Gaps around the wall
Since Mexico hasn’t yet handed over its credit card to pay for the border wall, the Trump administration is looking to move money from elsewhere — the Coast Guard, TSA and FEMA.
Critics — Republicans among them — said the plan would undercut the missions of those three agencies to protect Americans from terrorism, crime and natural disasters.
The Coast Guard budget would shrink 14 percent; the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency by 11 percent each. That would help free up $2.9 billion to get started on the wall and about $2.3 billion to boost immigration enforcement.
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R.-Calif.), a Trump supporter, pointed to the Coast Guard’s role combating drug traffickers and illegal immigration, and said “This makes no sense.” The ax would also fall on counterterror patrols in ports and sensitive waterways.
The TSA stands to lose programs that help watch out for suspicious behavior in airports and train pilots to prevent cockpit takeovers by hijackers.
“If you were on one of the four hijacked planes on 9/11, you’d sure say it was important,” said former TSA administrator John S. Pistole.
Art of the sale
President Donald Trump is in “sell mode” and will flex the deal-making muscles he honed as a businessman to win over conservatives opposed to his Obamacare-replacement bill, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.
House Republicans pushed initial legislation through the House Ways and Means Committee in the pre-dawn hours Thursday. But doctors, hospitals and consumer groups mounted opposition, which is one reason a final plan is still considered to be a ways off.
The White House also seems to be getting ready to lob a “fake math” charge at the independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which is expected to calculate by next week the plan’s costs and potential impact on how many Americans remain insured.
“Look at how off they were last time,” Spicer said, referring to its Obamacare estimates in 2009. (The CBO overestimated sign-ups, but not costs.)
Trump’s Office of Management and Budget will probably issue estimates for the new plan, Spicer said.
The take-away: Credit isn’t due
When the going gets good, Trump jumps into the picture. Newsday’s Dan Janison writes about the president’s penchant for grabbing credit — most recently on Exxon Mobil’s investment in long-term expansion on the Gulf Coast.
“This is something that was done to a large extent because of our policies and the policies of this new administration,” Trump said. But the oil giant launched the plan in 2013.
Comey not going
FBI Director James Comey, speaking at a cybersecurity conference in Boston, didn’t talk about his behind-the-scenes effort to get the Justice Department to debunk Trump’s bugging claim. But he made clear he’s not thinking about quitting.
“You’re stuck with me for another 6 ½ years,” Comey told attendees. Comey left without speaking to reporters.
CNN reported that former President Barack Obama was irked and exasperated by Trump’s tweeted accusations last weekend that he had ordered the then-candidate bugged.
The president is “very concerned” about WikiLeaks’ revelations about purported CIA cyber surveillance tools — and Spicer said there was no inconsistency with Trump’s praise of the secrets-exposing organization during the campaign.
There’s a “massive, massive difference,” Spicer said, between publishing private emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta “and the leaking of classified information.”
Here’s what’s not different: hacking is illegal.
In this case investigators say the leaks appear to be the work of an inside whistle-blower rather than a foreign power, the Times reports.
Followings for the money
Trump’s proposal to increase infrastructure spending wins 79 percent approval in a CNN/ORC poll, but boosting military spending by cutting nondefense agencies is disapproved by 58 percent.
Tax cuts for the middle class is favored by 84 percent, but a smaller 54 percent agree with Trump that business should get lower rates.
What else is happening:
- Hawaii has filed the first lawsuit against Trump’s revised travel ban, asking a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order to block its implementation.
- Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has accepted Trump’s offer of nomination for ambassador to Russia, NBC News reported. A Republican, Huntsman served as ambassador to China for Obama.
- Politico cataloged eight ploys Trump aides use to deflect questions when he says stuff that’s false. A Kellyanne Conway gem: “Are they more important than the many things that he says that are true that are making a difference in people’s lives?”
- The 24-year-old son of Sen. Tim Kaine, , the 2016 Democratic candidate for vice president, was arrested after allegedly disrupting a pro-Donald Trump rally inside the Minnesota State Capitol, CNN reports. Linwood Michael Kaine was part of a group that chanted and lit fireworks inside the rotunda, police said.
- Trump has begun to reach out to Democrats on two issues where he believes they can help him: infrastructure spending and restraining prescription drug costs, Politico says.
- China has approved of dozens of new trademarks for businesses and products owned by Trump and his family. Several Democrats say that raises fresh questions about potential conflicts of interest with foreign governments, Bloomberg News reports.