Trump passes a crisis test
The Trumpian quirks are always there, like touting the size of the crowd that greeted him in a Texas city hit by Hurricane Harvey or jumping the gun on self-congratulation while expressions of empathy lagged behind.
But President Donald Trump and his administration have earned praise from disaster-response experts for what matters most — deploying federal resources and coordinating with states and localities for the dire emergency needs posed by Harvey and Irma.
“He picked a great team and let them do their job,” Mark Merritt, a FEMA official in the Clinton administration, told The Washington Post. “He has also used the presidential megaphone to tell people that this is a serious storm and pay attention, and that’s one of the most important things a president can do,” Patrick Roberts, a Virginia Tech professor who specializes in disaster response, said to USA Today.
Still, it’s just the beginning. Public confidence will come, as Long Islanders sadly know from years of post-Sandy tangles with FEMA, when first response gives way to recovery and rebuilding.
The take-away: Give and take
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted on Tuesday he’s “incredibly hopeful” that sweeping changes in the tax code will be done “by the end of the year,” but there are neither details nor a proposal yet, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
A red state/blue state conflict is looming on whether to kill deductibility of state and local taxes to pay for tax-rate cuts. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) calls that “a dagger aimed at the heart of middle-class folks throughout New York State.”
As it happens, neither Schumer nor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand were among the Democratic senators invited to the White House Tuesday to hear Trump’s tax pitch. The three who attended were red-state Democrats who didn’t sign a Schumer-circulated letter setting conditions for any compromise, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.
The upcoming tax debate exposes rifts within the Republican Party along the lines of its recent Obamacare-repeal fiasco.
Trump’s wall dream deferred?
Trump won’t necessarily insist on linking funding for a border wall with Mexico to legislation to address the status of young immigrants in this country illegally who would lose the protection of DACA, White House legislative director Marc Short said Tuesday.
“I don’t want to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible,” Short said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump told her he wanted “some border security” in the package — which could mean measures other than a wall, which Democrats oppose.
Trump vs. Clinton, continued
Hillary Clinton, promoting her post-mortem book on the 2016 campaign, “What Happened,” told USA Today she is convinced associates of Trump helped Russia’s election meddling efforts.
“There certainly was communication and there certainly was an understanding of some sort,” Clinton said. Asked if she believed there was collusion, she said, “I’m convinced of it.”
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shot back that it’s “sad” that “the last chapter of her public life is now going to be defined by propping up book sales with false and reckless attacks.” Sanders said she didn’t know if Trump will read it, but “I think he’s pretty well-versed on what happened.” He has maintained Twitter silence about it.
Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of Trump’s voter-fraud commission, retreated a step when the panel met Tuesday from an assertion that massive voter fraud gave a Democrat the win in New Hampshire’s tight 2016 Senate race.
New Hampshire’s top voting official, also on the panel, said Kobach jumped to an unsupported conclusion in pointing to late-registering voters who had out-of-state driver’s licenses.
Trump created the panel after claiming millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2016, possibly costing him the popular-vote victory.
Meanwhile, it was disclosed that commission member Hans von Spakovsky of the conservative Heritage Foundation unsuccessfully lobbied in a letter to have Democrats and “mainstream Republicans” excluded from the group, Gizmodo reports.
Heritage confirmed von Spakovsky’s authorship of the letter hours after he denied it to a ProPublica reporter.
What else is happening
- Sanders said the Justice Department should consider a criminal prosecution of fired FBI Director James Comey, alleging he leaked privileged information and offered false testimony to Congress. “But I’m not here to ever direct DOJ into actions that they should take,” she added.
- In bipartisan votes, Congress sent Trump a bill calling on him to condemn white supremacists and commit his administration’s resources to combating domestic terrorism by neo-Nazis and other racist groups.
- Omarosa Manigault, an on-screen villain on “The Apprentice,” is the most disliked person inside the White House, The Daily Beast reports. But she has a fan who counts the most. Trump calls her often, even in late hours, for her counsel.
- Hope Hicks has been named White House communications director. Hicks, 28, had been serving in the job on an interim basis, taking over from short-timer Anthony Scaramucci. She worked for the Trump Organization before Trump brought her over to his campaign.
- Trump said Monday’s UN Security Council vote adding to sanctions against North Korea is “just another very small step. ... Nothing compared to what will ultimately have to happen.”
- Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) is among a group of House moderates from both parties whom Trump plans to meet with Wednesday, Politico reported.
- Former national-security adviser Michael Flynn traveled to the Mideast in 2015 as part of a private proposal to build nuclear plants but did not disclose this during his security-clearance process, the AP reports.
- Whether to cap refugee numbers at 50,000 or less for the coming year as guided by a 1980 law poses an internal question for the Trump administration.