Day 83: Trading barbs.
1/ Putin meets with Tillerson in Moscow. Relations between the US and Russia have grown so tense that it was unclear whether Putin would meet with the Secretary of State. Tillerson’s job is to persuade Moscow to abandon its support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. (New York Times)
- Tillerson and Putin appeared to be unable to agree on the facts involving the deadly chemical weapons assault on Syrian civilians or Russian interference in the American election. “There is a low level of trust between our countries,” Tillerson said. Both sides did agree to establish a working group to examine “the irritants” in relations between the United States and Russia. (New York Times)
- Trump and Putin trade barbs as ministers meet. Trump said Russia was backing “an animal” while Putin said the US had violated the law and that the level of trust with the US had worsened since Trump took office. (BBC)
2/ $1.2 million in payments from a pro-Russian political party have been linked to Paul Manafort’s firm in the US. A handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine last August with dollar amounts and dates listed next to the name of Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. Manafort originally said the transactions in the ledger were fabricated. Now, he says the transactions corroborated are legal. A Ukrainian lawmaker said $750,000 received by Manafort was part of a money-laundering effort. (Associated Press)
- Paul Manafort’s lobbying firm has registered as foreign agent. The moves comes after the fact that the firm worked on a covert influence campaign in the US under the direction of Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, two former campaign advisers to Trump. (Associated Press)
3/ Trump won’t say he still backs Bannon. Instead he offered up that “Steve is a good guy,” but “I’m my own strategist.” (New York Post)
4/ DeVos rolled back an Obama administration attempt to reform how student loan debt is collected. Obama issued a pair of memorandums last year requiring that the Federal Student Aid office do more to help borrowers manage their debt. DeVos withdrew the memos, saying the approach was inconsistent and full of shortcomings. She didn’t detail what fell short. More than 1 million Americans are annually defaulting on their student loans. (Bloomberg)
5/ The Trump administration is moving quickly to build up a nationwide deportation force. A Department of Homeland Security assessment shows the agency has found 33,000 more detention beds to house undocumented immigrants, and has opened discussions with dozens of local police forces that could be empowered with enforcement authority and identified where construction of Trump’s border wall could begin. (Washington Post)
6/ The Trump administration is lifting the federal hiring freeze. The impact is likely to be limited. It will be up to Congress to set spending levels for federal agencies. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are highly critical of Trump’s spending plan. (NPR)
7/ Trump’s budget director says their goal is to maximize high inequality, not low deficits. Republicans typically frame spending and taxes as a way to reduce out-of-control deficits, while framing regressive tax cuts as being unrelated to deficits. Mulvaney is conceding that deficits have nothing to do with the Republican fiscal agenda. (New York Magazine)
8/ Classified documents contradict both Nunes and Trump that Obama ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower to spy on him during the campaign. Lawmakers have not found evidence that Obama did anything unusual or illegal after reviewing the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. Nunes prompted outrage after claiming to have learned of possible “incidental collection” of the Trump team’s communications. (CNN)
9/ Silicon Valley is beginning to fight Trump’s net neutrality plan. The lobbying group representing Facebook, Google, Twitter and others told FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that it shouldn’t weaken net neutrality rules. (Recode)
10/ Trump is “100% committed” to NATO. He reiterated that all NATO members need to increase their military spending to 2% of their economic output in order to strengthen the alliance’s long-term capabilities. (Wall Street Journal)
11/ Shifting course, Trump says health care repeal must happen before tax overhaul. Congressional budget rules will make it easier to pass broad overhauls of the tax code once the $1 trillion in Affordable Care Act taxes have been repealed. (Washington Post)
12/ The Trump administration has suspended its weekly report aimed at putting political pressure on sanctuary cities. The report was designed to name and shame sanctuary jurisdictions. (CNN)
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