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President Trump to order review of government procurement, visa programs

President Donald Trump speaks in the Eisenhower Executive

President Donald Trump speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus on April 11, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is set Tuesday to sign a dual-track executive order that officials said would help fulfill his “Buy American, Hire American” pledge by revamping government procurement and visa programs.

Trump is to visit a tool manufacturing company in middle-class Kenosha, Wisconsin, to review procedures officials said have hurt the American worker.

The order would assess H-1B guest-worker visas originally intended to bring high-skilled labor to the country but now distributed by lottery without regard to skill or wage, said senior administration officials on the condition of anonymity.

It also would allow for a deep look at trade deals, waivers and exceptions that put U.S. products and services at a disadvantage in the global public-procurement market, officials said.

“It’s a criticism of Washington, D.C., how they’re running these programs,” an official said. “This is an executive order embracing the optimism of a new way of doing business in D.C.”

The “Hire American” component would instruct the departments of State, Labor, Justice and Homeland Security to look for fraud and abuse of the visa and immigration system, the official said. It would refocus the H-1B program on introducing higher-skill — not just lower-cost — workers into the U.S. economy, the official said.

The “Buy American” portion would launch reviews by the Commerce Department and the Office of the Trade Representative to minimize the use of waivers in free-trade agreements and flag unfair practices such as predatory pricing to win a bid, another official said. Trading partners would be “put on notice” if deals aren’t reciprocal, the official said.

Asked why Trump uses foreign employees at his Mar-a-Lago estate if he is championing American workers, an official said the president sets policy for the American people, not private enterprises.

The findings of the reviews could inform legislative measures, the officials said.

Also Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer faced down questions on transparency in the administration, defending Trump on decisions against releasing White House visitor logs and his tax returns.

Spicer cited pre-Barack Obama precedent in the halting of the routine release of the names of White House visitors, saying most previous presidents didn’t make logs public and Obama’s was a “faux attempt” at open government.

“It’s not really being transparent when you scrub out the names of the people that you don’t want anyone to know were here,” Spicer said.

But the administration at the same time is defying precedent set by past presidents and candidates releasing their tax returns, and Spicer repeated that Trump wouldn’t disclose his because he is currently under audit.

Asked if the administration is going to declare that it will never release the president’s tax returns, Spicer said, “We’ll have to get back to you on that.”

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