Way back in Barack Obama’s day, the comedy duo Key & Peele did a hilarious routine featuring an “anger translator” who would scream out the supposedly suppressed inner rage of the laid-back 44th president.
Trump chief of staff John Kelly, in a surprise appearance at Thursday’s White House briefing, performed the role in reverse.
This was Trump on Twitter: “The Fake News Is going all out in order to demean and denigrate! Such hatred!”
This was Kelly, on stories he said were wrong: “That’s my frustration. And I mean no disrespect to you all. ... I would just offer to you the advice: I would say maybe develop some better sources.”
Kelly and Trump both disputed reports of tensions between them. “I’m not quitting today,” Kelly said with a smile. “I don’t believe, and I just talked to the president, I don’t think I’m being fired today.”
The former four-star general said it’s not his job to control Trump or his tweeting, but rather to manage the flow of information so the president “can make the best decisions.”
Hot and scold on Puerto Rico
Trump has already groused about getting “so little appreciation” for “what I’ve done” for Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. He lashed out Thursday morning, suggesting the U.S. territory bore part of the blame for its predicament.
“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!,” he added.
An uproar ensued. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has avoided criticizing Trump, tweeted, “The U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive.” Less restrained, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz called Trump a “hater in chief.”
At the briefing, Kelly offered reassurance that the United States will “stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done.”
Blowing up Obamacare
Trump has long predicted Obamacare would implode on its own, but now he’s giving it a shove toward oblivion.
The White House announced Thursday night that the administration will stop paying the monthly subsidies that shore up the health care marketplace and help lower-income Americans get affordable coverage.
Earlier in the day, Trump performed an executive-order end run around Congress and its inability to act on health care. It would allow associations to create policies that can be marketed across state lines. To make them cheaper, they wouldn’t have to meet all the standards for coverage set by Obamacare.
It will take months to develop rules and regulations and put them in place. Only after that will it be clear how effective it will be in creating new options. See Tom Brune and Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
The take-away: The business end
Trump’s health care move is the latest to draw blowback from one sector or another of the big-business community, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Health insurance industry leaders warned opening the door for bare-bones plans would cause chaos in the markets.
The auto industry says potential moves to restrict the import of parts from beyond NAFTA countries — an idea aimed at China — may just make it more economical to import finished vehicles. Oil and gas interests worry efforts to boost coal and nuclear power will come at their expense.
Iran decision day
Trump will speak from the White House Friday afternoon on his plans for the Iran nuclear arms deal. The expectation is that he will refuse to certify Iran is in compliance and will call on Congress to take steps to toughen it, using the threat of renewed sanctions as leverage.
Trump will also detail broader U.S. objections to Iran, including its ballistic missile program and its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and other groups that destabilize the region.
UNESCO, going, gone
The Trump administration pulled the United States out of the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural agency over long-standing complaints that it’s a platform for anti-Israel bias. The United States also said there is a need for “fundamental reform” in the agency.
Under the Obama administration, the United States stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011. The United States now owes about $550 million in back payments.
What else is happening
- Trump was upset when he learned that middle-income taxpayers could get hurt by his plan to eliminate the state and local tax deduction in a broader overhaul plan, according to Bloomberg News. But top economic adviser Gary Cohn said the White House is not rethinking it.
- Kelly’s take Thursday on the North Korea standoff was a notch less ominous than Trump’s, but only a notch. “Right now we think the threat is manageable, but over time, if it grows beyond where it is today — well, let’s hope that diplomacy works,” he said.
- Of a dozen visiting NBA teams that used to stay in the Trump SoHo hotel, 11 will be checking in elsewhere, The Washington Post finds. “He continually offends people, and so people don’t want to stay at his hotel,” said Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr. Other teams said politics wasn’t their reason.
- Congressional critics from both parties are asking why Trump has yet to implement new sanctions against Russia that he reluctantly signed into law Aug. 2.
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gets a grand entrance when he shows up at the office, The Washington Post reports. A security staffer takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and hoists a special secretarial flag. When he goes home, the flag is taken down.
- Trump’s nomination of AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to run the parent agency of the National Weather Service is getting a chilly reception from some. That’s because Myers has long fought to curtail free public services from the weather service, complaining they were unfair competition.