Trump’s trade policy, IG report leads to stock market jitters

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas — but what happens in Washington goes around the world in a blink of an eye.

US equity markets opened lower on Monday, following the lead of stocks around the world as turmoil in DC — from President Trump’s trade policy to the Justice Department’s Inspector General report on how the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe — create uncertainty.

And stock markets don’t like uncertainty.

The Dow Jones industrial average opened Monday down more than 235 points, or about 1 percent — after Germany’s DAX was down 1.4 percent and France’s CAC declined 1.2 percent.

The Justice Dept.’s IG report, released on Friday, could make things worse. The report showed some high up people in the FBI really, really didn’t want Trump to be president.

That was a big black eye for the FBI, which isn’t supposed to dabble in partisan politics especially when it is investigating something as important as improper use of emails by Hillary right before the election.

And on the same day as the IG report came out, the new Attorney General for New York State charged a charitable foundation run by the Trump family with wrongdoing.

It can’t be a coincidence.

Again, more turmoil equals more uncertainty and a greater likelihood of market jitters.

So just like what is happening in Trump’s trade war, one action (the IG report) begets a counter action (the attack on Trump’s charitable foundation.) Tit-for-tat. Trading punches, in this case.

Both sides could easily go to the mats in an all out war that could cause a Constitutional crisis in this country.

Wall Street will be happy — for now — if Trump’s administration isn’t jeopardized. But if the Democrats or Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian collusion (or something like that) in the last presidential election, come up with something substantial Wall Street is going to get very worried very quickly.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is holding hearings on Monday at which Michael Horowtiz, the Justice Department IG who produced last Thursday’s report, will be questioned.

That report had been due weeks ago and Grassley had to postpone several hearings. That raised suspicions that the findings of the report were doctored.

In fact, three Republican House members — Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Ron DeSantis (Fla.) — have already sent a letter to Horowitz asking for see earlier copies of the report. Biggs’ office said the letter was written before the IG report came out.

“We are concerned that during (a review period), people may have changed the report in a way that obfuscates your findings,” the letter from the trio of lawmakers said.

More than just my gut tells me that Grassley should also ask for a copy of the earlier drafts.

Here’s another thing that everyone is missing.

What typically happens in cases like this is that any accusations of improper activity by someone inside Justice will be referred to something called the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for further review.

It’s almost automatic and everyone at Justice knows the routine. And certainly the stuff in Horowitz’s report raises questions of wrongdoing and should prompt an OPR look.

“OPR has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of professional misconduct against Department attorneys that relate to the exercise of their authority to investigate, litigate or provide legal advice, including allegations of professional misconduct against Department immigration judges,” says Justice’s web site.

“OPR may find the subject attorney committed professional misconduct by: (1) intentionally violating a clear and unambiguous obligation or standard imposed by law, applicable rule of professional conduct, or Department regulation or policy; or (2) recklessly disregarding his or her obligation to comply with that obligation or standard,” it also says.

The OPR can find that an attorney exercised poor judgment or simply made a mistake. “A poor judgment finding may lead to disciplinary action; a mistake finding does not,” says the Justice site.
I don’t know what happens if OPR finds criminal behavior like obstruction of justice. A Justice spokesman wasn’t immediately available for comment.

But I think this is obvious: OPR will be pretty busy going through IG Horowitz’s report, especially the disturbing internal emails at the end of the nearly 600-page document.

Sen. Grassley might also want to ask Horowitz about any action now being undertaken by the OPR.

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