Trump didn’t run the table
Which will Donald Trump get tired of first? The winning or the caving?
“The president got a lot out of this bill,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer of the bipartisan budget deal that averts a government shutdown. It boosts military spending by $21 billion and adds $1.52 billion for border security.
But that’s less than he asked for on both counts, The Washington Post reported, and the bill explicitly blocks him from using any of the money to get started on building a wall on the Mexican border, as he originally demanded. There is no congressional mandate for cuts to “sanctuary cities” either.
Trump wanted to reduce nondefense domestic spending, but the bill doesn’t do that. It saves Obamacare subsidies. Trump wanted EPA funding slashed by one-third; the final cut is 1 percent. Planned Parenthood isn’t defunded. Spending for the National Institutes of Health will go up $2 billion, not down $1.2 billion.
Spicer, noting the measure covers five months, said Trump will do better in the budget for the next fiscal year. “We will have an opportunity to really infuse the president’s priorities,” he said.
Tête-à-tête with tyrant?
Trump said he “would be honored” to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “under the right circumstances.”
Asked later about Trump’s comments to Bloomberg News, Spicer told reporters that “clearly, conditions are not there right now” for a meeting. “We’ve got to see their provocative behavior ratcheted down,” Spicer said. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Separately, Trump told Fox News that “nobody’s safe” from North Korea. “I mean, who’s safe? The guy’s got nuclear weapons,” he said.
'Good shutdown:' We retweet, you decide
At 9:07 a.m. Tuesday the ever-plaintive president tweeted this: "Either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!"
OK, so by now we can guess that he saw news media coverage this morning showing Democrats helped foil some of his less-grounded priorities in the stopgap spending bill that carries over to September.
Trump of course would react less than favorably to that kind of narrative. Electing more Republicans or changing rules would presumably give him more clout in the next go-round, so that much made sense.
As for a "good shutdown," well, we know from 2013 that those aren't popular -- but Trump probably is just either preening or spitballing, and there's no reason to believe it will happen.
The entertainment bombed
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had a lighthearted take on Trump’s missile strike against Syria last month on the night that the president was hosting China’s Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.
“It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment,” Ross said.
As the crowd at the Milken Institute Global Conference laughed, Ross added: “The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment.”
Ross’ remarks were reported by Variety.
The take-away: Manila ice
Just what is it that has Trump warming up to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte?
The White House is playing up the idea that Trump wants allies in the standoff with North Korea. But Trump also has an affinity for strongman types and gives no sign of being bothered by the death squads who killed thousands in a war on drugs.
And there’s business. Manila has a Trump Tower, and before November’s election, Duterte named Trump’s business partner in Manila as a trade envoy to the United States. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
U.S. history, especially of the 19th century, is a source of wonder and confusion for Trump. He has spoken of abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) “getting recognized more and more” for doing an “amazing job” and said of Abraham Lincoln: “Most people don’t even know he was a Republican.”
Now Trump has a theory that the Civil War could have been avoided if only Andrew Jackson had been president then.
“Why could that one not have been worked out?” Trump mused in a Washington Examiner interview. He said Jackson “was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, ‘There’s no reason for this.’ ”
Jackson, president from 1829 to 1837, died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War. It’s unclear why Trump thinks Jackson, a slaveholding plantation owner, could have prevented the conflict if he had still been alive.
Trump abruptly ended a CBS News interview after renewing his claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him -- but failing under repeated prodding to back that up, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.
Before sending correspondent John Dickerson on his way, Trump pulled out some of his greatest hits in doublespeak:
“I don’t stand by anything. . . . Our side’s been proven very strongly and everybody’s talking about it and frankly, it should be discussed.”
“We should find out what the hell is going on.”
“I have my own opinions, you can have your own opinions.”
What else is happening
- First son-in-law Jared Kushner "didn’t identify on his government financial disclosure form that he is currently a part-owner of a real estate finance startup and has a number of loans from banks on properties he co-owns," WSJ reports.
- The federal budget agreement provides $25.7 million to reimburse New York City for Trump Tower security costs during the presidential transition, reports Newsday’s Laura Figueroa. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) said another $40 million will cover costs since the inauguration.
- Spicer acknowledged House GOP leaders still don’t have the votes for a health care bill. Despite a personal call from Trump, Missouri Rep. Billy Long told Politico he switched to “no” because the latest version “strips away any guarantee that pre-existing conditions would be covered and affordable.”
- Trump indicated in his Bloomberg interview that Steve Bannon’s job is more secure than it looked a month ago. Bannon and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner are “getting along fine.” For a while, among some White House aides, “it was a little testy,” the president said.
- Also in the Bloomberg interview, Trump says he’s open to raising the federal gas tax to fund infrastructure improvements. That would be a tough sell to GOP conservatives in Congress.
- For seven years, the IRS has sought $7 billion in back taxes from the hedge fund led by Robert Mercer, the Long Island GOP megadonor close to Trump and Bannon, reports McClatchy newspapers. The Mercers’ foundation is also funding groups calling for the firing of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
- The Senate is not about to approve any Russian sanctions bill, says Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.
- Trump’s 2020 campaign is running a $1.5 million ad buy to celebrate his first 100 days.