Tired of not winning

There were no cameras, no passing out of souvenir pens when Donald Trump signed the bill making sanctions on Russia tougher. It bars the president from easing up on them unless Congress agrees.

A sign-and-whine statement poured out Trump’s frustrations with a legislative branch led by his own party that “could not even negotiate a health care bill after seven years of talking.”

He went on: “I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”

Trump said he signed the “flawed” bill for “the sake of national unity.” Unsaid was that a veto wouldn’t stop a bill passed with near-unanimous bipartisan support, in part as payback for election interference.

Afterward, Russia trolled Trump. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Facebook: “The Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence, transferring executive powers to Congress in the most humiliating manner.” See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo.

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Tired of not blaming

 Trump's Twitter reaction after the Russian remarks didn't dispute Medvedev & Co. with a defense of his signature so much as shift blame for it.

 On Thursday, Trump tweeted: "Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!"

For a little while into the morning it looked as if he was keeping the tweets positive, pumping up positive business news, save for a single letting-Obamacare-die message. 

Land of opportunity

Trump embraced a stalled, long-shot Senate bill that would dramatically reduce legal immigration — especially for less-skilled workers — and shift the nation toward a system that prioritizes merit, skills and fluency in English over family ties.

Arguing that immigrants depress the job market and wages for the native-born, Trump said “struggling American families ... deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and puts America first.”

During a heated media briefing (video here), policy aide Stephen Miller rejected the idea that it would break with America’s historic acceptance of immigrants seeking a better life as celebrated in poet Emma Lazarus’ words at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Said Miller: “The poem you are referring to, which was added later, is not part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

Vive la difference

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Miller was asked if the Trump Organization will stop bringing in lower-skilled foreign workers for his properties. Just recently, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida asked for permission to get visas for 70 temporary foreign workers as cooks, servers and housekeepers, BuzzFeed reported.

“As a technical matter,” Miller said, “you’re talking about nonimmigrant guest worker visas, and this legislation deals with green cards ... permanent immigration. So they’re two totally separate categories.”

The take-away: Opioid crisis

Trump country in the election included counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates. He named a commission on the opioid addiction crisis, and the question now is whether he will embrace its interim recommendations, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

These include declaring a national emergency — a step that could allow government agencies more flexibility in how they run health care programs and loosen the rules for setting up addiction treatment.

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Ringing in the ears

On Tuesday, the Boy Scouts debunked Trump’s story that the head of the organization called him to hail his politically charged address to their jamboree as the “greatest speech that was ever made to them.” There was no such call, they said.

On Wednesday, Mexico rebutted Trump’s remarks at a Cabinet meeting earlier this week that “even the president of Mexico called me” to praise his immigration policy. There have been no recent calls between Trump and President Enrique Peña Nieto, they said.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at her briefing: “I wouldn’t say it was a lie. ... They just simply didn’t take place over a phone call.” She said the conversations took place in person — with individual Scout leaders and with Peña Nieto at last month’s G20 summit.

Job security for Sessions

White House chief of staff John Kelly, in one of his first acts, called Jeff Sessions to reassure him that his position was safe, despite Trump’s extended public dressing-down of the attorney general, The Associated Press reported.

Kelly acknowledged the president was still miffed at Sessions, but did not plan to fire him, nor was he hoping he would resign. Senate Republicans rallied around Sessions after Trump’s attacks.

Too hostile a workplace?

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is a leading contender to take over White House chief of staff John Kelly’s old job as secretary of Homeland Security. But he is concerned over how Trump has treated top officials, including Sessions, CNN reported.

“He won’t want decades of hard work to be called into question or undone in 140 characters by an executive whose temperament and positions seem to change by the hour,” a source described as well-placed told the news channel.

Not winning in the polls

New polls suggest new slippage in Trump’s popularity. Quinnipiac pegs his approval at 33%, its lowest ever.

His leadership skills — given a 56%-38% positive rating last November — are now at a negative 34%-63%. Twice as many are embarrassed by his presidency as proud — 54% to 26%.

Gallup shows Trump approval at 36%, its lowest three-day average.

What else is happening

  • Kelly is trying to keep bogus news from getting passed to Trump, warning White House staff that he wants to see and vet the information first, Politico reports. That can work only so far unless Kelly also confiscates Trump’s TV remotes.
  • Former FBI Director James Comey, fired by Trump, has a book deal. The volume, due out in the spring, will include material on his probes of Hillary Clinton’s emails and Russian interference in last year’s campaign, Flatiron Books said.
  • Trump is frustrated with the search for a new strategy in Afghanistan and suggested firing the top commander there, Gen. John Nicholson, because he isn’t winning, NBC News reported. Trump said a group of Afghanistan War vets he met with recently may have better advice.
  • Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the White House isn’t backing down from threats to cut off Obamacare subsidies, which could stir chaos in insurance markets.
  • Despite pleas from State Department officials, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hasn’t made a move to spends almost $80 million allocated by Congress to fight terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation, Politico reported.
  • Trump tweeted Wednesday night that a Sports Illustrated report that he called the White House a “dump” is “TOTALLY UNTRUE.” He said, “I love the White House, one of the most beautiful buildings (homes) I have ever seen.”
  • PolitiFact’s score card on presidential golf outings finds Trump has hit the links 21 times. At the same point in his administration, Barack Obama had gone golfing 11 times. Trump often criticized Obama’s golf excursions.