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We Americans don’t trust our institutions anymore. Our economy isn’t all that innovative; it's dropped to 11th place in Bloomberg's ranking. And we just might be headed for an era of protectionism. Welcome to the new American exceptionalism. —Sam Schulz

Will Trump’s tariffs herald a new American protectionism? Even if their economic impact proves minimal, as one economist suggested, the tariffs could still bring more acrimonious trade relations with China, whose economic might gives it leverage to hit back hard—say, by subjecting U.S. companies with big Chinese operations to tax probes. The looming question: Will U.S. protectionism escalate? Either way, the decision could fray nerves this week during Nafta negotiations, and underscores the growing sense at Davos of disarray among advanced democracies. 

The biggest winners with the new tariffs might be not American manufacturers but global investment firms. And the losers? Well, the world’s biggest solar panel makers had been bracing for something worse than the four years of 30 percent tariffs they got—a number that likely won’t be enough to encourage them to build more U.S. plants. Ultimately, American utilities planning big solar projects could lose the most.

Chuck Schumer’s deal to end the shutdown has exposed a rift within his party, but the episode has also crystallized which Senate moderates are most interested in a deal on immigration. (He’s also yanked his offer to the White House for border wall funding.) Still, lawmakers to his left are assailing him for stepping back from the brink without gaining any meaningful concessions on a key issue in an election year. “Why do Democrats always fall into some stupid trap?” asked Rep. Louise Slaughter, a fellow New York Democrat. 

Elon Musk’s new Tesla pay package could make him the world's richest person—and ensure he isn’t going anywhere. The award, long on goals but short on details, outlines an aggressive plan for the electric carmaker to become one of the world’s biggest companies, with a Google-ballpark market value and GM-beating revenue. It could make him incredibly rich, and it assures shareholders he’ll stick around: He won’t get paid unless Tesla stock rises. Safety investigators, meanwhile, are digging into a crash involving a Tesla on Autopilot.

Robert Mueller's investigators interviewed Jeff Sessions last week, making the attorney general the highest-ranking administration official yet interviewed in the special counsel's criminal probe into Russian election meddling. There was one person conspicuously absent from the meeting: a criminal lawyer. Sessions brought only his friend and fellow Alabama lawyer Chuck Cooper, a fact that surprised some criminal lawyers. “No one—no one—should ever speak to law enforcement without a criminal defense attorney present,” one said.

Bitcoin forking will grow this year. From the coming of Bitcoin God to the delivery of Bitcoin Pizza, the Bitcoin fork looks like it could soon sideline the initial coin offering as a quick Bitcoin money grab. Nineteen Bitcoin forks—in which developers clone Bitcoin’s software, then release it with a new name, a new coin, maybe some new features—came out last year; some 50 could this year. The idea is to capitalize on public familiarity with Bitcoin, often just to make a quick buck. But the prices might not hold up for long.

AT&T drops USA Gymnastics over decades of sex abuse. For decades, the team employed doctor Larry Nassar, and for decades, he sexually abused more than 100 gymnasts. Nassar is now awaiting sentencing, but athletes like Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman have said he wasn’t the only problem. The organization, she said, is “rotting from the inside.” Other major sponsors besides AT&T have already ended their deals with the sport’s governing body, and many of the athletes Nassar abused are suing it, accusing it of enabling him.

To contact the author of this story: Samantha Schulz in New York at

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