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Trump in Illinois Thursday: Soybeans, Granite City steel and ‘fake news’

A help wanted sign hangs outside the U.S. Steel Granite City Works facility Thursday, June 28, 2018, in Granite City, Ill. After being shut down for roughly two years, the plant recently restarted one of its two idle blast furnaces with the second scheduled to come back online later this year. | AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

A help wanted sign hangs outside the U.S. Steel Granite City Works facility Thursday, June 28, 2018, in Granite City, Ill. After being shut down for roughly two years, the plant recently restarted one of its two idle blast furnaces with the second scheduled to come back online later this year. | AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

WASHINGTON — The day before President Donald Trump visits Illinois and Iowa – the nation’s leading soybean producing states, where farmers have been wounded in the trade battles – Trump on Wednesday announced a deal for the European Union to, he said, “buy a lot of soybeans from our farmers in the Midwest.”

Trump needed to try to do something to help soybean farmers before trips to Dubuque and Granite City.

Otherwise, it would be impossible for Trump to pitch his trade policies as a win-win.

The boost for Granite City, where United States Steel Corp. is reopening two blast furnaces closed since 2015, is offset by a loss for Illinois farmers facing retaliation from foreign markets.

U.S. Steel credits Trump’s tariffs on imported steel for the restart.

The relaunch of the Granite City Works in this city of about 29,000 near St. Louis will add about 800 jobs when a second blast furnace roars back to life in October.

On Thursday, White House staffers in a briefing call with reporters from Illinois and Missouri outlets said Trump will take a brief plant tour and hear from three people with new jobs at Granite City Works.

Trump will deliver a speech between 30 and 45 minutes “and maybe longer” in a U.S. Steel warehouse to about 500 invited guests – from the company, community and workers. A spokesman for U.S. Steel said company President and CEO David Burritt will attend.

Illinois GOP Reps. Michael Bost, Rodney Davis and John Shimkus will join Trump at the afternoon event – where the midterm elections will be in play with Democratic events before and after Trump’s visit.

Granite City is in Bost’s 12th Congressional District and he is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Brendan Kelly, the St. Clair County State’s Attorney. Kelly’s union supporters are hosting an event with him in Granite City after Trump’s speech.

Democrats will be protesting Trump health care policies in a Granite City park at 1:30 p.m., just before Trump arrives at the plant. New interim Democratic Party of Illinois Executive Director state Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, will be there, as he increasingly takes on an activist role.

On March 8, Trump slapped a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.

That triggered the retaliation, and farmers are hurting.

About 60 percent of the 612 million bushels of Illinois soybeans grown in 2017 will be exported. China is the biggest customer, buying up about a quarter of the crop, according to the Illinois Soybean Association.

The EU deal, if it works, is intended to make up for the loss of Chinese business. On Tuesday the Trump administration announced $12 billion in emergency aid, mainly for soybean farmers taking the Trump trade war hits.

TRUMP PRESS WAR

Trump announced the EU soybean deal at a Rose Garden event.

But that was overshadowed by the uproar over the White House communications team banning CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins from covering Trump’s remarks.

Even FOX News protested, that’s how bad this banning was.

Before I wrap up, I have a question.

Do you believe the facts in this column?

Some of the information came from the Trump White House. The briefing was with Jessica Ditto, the White House Deputy Communications Director, and Brian Jack, the White House deputy political director.

Here’s why I am asking.

In a Tuesday speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Mo., Trump once again aimed at the press and told the audience, “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people – the fake news.”

On the briefing call, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Chuck Raasch put it this way: “Is the president going to say tomorrow to those of us who will be there to cover this event to not believe the “crap” that we write about the event?”