Hold the applause
President Donald Trump’s administration isn’t sugarcoating the enormity of the disaster in Puerto Rico. But officials declare they’ve been up to the task.
“I am very satisfied,” said acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke. White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert answered critics who called the effort too little and too slow. When they see it in totality, they will be “blown away,” Bossert said, in an unfortunate choice of words.
But it wasn’t until Thursday that DHS agreed, despite U.S. shipping industry opposition, to a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act, which restricts the use of foreign-flagged vessels to deliver supplies.
The Pentagon asserted greater command of Hurricane Maria relief operations by naming Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan to take charge. That should have happened days ago, said retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who was assigned that role in New Orleans in 2005 after the faltering first response to Hurricane Katrina.
“Puerto Rico is a bigger and tougher mission than Katrina,” Honoré said.
Caught in the middle
Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, said he “can’t guarantee” that some middle-class families wouldn’t see increases to their tax bills under the plan the White House has developed with GOP congressional leadership.
Cohn wouldn’t say whether the administration would be willing to relent from the proposed elimination of state and local tax deductions, which could mean a hard hit on New Yorkers. “Seventy-five percent of American families do not itemize,” he noted.
See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo.
The take-away: States vs. states
Trump’s push to take away state and local tax deductions has echoes of the recent health care fight, in which Republicans would have hit blue states harder than red or purple ones, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
The argument from the hinterlands is the same as 30 years ago: The deduction amounts to a subsidy — at their expense — for the higher-taxing ways of the New York, California and their coastal cousins. What’s different now: The clout of Democrats and the Northeast in Congress isn’t as strong.
His seat’s been downgraded
The traveling has given way to groveling for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. He promised he will never charter a private plane again at public expense and “the taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.”
But rather than foot the entire cost of the flights, he’s leaving himself leg room. Paying for “my seat” means he will write a check for $51,887.31. Politico, which broke the story, estimated the cost of the flights at more than $400,000.
Will that save his job with Trump, who said he was “not happy” with Price? “We’re looking at the issue,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
The battle over protests during the national anthem has pitted Trump against NFL players who say they are trying to call attention to racial injustice. Sanders said it’s about patriotism and the flag.
“I think it’s pretty black and white there,” Sanders said.
Earlier, Trump on “Fox and Friends” said he believes NFL team owners “are afraid of their players.”
Asked what that meant, Sanders said: “Probably the backlash of the players and the stance that they’re making, and, you know, not wanting to create that conflict within their team.”
Health insurance illusion?
Trump says he will probably issue an executive order next week allowing Americans to purchase health care across state lines. He advanced the same idea during the campaign.
Apart from the legalities of such an order, there’s another catch: Consumers would probably have a hard time finding a company selling such policies, Politico reports. Where it has been tried, insurers weren’t interested. One reason is that it’s extremely difficult for them to create provider networks in states with no current customers.
What else is happening
- On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump was sounding defensive and unappreciated for his Puerto Rico response: “Wish press would treat fairly!” “Governor said great job!’ ”
- It’s unusual for a president to skip a ceremony installing a new FBI director. But with the bureau deeply involved in the Russia investigation, Trump stayed away when Christopher Wray took the oath. So did two former FBI directors — Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and James Comey.
- The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee wrote Jared Kushner saying they were “concerned” that he failed to tell its Russia investigators that he conducted business from a private email account, CNN reported.
- It wasn’t Kushner’s fault that he was listed as a woman on New York voter registration records. The state’s Board of Elections told the Daily News that Kushner checked “male” on the form, but board personnel made a data-entry error.
- Twitter told a Senate panel that it sold more than $270,000 of ads to Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 election.
- Sanders indicated Trump doesn’t agree with Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate he now endorses in Alabama, on such comments as calling for homosexuality to be illegal and barring Muslims from Congress. Sanders said she “wouldn’t see any parallel between the two of them on that front.”