Slash and spend
The Trump administration delivered its $4.1 trillion spending plan to Congress — seeking support for a plan that proposes major cuts to social service programs while boosting military spending.
Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports that the budget proposal was met with skepticism from lawmakers from both parties as well as independent analysts who faulted its reliance on unrealistic economic assumptions, including a projection that the U.S. economy will sustain growth above 3 percent, which a host of economists have pegged as unlikely.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended the cuts to Medicaid and food stamps, saying that the budget plan the White House has coined “The New Foundation for American Greatness,” was meant to put more Americans to work.
“We need people to go to work,” Mulvaney told reporters at a briefing Monday. “If you are on food stamps, we need you to go to work. If you are on disability and you should not be, we need you to go back to work.”
NYPD counterterrorism grants, Long Island Sound protection funding and a host of National Institutes of Health initiatives are among the dozens of federal programs on the chopping block, according to a list compiled by CNN.
Trump-lash in Nassau-Suffolk?
Supporters of Christine Pellegrino touted Tuesday's special election for an open Assembly seat as a local acid test on President Donald Trump.
The outcome: Democrat Pellegrino won an upset in a district that Trump swept handily just six months ago, as Newsday's David M. Schwartz reports. Factors included low turnout and outside investment by Democratic and Working Families Party activists. Pellegrino joins an overwhelming majority in Albany's lower house.
The Pope and the President
Pope Francis met Trump at the Vatican on Wednesday, and their exchange of gifts attracted attention for its symbolism.
The pontiff gave the president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2017 and Trump was quoted as saying, "We can use peace." He also presented him with his documents on the family and on the environment and climate change.
Trump gave Francis a large gift box containing books by Martin Luther King, whom the pope has quoted.
The critics have spoken
The president's budget plan was immediately panned as “dead on arrival” by GOP and Democratic lawmakers alike.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), called Trump’s $603 billion defense budget “inadequate to the challenges we face . . . and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress.”
Sen John Cornyn of Texas, the second ranking Republican on the Senate, also predicted failure for Trump’s budget plan.
“Almost every president’s budget proposal is basically dead on arrival, including President Obama’s,” Cornyn said.
Long Island’s congressional delegation was critical of the cuts to local programs, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo, but the delegation’s two Republicans, Rep. Peter King of Seaford and Rep. Lee Zeldin of Shirley, emphasized that the plan was subject to change by Congress.
Meanwhile, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) blasted the plan, saying it was as “fiscally irresponsible as it is socially destructive.” And Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said, “The president may actually have the unintended consequence of bringing Democrats and Republicans together against this irresponsible budget.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan told lawmakers on Tuesday that he grew increasingly concerned last year over contacts between Russian officials and aides to Trump’s presidential campaign.
“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” Brennan told the House intelligence committee during a Tuesday hearing. “It raised questions in my mind again whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”
Brennan said he was so concerned about the purported ties between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials that he “convened a group of officials from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency to focus on it exclusively,” according to the AP.
Trump to ISIS: “Evil losers”
The president wrapped up his four-day trip through the Middle East with a speech in Jerusalem before heading to Rome for the European leg of his first official overseas trip.
In a speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Trump took aim at the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing at a Manchester concert on Monday, calling the attackers “evil losers.”
“I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term,” Trump said. “They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers, because that’s what they are. They’re losers. And we’ll have more of them. But they’re losers. Just remember that.”
The take-away: Strange magic
The Trump administration’s budget proposal relies on economic growth assumptions that leading economists have warned are highly unlikely, somewhat “otherworldly,” writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
The budget is based on a projection that the U.S. economy will reach and sustain 3 percent annual growth, a projection that Larry Summers, a well-known economist and Treasury Department official under President Barack Obama, called “wildly optimistic.” Onetime Reagan administration budget director David Stockman said he saw “no way that’s going to remotely happen.”
What else is happening
- Ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani is walking back or re-explaining his earlier statements about a commission aimed at doing legally what Trump at first called a Muslim ban.
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is doing "an unbelievable job on the drug problem," Trump told him last month, according to transcripts issued of their conversation. Duterte has sanctioned the extrajudicial killing of suspects.
- Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, speaking before a Senate panel, declined to comment on a Washington Post report that claims Trump asked him and Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to push back against the FBI’s probe into Russia’s interference in the presidential election.
- An Arab-proposed peace initiative for Israel and Palestine, unveiled in 2002, seems to fit with what Trump is pursuing, according to one analyst.
- The administration is dialing back on proposed cuts to the White House’s drug control office amid criticism that the cuts would hamper efforts to combat the growing opioid epidemic, reports Politico.
- Has Trump’s speaking style become less sophisticated and more simplistic over time? STAT, a health news website, reviewed decades of Trump’s past interviews with the aid of several linguistic experts to weigh in on what may be causing the change in his rhetorical style.