Day 32: Skepticism.
1/ Pence met with open skepticism in Brussels. “Too much has happened over the past months in your country, and in the EU,” Donald Tusk said, European Council President. “For us to pretend that everything is as it used to be.” Pence came to the European Union to reassure them that Trump actually supports the 28-nation bloc and that the US will continue its commitment despite the partial disintegration Trump has hailed. Pence was insistent that support for the alliance was a bedrock of US policy. But he demanded that other member nations scale up their defense spending to meet NATO’s requirements, a longstanding request of US presidents that Trump has amplified. (CNN)
- Tusk asked Pence whether the Trump administration was committed to three things: 1) maintaining an international order based on rules and laws, 2) whether Trump was committed to NATO, and 3) whether Europe could count “as always in the past, on the United States’ wholehearted and unequivocal, let me repeat, unequivocal support for the idea of a united Europe.” Pence said “yes” to all three. (New York Times)
2/ Trump names Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, replacing the ousted Michael Flynn. Kellogg, who has been serving in an acting capacity as national security adviser, will be the chief of staff on the National Security Council. Trump shared the news with reporters as he prepared to leave his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. (Washington Post)
3/ US Defense Secretary, James Mattis told reporters, “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.” His comments are a departure from Trump who said, “We should have kept the oil. Maybe we’ll have another chance.” (CNN)
4/ Revised travel ban targets same seven countries listed in Trump’s original executive order and exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S. The new draft also no longer directs authorities to single out — and reject — Syrian refugees when processing new visa applications. (Washington Post)
- 5 things to watch for in a new travel ban. Here are the main issues to look for in the new executive order. (CNN)
5/ Russia compiles psychological dossier on Trump for Putin. Its preliminary conclusions is that Trump is a risk-taker who can be naïve. (NBC News)
6/ Trump to roll back Obama’s climate and water pollution rules through executive action. While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. (Washington Post)
7/ Statisticians worry about alternative economic facts and doctored data from the government if the economy turns sour. Trump has yet to nominate anyone to the Council of Economic Advisers, established in 1946 to provide presidents with objective economic analysis and advice. The fears about data manipulation arise from the nontraditional approach the Trump administration has taken to interpreting economic data. Trump has has repeatedly cast the “real” unemployment rate as far above the official rate, using figures that incorporate all those of working age who aren’t employed. (Bloomberg)
- Trump is basing his budget projections on the assumption that the U.S. economy will grow almost twice as fast as independent institutions like the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve expect. The Trump team is apparently projecting growth at between 3 and 3.5 percent for a decade. This wouldn’t be unprecedented: the U.S. economy grew at a 3.4 percent rate during the Reagan years, 3.7 percent under Bill Clinton. (New York Times)
8/ Republican health proposal would redirect money from poor to rich. The Republican plan would substantially cut funding for states in providing free insurance to low-income adults through Medicaid. And would change how tax credits are distributed by giving all Americans not covered through work the same flat credit by age, regardless of income. The draft proposal largely contains provisions that could be passed through a special budget process that requires only 50 Senate votes, and fulfills President Trump’s promise that the repeal and replacement of the law would take place “simultaneously.” (New York Times)
9/ More than 100 protesters across the country were fired after joining the “Day Without Immigrants” demonstration. The protests were aimed at showcasing the impact immigrants have on the U.S. economy. (NBC News)
10/ Trump’s Navy secretary nominee on the verge of withdrawing. Philip Bilden, a former Army Reserve military officer with little naval experience, has drawn resistance to his lack of familiarity with Navy issues and has encountered difficulty separating himself from his financial interests. The White House has publicly denied that Bilden is reconsidering his nomination. (CBS News)
11/ White House confirms adviser reassigned after disagreeing with Trump. Craig Deare was removed from his role as a senior adviser at the National Security Council’s Western Hemisphere. Deare knocked the Trump administration’s handling of Latin American policies during a speech and criticized the overall White House dysfunction. (CNN)
12/ Pence “disappointed” Flynn misled him about the nature of his conversations with Russia. In his resignation letter, Flynn said he “inadvertently” gave “incomplete information” about multiple calls with the Russian ambassador. He previously said he did not speak with Russian officials about the pending sanctions. (ABC News)
13/ Milo Yiannopoulos lost his keynote slot at the Conservative Political Action Conference after tapes surfaced of him advocating for sexual relationships between “younger boys and older men.” The right wing provocateur says he “deeply regret[s]” the way his comments were interpreted. (Politico)
- Milo Yiannopoulos book deal cancelled after outrage over child abuse comments. Simon & Schuster pulls forthcoming autobiography, which it had reportedly paid a $250,000 advance. His fellow Breitbart employees have reportedly threatened to quit if he is not fired. (The Guardian)
- CNN’s Tapper blasts CPAC for Milo Yiannopoulos invite. (The Hill)
Preying on children is the definition of evil. Justifying it in any way is sick and disturbing.— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 20, 2017
Has everyone lost their minds?
14/ Trump’s former aide concedes there was no voter fraud in New Hampshire in a rare message contradiction. Trump has insisted that he was cheated out of a win in New Hampshire because thousands of Democrats came from Massachusetts and illegally cast votes for Clinton. (Huffington Post)
15/ Trump escalates his attack on Sweden’s migration policies, doubling down on his suggestion that refugees in the Scandinavian country were behind a rise in crime and terrorism. The Swedish officials say they have not seen any evidence for the claim that migration has driven an uptick in crime. (New York Times)
16/ Trump’s aides don’t want to admit the President is golfing. Trump has visited his two golf courses near his Mar-a-Lago estate six times in his first month in office. Aides would not confirm that Trump has played golf each time, but through a series of social media posts and interviews with the professional golfers who joined him, it is clear the President golfed during most of these visits. (CNN)
17/ “Not My President”: Thousands of demonstrators turned out across the US to challenge Trump on Presidents Day and call attention to Trump’s crackdown on immigration, his party’s response to climate change and the environment. Organizers said they chose to rally on the holiday as a way to honor past presidents by exercising their constitutional right to assemble and peacefully protest. (Washington Post)
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