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U.S.-Mexican relations turn south toward danger zone

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on the federal budget in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Credit: AP

Borderline risk and then some

President Donald Trump touts nationalism at home and eggs it on in Europe. But his policies could goad Mexico into taking that path, too, with unwelcome consequences from turning a neighbor hostile.

“The decisions we make in the coming months will determine how Mexico and the United States coexist for the next decades,” Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has said.

As Trump’s secretaries of State and Homeland Security flew to Mexico City for talks, Mexico vowed to resist Trump’s new crackdown on immigrants here illegally. One part of the plan calls for dumping those here illegally into Mexico, even if they’re from other Latin American countries.

Trump’s threats of trade sanctions and his demand that Mexico pay for a border wall have also provoked fury.

That could boost the prospects of leftists riding an anti-American wave in next year’s Mexican presidential elections. If relations go bad, it’s conceivable that Mexico could even seek alliances — military cooperation included — with U.S. adversaries such as China or Russia, foreign affairs experts say.

Not to worry, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a briefing Wednesday — the “relationship with Mexico is phenomenal right now.”

Rift on restrooms

Trump sided with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a dispute with Education Secretary Betsy Devos over the rollback announced Wednesday night of Obama administration rules on transgender students’ access to restrooms matching their gender identity, The New York Times reported.

DeVos wanted to keep the rules in place, but yielded to Sessions after Trump made his decision, the report said. Spicer played down the disagreement, saying there were differences about wording and timing.

The take-away: Hostile takeover

As more Trump Cabinet choices get confirmed, more agencies are in the hands of bosses who were hostile to their Obama-era missions and face resistance from career bureaucrats who carried them out, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Two examples: Scott Pruitt, the new Environmental Protection Agency administrator, repeatedly sued the federal agency in his last post as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Rick Perry, awaiting confirmation to lead the Energy Department, once called for its elimination.

Arrival delay for new travel ban

Trump’s second try at an executive order restricting travel and immigration over concerns of terrorist infiltration won’t be ready until next week, the White House said.

Federal agencies also will be better prepared for the new version so that it is implemented “in an extremely smooth way,” Spicer said. The first version, rushed out last month, caused chaos and confusion at airports and was blocked by legal challenges.

The new one will stay true to Trump’s intent to protect the country while addressing legal concerns, Spicer said. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

What’s in the polls

A batch of new polls has some good news for Trump and some bad news — or, as he likes to put it, fake news:

By 80%-20%, voters, like Trump, oppose sanctuary cities that don’t report immigrants without documentation to the feds. (Harvard-Harris)

By 52%-37%, Americans overall trust the media more than Trump to tell the truth, but Republicans believe Trump more, 78%-13%. (Quinnipiac).

Given three choices on how Trump’s presidency makes them feel, 33% said “proud,” 58% said “embarrassed” and 9% weren’t sure. (McClatchy-Marist)

By 57%-23%, GOP voters are more concerned about leaks to the media of conversations between Trump advisers and the Russian government than about the conversations themselves. Among voters overall, 43%-39% are more concerned about the Russian contacts. (Reuters/Ipsos).

Trump’s job approval/disapproval rating is 38%-55% (Quinnipiac) or 42%-52% (Gallup).

Medical mystery

Is there a Trumpcare plan in the works? Yes. Also, no.

The president said Wednesday: “We’ll be submitting something” in March.

But Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said he was told by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price that “the administration wouldn’t be sending us a bill,” but instead “will cooperate and provide input into what we do.”

Protesteth too much

Spicer, echoing a Trump tweet from the night before, charged “professional protesters” were part of the rowdy crowds that have shown up at Republicans’ town hall meetings to speak up for saving Obamacare. He conceded, however, that there are genuine people who are “clearly upset.”

Neither Trump nor Spicer offered evidence to back up the assertions. The GOP discomfort drew a razzing tweet from Hillary Clinton: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the ... Congress.”

What else is happening

  • The State Department is relegated to a side role in the administration, the Washington Post reports.
  • A hacked email has surfaced that, if authentic, suggests Trump's man Paul Manafort was the target of a blackmail attempt involving his work in Ukraine — yet the instance looks a long way from conclusive or meaningful.
  • Jackie Evancho, the 16-year-old singer who performed the national anthem at Trump’s inauguration, said she is “disappointed” with him for rescinding transgender student protections and wants to meet with him — bringing along her sister Juliet (born Jacob).
  • Trump seeks job-creation advice from several firms that outsource them overseas, Reuters reports.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said that she expects Neil Gorsuch will in the end be confirmed for the Supreme Court.
  • A day after Trump spoke out against anti-Semitic incidents, Vice President Mike Pence made an unscheduled visit to a vandalized Jewish cemetery near St. Louis and said there is “no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism.”
  • It’s not just Obamacare’s uncertain future bringing out restive constituents to town halls held by Republican members of Congress — it’s also concern about Trump’s relationship with Russia, Politico reports.
  • Kellyanne Conway disputes a report that she has been sidelined from going on TV because of her credibility gap. The Trump aide told CNN, “I’m trying to focus on other pieces of my portfolio,” and has appearances planned this week.
  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told a union rally that Democrats in Congress defending Obamacare should “take a page” from Republican lawmakers who blocked the Obama and Clinton administrations’ major policy initiatives, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa reports.
  • Executives are gaining confidence and borrowing more to invest in their businesses since the November election, a Long Island lending executive said at a panel discussion in Ronkonkoma, Newsday’s Ken Schachter reports.
  • Ivanka Trump took her 5-year-old daughter to the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to “teach her about the judicial system in our country firsthand.” They listened to arguments in a business case.

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