might do out of spite,” Ikenson said.

Finally, trade deals almost always take longer to finish than the parties initially had hoped. Both Ikenson and O’Sullivan said a simple agreement between the U.S. and the U.K. on tariffs would take less time to negotiate. But if the trade agreement covers things like financial services, e-commerce and elaborate supply chains, it will take longer. “For most trade agreements you are not dealing with border barriers anymore,” Ikenson said. “You are dealing with domestic regulations. You are talking about reforming domestic laws and regulations, and that process takes a long time.”

For now, May has been walking a fine line. On Thursday in her address to Republican lawmakers in Philadelphia, she said she looked forward to moving forward with a U.S.-U.K. trade deal in time. But she also hinted obliquely at British obligations while it remains part of the EU. “For as long as we remain members we will continue to play our full part,” she said. “Just as we will continue to cooperate on security, foreign policy and trade once we have left.” May’s deputy, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, has sent a similar message. He tweeted Thursday that the U.K. will remain an “engaged E.U. member until we leave.”

Trump seems to have received the message. On Friday he spoke in generalities about the importance of ties between America and its former colonial master. But he didn’t say he would start negotiations for a new trade agreement with the U.K. He didn’t announce a deal. That showed restraint and savvy. Unlike his pledges to make Mexico pay for a border wall or to end terrorism, when it comes to the “special relationship,” Trump so far is not making promises he will have a hard time keeping.

Bloomberg View

Senator McCain Advises Trump Administration against Lifting Sanctions on Russia

United States Senator John McCain made clear comments on rising speculation that President Donald Trump is considering lifting sanctions on Russia, said he hoped the administration would reject that “reckless course.”

“If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law,” McCain, one of the Republican party’s senior foreign policy voices, said in a statement.

As for the recently announced Trump administration’s investigation into what the president has claimed is widespread voting fraud will likely include a “full evaluation of voting rules,” Vice President Mike Pence told fellow Republicans this week, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

In video obtained by the Post, Pence told congressional Republicans in a private meeting that he expects “that the administration is going to initiate a full evaluation of voting rules in the country, the overall integrity of our voting system in the wake of this past election.”

On foreign affairs, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto spoke with Donald Trump by telephone on Friday, a day after cancelling a summit over the U.S. president’s demands Mexico pay for a border wall.

An official at the Mexican president’s office confirmed the call and said a statement would be issued later with more details.