Donald Trump announced last week that he would cut off Obamacare subsidies, casting them as a bailout for insurance companies. But that was last week.
The president Tuesday said he supported a bipartisan “short-term fix” that could keep subsidies going for another two years. It’s not clear yet whether Congress will embrace the plan negotiated by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
But back to Trump. How did subsidies become palatable again?
Just remember his boast in April: “I am flexible, and I’m proud of that flexibility.”
It’s a pre-existing condition.
Trump called the Alexander-Murray plan “a short-term solution so we don’t have this very dangerous little period” — meaning destabilized insurance markets and soaring premiums.
Is Obamacare still dead, as Trump declared Monday? “Virtually dead,” he said Tuesday.
McCain gets under Trump’s skin
John McCain appears to have retaken the lead from Bob Corker as Trump’s least favorite Republican senator. When McCain delivered a speech Monday night denouncing “half-baked, spurious nationalism,” Trump concluded the Arizona senator was talking about him.
“I hear it and people have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” Trump told a radio interviewer. “You know, I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”
To which McCain said: “It’s fine with me. I’ve faced some fairly significant adversaries in the past.”
Empathetic or just pathetic?
It was Day 2 of Trump’s macabre claims that he outdoes recent presidents in personally consoling families of fallen service members.
While he backed off from saying Barack Obama never called them, Trump said on Fox News radio: “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” White House chief of staff John Kelly’s son, Marine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.
A Trump White House official said Obama had not called Kelly. But records show the general later attended a White House breakfast hosted by Obama for Gold Star families. Trump said he calls all families. But The Associated Press found two families who got neither calls nor letters.
Retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman from 2011 to 2015, tweeted that Obama, George W. Bush, and their first ladies “cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families.” See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
The take-away: False is in the air
The week isn’t even half over, but it has already produced bountiful new examples of Trump’s casual relationship with the truth.
That he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are “closer than ever before and the relationship is very good” was one. The “death” of Obamacare was another, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Most striking of all was his deflection on why 12 days went by without his public acknowledgment of the death of four U.S. Army Green Beret soldiers in Niger. After giving an alibi — that the letters may be in the mail — he pivoted to the tall tale about his predecessors.
Trump finally called the Green Beret families Tuesday. Meantime the Associated Press found relatives of two soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received a call or a letter from him, as well as relatives of a third who did not get a call.
No thanks for calling
Trump said the calls to the families are “a very difficult thing.” It sounds like it was even harder for the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the soldiers who died in Niger.
The president told Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, that “he knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens, it hurts anyway.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who was with the widow when the plane carrying Johnson’s remains arrived, told Miami TV station WPLG: “It’s so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn’t have said it.”
Making America cringe again
Since he can't blame an anonymous source or claim media fakery, Trump on Wednesday is attacking Rep. Wilson's account of the conversation.
She said the phone was in speaker mode when the conversation took place.
But Trump now tweets: "Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!"
No proof was produced early Wednesday but Wilson doubled down shortly afterward in her response on CNN.
"I have proof, too: this man is a sick man," Wilson said. She added that Johnson's widow "broke down" after her call with Trump, saying the President "didn't even know his name."
Eye to eye, sees no evil
After meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Trump acted surprised at a joint news conference when a questioner noted the socialist leader said last year that then-candidate Trump represented “evil” ideas.
“I wish I knew that before my speech,” Trump joked. But the president indicated he’s not nursing a grudge.
“A lot of countries were very nervous [about Trump] at the beginning, and I have very good relationships with the leaders of virtually every country I have dealt with,” he said.
Tsipras said, “We have common values.”
He needs a new drug czar
Trump, who promised to unveil a long-delayed plan to fight opioid addiction next week, will have to search again for a director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) withdrew Tuesday as the nominee after CBS News and The Washington Post reported he played a key role on Capitol Hill in weakening the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.
What else is happening
- Trump said he feels Iran’s leaders “were respectful of what I did” even as they criticized his decertification of the nuclear deal.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee where the topics are expected to include immigration, civil rights and Russia.
- There is new noise on the Clinton-Comey probe front. Here is some unraveling of it.
- Trump’s personal fortune fell from $3.7 billion last year to $3.1 billion, dropping him from 156th to 248th place on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans. Shrinkage factors included a drop in real estate values, money spent on his campaign and the $25 million settlement of the Trump University fraud suit.
- A federal judge in Hawaii blocked the Trump administration Tuesday from enforcing its latest travel ban, just hours before it was set to take effect. The White House denounced the decision and the Justice Department said it will appeal, but another judge in Maryland has followed suit blocking the ban.
- The Trump administration is stopping pregnant teenage girls detained in shelters for undocumented refugees from choosing abortions, Politico reports. Instead, they are being steered to pregnancy centers affiliated with religious groups that counsel women against abortions.
- Steve Bannon is ignoring Trump’s appeal to ease up on backing primary challenges to “establishment” Republican senators seeking re-election in 2018.
- A Trump administration source tells CNN that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is still on thin ice with the president.