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Washington Report January 27, 2017
27 Jan 2017

Washington Report January 27, 2017

Whew, and it’s only been a week since Trump’s inauguration. 12 Executive Orders and Counting … 17 Federal Agencies and Programs On Chopping Block … ‘Alternative Facts’ (is this an Oxymoron?) … McCain’s Got His Swagger Back … Twilight Moment … Women’s March … and so, so much more.
Forgive the length of the Report, it HAS been a busy week.
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


DEPT. OF THIS AIN’T EASY Politico “President Donald Trump ordered Senate and House Republicans here to get to work: new trade deals, new construction projects, an Obamacare repeal and replacement, filling a Cabinet and a Supreme Court seat and reforming the tax code. But the business mogul-turned-president is getting a reality check from Congress, which can’t just wave through his agenda. Each piece of legislation Trump wants to pass will be a major lift on Capitol Hill — and much of it will spark fierce Democratic resistance — meaning it will take weeks or months of negotiation to come together. ‘It’s a new world when you have 535 people on your board of directors,’ said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in an interview.
YUGE FIRST WEEK Politico Magazine “President Donald Trump’s first seven days in office were historic, chaotic, often astonishing and sometimes unsettling. With a flurry of provocative executive orders, surreal events, unapologetic falsehoods and did-he-really-say-that tweets, Trump continued to obliterate political norms, serving notice that the gaze of history won’t change who he is. He made so much news and did so many unorthodox things that it was hard to keep track of everything that was changing in Washington. The question, though, is what did all that sound and fury signify? Full Article.


12 EXECUTIVE ORDERS (through TUESDAY) PBS “Week one of the Trump administration … it seems worthwhile to set aside the highwire battles over words and inauguration crowd size and look at the concrete actions President Trump has taken to launch his presidency. They largely fall in line with the “Contract with the American Voter” blueprint his campaign released last October, which laid out Trump’s vision for his first 100 days in office. Here’s the list of Trump’s executive actions so far, starting with the most recent.

12. Border wall. In this order, President Trump states it is the policy of the United States to immediately construct a wall on the southern border. The order directs agencies to begin planning and identify funding for the project, including sending requests to Congress. It also directs agencies to construct or contract out for more detention facilities at or near the Mexican border. This order also directs the hiring of an additional 5,000 border patrol agents, subject to funding. And it requires that all agencies identify any U.S. aid funds that have gone to Mexico in the past five years.
11. Deportations and sanctuary cities. This is also a longer order with several major pieces. The president has directed agencies to step up deportation of those in the country illegally. First, he prioritizes seven groups of people for deportation. It is anyone: convicted of a crime, charged with a crime, who has committed a chargeable offense, has misrepresented themselves to the government, has abused a welfare program, who is under deportation order and who may “in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
Second, the order also directs the hiring of 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, though it states that is subject to funding. Third, it states the U.S. policy is now to allow local law enforcement officers to act as immigration officers whenever possible. Fourth, it orders the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to block federal grants from so-called “sanctuary” cities which do not enforce some immigration laws.
10. Review manufacturing regulations. The president ordered the Commerce Secretary to begin a 60-day review of regulations for American manufacturers, with the aim of finding ways to speed up permitting and all federal processes for them.
9. American steel in pipelines. President Trump directed the Commerce Secretary to come up with a plan to ensure that all pipelines built or repaired in the United States be constructed with American-made materials “to the maximum extent possible.”
8. Speeding up environmental reviews for all priority infrastructure. Ordered that agencies and the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality work together to set up faster deadlines and environmental approval for “high priority” infrastructure projects. It gives significant power and responsibility to the White House Council on Environmental Quality chairman, who will decide within 30 days if a proposed project is “high priority.” (The president has not yet nominated a new CEQ chairman.)
6 + 7. Speeding approval of Dakota Access and Keystone Oil Pipelines. President Trump ordered that permits for the the Dakota Access Pipeline be approved in an expedited manner, “including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas.” (Army denial of an easement was a previous victory for pipeline opponents.) In his Keystone memorandum, Mr. Trump invited TransCanada to resubmit its application for a pipeline permit, and he directed the State Department to issue a final decision on that application within 60 days.
5. Federal hiring freeze.The president has told agencies they cannot fill any vacant positions nor open new ones, with two exceptions: military personnel and critical public safety positions.
4. TPP. This memorandum withdraws the United States from all Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and from signing the trade deal.
3. Abortion. Signed an executive order blocking foreign aid or federal funding for international nongovernmental organizations that provide or “discuss” abortions. The so-called Mexico City policy, first instituted by President Reagan, gave foreign nonprofits a stark choice: Stop providing abortions, or any information about abortions, or lose valuable dollars from the United States, the biggest global funder of family-planning services. Since its inception in 1984, the funding ban — referred to as “the global gag rule” by its critics — has been repealed and reinstated every time a different political party has assumed power in the White House. Even when the rule has not been in effect, however, existing federal law has barred the use of U.S. funds to pay for abortions anywhere in the world.
2. Regulation freeze. The president has frozen all regulations now in process (but not approved) until they are approved by him or an agency after he took office. This means any regulation signed by former President Barack Obama in his final weeks in office — including some that deal with energy efficiency standards — are on hold until they’re reviewed by Trump’s administration.The wording of the executive order raised the possibility that the rule will now apply to any of the government’s global health assistance. Previously, the rule was limited to State Department funding of family-planning programs.
1. ACA rollback. Mr. Trump has allowed all agency heads to waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act to the “maximum extent permitted by law.”
NOTE: Politico The White House didn’t ask State Department experts to review Trump’s memorandum on the Keystone XL pipeline, even though the company that wants to build the pipeline is suing the U.S. for $15 billion, according to two people familiar with the matter. Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo were “blindsided” by a draft order that would require agencies to reconsider using interrogation techniques that are currently banned as torture, according to sources with knowledge of their thinking. Just a small circle of officials at the Department of Health and Human Services knew about the executive action starting to unwind Obamacare, and only less than two hours before it was released. Key members of Congress weren’t consulted either, according to several members.
People familiar with Trump’s planning say he wanted daily events to show supporters he would follow through on the items of his campaign agenda. But the process is playing out chaotically both inside the White House and throughout the federal government. Inside the West Wing, it is almost impossible for some aides to know what is in the executive orders, staffers say. They have been written by Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior White House adviser for policy, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, according to people familiar with the matter. Ideas for some of the Trump executive orders came from transition officials and so-called “landing teams,” sources say, who weren’t working in the White House.


17 FEDERAL AGENCIES AND PROGRAMS TRUMP WANTS TO KILL … WHAT THEY COST AND WHAT THEY DO The Hill “Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to [federal agencies and programs]. The changes they propose are dramatic. The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely. Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years , nearly all of the federal government’s discretionary spending. Russ Vought and John Gray, who both worked for the Heritage Foundation, are laying the groundwork for the so-called skinny budget — a 175- to 200-page document that will spell out the main priorities of the incoming Trump administration, along with summary tables. That document is expected to come out within 45 days of Trump taking office.The administration’s full budget, including appropriations language, supplementary materials and long-term analysis, is expected to be released toward the end of Trump’s first 100 days in office, or by mid- to April.

(Money) Trump has vowed not to cut entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security, and promised to beef up military spending, which represents the lion’s share of federal spending — making it hard for him to do more than chip away at the margins of the nearly $20 trillion national debt. THE REAL SKINNY What, then, would the reported cuts accomplish? The answer appears to be defunding a number of projects seen as liberal darlings — including groups aimed at preserving and supporting the environment, civil rights protections, the arts, minority-owned businesses, and public broadcasting. PUT THIS IN CONTEXT: The total cost of the following 17 programs (see link) said to be on the chopping block is $22.36 per year/PER AMERICAN — of which more than a third comes from a single clean-energy program. By contrast, housing subsidies, like the mortgage interest deduction, which are disproportionately used by the wealthy, cost $296.29 per American. Here’s a list of the various federal agencies reportedly on the chopping block, along with some of their key initiatives — and some of the jobs supported.”


LIVING IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE tweet from Public Policy Polling “by a 42/39 spread Trump voters think he should be allowed to have a private email server.”


MCCAIN’S MOMENT Politico “McCain’s got his swagger back. The Arizona Republican has been relishing his role as Trump’s tormentor. Over the past several days, SASC chairman has publicly broken with Trump over his voter fraud claims and reports that Trump was considering reinstating torture and panned his OMB pick over military spending and votes to shut down the government. And while some of his colleagues are giving Trump latitude on building a wall on the Mexico border, McCain said Thursday he won’t support it without seeing more details and continues to have concerns with Trump’s relationship with Putin. WHY THIS MATTERS: Not a lot of Republicans are willing to go toe to toe with Trump for fear they’ll end up battered and bullied by the president and his loyal army of followers. But the 80-year-old former Republican presidential nominee just got re-elected. He clearly doesn’t like Trump or his policies and isn’t afraid to tell everyone about it.”


THE STORY theSkimm “President Trump is taking a red pen to US foreign relations. Yesterday, the world got an early look at how Trump will handle American policies and relationships abroad. Here’s what’s going down and where…

Mexico…as in the country’s president canceled his plans to meet with Trump next week. This came after Trump signed an executive order to extend the US-Mexico border wall. And repeated that Mexico will pay for it. Adios, amigos.TRUMPS LITTLE MEXICAN WAR Wall Street Journal ED Board “Donald Trump’s path to the Presidency as an outsider always implied on-the-job-training. This week’s lesson: The world is not a Republican primary. President Trump’s Twitter broadsides against Mexico have unleashed a political backlash that has now become a diplomatic crisis with a friendly neighbor. Mr. Trump fancies himself a negotiating wizard, but in this case he is out-negotiating himself. … Mr. Trump is a foreign-affairs neophyte, but he is already learning that nations can’t be bullied like GOP candidates or CEOs. They have their own nationalist political dynamics and when attacked they push back.”
The UK…as in British PM Theresa May’s having tea and crumpets with Trump today. She’ll be the first foreign leader to meet with him since he took office. And she’s hoping the visit will help the US and the UK get even cozier now that Britain’s planning to Brexit the EU. Think: plans for a future UK-US trade deal – something the UK’s not allowed to start negotiating until it officially says ‘cheerio’ to the EU.
The State Department…as in yesterday, it came out that the Trump administration is removing multiple senior managers at the State Dept. These are career diplomats who’ve served under Dem and GOP administrations. It’s not unusual for these positions to change hands. It IS unusual for the people holding them to leave without a replacement ready to step in. Plus, Sec. of State nominee Rex Tillerson hasn’t gotten the official thumbs up from the Senate to take the job. So now, one of the most important US departments is an empty house.”


THE PATIENT FREEDOM ACT Vox “Two Republican senators are pitching an Affordable Care Act replacement that they hope will appeal to the law’s supporters. States that like Obamacare, they argue, should get to keep it. Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) held a press conference Monday to roll out the Patient Freedom Act. They propose giving states three options: Keep Obamacare, switch to a different insurance expansion, or go forward with no coverage expansion at all. … There are lots of details still missing from the Cassidy-Collins plan, which only exists as a one-page background document. There is no legislative language at this point. A COMPROMISE BILL AT A MOMENT WHEN NO ONE WANTS TO COMPROMISE One of the things that makes Cassidy-Collins work policy-wise — and makes it distinct from other Republican proposals — is that it does not take aim at the new taxes and fees in the health care law. It leaves all of that in place, so that the government has a way to fund the states that continue Obamacare and pay for a coverage expansion in places that don’t. But this exact feature is what makes Cassidy-Collins not work so well politically. Republicans have been adamant that they need to dismantle the health care law’s taxes and fees. This was the focus of President Trump’s executive order on Friday, and of much Republican rhetoric around the health care law.”


REPUBLICANS IN PHILLY MorningD “Republicans didn’t come out of their retreat in Philadelphia with a grand plan, but they feel like they’ve notched one big victory: President Trump seems generally supportive of a key element of their tax plan. Border adjustment is a plan that taxes imports instead of exports. Republicans haven’t had an easy time explaining it. Trump nodded toward it in his speech to the GOP and then, later, Sean Spicer suggested it would be the mechanism to pay for the wall with Mexico. He later backed off of that, saying there are many ways to pay for the wall. But that doesn’t mean that this plan won’t be part of overall tax reform. The fact remains: Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — through lots of backchannel chats with Trump — seems to have succeeded in bringing the Hill and White House together on tax reform. For now.” NOT SO FAST “Not everybody is on board with a border tax. The Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity is out with a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady opposing it, calling it a tax on American consumers.”


ABOUT TRUMPS’ ‘VOTER-FRAUD’ LIES Asked to defend his voter-fraud lies, Donald Trump pointed to a report — which doesn’t support his claims at all. Now the President is attacking the report’s author for having the nerve to be correct. In an interview with David Muir, ABC, who asked about Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud (that “3 to 5 million people voted illegally”) and the fact that all of Trump’s evidence has been discredited … here’s the exchange:

Trump: … Take a look at the Pew Reports.
Muir: I called the author of the Pew report last night and he told me that they found no evidence of voter fraud.
Trump: Really? Then why did he write the report?
When Muir patiently tried to explain that the report in question found no evidence of fraud, Trump said the author of the report, David Becker, is “groveling again.” Nonsense.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to Trump: “Stop alleging voter fraud”The Hill “Graham implored Trump to admit that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in his election and that those who voted did so legally.”
VOTE TOTAL RECAP (certified results for all 50 states and Washington, DC – Cook Report)
Clinton: 65,844,610
Trump: 62,979,636
Others: 7,804,213
(Note: Trump lost by a total of 10,669,187 votes)
CONSPIRACY DRIVING TRUMP’S EXPLANATION FOR LOSING THE POPULAR VOTE The Fix “Back in November, when it became clear then-president elect Donald Trump was unlikely to overtake Hillary Clinton in the popular vote totals, he had a ready explanation: he actually had won — as long as you didn’t count the votes cast “illegally.”
How was he so certain, just days after the election, that millions had cast illegal ballots? Two months later, we’ve yet to see any proof — and neither has Donald Trump. The source of the original claim — more on that below — has said he’s not yet ready to release his data. (He has mentioned the fact that it includes proof that some names appear on voter rolls in more than one state, or even though they’ve passed away — neither of which, of course, is a crime, or indicates that any improper ballots were cast.)
On Thursday, Trump postponed the signing of an executive order launching a probe of the nation’s voting system, so his own investigation has yet to begin. And he hasn’t seen the results of the one allegedly conducted by the source of that claim. That hasn’t stopped him from reaching a conclusion, as he repeated Friday morning. @realDonaldTrump “Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand. Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better.”
WHO IS GREGG PHILLIPS? In fact, this claim that millions of illegal immigrants voted is itself the result of a random tweet. On Nov. 13, Gregg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner, tweeted about there being 3 million votes that were cast by noncitizens.@jumpvote “We have verfied more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.” Phillips has been asked to provide evidence for that claim, repeatedly, without having done so. THE BROADER POINT The president of the United States is willing to embrace unproven and highly questionable data to raise questions about the electoral process even after he won simply to soften the blow of losing the popular vote.”


ORWELIAN REALITY OF ‘ALTERNATIVE FACTS’ Slate “In an interview on Meet the Press, [White House Senior Advisor] Kellyanne Conway proposed a handy heuristic framework for thinking about Sean Spicer’s performance at the podium, wherein he insisted that Friday’s inauguration crowd “was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” Asked why President Donald Trump directed “the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood,” Conway chided Todd for being “overly dramatic.” Spicer, she explained, was merely presenting “alternative facts.”
“Alternative facts? Todd spluttered. “Look, alternative facts are not fact. They’re falsehoods.”
Conway likely meant that Spicer was offering other facts—new data that would complicate the Trump’s-crowd-was-teeny-tiny picture the press was painting. In reality, Spicer—who gave out bogus stats on Metro ridership and claimed falsely that the 2017 inauguration was the first to feature floor coverings—was voicing alternatives to facts. That is, fictions. Or: lies. … As Alan Levinovitz notes, the word alternative often serves to to destabilize the foundations of our knowledge and make us feel that traditional sources of information cannot be trusted.
Most of all, alternative facts evokes a total alienation from—and disinterest in—objective truth. …The Orwellian reality, however, is that the White House’s prevarications aren’t just bad information. They may well be theatrically, obviously bad information dumps—in other words, politically motivated attempts to provoke us into spasms of righteous fact-checking. It’s hard to pay attention to the millions of protestors across the world uniting against Trump when you are gazing, gobsmacked, from 2009 photo to 2017 photo (see above) and back again, wondering how anyone could possibly maintain that the latter crowds dwarfed the former.”

1984 SALES SURGE theguardian “Sales of George Orwell’s dystopian drama ‘1984 have soared after Kellyanne used the phrase ‘alternative facts” in an interview. As of Tuesday the book was the 6th best selling book on Amazon. Comparisons were made with the term “newspeak” used in the 1949 novel, which was used to signal a fictional language that aims at eliminating personal thought and also “doublethink”. In the book Orwell writes that it “means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

Define ‘dystopian’ – “relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

REALLY? WashPo “On the morning after Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds received an extraordinary call. In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average.”


MESSAGE TO STEVE BANNON … NOPE NYT “Just days after President Trump spoke of a “running war’’ with the media, his chief White House strategist, Stephen K. Bannon ratcheted up the attacks, arguing that news organizations had been “humiliated” by the election outcome and repeatedly describing the media as “the opposition party” of the current administration.“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday.

@StephensWSJ): “Steve Bannon says media should ‘keep its mouth shut.’ Castro, Putin, Erdogan, and Xi all feel the same way!”
“The press is the enemy.”
– Richard Nixon


FREE TRADERS The Fix “… Free trade, after all, has been a hallmark of the pro-free market and pro-business Republican Party. When these free trade agreements have drawn opposition, it’s generally been Democrats leading the charge. But when President Trump signed the executive order ending U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday, he was doing something that was hugely important to his most ardent supporters. And he was solidifying a very big shift in the Republican Party that arguably delivered Trump the presidency.”


“The cover is a strong comment on powerful resistance that has formed in response to President Donald Trump, with a specific focus on the influence the Women’s March ― which close to 3 million people are estimated to have attended worldwide ― has had on public consciousness. … There is no precedent in U.S. history for the show of collective outrage that answered Trump’s Inauguration,” wrote Time’s Karl Vick in the magazine’s cover story. … Vick pointed out that the strength of the march lay in the fact that organizers made the march less about Trump and more about empowering women and all marginalized communities.”


OBAMA NECK-AND-NECK WITH REAGAN The Fix “Two years ago, Barack Obama was a damaged-goods, lame-duck president who had just endured his second consecutive midterm drubbing — thanks in large part to Republican efforts to tie Democrats to him and his eponymous health-care law. Today, Obama is virtually tied for first place in a new poll of the greatest modern president. The Quinnipiac University poll indicates 29 percent say Obama is the greatest president since World War II — just shy of the 30 percent who cite Ronald Reagan, the long-standing titleholder.”

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