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March 7, 2018

The United States imports a mind-blowing amount of steel. Last year, the country brought in over 27 million metric tons, an increase of 219 percent since 2009. So it may surprise people to learn that American steel workers are astoundingly productive. As economist Jared Bernstein points out, U.S. steel output per hour worked has increased five-fold since the early 1980s. What's more, American manufacturing labor costs are not that much higher than global norms.

So why is there so much steel importing? The answer, as Bernstein argues, is almost certainly that China has long been dumping its steel, and thus driving the global price down. "By dumping, below cost, so much excess capacity on the global market, China neutralizes the [American] productivity gains," he writes.

Could President Trump's looming tariffs make American steel great again? Probably not. They are likely too "scattershot," as Bernstein writes, to make much of a dent in Chinese production. There's a good argument, in fact, that they're more likely to spark a trade war with Canada and the EU than convince China of anything. Ryan Cooper

3:22p.m.

Michael Cohen's 2017 pledge that he would "take a bullet" for President Trump continues to age poorly.

The president's former lawyer on Friday made his first on-camera remarks since pleading guilty to campaign finance violations and saying he broke these laws at Trump's direction. His message? Vote against Republicans, and his former boss, in the midterm elections. Cohen told CNN that Americans should get to the polls this November, because "if not, you are going to have another two or another six years of this craziness."

Cohen changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat last week, just a few months after he left his post as the deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee. At the time, Cohen's lawyer said this was another example of him "distancing himself from the values" of the White House, and from the man who retained his legal services for 12 years. On Friday, Cohen said that he has really always been a Democrat at heart, and only briefly changed his party registration to Republican so he could work for the RNC.

CNN also reports that Cohen is prepared to stump for Democrats this November and in 2020 — although, considering Cohen will be sentenced on eight criminal charges this December, it seems unlikely anyone will take him up on that offer. Watch Cohen's comments below. Brendan Morrow

2:07p.m.

Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) is under fire for comments made during his radio show days — again.

This time, CNN uncovered audio from 2011 that includes Lewis mocking women who at the time were accusing Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment. Lewis questioned whether the alleged harassment was really so "traumatizing," asking, "is that really something that's going to be seared in your memory that you'll need therapy for?" Two women had accused Cain of unwanted advances and suggestive remarks when he was the CEO of the National Restaurant Association. Cain denied the allegations but soon dropped out of the race.

On his show, Lewis suggested the allegations against Cain weren't such a big deal because plenty of women experience something similar in their lives. He then began mockingly imitating one of the accuser's voices and pretended to become emotional. "Come on! She wasn't raped," he said of one of the accusers. During other segments resurfaced by CNN, Lewis argued that current sexual harassment law is unconstitutional and "ridiculous" because it "distorts our free speech rights."

This is not the first time Lewis has faced criticism over comments from his old radio show, which ran from 2009 until 2014. In a clip flagged by CNN in July, he bemoaned the fact that he couldn't call young women "sluts." A representative for Lewis at the time said "it was his job to be provocative while on the radio." More recently, a law firm representing the radio network demanded that CNN "cease and desist" its use of the audio soon after CNN contacted the lawmakers' campaign for comment.

The Minnesota congressman is running for re-election this November against Democratic challenger Angie Craig in a race that the Cook Political Report classifies as a "lean Democratic." Brendan Morrow

12:00p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to do things his way, and he's not going to let a little thing like legal advice get in the way.

Justice Department officials are frustrated with Sessions' effort to push a hardline immigration agenda and policies regarding LGBT rights, The New York Times reported Friday. Sessions quickly took a deeply conservative approach to transforming the DOJ, officials told the Times, and often disregarded advice from staffers who opposed the rapid shift.

The attorney general reportedly sought legal advice from career attorney Stephen Buckingham, asking him to find a way to eliminate sanctuary city laws that protect undocumented immigrants. Buckingham told him there was no legal ground for such a crackdown, but Sessions reminded him that he wanted ultra-strict immigration laws, and asked him to reach a different conclusion, reports the Times. Buckingham resigned soon after the exchange.

Sessions also declined to consult with career experts and lawyers before eliminating protections for transgender people, and his insistence on finding ways to dismantle the Affordable Care Act despite legal guidance sparked significant internal tension.

His circumventing of legal advice is allowed, the Times notes, but a former DOJ official said that, while legal, "it would be inappropriate to ask people to tailor legal judgments to policy preferences." Several of Sessions' policy changes have been challenged or blocked in court. The determination to transform the department despite dissent has caused morale to sink, officials say. The "underlying message" from President Trump and Sessions, said Norman Eisen, a former special counsel for government ethics, "is that department employees are either enemies of the White House or vassals doing its bidding." Summer Meza

10:46a.m.

Another 93 women have come forward to accuse a former University of Southern California gynecologist of sexual misconduct, HuffPost reported Friday. The women, who are suing the school for its handling of the alleged abuse, join nearly 400 more who have previously reported wrongdoing by Dr. George Tyndall.

Many of the nearly 500 women who were allegedly mistreated say USC ignored their complaints against Tyndall.

Allegations against Tyndall first became public earlier this year, when the Los Angeles Times reported that he had been accused of misconduct, including making inappropriate remarks, groping, and taking pictures of patients' genitals. Students reportedly filed complaints against Tyndall as early as 1988, but he was not suspended until 2016.

A 2017 sexual harassment allegation led to an internal USC investigation that found evidence to support the claim. He resigned, and reportedly received a payout. Tyndall has denied the allegations.

Prior to the announcement of this new set of lawsuits, 50 of the accusers were already suing USC, reports CNN. In a press conference on Friday, attorney John Manly called for the state attorney general to get involved, saying that the university "miserably failed these women." Brendan Morrow

10:02a.m.

Six months after his horror debut A Quiet Place tore up the box office, John Krasinski is ready for round two.

Krasinski confirmed this week that he will write the sequel to A Quiet Place after directing, co-writing, and starring in the first movie, which follows a family who must remain silent in order to survive in a world overtaken by monsters with sensitive hearing. He said at a Wednesday event that he originally planned to not be involved in the second movie at all, and although he did come up with a "small idea," he told Paramount Pictures to go ahead and find new writers for it.

But as Paramount began to hear pitches, he thought about that "small idea" more and more. "And then I thought, 'this might really work,'" Krasinski said, per The Hollywood Reporter. So now, he's in the midst of writing the film, although he may or may not he return as its director. From the sounds of it, Krasinski is writing the movie alone, whereas the original was rewritten from a script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck.

Krasinski has admitted that he never thought of a second movie while making the original Quiet Place. But after it became a total box office juggernaut, a sequel was announced almost immediately, scheduled for release in May 2020. While there's no word yet on what Krasinski's idea might be, he previously teased that a follow-up could revolve around a completely different set of characters, telling Deadline, "I think it would be interesting to see what’s going on elsewhere at this same time." Brendan Morrow

9:02a.m.

Ready to go through the 2016 election all over again?

Philippe Reines, who worked for Hillary Clinton going back to 2002 and was her senior adviser at the State Department, made the argument to Politico Friday that the former Democratic nominee might actually be the party's best hope for defeating Trump in 2020. He said no other Democrat has "anywhere near a base of 32 million people," especially not Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The party, he feels, shouldn't dismiss her as a failed candidate because she's "smarter" and "tougher" than most, and she "could raise money easier than most."

But it doesn't sound like this is just wishful thinking on his part. He really thinks it could happen, saying the chances of Clinton running in 2020 are "not zero.”

Publicly, Clinton has said she will not run again, but Reines doesn't sound so sure she'll keep her word on that. Politico explored Clinton's careful re-entry into the political arena, noting that she's going on tour with former President Bill Clinton this fall and has reportedly even called up journalists who cover the White House to put out "the occasional feeler."

Despite her non-zero interest in public office, her favorability is even lower than it was in 2016. A recent Gallup poll found that Clinton is now polling at 36 percent — five points lower than President Trump. Read more about her political future at Politico. Brendan Morrow

8:04a.m.

Turnout for the last midterm elections was embarrassingly poor, but this year, things are looking different.

As early voting surges in some states, election expert Michael McDonald told Talking Points Memo Friday he's predicting a turnout of between 45 and 50 percent of eligible voters. That would be the highest figure since at least 1970, when turnout hit 47 percent, and could possibly be the highest since 1966, when turnout was 49 percent, NPR reports.

This is a significant turnaround from the 2014 midterms, when just 36 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, the worst showing since World War II, per PBS. The 2018 upswing isn't entirely surprising, though, considering turnout was also way up in primary elections earlier this year; about 37 million people participated in House primaries, compared to 24 million four years ago, Pew Research Center reports.

Early voting has already hit very high numbers in several states, from Georgia to Tennessee and Kansas. McDonald told TPM that the data he's seeing so far is "very unusual," especially in Georgia, where three times as many people have cast their ballots than did by this point in 2014. He added, "I've never seen anything like this." Brendan Morrow

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