GOP Senator Scoffs at Trump Auto-Tariff Report as Secrecy Ends

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The U.S. Commerce Department released a report this week on proposed auto tariffs that the Trump administration refused to make public.

The agency, under former President Donald Trump, kept the 2019 document private and was sued for holding back the information. The Department of Justice in January 2020 said the White House could use executive privilege to decline its release.

The report, released late Tuesday, outlines Trump’s intention to charge tariffs on vehicle and auto-parts imports because they were deemed a national-security threat. Lawmakers at the time, including Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, pressed for the study’s release saying the justification was unfounded.

“A quick glance confirms what we expected: The justification for these tariffs was so entirely unfounded that even the authors were too embarrassed to let it see the light of day,” Toomey said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

The analysis focused on whether to impose tariffs on the auto imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, which allows for duties without a vote by Congress if imports are deemed a national-security threat. It was the same law the Trump administration used to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The study determined that national security for purposes of section 232 includes the “general security and welfare of certain industries, beyond those necessary to satisfy national-defense requirements.” It found that the impact of excessive imports, “and the serious effects resulting from the consequent displacement of production in the U.S., is causing a weakening of our internal economy that may impair the national security.”

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