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Washington Report May 11, 2018
11 May 2018

Washington Report May 11, 2018

Overshadowed Priorities … NAFTA … Infrastructure … Trump’s Plan to Out-crazy Kim … Trump Triumph … I-Ran … Better Call Cohen … Bad Year For Republican House Incumbents … Mueller, Mueller …  and other news of the week.


Joyce Rubentein

Capstone National Partners



WaPo “Often obscured under the avalanche of news and the clouds of intrigue … stories published on Monday highlight policy shifts that may adversely impact … immigrants, minorities and children – as well as people who have health insurance.

  1. Separating Immigrant Parents From Their Children: Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged that the Justice Department will prosecute every migrant who illegally crosses the southern border, even if it means separating children from their parents. Sessions announcement … would split up thousands of families because children are not allowed in criminal jails. Until now, most families apprehended crossing the border illegally have been released to await civil deportation hearings.”

In  a news dump last Friday, DHS separately announced that more than 50,000 Hondurans who have been allowed to live and work in the United States since 1999 will have 20 months to leave the country or face deportation.

  1. Rolling Back Anti-Segregation Rules at HUD: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development quietly put a three-page notice in the Federal Register in January to suspend an Obama-era rule requiring communities to examine and address barriers to racial integration. … Fair-housing advocates filed a lawsuit Monday against Carson that alleges HUD did not provide legally required advance public notice or opportunity for comment.
  2. Clawing Back Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): To mollify fiscal conservatives who are angry about the trillion-dollar deficits he’s racking up, Trump is sending a plan to Congress that would cut $15 billion in spending that’s already been approved. “Almost half of the proposed cuts would come from two accounts within [CHIP] … Once the White House sends the request to Congress, lawmakers have 45 days to vote on the plan or a scaled-back version of it through a simple majority vote.

FYI “Since becoming president, Trump enacted a massive tax cut for corporations and many individuals that is projected to add at least $1.3 trillion to the deficit over the next decade (plus additional interest costs), according to the Congressional Budget Office. Then Congress and the president agreed to a two-year budget deal that will add $300 billion more to America’s debt, the CBO says. After approving an additional $1,600,000,000 in spending since December alone, Trump now wants to cut $15,000,000 (or 0.9 percent).”

  1. The Repeal of the Individual Mandate is Contributing to Rising Premiums for Sick People:

“Insurers are proposing double-digit premium increases in Maryland’s individual-health-plan market, a consequence of what the state’s health insurance commissioner called a ‘death spiral,’”  “CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield requested an 18.5 percent increase on the HMO plans used by the vast majority of its individual-plan members — and a whopping, 91.4 percent increase on its PPO plans. Kaiser Permanente requested a 37.4 percent increase on its HMO plans. The average rate increase requested, across insurers and plans, was 30 percent. The rate requests are an early sign of the trends in the individual marketplace…”

… In a statement, Kaiser Permanente said its rate requests ‘reflect the expected costs of providing coverage for these members, including the impact of eliminating the (Affordable Care Act’s) individual mandate penalty.’”



WaPo “With as little as a week remaining to strike a deal on a retooled North American Free Trade Agreement, negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico have a lot of work left to complete and not much time to do it. But a bigger unknown looms: What will President Trump do?

Failure by the negotiators could simply mean the 24-year-old pact remains on the books unchanged. Either way, though, Trump retains the option of moving unilaterally to pull the U.S. out of the deal — and he’s directed a drumbeat of hostile rhetoric toward Mexico that suggests it’s a real possibility, including on the stump in Indiana last night. (The specter of Trump quitting the pact is serious enough that Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is warning the president against it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, writing, “Pulling out of Nafta by executive fiat would be economically harmful and unconstitutional.”) Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said this week that he needs a notice of a deal by Thursday for this Congress to be able to vote on it.

… In the case of NAFTA, the president has inject[ed] his demands for a border wall and stanching immigration flows into the debate. Three weeks ago, Trump explicitly threatened to make Mexican cooperation on those points a condition of a deal:  It marked the second time last month the president dangled using NAFTA as leverage to make progress on his anti-immigration agenda.”


Infrastructure Plan Dead

CNBC “The White House has made it official: the all-Republican government in Washington has no major legislative agenda this year. The news came without fanfare at the press secretary’s daily briefing Wednesday. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that all of… Trump’s talk of a massive, trillion-dollar upgrade to America’s infrastructure, from “Infrastructure Week” declarations to a 53-page plan unveiled three months ago, won’t produce ‘a specific piece of legislation’ in 2018. That conclusion managed to be extraordinary and unsurprising at the same time.”


Trump’s Plan to  “Out-crazy’ Kim

Axios “Unpredictability” is the key to understanding President Trump’s negotiating plan as he heads into his roll-the-dice summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Jonathan Swan reports:

Trump loves to say that every other U.S. president was predictable. He believes foreign affairs has always been overly scripted and his predecessors were “totally predictable,” which let their adversaries run rings around them. A source who recently spoke to Trump about his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un paraphrased the president’s private monologue:

“No one knows what I’m going to do. They are over there trying right now to analyze every statement I’m putting out to get a sense of what’s going to happen when I walk into the room. But the fact of the matter is nobody knows.”

Trump loves to watch the media try to predict what he’s going to do and say about any number of things, including North Korea, and he gleefully tells aides: “They have no idea.

“Kim Jong-un’s entire lineage is having people think he might be crazy. Trump’s like: ‘You’re crazy? How about this?’” a source said a while back, during the phase of Trump calling Kim “Little Rocket Man” and taunting him by saying he has a bigger nuclear button. One of the biggest challenges: How will Trump ever know he’s struck a good deal after the photo op and North Korea’s initially dramatic destruction of some of its nuclear facilities?

3:00 a.m. Trump Triumph

In the wee hours on live global television, President Trump greeted three American prisoners freed from North Korea as they landed at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and engaged a returnee and his translator in brief banter. Trump, who loves to think of his presidency as episodes in a reality show, reveled in the diplomatic achievement as he left the tarmac: “I think you probably broke the all-time in history television rating for 3 o’clock in the morning.” Trump repeatedly expressed optimism for talks with North Korea and said, ‘We’ll see what happens. … We want to thank Kim Jong-un.'”

Quote of the Day

“I would not give Pyongyang too much credit for undoing something it shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.”

– .. Evans J.R. Revere, a former State Department diplomat who specializes in East Asia, on the prisoners’ release

Looking back, government officials confirmed ten Americans were released from North Korea during the Obama Administration.The journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were freed after former President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang in August of 2009 to ask for their release and to collect them. Other releases have had unhappy endings. The American student Otto Warmbier was released by North Korea in 2017 when he was in a coma. He died shortly after returning home. (CNN)



“I would describe pulling out of this deal [nuke deal] as possibly the greatest deliberate act of self-harm and self-sabotage in geo-strategic politics in the modern era.” @camanpour

“Trump pulling out of the Iran deal he called ‘the worst deal ever’ is not a surprise. The surprise is that so many smart people thought they could convince him otherwise.” Susan Glasser (@sbg1):

“President Trump announced the U.S. will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reinstate sanctions against the country. The leaders of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom put out a joint statement condemning the decision. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country will remain in the agreement for now but warned that he will resume enriching uranium if negotiations fall apart.

NYT’s “For President Trump and two of the allies he values most – Israel and Saudi Arabia – the problem of the Iranian nuclear accord was not, primarily, about nuclear weapons. It was that the deal legitimized and normalized Iran’s clerical government, reopening it to the world economy with oil revenue that financed its adventures in Syria and Iraq, its missile program and its support of terrorist groups. Now, by announcing on Tuesday that he is exiting the nuclear deal and will reimpose economic sanctions on Iran and companies around the world that do business with the country, Mr. Trump is engaged in a grand, highly risky experiment.”


Better Call Cohen

Politico “Thanks to major new investigative pieces by The Post and the New York Times, we now have real insight into how Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, set up a company in October 2016 called Essential Consultants, which paid off the hush money to Stormy Daniels and subsequently took in millions of dollars in fees from corporations looking for “insight” into how the Trump administration functioned.

The story is straightforward enough. After Trump’s shocking win, corporations suddenly realized they couldn’t rely on traditional lobbying channels for access, and Cohen raced to capitalize on it. He overtly marketed himself as the president’s “fixer” to potential clients, and presented himself to companies as someone who was knowledgeable about Trump’s, er, thinking on questions important to their bottom line.”


Terrible Year To Be A House Incumbent

THE BIG IDEA: Republican members of the House fared especially poorly Tuesday in primaries across four states, offering fresh evidence that this fall will bring another change election and a new batch of outsiders promising to shake up Washington.

North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger was felled by former Baptist pastor Mark Harris despite a massive spending advantage, an outcome that caught D.C. Republicans off guard. Harris portrayed the third-term lawmaker as a creature of “the swamp” and relentlessly hammered him over his March vote for the $1.3 trillion spending bill. Pittenger is the first incumbent of either party to be forced out of Congress this year. … Pittenger’s defeat in North Carolina will ensure that sitting congressmen work even harder to distance themselves from Washington during upcoming primaries. It also increases the odds that Democrats can pick up his Charlotte-area seat.

In the primary to take on Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D), wealthy businessman Mike Braun won an upset over two GOP congressmen, Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, who have been rivals since college and spent months beating the tar out of each other.

In West Virginia, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) lost to state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the primary to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D). The ex-con Don Blankenship, who garnered so much attention in recent days, finished in third place – averting another national GOP nightmare a la Roy Moore. … If Blankenship had won in the West Virginia, that race would have been off the map. But Morrisey can beat Manchin. And there were some red flags in the incumbent’s noncompetitive primary: Three in 10 Democrats voted for a no-name activist over Manchin, who was also weaker than expected in coal country. (Trump won Indiana by 19 points and West Virginia by 42 points in 2016.)

In Ohio, support for Rep. Jim Renacci (R) was surprisingly soft in the primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Despite being endorsed by President Trump, who recorded a robo-call on his behalf and appeared alongside him at a recent event, the congressman could only garner 47% against four unknown candidates.

That’s five GOP members who will not return to the House next year.

ONE OF THE BIGGEST WINNERS TUESDAY … was Mitch McConnell. Blankenship persistently ripped into the Senate majority leader on the stump and on the air. He branded him “Cocaine Mitch” in his ads, a reference to a drug bust on a ship owned by a company his father-in-law started. McConnell allies funneled money into West Virginia through a group they called Mountain Families PAC to saturate the airwaves with anti-Blankenship ads. The Kentuckian also persuaded Trump during a phone call over the weekend to attack Blankenship on Twitter.”

2018 Year Of the Woman?

Politico “There were 20 open Democratic House primaries with women on the ballot Tuesday night, and voters selected a female nominee in 17 of them.”

Sorry, Chuck

Axios “Democrats have a good shot at winning a majority in the House this November, and now there’s even talk of the Senate being in play — but this chart by Axios visual journalist Chris Canipe shows why that remains such a long shot. The bottom line: It would take a tsunami, not a wave, for Republicans to lose the Senate.








Axios “Firehouse Strategies, a Republican firm, partnered with the data analytics team at Optimus to interview 2,486 likely midterm voters in four swing states (Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), and found:

– “[T]he Mueller investigation is gaining credibility among independent voters.”

-The survey finds independents in the states trust Mueller over Trump by 19 points.

– In a February survey by the two firms, swing-state independents picked Mueller over Trump by 4 points.


FB – Filling In The Blanks

theSkimm “House Dems have released thousands of Russia-linked Facebook ads that targeted American voters.

Explain. You know trolls tied to the Russian gov attacked the 2016 election, in part, with targeted social media ads. And not just on Facebook, but on Twitter and YouTube too. Before now, only some of those ads were made public. But Dems on the House Intelligence Committee just let them all out to dry. More than 3,500 of them.

What did we learn? That the ads could apparently target more specific groups over time – by 2017, this meant people with certain job titles or in specific areas outside certain cities. That they ran ads targeting multiple sides of political, social and cultural issues…including Beyoncé. That apparently the most-seen ad was about supporting police officers. And that some were posted way past the 2016 election. We’ve known for a while that Russia was guilty of all this. But yesterday’s reveal is the clearest picture so far of how it actually happened.”

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