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Senate slams Trump's troop plans as House pushes him back against his wall 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds a

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds a news conference Thursday on Capitol Hill to discuss ongoing negotiations of the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee on Department of Homeland Security appropriations. Credit: EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock / Michael Reynolds

Trump talks about talks

President Donald Trump waxed skeptical Thursday that talks with Congressional leaders aimed at averting another shutdown or declaration of a national "emergency" will bear fruit. 

For him, The Wall remains all.

"Republicans on the [House] Homeland Security Committee are wasting their time," Trump complained. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected wall funding but left the door open to "enhanced fencing."

Trump confused some people by claiming, as he has before, that wall construction is already underway. He also tweeted: "Lets just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL!"

Trump spoke differently about other talks. He said a trade deal with China “has a very good chance of happening. ... This is either going to be a very big deal, or it’s going to be a deal that we’ll just postpone for a little while.”

He talked a bit of next week's State of the Union talk, saying it would stress "unity." That was last year's theme, which apparently had little effect given current party polarization.

Poking POTUS

By itself, the measure isn't expected to reverse White House policy on the Mideast. But on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led colleagues in a 68-23 vote for an amendment that dissents from the president's stated plans for troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan.

This amends a wider policy bill that has yet to clear the Senate and faces trouble in the House. Still, it marks a major policy split within the GOP. 

For the 'Trump people'

In 2017, Trump signed an order urging federal agencies to "buy American" where possible. Peter Navarro, the director of the White House National Trade Council, said the order resulted in greater U.S. purchases and record-low foreign purchases.

On Thursday, Trump signed a new executive order asking agencies to encourage those who receive federal financial help for infrastructure projects to use U.S.-made iron, steel, aluminum and cement. Navarro told reporters the president's policies were helping manufacturing workers who "are blue-collar Trump people." 

One year after steel tariffs took effect, relevant companies are seeing bigger demand and revenue but "few of the jobs promised during the campaign," Bloomberg News reports.

Doubts about intelligence 

On Wednesday the president issued snide Twitter sneers after public reports that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel differed from him on key threats. They said Iran is sticking to terms of the nuclear agreement struck under the Obama administration, that North Korea is unlikely to give up its nukes, and ISIS in Syria and Iraq still operates.

“I disagree with certain things that they said,” Trump added Thursday when asked if he has confidence in Coats and Haspel. 

“I think I’m right,” he added. “Time will prove me right, probably.”

But soon there came a bizarre Trumpian about-face in which he said after a meeting with the advisers, "we are very much in agreement" and blamed news media for having "mischaracterized" what they said in public.

Answers to certain questions were not immediately available:

How could he be thrown off by "fake" media reports (backed by video) since he'd have first crack at his appointees' assessments? Did he read them? Specifically what did he think they said Wednesday that it allegedly turns out they didn't say, that first set him off? 

 What else is happening:

  • The administration as expected is ready to announce Friday the milestone U.S. withdrawal from what has been a key post-Cold War arms-control treaty that some fear will fuel a new weapons race.
  • An elite New York relationship between ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Trump deteriorated the moment the latter declared for the White House in 2015, The Washington Post reports.
  • Housing Secretary Ben Carson signed an agreement requiring the New York City Housing Authority, under the supervision of a federal monitor, to reform its operations in conjunction with Mayor Bill deBlasio.
  • Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain is under consideration for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, Trump sources said.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) has "won" her primary rollout for president, and now of course faces harder tests, according to reports here and here.

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