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Trump’s budget gets the side-eye from plenty of Republicans

At a White House news conference on Thursday,

At a White House news conference on Thursday, March 16, 2017, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, answers questions about President Donald Trump's proposed budget. Credit: EPA / Michael Reynolds

Budget lands with thud

President Donald Trump’s budget plan is hitting lots of congressional Republicans where they — and their voters — live, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), for one, doesn’t like what he sees so far in the Homeland Security budget, which eliminates or reduces state and local grant funding by $667 million.

“Any reduction to NY & LI is dead on arrival,” he tweeted.

While many Republicans favor the sharp boost in military spending, some of the deep cuts to domestic programs -- including widely popular items like medical research -- are a harder sell to them and face strong Democratic opposition.

Big reductions for diplomacy and foreign aid also strike members of both parties as self-defeating for national security.

Budget chief Mick Mulvaney said, “Folks who voted for the president are getting exactly what they voted for.” He called Meals on Wheels the kind of social program that is “just not showing any results” -- serving up a tasty sound bite to foes of the cuts.

The take-away: Bang for bucks

The current U.S. defense budget, nearly $600 billion, is already almost as much as the next 14 nations combined. Yet experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies see Russia and China closing the technology gap.

Trump now wants to commit $54 billion more for the military, but how it is spent -- and not wasted -- holds the key to whether it would strengthen U.S. security, Newsday’s Dan Janison writes.

Send lawyers, guns and money

For its plan to secure the Mexican border, the Trump administration has already called for more guns -- thousands of additional law enforcement officers -- and more money, including billions to start building the wall.

Now they want lawyers, too. Trump’s budget calls for hiring 20 of them for legal efforts to acquire private land -- seizing properties by eminent domain, if necessary -- so there are places to build the barrier. Another 20 lawyers would be added for “immigration litigation assistance.”

U.S. warns North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that military action against North Korea is "on the table" if the country continued to develop its weapons program.

Regardless of what table he may have been referring to, Tillerson issued the warning while visiting South Korea. 

"If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action then that option is on the table," he told reporters.

"Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict," he added. "But obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces then that would be met with an appropriate response."

Trump followed up on Twitter with a more petulant version of the message: "North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been "playing" the United States for years. China has done little to help!"

He alone can see it

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said “they see no indications Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”

The statement by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) echoed those from House counterparts a day earlier.

But Trump isn’t giving up on his accusation against former President Barack Obama. “He stands by it,” said Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who angrily read off a list of clippings -- none of them with actual evidence for Trump’s claim -- as well as speculation by a Fox News commentator that Obama outsourced the surveillance job to Britain’s spy agency.

See Newsday’s story by Tom Brune and Emily Ngo.

'Wiretap' canard spreads overseas

This attempt by the White House to go offshore with its evidently false accusation may have backfired, according to an update early Friday.

First the British agency GCHQ protested, calling the Spicer-spread rumor from Fox News' Andrew Napolitano "utterly ridiculous."

Then the spy agency reportedly received apologies from Spicer and National Security adviser H.R. McMaster, according to UK media citing unnamed sources.  

GOP health plan limps ahead

A key congressional committee narrowly approved a Republican health care bill Thursday, but three GOP “no” votes exposed GOP divisions over the plan to replace Obamacare, Newsday’s Yancey Roy reports.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has conceded the bill would have to be altered before winning congressional approval. Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon: “Great progress on healthcare. Improvements being made -- Republicans coming together!”

Airing of the spleen

There are many great Irish proverbs. After his White House meeting with Irish Prime Minister Endy Kenny, Trump celebrated the U.S.-Ireland friendship with one of the more obscure ones, with allusions to grudges and betrayal.

“Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you,” Trump said.

Perhaps he forgot what he told Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, a day earlier as the president coaxed him into a photo op, “even though you didn’t endorse me.” As the cameras clicked, Trump added, “I never forget.”

What else is happening

  • A Fox News poll finds 66 percent of voters want Congress to investigate Russia’s attempts to influence the election and 63 percent want lawmakers to look into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. More than three-fourths say Trump should produce evidence of his wiretap claim.
  • UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, interviewed on NBC’s “Today” show, said, “We should never trust Russia.” Is that a harder line than Trump’s? “I’m not going to talk about where the president is, because I don’t know,” she replied. But Trump hasn’t told her to tone it down, she said.
  • Ousted National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was paid almost $68,000 in fees and expenses from Russia-related entities in 2015, more than was previously known, after he retired from the military, according to documents released by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)
  • Spicer affirmed that the Trump administration will challenge rulings by two federal judges that halted the second attempt to impose a travel ban by executive order focused on Muslim-majority countries.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted Haley and Ivanka Trump at a Broadway musical about welcoming strangers in a time of need. “Come From Away” is the story of a remote Newfoundland town that cared for thousands of passengers stranded when flights were grounded after the 9/11 attacks.
  • A coalition of immigrant, labor and faith groups on Long Island called on GOP Reps. Peter King and Lee Zeldin to reverse their positions and oppose the travel ban sought by Trump, Newsday’s Víctor Manuel Ramos reports.
  • The Secret Service is investigating two agents assigned to protect Donald Trump III, the president’s grandson, for taking selfies with the 8-year-old while he was sleeping in the back of a car, Mother Jones magazine reported.


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