Month: February 2017


Publishers in a $60 million bidding war over Barack and Michelle Obama's book rights

Book publishers are in a bidding war for the rights to books by former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Bidding has surpassed $60 million, more than four times what the second-highest president’s book rights were auctioned off at, according to a report published Tuesday.

Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan are in a bidding war for the Obamas’ next books, which they are writing separately, but selling the rights collectively, according to Business Insider. Penguin Random House has published three of the former president’s previous books.

Former President Bill Clinton’s book rights went for $15 million, the current record. George W. Bush sold his rights for $10 million following his two terms in office.

In early February, the Democratic power couple signed with the Manhattan-based Harry Walker Agency.

“President Barack Obama and Mrs. Obama have selected the Harry Walker Agency (HWA) to coordinate their respective speaking engagements. In addition, attorneys Robert Barnett and Deneen Howell will manage contract-negotiations with potential publishers for the former president and Mrs. Obama’s respective books,” a statement from spokesperson Kevin Lewis said.

The agency also represents former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, as well as a number of Republicans no longer in the political world, including former House Speaker John Boehner and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

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House Dem: Trump's plan to gut State will cost 'American blood and treasure'

President Trump’s planned cuts to the State Department will cost “American blood and treasure,” a senior House Democrat warned Tuesday.

Trump plans to increase defense spending by $54 billion, and his unofficial budget request would offset those spending increases by cutting discretionary spending in other government programs. That includes a 30 percent haircut for the State Department, reports suggest.

“Make no mistake: if the administration gets its way now, we will pay for it down the line many times over in American blood and treasure,” said New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I will fight tooth and nail any effort to eviscerate our foreign policy apparatus. And I hope my Republican colleagues see the folly of the administration’s agenda and will put country before party to ensure America’s security and leadership in the world.”

Trump’s team crafted the budget as they did with an eye towards rolling back the defense spending cuts mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, without raising the deficit. “It is a true America-first budget,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who voted for the 2011 spending cuts as congressman from South Carolina, said Monday. “It prioritizes rebuilding the military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities; protecting the nation and securing the border; enforcing the laws currently on the books; taking care of vets; and increasing school choice. And it does all of that without adding to the currently projected FY 2018 deficit.”

That budget is already taking fire from Republican defense hawks, who protest that the $54 billion increase isn’t enough to meet current foreign policy needs. “With a world on fire, America cannot secure peace through strength with just 3 percent more than President Obama’s budget,” Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday.

Mulvaney was a forceful fiscal conservative in Congress and stood by those positions during his Senate confirmation hearing, which suggests that any increase in Pentagon or State Department spending could place increased pressure on other government agencies. But Senate Democrats plan to block spending bills that raise defense spending without a commensurate increase in other domestic spending.

“I can support increases in defense, but I’m not going to stand by while he guts our investments in education, innovation and infrastructure,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told the Washington Examiner. “We need to have a balance between those requests for defense [increases] and for these important domestic economic investments.”

Engel, as the ranking member on the foreign affairs panel, focused exclusively on the State Department.

“This White House’s apparent belief that to further strengthen our military we should gut American diplomacy betrays a deep lack of understanding about the complexities of foreign affairs,” he said. “Diplomacy keeps us safe by preventing conflict, defusing crises, and building bridges of friendship and cooperation. Development keeps us safe by helping enhance stability and showing the world America’s best face.”

DNI nominee Coats: US must approach Russia threat 'with eyes wide open'

Also from the Washington Examiner

Former Sen. Dan Coats appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee for his confirmation hearing.

02/28/17 3:18 PM

“If we undermine these efforts, we make it more likely that somewhere down the road, a fire will burn out of control,” he added. “And because we’ve failed to put it out or prevent it from starting in the first place, we’re faced with the choice of sending our sons and daughters into harm’s way.”

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Democrats call on Trump to support drug re-import bill

Democrats are demanding that President Trump support new legislation to let Americans buy cheaper drugs from Canada, pointing to promises the president has made to lower prices.

“He has made promises to the American people about prescription drug prices,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., at a press conference Tuesday. “Now it is time for him to put up or shut up.”

Booker joined fellow Senate and House Democrats Tuesday to introduce legislation to legalize so-called drug re-importation, which is buying drugs from another country such as Canada that are first imported from the United States. Re-imports from Canada can be cheaper because that country has a single-payer healthcare program.

Drug re-importation isn’t a new issue, but has gained steam again recently since Trump has said that he wanted to lower prices but hasn’t specifically endorsed drug re-importation.

Booker previously voted against an amendment last month to a budget resolution that would have allowed re-importation. He said that he opposed it due to safety concerns.

Booker now says those concerns have been allayed, with the safety provisions in the bill.

Drug re-importation is currently illegal under federal law. However, the Food and Drug Administration usually looks the other way if an individual does it. The agency traditionally goes after entities that aim to offer imported drugs instead.

This bill would legalize importation. It would require foreign sellers of prescription drugs to register with the Food and Drug Administration and they can only sell drugs that are made in FDA-inspected plants.

The bill is expected to get fervent opposition from the pharma industry, which has fought states that tried to legalize re-importation before. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry’s main lobbying group, slammed the bill.

Democrats say Trump is off to slow start on 'fair trade'

Also from the Washington Examiner

“He did not declare China to be a currency manipulator on ‘day one’ as he promised during the campaign,” Rep. DeLauro said.

02/28/17 1:21 PM

“The bill lacks sufficient safety controls, would exacerbate threats to public health from counterfeit, adulterated or diverted medicines, and increase the burden on law enforcement to prevent unregulated medicines and other dangerous products from harming consumers,” said PhRMA spokesperson Nicole Longo.

But pharma isn’t the only one with concerns. The nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts said on Tuesday that drug re-importation means a safety risk.

“With a steady supply of non-compliant product coming over the border, or through online pharmacies, it will be very difficult, and potentially impossible, to distinguish product that is non-compliant [with safety regulations],” according to a letter to Sanders.

Nevertheless, Democrats are pushing forward saying that the legislation is needed and the provision has a good chance of becoming law.

“I am more optimistic than we have ever been that we are going to get something done on this,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who also voted against the amendment last month.

Sessions warns of 'viral videos' and 'targeted' police killings

Also from the Washington Examiner

Sessions also promised that his Justice Department would prioritize cases against violent crimes.

02/28/17 1:15 PM

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GOP hopes Trump will unify party around Obamacare replacement

Some GOP lawmakers believe President Trump will be the driving force behind unifying conservatives now threatening to oppose an Obamacare replacement plan.

“I absolutely believe the bully pulpit will work,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a member of the GOP leadership team and the House Energy and Commerce panel, which is drafting an Obamacare replacement plan. “It may be up to President Trump to sell the ultimate plan to some fence sitters. I think that is true.”

Trump will address a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, and healthcare reform, one of his major campaign promises, is certain to be a central element of his speech.

“#Obamacare has failed. We are going to #RepealAndReplace!” Trump tweeted Monday.

Trump has already played a major role in shaping the GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort, in part by using twitter and the media to push for a simultaneous replacement plan that Republicans have now included in their proposal.

The political stakes are very high for Trump and Republicans, who made campaign pledges to repeal the healthcare law and replace it with lower-cost, patient-centered options. Collins said the public is expecting Trump and Congress to act and that alone will help push GOP opponents to support the proposal.

“We have to pass it,” Collins said. “If we don’t pass fundamental healthcare reform… and we go to the voting booths in the mid terms, it’s not going to be a pretty sight.”

The House is expected in the next week or two to begin marking up a measure to repeal and partly replace Obamacare with block grants and tax credits paid for with a tax increase on employer-sponsored plans.

But the draft proposal has already attracted enough opposition to sink it from the most conservative GOP faction, the House Freedom Caucus, who believe it will create a new entitlement program and will result in higher costs for some health insurance subscribers.

Tea Party moving from defense to offense

Also from the Washington Examiner

Planning a “day of action” to encourage Congress to repeal Obamacare.

02/28/17 2:07 PM

“It’s not what we talked about for six years,” Rep. Dave Brat, R-VA., an HFC member who opposes the plan, told the Washington Examiner. Brat called the GOP plan, “the same ‘ol, same ‘ol.”

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., the state’s former governor, said he has serious doubts about whether he can support the GOP healthcare reform plan because it calls for replacing means-tested subsidies with tax credits that would be available evenly to across all income levels, including the wealthy.

“I think it opens up a Pandora’s box on what comes next on healthcare,” Sanford said, adding he will oppose the plan, “in its present form.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appeared unconcerned Tuesday when reporters asked him about the significant GOP opposition.

“Well, look, I think you’re going to have a lot of churning on any kind of legislative product like this,” Ryan said. “This is a plan that we are all working on together; the House, the Senate, the White House. So there aren’t rival plans here. We’re all working on this together with the administration.”

McConnell: Dem response presenter 'poster child' for Obamacare disaster

Also from the Washington Examiner

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was replaced by a “anti-Obamacare governor.”

02/28/17 1:54 PM

Much of the legwork on drafting a proposal is taking place in the Energy and Commerce panel’s health subcommittee.

Rep. Larry Buschon, R-Ind., a member of the subcommittee, said the full GOP conference will take part in a healthcare planning meeting on Thursday, where they will get more details about the draft proposal.

“Speaker Ryan and others are working with all the members of our conference to get people to a point where they are comfortable with the healthcare replacement plan,” Buschon told the Washington Examiner.

Collins said opponents to the plan will eventually support it because the alternative is much worse.

“The bottom line is, we go down in flames if we don’t get this done,” Collins said.

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The new Trail of Tears

“You don’t need to travel to Beijing to see central planning at work,” writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians (Encounter Books, 2016). “It’s everywhere on [American Indian] reservations.”

Riley, a weekly columnist for the New York Post, provides a reality check for those whose nostalgic but erroneous image of American Indians derives from Chief Seattle’s (falsified) “environmental” speech. It’s a wake-up call for a Congress that in recent years enacted unconstitutional laws adversely affecting American Indians. Congress then salved its conscience by throwing money at circumstances that, at their roots, involve fundamental freedoms, and “get over it” tough love for a patriotic people — their willingness to fight and die in defense of their country is second to none — whose leaders seek perennial title as the most deserving of “victim cultures.”

In the process, Riley provided a to-do list for the Trump administration.

Recognition of the problematic way modern Americans treat American Indians is old.

Stephen F. Haywood tells “shopworn” Ronald Reagan’s 1975 tale, while campaigning in New Hampshire, of the tearful Bureau of Indian Affairs employee “[whose] Indian died.” Reagan knew about the broken promises — after all, he won acclaim for killing a California dam that violated an agreement with a tiny tribe. (“We’ve broken too damn many treaties,” he once said.)

Reagan went further by lamenting the government-fostered “primitive lifestyles” and urged that American Indians “join us.” Earlier, Reagan’s Interior Secretary Jim Watt decried their circumstances with, “If you want an example of the failure of socialism, don’t go to Russia, come to America and go to the Indian reservations.” Both drew only enmity.

In 1996, however, in Killing the White Man’s Indian: The Reinvention of Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century, Fergus M. Bordewich furnished a fresh, factual, and freedom-based discussion of American Indians.

Now comes Riley’s The New Trail of Tears, which credits Bordewich as well as Terry L. Anderson of the Property and Environmental Research Center. Anderson inspired and informed Riley, and Anderson’s book Unlocking the Wealth of Indian Nations (Lexington Books, 2016) serves as a companion to The New Trail of Tears.

Riley sees the problems facing the 562 federally-recognized Indian nations and the 310 reservations that are home to roughly 1 million Indians, as “lack of economic opportunity, lack of education, and lack of equal protection under the law.” It is not “the history of forced assimilation, war, and mass murder that have left American Indians in a deplorable state; it’s the federal government’s policies today [that are] a microcosm of everything that has gone wrong with modern liberalism.”

Jon Stewart tells media to 'stop your whining' about Trump

Also from the Washington Examiner

“Take up a hobby. I recommend journalism.”

02/28/17 11:51 AM

End the “misguided paternalism,” demands Riley, as well as the bloated bureaucracies. Reagan joked, but there is one Bureau of Indian Education employee for every 111 reservation Indians. Riley also says to end the profligate federal spending that in 2015, for example, gave the BIE $20,000 per pupil to provide the nation’s worst public schools (the national average is $12,400 per pupil).

Today, Indian reservations in the western U.S. are, quoting Anderson, “islands of poverty in a sea of wealth,” because individual American Indians are denied the “magical force” that is private property and thus suffer from what Hernando de Soto labeled “dead capital.” The misery reaches the tribal level where layers of “federal oversight” make American Indians “the highest regulated race in the world.”

Finally, there is the continuing but perpetually-futile tribal pursuit of the “loophole economy.” Whether it involves tax-free cigarettes, casinos, or racial quotas, it’s an endless cycle that, together with tribal governments, employs most reservation residents.

The way out of that endless loop is education, argues Riley. To support her case she journeyed from the dispiriting schools of the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota to the exciting classrooms in the converted barn of Ben Chavis (former principal of the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland) in Robeson County, N.C.

There Chavis, a Lumbee Indian, hosts summer camps to bring the unwilling children of desperate Lumbee parents up to grade level in math. He faults local schools for hiring politically-connected teachers instead of qualified ones. “White people call it nepotism,” he says. “We call it kinship,” but it has to stop. Riley calls for more, “a change in cultural attitudes toward education.”

GOP foreign policy adviser under consideration to be Trump's Navy secretary

Also from the Washington Examiner

Robert C. O’Brien, a former foreign policy adviser to Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaigns, is under consideration to serve as the next secretary of the Navy in Trump’s administration.

The Washington Examiner confirmed on Tuesday that O’Brien is being considered for the Navy’s top civilian job, according to sources.

O’Brien is a trial lawyer and previously served as a senior adviser to Mitt Romney during his presidential runs, according to his biography. He also served as co-chair of the U.S. State department Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan under two secretaries of state, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Before that, he was the U.S. representative to the United

By David M. Drucker, Jacqueline Klimas

02/28/17 11:48 AM

Finally, there are things Congress can do to restore the rights of individual American Indians. Treating them as a group and not individuals, Congress subjected all Indians to the criminal and civil jurisdiction of any tribe (Indian Civil Rights Act), authorized tribes to take lawfully-adopted children from their parents (Indian Child Welfare Act), and empowered tribes to prosecute non-Indians (the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act). Each is flawed constitutionally, even fatally so. Worse, congressional fixes do little to address “the lawlessness on many reservations and the suffering of their most vulnerable citizens.”

Riley calls on federal, state, and tribal law enforcement officials to do their jobs, but she also prescribes tough love for people she clearly admires, but for whom culture or “kinship” has spread generations of damage and dysfunction: “The time has come for some honesty.”

The question remains, can we handle the truth?

William Perry Pendley is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, has argued cases before the Supreme Court and worked in the Department of the Interior during the Reagan administration. He is the author of “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today.”

If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

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Obamacare gut check: Do Republicans love freedom as much as Democrats love big government?

Republicans who now have the power to deliver on their central promise of the past seven years — repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a market-based alternative — are facing a gut-check moment. As they fear the potential political backlash, they must ask themselves: Do Republicans love freedom as much as Democrats love big government?

Democrats took a big risk to expand the role of government in healthcare. During the 13-month process that produced Obamacare, there were many freak out moments. There were missed deadlines, scary Congressional Budget Office numbers, terrible polling, and constant infighting among liberals and more centrist members of the party. There were many times when it looked like it could all fall apart and where there was real reason to fear their majorities could be at risk — the massive, nationwide protests and uprisings at town hall meetings, and even the defeat of a Democratic Senate candidate in the deep blue state of Massachusetts in a special election to replace the liberal lion, and champion of national healthcare, Ted Kennedy. And there were voices in Congress, in the media, and in the White House — right up to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — arguing that Democrats needed to cut their losses and scale back their ambitions.

But Democrats persevered. Ultimately, amid their differences, they saw a once in a lifetime opportunity to make progress toward the dream of universal health coverage that had eluded them for more than a half a century. Their leaders, from President Obama, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, kept the pressure on, twisted arms, cajoled, and communicated at every opportunity that inaction was not an option. Dozens of Democrats ultimately cast votes in favor of a bill that they knew was more likely than not to mean the end of their political careers. And they were right. More than any other factor, Obamacare contributed to the staggering losses Democrats faced in the House and the Senate. But in the end, they left behind the legacy of Obamacare. Viewed one way, Democrats defied the will of the people to ram through a massive overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system on purely partisan terms. Viewed another way, they were willing to risk political defeat to deliver on something they believed in.

So, do Republicans believe anything they’ve been saying? Do they think Obamacare is an abomination, that kills jobs, drives up costs, erodes the quality of coverage, and stifles innovation? Do they believe Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced, as they have insisted in every campaign they have run since 2010? If they do, they have a duty to follow through on the promises to which they owe their majorities, no matter the political risks.

I am in no way ignorant of the potential political backlash that could come from repeal and the difficulties of getting Republicans to agree on a replacement. In fact, for years, I have been urging Republicans to start developing a plan precisely to prepare for the moment that has now come — I even wrote a book on the subject.

But without being sanguine about the political risks of repeal, Republicans need to also consider the backlash that will inevitably come if they do not. To start, Obamacare cannot survive as it is. It is simply not a sustainable system. Insurers are not enrolling enough young and healthy individuals to offset the cost of covering older and sicker enrollees. They keep raising premiums, and supporters of the law claim that the plans are now priced appropriately, but then claims come in, and it turns out that they are not and that insurers are still losing money.

Humana has said it would be pulling out of the market completely for 2018. And the experience of Molina Healthcare is even more telling. Molina was a relatively small insurer that had invested heavily in Obamacare. It was one of the insurers that was highly touted by the law’s supporters as a real success story. A sample of the headlines in the past year or so: “Molina Healthcare Thriving Under Obamacare”; “Molina Outperforms Rivals in ACA Marketplaces”; and “Meet the insurer making money from ObamaCare.” But in actuality, the insurer reported that they lost $110 million on the exchanges last year, performance that was “substantially” lower than expected, and could no longer commit to the program in 2018. And, lest liberals chime in that this was due to the uncertainty caused by repeal efforts and President Trump cutting Obamacare ads in the final days of January, it should be noted that those results were from 2016, when Obama was still in power and using the full weight of the executive branch to prop up his signature legislation. If Republicans do nothing, market chaos will ensue anyway, and they’ll face political consequences.

Another strategy that Republicans seem to be seriously contemplating is one that I’ve called Repeal In Name Only. This is a strategy in which Republicans tinker around the edges, add some free market window dressing (a little health savings account expansion here, a bit of increased state flexibility there) and yet, they preserve much of the spending of Obamacare as well as leave the Medicaid expansion largely intact. If Republicans pursued this strategy, they would no doubt try to argue, out of one side of their mouths, that people won’t be losing their Obamacare coverage, and then with the other, tell conservatives that they delivered on their promises, and then they with cross their fingers and hope and pray that voters are too dumb to tell the difference. The reality is that doing some tinkering while keeping much of Obamacare intact will ensure the worst of all worlds. Conservatives will realize that they’ve been had, and that Republicans pulled off what may be the biggest broken promise in American political history. So their own base will be dispirited in 2018, when the incumbent party typically loses seats. Meanwhile, because Republicans would be trying hard to convince the public that they actually did do something, Democrats could blame Republicans for any problems with the healthcare system.

Republicans actually have a one-time opportunity to do what they’ve long promised — which is to fully repeal Obamacare, with all its taxes, and spending, and regulatory overreach — and to replace it with a market-based system that provides more choices, lowers costs, and puts patients in charge of their own healthcare. If they get this done, even if they lose their majorities, it will have been worth it. They can say that when they had power, they used it to advance something they believed in and made a real difference. If they flub this, then we know what will happen. Democrats will eventually take power again, and they’ll have much of the foundation of Obamacare left to build on. They will add subsidies and regulations, and perhaps an additional government-run plan, and the nation will be further on its way to single-payer.

House panel to outline scope of 'full-blown' Russia probe today

Also from the Washington Examiner

The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday plans to release a statement defining the scope of its “full blown” investigation into Russian hacking prior to the 2016 elections, including whether there were contacts between the Trump campaign and any Russian officials.

“We will have a statement we will put out on that today,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., adding a public report will likely follow.

Nunes and other Republican leaders on Tuesday repeated their belief that there is, so far, no evidence of any contact between Russia and officials who worked on the campaign of president.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Tuesday, “We had seen no evidence so far based upon the

02/28/17 11:19 AM

Americans are in a long-term struggle over the scale of control that government is going to exert over their lives. The side that wants to limit government has been getting beaten badly, because the side that wants to expand government is willing to take more political risks than the side that purports to support freedom and less government. If Democrats take ten steps forward when they’re in power, and Republicans merely pull them back a step when they assume power, then Americans and their state governments will be forced to cede more and more power to Washington until the U.S. is indistinguishable from a European social welfare state.

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Trump won't fill hundreds of administration jobs

President Trump doesn’t plan to fill many of the hundreds of appointed political jobs in his administration because he thinks they’re unnecessary.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said he’s been hit for not filling about 1,200 administration jobs that require Senate confirmation, but people don’t understand that he’s not trying to fill many of those jobs.

“A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint someone because they’re unnecessary to have,” Trump said. “In government, we have too many people.”

Trump offered that up as an example of why he gave himself a C for messaging during his first month in office. He said his communication strategy could be clearer and he’s going to try and change that around with his speech to Congress Tuesday night.

That communication strategy often involves Trump bringing his message directly to the people through his Twitter account. Trump admitted he doesn’t often think about some sort of grand plan when he’s tweeting, instead shooting off thoughts on whatever’s on his mind.

He used his criticism of Arizona Sen. John McCain as an example.

“[There’s] no method really, it’s not venting either,” Trump said. “But, I felt badly when a young man dies and John McCain calls it a failed mission.”

“I thought it was inappropriate and I thought it was inappropriate that he goes to foreign soil and criticizes our government,” he said. “People have to be careful about that.”

Economic growth 1.9 percent in fourth quarter of 2016 as revision disappoints

Also from the Washington Examiner

Previously, the agency had reported a 1.9 percent growth rate, adjusted for inflation.

02/28/17 8:32 AM

Trump said he doesn’t plan to stop using Twitter, which has been a mainstay of his brand long before he decided to run for the highest office in the country. At this point, it’s his best way to reach supporters without the filter of the media, he said.

When he tweets, it’s clear what he means and no one can interpret it otherwise, he said.

“The enemies would like me to stop it,” he said. “If I felt the media were honest, most of it or all of it, I wouldn’t do it.”

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Trump's address a chance to boost flagging poll numbers

President Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday will offer him the most high-profile platform since the inaugural address to confront issues that have dragged down his approval ratings.

With his average approval rating hovering below 44 percent, Trump has struggled during the first month of his presidency to broaden his appeal beyond the voters who put him in office. A series of controversial executive orders and damaging administration leaks has helped to deny Trump the honeymoon period afforded to other newly-inaugurated presidents, who have enjoyed relatively high poll numbers during the early days of their first terms.

Republican pollsters and strategists say Trump needs to move beyond the generalities that characterize his red-meat rallies and focus on the policy debates that have already consumed Congress when he delivers his high-stakes speech on Tuesday.

“President Trump needs to have some specifics,” said Glen Bolger, a pollster at Public Opinion Strategies. “If this is just a speech about ‘the best’ and ‘the biggest’ and ‘winning,’ that won’t get the job done. It worked for the campaign, but it’s time for some specificity of plans.”

Trump is expected to review some of the policy changes his administration have notched to date, such as the move to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the effort to negotiate job-creating investment deals with major corporations, White House officials said on Monday evening.

Matthew Towery, a pollster at Opinion Savvy, said Trump should dedicate some of his speech to actions that have polled well so far.

“We’ve found that most of his high-profile Cabinet appointments have been met with overall approval, despite the contentious confirmation process,” Towery said. “Likewise, voters are optimistic about the economy, and tax reform is among the most important issues for a majority of Americans.”

“The Keystone pipeline is also fairly popular,” Towery added. “These are easy, relatively benign issues that will play well with his base and won’t completely alienate the rest of the rest of the room.”

The theme of Trump’s speech — “the renewal of the American spirit,” according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer — suggests the president has prepared an optimistic, forward-looking speech.

Economic growth 1.9 percent in fourth quarter of 2016 as revision disappoints

Also from the Washington Examiner

Previously, the agency had reported a 1.9 percent growth rate, adjusted for inflation.

02/28/17 8:32 AM

And polls show there are still causes for optimism in surveys of Trump’s performance.

For example, Trump continued to earn high marks when it came to “dealing with the economy,” “being firm and decisive in decision-making” and “changing business as usual in Washington” in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last week. But Trump earned the lowest ratings for “having the right temperament.” Only 8 percent of people asked about the president’s temperament gave him the highest grade.

Lee Carter, a pollster at Maslansky and Partners, said Trump should use the opportunity provided by the speech to demonstrate his discipline.

“I would tell him to stick to the script and read from the teleprompter to reassure folks that he can when he needs to,” Carter said.

Immigration remains one of the thornier issues facing Trump, but still ranked as the most important problem for Congress and the president to solve in a CBS News poll conducted earlier this month.

Thaw: Trump says Paul Ryan 'terrific'

Also from the Washington Examiner

“I think that Paul Ryan and his whole group have been terrific,” Trump said.

02/28/17 8:12 AM

Trump’s roll-out of an executive order related to immigration from the Middle East — as well as his directives to the Department of Homeland Security calling for stricter enforcement of immigration laws — have sparked fierce opposition from Democrats, who accuse the president of violating American values. Trump’s temporary restrictions on travel from seven Middle Eastern countries have been dubbed a “Muslim ban” designed specifically to keep members of a certain religion from entering the U.S.

Towery suggested immigration policy will be a more delicate area for Trump to approach.

“There are issues that President Trump needs to clarify, or otherwise avoid altogether. For instance, a Fox News poll showed that 54 percent of voters believe that the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico is ‘not at all important.’ He should refrain from any mention of it to Congress,” Towery said. “The same should be said of the ‘Muslim ban,’ which has been met with overall disapproval by multiple outlets.”

The same Fox News poll that registered ambivalence about construction of the border wall also found 53 percent of respondents felt Trump’s indefinite ban on Syrian refugees “went too far.”

But the centerpiece of Trump’s speech will likely focus on a topic that has busied House and Senate leaders for weeks: repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

“The giant, looming elephant in the room is, of course, the ACA,” Towery said. “Voters are worried that health insurance will be harder to get, and they’re split as to whether the Trump administration’s policies will even benefit their family overall.”

Indeed, Republican lawmakers were besieged during last week’s recess by voters demanding answers in town halls around the country to questions about the future of Obamacare.

Trump will face pressure from Republicans to offer guidance on how the party should proceed on a policy overhaul it has pursued for years.

“He should lay out some of his principles for reforming healthcare — start outlining it,” Bolger said.

Carter suggested Trump use the speech on Tuesday to reach out to Democrats who could help ease the passage of healthcare reform legislation.

“I would tell him to have a call to action. To invite representatives from both sides of the aisle to come together and do what the American people asked for: cut taxes, fix Obamacare, keep them safe,” she said. “I would tell him to ask for a stop to the squabbling and grandstanding. And I would ask him to extend an olive branch by publicly inviting key Dem leaders to his office for a conversation – a brainstorming session of how they can better work together.”

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Economic growth 1.9 percent in fourth quarter of 2016 as revision disappoints

Growth slowed significantly to end the year, after a 3.5 percent growth rate in the third quarter. Nevertheless, the second half was significantly stronger than the anemic first half of the year. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The U.S. economy grew at a 1.9 percent annual pace in the last quarter of 2016, according to revised Gross Domestic Product data published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis Tuesday morning.

Tuesday’s report disappointed investor expectations, which were for an upward revision to 2.1 percent.

Consumer spending was revised up to a strong 3 percent, but that increase was offset by lower government spending and business investment than previously thought, leaving the total growth rate unchanged at 1.9 percent.

Growth slowed significantly to end the year, after a 3.5 percent growth rate in the third quarter. Nevertheless, the second half was significantly stronger than the anemic first half of the year.

The GDP data is adjusted for seasonal variations.

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Trump to sign executive order on historically black colleges and universities

President Trump is set to sign an executive order aimed at boosting historically black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs, on Tuesday amid a period of increased outreach to the institutions from high-level members of the administration.

The order will allow HBCU officials to serve as advisors to Trump on his urban agenda as well as increase the private sector’s role in the colleges and universities, a White House official said.

Trump’s executive order comes one day after Vice President Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hosted representatives from dozens of HBCUs at a “listening session” in the executive office building next door to the White House.

“Our administration, at the president’s direction, is working to find new ways to expand your impact so that more students, especially in the underserved communities in this country, have the chance at a quality education,” Pence said at the outset of the meeting on Monday.

“We want to partner with you. We want to partner with you to help train the students of today to face the challenges and to lead in America tomorrow.”

Trump had personally welcomed some of the HBCU representatives in the Oval Office earlier Monday.

DeVos visited Howard University, a historically black school in Washington, D.C., as one of her first official acts as education secretary.

The president is also expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday related to Obama-era environmental regulations.

Ryan not bothered by lack of entitlement reform in Trump's budget

Also from the Washington Examiner

Speaker Paul Ryan isn’t bothered that President Trump’s budget outline doesn’t include any changes to entitlement spending because there is still time to make those reforms for future retirees.

“We’ve never proposed to change benefits for current seniors and people who are about to retire,” he said on NBC. “In the 10-year budget window … we have never proposed that.”

“These programs will be bankrupt by the time we get there, we need to reform them by the time we get there,” he added.

Ryan said Trump’s promise to hike military spending while cutting spending from other areas is part of a Republican plan to build up a “hollowed out” military.

02/28/17 7:49 AM

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