Donald Trump, during a joint press conference with President Santos of Colombia, May 18, in answer to a question, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also as you look back –“ dismissed it saying, “No. No. Next question.”
Q Next question. As you look back over the past six months or year, have you had any recollection where you’ve wondered if anything you have done has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges in these investigations or impeachment, as some on the left are implying?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think it’s totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so. And again, we have to get back to working our country properly so that we can take care of the problems that we have. We have plenty of problems. We’ve done a fantastic job. We have a tremendous group of people. Millions and millions of people out there that are looking at what you had just said, and said, “What are they doing?”
Director Comey was very unpopular with most people. I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. But when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision, because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side — not only the Republican side — they were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.
Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday. That was a poor, poor performance. So poor, in fact, that I believe — and you’d have to ask him, because I don’t like to speak for other people — but I believe that’s why the Deputy Attorney General went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.
And then, on top of that, after the Wednesday performance by Director Comey, you had a person come and have to readjust the record, which many people have never seen before, because there were misstatements made. And I thought that was something that was terrible.
We need a great director of the FBI. I cherish the FBI. It’s special. All over the world, no matter where you go, the FBI is special. The FBI has not had that special reputation with what happened in the campaign, what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign, and even you could say — directly or indirectly — with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign.
We’re going to have a director who is going to be outstanding. I’ll be announcing that director very soon, and I look forward to doing it. I think the people in the FBI will be very, very thrilled.
And just in concluding, we look forward to getting this whole situation behind us so that when we go for the jobs, we go for the strong military, when we go for all of the things that we’ve been pushing so hard and so successfully, including healthcare — because Obamacare is collapsing. It’s dead; it’s gone. There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have healthcare in this country. You just look at what’s happening. Aetna just pulled out. Other insurance companies are pulling out. We don’t have healthcare. Obamacare is a fallacy. It’s gone. We need healthcare.
We need to cut taxes. We’re going to cut taxes. Forget what I want; it will be the biggest tax cut in the history of our nation. And that’s what I want. It’s going to bring back companies. It’s going to bring back jobs. We lost so many jobs and so many companies to countries that are not so far from you, Mr. President — they’re very close to you, actually — and to many other places throughout the world. We’re going to change that. We’re going to have expansion.
We already do. You look at what’s happening with Ford and with General Motors in Michigan and Ohio. You look at the tremendous number of jobs that are being announced in so many different fields. That’s what I’m proud of, and that’s what we want to focus our energy on.
The other is something I can only tell you: There was no collusion. And everybody — even my enemies have said, there is no collusion.
So we want to get back and keep on the track that we’re on. Because the track that we’re on is record-setting, and that’s what we want to do, is we want to break very positive records.
Q Mr. President, I’d like to get your reaction to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Russian interference in the campaign. Was this the right move, or is this part of a “witch hunt”?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.
I think it divides the country. I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things. So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together, Jon. And I will also say very strongly, we’ve had tremendous success. You look at our job numbers, you look at what’s going on at the border, as we discussed before; if you look at what will be happening — you’re going to see some incredible numbers with respect to the success of General Mattis and others with the ISIS situation. The numbers are staggering, how successful they’ve been, the military has been.
Tomorrow, as you know, I’m going to Saudi Arabia, going toIsrael. I’m going to Rome. And we have the G7. We have a lot of great things going on.
So I hate to see anything that divides. I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running this country really, really well. We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100-some-odd days. Tremendous progress. And you see job numbers, you see all of the production that’s starting. Plants starting to open again. Haven’t been open in years. I’m very proud of it. That’s what I want to be focused on. Because, believe me, there’s no collusion. Russia is fine. But whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.
Donald Trump plays victim card at US Coast Guard Academy graduation. In his commencement speech at the US Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut, May 17, he says, “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately — (laughter) — especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”
Here are highlights from the 30-minute speech (the transcript provided by the White House):
You’ve done amazing work. And in the true Coast Guard fashion, you had fewer people and fewer resources, but you accomplished the objectives, and you did it with skill and with pride — and, I’d like to say, under budget and ahead of schedule. We’re doing a lot of that now in the United States government. (Applause.) We’re doing a lot of that.
I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet. I won’t even talk about it. Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier. That had a little bit of an overrun problem before I got here, you know that. Still going to have an overrun problem. We came in when it was finished. But we’re going to save some good money. And when we build the new aircraft carriers they’re going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule, just remember that. (Applause.) That will allow us to build more.
Now, of course, there are always a few slip-ups from time to time — you know that… I hereby absolve every cadet serving restrictions for minor offenses….
I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as President. Jobs pouring back in to our country. A brand-new Supreme Court justice — who’s going to be fantastic for 45 years — (applause) — a historic investment in our military. Border crossings — thank you to our General — are down more than 70 percent in just a short period of time — a total record, by the way, by a lot. (Applause.) We’ve saved the Second Amendment, expanded service for our veterans — we are going to take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before. (Applause.)
I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy, chains so tight that you couldn’t do anything — that jobs were going down. We were losing business. We’re loosening it up. We’ve begun plans and preparations for the border wall, which is going along very, very well. We’re working on major tax cuts for all. We are going to give you the largest tax cut in the history of our country if we get it the way we want it, and we’re going to give you major tax reform. (Applause.) And we’re also getting closer and closer, day by day, to great healthcare for our citizens. (Applause.)
And we are setting the stage right now for many, many more things to come. And the people understand what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing. I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests. I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing. (Applause.) I will never stop fighting for you, and I will never stop fighting for the American people.
As you leave this academy to embark on your exciting new voyage, I am heading on a very crucial journey as well. In a few days, I will make my first trip abroad as President. With the safety, security, and interests of the American people as my priority, I will strengthen old friendships and will seek new partners — but partners who also help us. Not partners who take and take and take, partners who help, and partners who help pay for whatever we are doing and all of the good we’re doing for them — which is something that a lot of people have not gotten used to and they just can’t get used to it. I say, get used to it, folks. (Applause.) I’ll ask them to unite for a future of peace and opposition opportunity for our peoples and the peoples of the world.
First, in Saudi Arabia, where I’ll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith. And they’re looking very much forward to hearing what we — as your representative — we have to say. We have to stop radical Islamic terrorism. (Applause.)
Then in Israel, I’ll reaffirm our unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state. In Rome, I will talk with Pope Francis about the contributions of Christian teachings to the world. Finally, I’ll attend the NATO Summit in Brussels and the G7 in Sicily — to promote security, prosperity and peace all over the world.
I’ll meet scores of leader, and honor the holiest sites of these three great religions. And everywhere I go, I will carry the inspiration I take from you each day, from your courage and determination to do whatever is required save and protect American lives. Save and protect American lives. We want security. You’re going to give us security. (Applause.) …
…As your Commander-in-Chief, I thank you. I salute you. And I, once again, congratulate the Coast Guard Class of 2017. (Applause.) God bless you. God bless the Coast Guard. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. Great honor. Good luck. Enjoy your life. (Applause.)
Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israel, argued forcefully for a two-state solution as the only way to preserve “The Zionist Project” – a nation that is both Jewish and democratic. Indeed, he asserted, a two-state solution is the only way to preserve Israel as a strong, independent nation.
While there are no options that do not bring risk, he asserted, the basis for his contention is that Israel is the strongest economy and has the strongest military in the region, would insist on drawing the border lines that protect its security. The existential threat, he argued, would be to abandon the two-state solution.
And he insisted that Israel’s Right Wing government leaders need to wrest themselves from paralysis and politics and act, even unilaterally, to setting the stage.
The former Prime Minister spoke in front of an audience of some 800 New Yorkers who filled Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, coming from a broad swath of the region, from Forest Hills Huntington, and representing a broad spectrum of American Jewry, from left to right wing.
Barak laid out a cogent argument, based on a lifetime at the center of Israel’s defense, politics and leadership, serving as Prime Minister, Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and most recently as Minister of Defense, and set out the context for his insistence that Israel’s existential threat is not from the formation of a Palestinian state, but the lack of one.
“The Zionist Project is by far the most successful national project of the 20th century. When [the early settlers] originally came, 120 years ago, there was literally nothing – 70% of the land was desert, 2 lakes, one alive the other dead, connected by the River Jordan that looks like a neighborhood creek – more history flowed than water.”
In the last 70 years since Israel was established asa nation, despite seven wars, two intifadas and countless terror attacks, the population grew by a factor of 12; the GDP by 70. The Israeli currency (shekel) is one of the strongest in the world. “We are a start-up nation, with more firms on NASDQ than any other. Thanks to the arrival of 1 million Russian Jews between 1990 and 2000, we have more orchestras, ballet companies, chess grand champions per capita than any in the world.”
There are a lot of internal tensions, certainly – many that mirror what is happening in other countries: rich and poor, Arabs and Jews, secular and religious, even the status of Reform and Conservative Jews in Israel which though secular, is dominated by Orthodox Jewry – “they are not treated equally in our homeland.”
And then there are the external tensions, such as the spreading BDS [The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement, particularly on American college campuses.
“There is great worry about what happens abroad- the position of Israel in the international community is deteriorating – BDS has spread over the world.
“There are question marks about our policies, something that disturbs the Jewish Diaspora even in this country. We are losing part of the young generation in universities especially in North America and even among young Jewish students. This all needs treatment.”
Israel’s relations in the areas “liberated or occupied is in the eye of the beholder” has been a central problem for the past 50 years since the Six Day War when Israel won territory now known as the West Bank and the Sinai (which in exchange for peace, Israel returned to Egypt years ago).
He said that the rise of ISIS and the globalized threat of terror from radical Islamic jihadists ironically creates an opportunity because it has elevated Israel’s position as an essential actor in a global conflict, while at the same time diminishing the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a regional one.
“The whole world in the last decade is facing unprecedented geopolitical earthquake, the kind of which we had not witnessed since the end of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It covers the whole world, but concentrates around the Middle East. Within the last few years, the Arab Spring turned into an Islamist Winter; nation states collapsed, borders erased, centuries-old conflicts came back to life. Israel found itself in a perfect storm – on the one hand, at the clashing point of civilizations of the West and the world of Islam, and at same time, in the eye of a storm that swirls around the Arab world.
“In this situation for Israel, can see bad news and good news: the bad news is clear – the Middle East is a tough neighborhood. The good news is that Israel, as a result of its achievements, is the strongest country 1000 miles around Jerusalem, from Benghazi in Libya to Tehran in Iran.
“And Israel is going to remain the strongest country in this area for the foreseeable future.”
It’s not just its military defenses – with the help of a supportive US administration – but its strong economy – not the biggest, but the most vibrant in the region.
Barak argues that “Israel, being the strongest player all around the area, can use this position of strength in a self-confident manner” to finally resolve the Palestinian issue.
Israel has always faced existential threats. “We always have to look around, ready to pull trigger../Every several years a new threat emerges- ISIS – old ones, Hamas, Hezbollah – all alive and kicking. Out of all these changes the more demanding is terror. It has become the great fight for the whole globe, which might take years, and must be defeated. The choice for the modern world is clear: either you defeat terror or you might find yourselves defeated by it.
“But this is not a new phenomena – it’s been with us a long time,” he said, recalling as a 22-year old, how as a member of a commando team, he had to rescue a hijacked Sabena airplane; and later, deal with the terrorists who massacred Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
He argued that ISIS is more effective from a propaganda point of view – using the media and Internet to heighten its fearsomeness.
“They are effective in sowing fear, but a military threat? Ridiculous. They are succeeding because they never met a real fighting force- they are 50,000 fighters in 5000 Toyota pickups with WWII-era machine guns, a few old Soviet tanks,– not a real fighting force. They should be met on the ground and defeated by Muslims, not Crusaders or Israelis. That takes time, effort. We can help Iraqis, Kurdish, air support, intelligence, special forces – that will take time. But I am confident that ISIS will be defeated on the ground in the Mideast. That doesn’t mean the phenomenon will disappear, because of its capacity to incite. We don’t know how many Americans have joined and will come home. However loosely connected, they are part of flexible web of organization.
“This is a global phenomenon, a generational war. And it needs international cooperation. We join hands among the leaders of the world.”
“We are never going to find ourselves in an ideal world,” he says soberly. “The Mideast is never going to resemble Scandinavia.”
Which brings him to the next part of his argument:
“The major debate in Israel – how to relate to our Palestinian neighbors problem – is painful but simple. In a small piece of ground about the size of New Jersey, from the River Jordan (the size of a creek) to the Mediterranean live 13.5 million – 8.5 million Israelis, 5 million Palestinians. Among the 8.5 million Israelis are 1.5 million Arab Israelis – 99.9% are law-abiding citizens” but who are likely to vote with Palestinians.
If there is only one, that is Israel, it is inevitable that it will be non-Jewish or nondemocratic. That is because millions of Palestinians have their own national aspirations. There are only two possibilities – if they vote for Knesset [members] Israel overnight becomes a bi-national state and within few years a bi-national state with an Arab majority, almost surely civil war, and no future.
“The other alternative in a one-state Israel, is that the Arabs cannot vote for Knesset members. That doesn’t have a name in Hebrew but in Afrikaner, it means we would develop into an apartheid system.
“Neither is the Zionist dream. It is the consequence of a painful but simple reality: we need a compelling imperative to find a way to disengage ourselves from Palestinians and create a line in Israel that would include settlement blocks and the Israeli’ suburbs of eastern Jerusalem. That would include 80% of the settlers. Beyond this line, should be a place for a viable Palestinian state.
“I reemphasize: it’s not because of the need for justice for Palestinians, not because of the international community, it’s out of our compelling imperative to take care of our own security, future and identity.
“When the right wing in Israel tells you there is no way to bring together the vital security interest of Israel and a two-state solution – that the two are incompatible – that’s not true.
“The Right Wing in Israel [Netanyahu’s Likud government] try to create symmetry between these two arguments, but there is no symmetry. On the one hand, there is immediate existential threat to the future of the whole Zionist project.”
And here, Barak got more technical:
On other hand, there is certain risk which should not be taken lightly. We need to invest some equipment, some … changes in doctrine that a hostile, foreign force cannot enter into the West Bank and threaten.” But, he says, rockets can already come from all around the Mideast. They can be dealt with using advanced technology. Israel already possesses the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, especially for short-range and mid-range rockets.
There are risks and challenges to both, “but that shouldn’t paralyze you from seeing difference between existential threat and the technical military risk we’ve lived with. In a way, what happens in the Mideast doesn’t increase the threat to Israel, but reduces it.
“So the Right Wing is paralyzed in the mindset of pessimism, passivity, anxiety and self victimization. They see shadows on the walls. I see great opportunities, not without risk, but everything in life carries risk, and in many cases, the greatest risk of all is being unable to take one.”
“Zionism is a story about taking fate in our own hands.”
He points to “an opportunity that happens once in generation and might disappear in a year or more, of a joint common interest that has developed between us and Sunni moderate leadership – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others. The common interest is fighting together against Islamist radical terror; the second is to join hands and putting at bay Iranian nuclear intentions; third, to join hands in huge regional infrastructure projects – energy, water, transportation; and fourth, the Palestinian issue.”
Barak made no reference to recent statements by the Palestinian Authority, the visit of Abbas to the White House, or Trump saying he could care less whether there is one state or two states, as long as the parties agree.
[President Abbas, in his meeting at the White House, May 3, declared: “our strategic option, our strategic choice is to bring about peace based on the vision of the two-state — a Palestinian state with its capital of East Jerusalem that lives in peace and stability with the state of Israel based on the borders of 1967.
“…for us to bring about a comprehensive and just peace based on the two-state solution, such matter would give a great impetus to the Arab peace initiative and the other initiatives, international initiatives — as well as it enables to fight and deter terrorism, and fight the criminal ISIS group, ISIS — that is totally innocent and has nothing to do with our noble religion. And that also, if we create peace that is just and comprehensive, that will also lead the Arab and the Islamic countries to have normal relations with Israel based, as stipulated in the previous Arab summits, the latest of which was the Arab summit in Jordan.”
While Abbas could take an outwardly more moderate stance, Hamas, which controls Gaza, has not abandoned its commitment to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”
Trump has not said whether or not he cares if there is a one-state or two-state solution, as long as the parties agree.]
Barak seemed to take this into account without directly referring to the statements, saying “The situation in the Arab world, the Arab street especially, does not allow them to make any sincere statement to accept or recognize Israel as a member of the family of nations of the Mideast if the Palestinian issue is not moving forward dramatically.
“No one can tell for sure whether Palestinians are ripe for painful decisions needed from both sides for a breakthrough in peace process.”
But, he added, Israel should not wait, but should initiate forward movement. “I argue that even if there is no way to achieve a breakthrough these days, it doesn’t mean we should be paralyzed, that we should be blind to our interest in starting…”
He said that “professionals” can find their way to a solution. “A group of the most senior leaders of ISF, Mossad, Israeli police, generals have formed Commandos for Israel Security (cis.org.il). They have proposed a practical plan for what should be done now to start disengagement, independently of Palestinians, with backing of Americans and others in the world community. “It contains all the elements – political, practical, and security – written by best experts of Israel.”
“They will tell you that Israel is better protected and safer if we delineate this line, if we have to struggle against terror that takes place from outside, beyond the line, and the real enemy of 80% of settlers that live in settlement of blocks, 220 suburbs of eastern Jerusalem, the real enemy are the elements of the government that keep poking the eye of the Palestinian government by continuing settlement operations.”
He concluded, “The Mideast is a tough neighborhood and will remain so, but we are the strongest player around and will remain the strongest player. Time has come to not just keep killing the mosquitoes, which we are doing effectively, but we should look for opportunities to drain the swamp,” he said to applause.
To do this, we need leadership which is not paralyzed by the complexity or uncertainty of the situation.
“We need leadership sober, open eyed, self confident of the strength of Israel and ready to act, holding in their hand an inner compass, not a weather vane. The most immediate and urgent mission is to put a wedge on that slippery slope toward one nation, one state for two peoples. The effect that extremists on both sides- our right wing and Hamas – both dream and act to haveone state is what makes one-state agenda the real existential threat to the Zionist project and Israel.
“It will take time. An optimist that can put wedge and take the state of Israel back on track and keep moving, the way Zionism has heralded.”
During question-and-answer, Barak dismissed the contention that settlements provide an important buffer for Israel’s security, but provides a basis for the government to use “propaganda that relieves them of doing the right thing.”
He also argued that the debate has become the equivalent of Climate Change vs Climate Denial and Creationism versus Evolution in this country, with propaganda, fake news and identity politics thrown in that makes it even harder to find a practical solution.
“The Right Wing is not committed to the security of Israel. Likud has been hostilely taken over by the settlers. The real strategy of government has a messianic tinge which does not serve the state of Israel…
“I don’t believe it is irreversible now, but if we continue to walk this slippery slope, it might become an irreversible situation. We have to act according to our interest – disengage from Palestinians, start, however gradually, short of perfect. Nothing is perfect, but that shouldn’t paralyze you from doing the right thing.”
Who knew that Mother’s Day kicks off Women’s Health Week? In honor of the occasion, Donald Trump issued a statement that, like so many in TrumpWorld – like Orwell’s 1984 – bears little connection to reality:
Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Women’s Health Week
As we celebrate Women’s Health Week, beginning with Mother’s Day, we recognize the importance of providing women access to the best, evidence-based health information and care, and growing our medical knowledge through basic and applied research support.
Today, women are living longer, healthier lives than their mothers. The number of women dying from heart disease and cancer – the top two killers of women in America – has been decreasing for decades. Thanks to new breast cancer treatments, our health care professionals have saved lives and improved the quality of life for millions of women. We must continue to foster an environment that rewards these needed advances in research.
Ensuring affordable, accessible, and quality healthcare is critical to improving women’s health and ensuring that it fits their priorities at any stage of life. In particular, women should have access to quality prenatal, maternal, and newborn care. Under the current healthcare system, however, the lack of choice in health insurance and in healthcare providers, along with skyrocketing premium and out-of-pocket costs, are failing our citizens, our families, and, in particular, our women. Studies show that women are often the primary healthcare decision-maker for their family and they deserve better options.
I am committed to working with Congress to help mothers—and fathers—have paid family leave so that childcare is accessible and affordable, and to invest in the comprehensive care that women receive at community health centers. Through these reforms, and my 2018 Presidential Budget, we will enable access to the critical healthcare services women need.
The Republican contrived American Health Care Act would repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which made great strides in making access to health insurance more affordable for millions of Americans and slowing the annual increases in premiums which had been rising at rates 3 to 5 times faster than inflation. Obamacare was designed to work within the for-profit health insurance industry, rather than do what every other industrialized nation does and offer universal health care. Some continued to complain that premiums and deductibles were too high, but rather than solve that problem, Republicans have sought to repeal Obamacare 60 times, going so far as to shut down the government in 2013 rather than accept a budget that provided for the subsidies that make health insurance affordable for tens of millions of Americans.
Trump has made it a defining issue to get repeal, no matter the damage or loss of health insurance which is quite literally a life-and-death issue. But the AHCA is more than just a matter of Trump’s ego, it is also about reducing taxes for the wealthiest – who are assessed a small surcharge to fund ACA – and crucial to Trump’s other massive giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations, his tax “plan.”
It’s remarkable that this act, which would completely rework health care, representing one-sixth of the US economy and impacting every single person, is being pushed through without any hearings, input from medical professionals or even health insurance companies, without scoring from the Congressional Budget Office as to its true cost or how many people would find health insurance unaffordable or inaccessible.
But Governor Andrew Cuomo spells out how AHCA would affect millions of New Yorkers, and specifically attacks an amendment foisted by two New York Republican Congressmen that exclusively targets New York:
“The Republican health care bill is an assault on women and an assault on New York. It would allow insurance companies to discriminate against Americans based on pre-existing conditions, force millions of New Yorkers to lose coverage, and slash Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars.
“As a direct result of the amendment introduced by Congressmen Faso and Collins, this provision alone would cut Medicaid funding for New York by $2.3 billion and cripple hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities across the state.
“Most disturbingly, this bill penalizes New Yorkers because we believe in reproductive rights and ensure by law that medically necessary abortions are covered by insurance carriers. I’m calling on all of New York’s Congressional delegation—Republican and Democrat alike—to stand up for New York values and vote against this terrible bill.”
The American Health Care Act will be disastrous for New York:
The plan will leave 2.7 million New Yorkers without health care coverage
It will cut $4.7 billion from the state’s Medicaid budget.
It will put at risk 7 million people who rely on Medicaid services and other programs created under the Affordable Care Act
And it threatens the entire New York State health care system, which serves 19.5 million New Yorkers.
The Collins/Faso amendment, which targets only New York, stops counties from paying a share of Medicaid. It would have a devastating effect on New Yorkers:
It will cut $2.3 billion in Medicaid funding to the State. When added to the $4.7 billion cost of the ACHA over the next four years, the total cost to the State would rise to $6.9 billion
Steep cuts would force New York State to increase taxes, slash coverage to millions of New Yorkers, or devastate health care providers:
Nursing Home payments would be cut by $401 million
Home care payments would be cut by $360 million
Hospital payments would be cut by $355 million
The bill punishes New York for its support for women’s reproductive rights by threatening to take away citizens’ access to tax credits that are intended to make health insurance more affordable:
New York requires that all commercial insurance policies cover abortion services. In January, Governor Cuomo took new action to ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles
The Republican health care bill would prohibit the use of tax credits to support the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortion services.
As a result, the bill would effectively defund the Essential Plan, forcing 685,000 low-income people, half of whom are women, to lose their insurance and denying them $1.5 billion in tax credits.
In addition, roughly 143,000 lower-income New Yorkers whose income is just above the threshold for the Essential Plan, half of whom are women, would be denied $400 million more in tax credits that help them afford insurance.
This bill also includes an amendment that will enable insurers to charge more for people with preexisting conditions in some states, rolling back a key achievement of the Affordable Care Act.
In New York, 8.4 million people under the age of 65 have preexisting conditions.
The MacArthur amendment would allow states to opt out of provisions that restrict providers from raising prices on people with preexisting conditions.
Removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions will result in the sick paying high premiums and would force those who cannot afford it to lose coverage.
The health plan would also permit states to charge older people more, which would also force people who cannot afford it to lose coverage.
Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY 22) and Congressman Thomas Suozzi (NY 3 ) joined together to call on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to address official payments made by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, May 3, when he will meet with Donald Trump in the White House. The letter, signed by 36 Members of Congress, also urges the administration to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is discouraged from continuing this practice in the future.
The Palestinian Authority has a long record of providing financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have engaged in acts of terrorism. Begun in the 1990s, the practice continues today. Under current law, Palestinians convicted of an act of terrorism are given monetary compensation as well as employment upon release.
“It is extremely unsettling that the Palestinian Authority continues to provide financial support to convicted terrorists. These policies promote acts of terrorism in the region and must be immediately addressed. Additionally, it is highly concerning that payments to terrorists and their families increase with the length of the sentence, which has the potential of encouraging particularly brutal acts of terrorism,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. “As the largest providers of aid to the Palestinians, the United States must lead the way in ensuring that the Palestinian Authority ends this practice and that peace is brought to the region, especially since innocent Americans have died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.”
“The Palestinian Authority cannot incentivize terror. Terrorists and their families cannot be paid for killing innocent people. Longstanding U.S. policy is committed to a two-state solution, but this dangerous practice pushes us further away from that goal. The United States must put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end this dangerous and unconscionable practice, which only encourages more acts of terror,” said Congressman Thomas Suozzi.
The United States provides aid to the Palestinians to assist with a wide range of needs. However, since 2015, Congress has joined together to reduce U.S. aid on a 1-to-1 ratio for every dollar that the Palestinian Authority uses for official payments to convicted terrorists. Despite the reduction, these payments to terrorists have continued. The letter urges Secretary Tillerson to use all means at his disposal to address this ongoing issue and the Palestinian Authority’s reluctance to put an end to this program.
Read the full text of the letter below.
May 2, 2017
The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520-0099
Dear Secretary Tillerson,
We write today to bring an issue of bipartisan concern to your attention. For more than three decades, the Palestinian Authority has provided monetary awards and other incentives to those who have committed acts of terrorism in the region. We fear that this financial support encourages violence and serves as a clear impediment to a truly durable peace. As such, we encourage you to address this issue when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Washington in early May.
Since the early 1990’s, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has provided financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism. In 2016, programs providing compensation to terrorists and their families were funded at approximately $300 million. These payments are officially sanctioned by the PA and create a perverse and troubling incentive for individual acts of terrorism. For example, under current PA law, a Palestinian who was convicted of an act of terror and given a 10-year sentence would receive $130,000 over ten years. In addition to such compensation, individuals who are incarcerated also receive a guarantee of employment following their release from prison, creating yet another incentive for terrorism.
Policies which have the potential to encourage violence in the region are simply unacceptable and given that American citizens have died in previous acts of terrorism, this is an issue of grave concern to us. For example, on November 19, 2015, 18-year old Ezra Schwartz, an American boy from Sharon, Massachusetts, was murdered by a Palestinian in an attack that left him and two others dead. The individual charged with his murder was sentenced to four life sentences, making him eligible to receive $3,000 a month. Sadly, since payments are based on the length of individual sentences, convicted terrorists receive more money for acts of terrorism that are even more brutal.
The United States is the largest provider of aid to Palestinians. This aid serves a variety of purposes, including to help meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people. Since 2015, members of Congress have come together on a bipartisan basis in an attempt to use this aid as leverage to deter the PA from providing such payments to terrorists and their families. In each year since 2015, annual appropriations have provided for a 1-to-1 reduction in U.S. aid for every dollar that the PA provides to terrorists. It is clear, however, that this troubling policy continues and that this change alone in current law has not been sufficient to deter the continuation of the PA’s program.
As a result, we strongly urge you to ensure that this issue is raised with President Mahmoud Abbas during his upcoming visit to the White House and to continue using all other means at your disposal to address the PA’s reluctance to abandon this program altogether. As members of Congress, we are committed to the long-standing policy of the United States to see a durable peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, resulting in two states; a Jewish, democratic state living in peace and security next to a peaceful Palestinian state. So long as the PA continues to compensate and thereby incentivize terrorist activity, we find it difficult to see how the necessary conditions for a lasting peace can be established.
We thank you for your consideration of this important issue and stand ready to assist you in bringing about a sustainable resolution to our concerns.
It was very important to the Trump Administration to dampen any victory dance the Democrats might be doing in terms of the budget deal that forestalled a government shutdown. Demonstrating so clearly that it the aim is to insure widening partisanship and hostility, this morning, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a briefing call to clarify what is in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.
The budget deal averting a government shutdown proves Trump’s leadership, Mulvaney said. Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Trump said a government shutdown in September would be a good thing to “end the mess” that is Congress, unless the Republicans end the filibuster that gives the minority party any say whatsoever.
This comes as Trump heaps praise and admiration on autocrats, dictators and plutocrats, like cheering Erdogan’s sweeping powers won in a tainted referendum in Turkey; North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, who, Trump said, he admired for consolidating his power at the young age of 26 or 27 (by assassinating his relatives), Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for some 10,000 extrajudicial killings, and of course Vlad Putin, who he admires as a strong leader (who has assassinated opponents and journalists).
Meanwhile, it was very important to Trump that Democrats not be shown as winning anything in the budget deal that averted a shutdown.
“Democrats are trying to take a win,” Mulvaney said in the briefing call. “The American people won and the president negotiated that victory for them. They know the truth of what’s in the bill. They know the deal the president cut. Some are scared to death knowing what’s in the bill.”
The briefing lasted but a few minutes because the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight couldn’t manage shutting off patriotic music – starting with Stars & Stripes Forever and moving to “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” like the soundtrack to a July 4 fireworks show, that grew in volume and overwhelmed the call.
Mulvaney didn’t want to take many questions anyway, but during the 10 minute ramble, made sure everyone knew that the budget deal was a big win for the President, and a defeat for Democrats who wanted a government shutdown in order to show Trump couldn’t lead. The deal denied the Dems that.
Most importantly, he noted, the deal broke the parity deal that Obama had brokered when Republicans threatened to shut down government over the budget: that every dollar increase or cut in defense had to be matched with a dollar increase for domestic programs.
This deal allocates $4 to $5 for defense versus every $1 increase for domestic programs – in all, $21 billion more for defense. Mulvaney is very proud of that.
Also, $1.522 billion more for the Department of Homeland Security, for border security, on top of $18.5 billion, “the largest overall increase in DHS in last 10 years.”
As for the wall – because Democrats are hailing the fact that not a dollar in the budget is allocated to build the wall that Mexico was going to pay for.
What can/cannot be done, Mulvaney said, would be shown during a 1:30 press briefing, but suggested that the money the administration has gotten out of the budget, will go toward the border, whether a real or virtual wall, “in terms of the boundary between the US and Mexico.
“We’re looking at tremendous increases in technology along the border, maintenance, replacing gates and bridges – part of reason Obama administration had difficulty, the infrastructure not there – will move immediately.”
And what was spent on domestic programs – like preserving health care for miners – were on Trump’s list anyway.
And school choice – the budget provides for three years authorization.
“More money for defense, border security, education – the same things as we introduced in March – those were priorities of incoming administration,” he boasted.
Mulvaney is very proud of what the Democrats didn’t get, like not getting renewed tax credits for renewable energy – wind and solar. He’s very proud.
He deflected Democrats’ victory dance over saving funding for Planned Parenthood, noting that Trump “already signed an Executive Order allowing states not to fund clinics that deal with abortion, and defunded Planned Parenthood as part of the health care bill. Make no mistake, this administration is committed to pro-life – at every turn we fight the pro-life battle. This budget agreement stays true to that.”
He’s proud that there is no Obamacare bailout in the budget agreement.
“Democrats are claiming they got that. It’s not in the bill. Nothing in this bill obligates us to make any Obamacare payments. We’ve had several talks with folks on the hill [about defunding Obamacare] – there are no commitments in this bill.”
He’s also very proud that there is no new money for Puerto Rico. Democrats, he said, “wanted a bunch to bail out Puerto Rico.” The only money for Puerto Rico are the unexpended funds from the previous bill. “There is no new money for Puerto Rico, no bailout, no additions to the deficit.
And Democrats “failed miserably to turn back Second Amendment protections,” he crowed.
“What Democrats didn’t get – what many of them, many of their base – they wanted a shutdown, to make this president look like he couldn’t govern, didn’t know what he is doing, and he beat them at the highest level,” he said with a spiteful tone. “They wanted to make him seem not reasonable. Government is functioning. He is proving he can bring this town together – lead in a sound fashion. That scares many. It’s why they are overreacting and claiming victory.
“Democrats can take credit, but they didn’t get a penny for any one of their pet projects.”
Despite what Mulvaney said about how avoiding a government shutdown demonstrated Trump’s leadership, Trump earlier that morning had opined that a government shutdown in September would be a good thing, to fix what he called a “mess” in Congress, and also called for the Senate to end the filibuster so that the Republicans could sweep their agenda through.
In two successive tweets, Trump stated, “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We…. either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”
More than 200,000 gathered in Washington DC in sweltering heat for the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 29 – twice the number anticipated – to register opposition to Trump Administration’s actions that will set the United States back in its effort to mitigate against the dire impacts of climate change. They formed a line extending more a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue, eventually encircling the White House for a two-minute “heartbeat”.
In the United States, tens of thousands more took to the streets 370 sister marches taking place in nearly all 50 states, from the town of Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the streets of Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major American cities. Early counts estimated that more than 50,000 people took place nationwide.
Sister marches took place on Saturday across the world including in Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and more.
“The solidarity that exists between all of us is the key to having a strong, fair economy and a clean, safe environment,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director, BlueGreen Alliance, one of dozens of organizations that partnered in the Peoples Climate March. “We can tackle climate change in a way that will ensure all Americans have the opportunity to prosper with quality jobs and live in neighborhoods where they can breathe their air and drink their water. Together we will build a clean economy that leaves no one behind.”
“This march grew out of the relationship building among some of the country’s most important progressive organizations and movements,” said Paul Getsos, National Coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. “In 2014, the march was planned as a singular moment to pressure global leaders to act on climate change. There was a simple demand – act. This march was planned before the election as a strategic moment to continue to build power to move our leaders to act on climate while creating family-sustaining jobs, investing in frontline and indigenous communities and protecting workers who will be impacted by the transition to a new clean and renewable energy economy.”
As it happened, the march coincided with the 100th day of Donald Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office.
In Washington, the march topped 200,000 people at its peak, , representing a huge cross-section of geography and demographics and far outpacing the National Park Service’s permitted space for 100,000 people. The march extended for over 20 blocks down Pennsylvania and all along the south side of the National Mall, with tens of thousands more surging along the mall to push back on the Trump administration’s policies and stand up for “climate, jobs and justice.”
The day’s activities in D.C. began at sunrise with a water ceremony led by Indigenous peoples at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Participants included Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members who traveled 1,536 miles by bus from Eagle Bend, SD to attend the ceremonies.
At an opening press conference, representatives from front line communities spoke about the impact that climate change and pollution were already having on their lives and called out the Trump administration for worsening the crisis. They called for a new renewable energy economy that created good paying, union jobs, and prioritized low-income and people of color communities.
The march kicked off at 12:30 pm in front of the Newseum, which heralds the First Amendment freedoms of religion, free press, free speech, assembly and protest, and was led by young people of color from Washington, D.C. and Indigenous leaders from across the country. Tens of thousands of marchers headed up Pennsylvania Avenue in creatively named contingents, like “Protectors of Justice,” “Reshapers of Power,” and “Many Struggles, One Home.”
(The day coincided not only with Trump’s 100th day, but the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which Trump snubbed, the first sitting president to do so; Reagan missed one after he was recovering from an assassination attempt but still sent respects.)
“When our communities are most threatened by climate; the solutions we build must allow us to have control of our resources and the energy we produce in an equitable and truly democratic way,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance. “They must create meaningful work that allows people to grow and develop to their fullest capacity. They must allow us to retain culture and traditions from our ancestors and give us the freedom of self-determination we so deserve so that we can thrive. This does not come easy and it must come with resistance and visionary opposition. Our existence depends on it.”
By 2 pm, in sweltering heat for an April day (nearing 90 compared to average of 79) that seemed to validate Global Warming, organizers had succeeded in their goal of completely surrounding the White House. Marchers sat down in the streets in a silent sit-in to recognize the damage caused by the Trump administration over the last 100 days and those who are losing their lives to the climate crisis.
At the appointed time, everyone created a heartbeat, tapping out a rhythm on their chests or clapping while drummers kept the time, lasting 2 minutes.
“The heartbeat was meant to show that while march participants came from many different backgrounds and communities, their hearts beat as one. It was a heartbeat of resistance, one that began with the Women’s March and will continue through the Peoples Climate March to May Day and beyond,” the organizers said.
“Six months ago, my kids woke up to half a foot of water in our living room,” said Cherri Foytlin, director of BOLD Louisiana and spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Now, Trump wants to open up the Gulf Coast to even more offshore drilling. But we have a message for him: we are not afraid, and we will not stop fighting. With 100 and 500 year storms now coming every year, we are fighting for our lives.”
After the heartbeat, marchers rose up with a collective roar and continued down to the Washington Monument for a closing rally. Speakers at the rally celebrated the success of the day, while many marchers gathered in “Circles of Resistance,” some set up around their parachute banners, to talk about how to continue to build their movement.
As of 3:30 pm, crowds of people still remained at the Monument while marches continued to take place across the country. The Peoples Climate Movement, a coalition of over 900 organizations representing many of the major social justice, labor and environmental groups in the country, has pledged to keep the momentum going after Saturday, from supporting the May Day marches on Monday to organizing at the local level.
“Today’s actions are not for one day or one week or one year,” said Getsos. “We are a movement that is getting stronger everyday for our families, our communities and our planet. To change everything, we need everyone.”
Promising Ongoing Resistance
The march took place on the 100th day of Trump occupying the Oval Office and the irony was not lost on the marchers, who chanted, “We won’t go away. Welcome to your 100th day.”
Indeed, Trump seemed to go out of his way to stick it to those who believe climate change is an existential threat to communities, the nation and the planet.
On the eve of the climate march, the EPA announced it was scrubbing its website of any mention of climate change.
Trump has shown utter contempt for climate change, and specifically the hard-fought initiatives Obama put through to transition the economy away from global-warming exacerbating carbon emissions and put the creation of clean, renewable energy industries on a level playing field with the subsidized Fossil Fuel industry.
Trump has shown contempt for local communities, particularly targeting Native American communities, in swiftly (and proudly) restarting the Keystone XL pipeline (his banker to which he owns millions of dollars is a leading investor) and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which threatens the water supply to native community at Standing Rock.
Just before the People’s Climate March, as if to add insult to injury, his administration backed away from challenging the lawsuit – brought by EPA Scott Pruitt when he was Oklahoma Attorney General – to Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which put new restrictions on coal-fired utility plants. That was the key mechanism that Obama put forward to meet the US commitment to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.
And he instructed Interior Secretary Zinke to open up oil and gas drilling on the continental shelf – which would require reversing Obama and Bush’s creation of marine sanctuaries that protected – under the pretext of an “American First Energy Independence Policy,” which Zinke admitted would also open the way for US Oil & Gas extractors to export US supplies. Trump is literally salivating over the 1.7 billion acres protected, where Zinke said, there are “90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, 327 trillion cubic ft of undiscovered recoverable natural gas.”
Through high-handed executive orders, he has reversed regulations or ended implementation or enforcement that now will allow extraction companies to dump toxic waste into streams; he opened the way for a chemical to be used, for lead ammunition that kills birds that feed on the carcasses of animals brought down by those bullets. He doesn’t care.
And his budget promises to gut the EPA, shutting down entirely climate change research, eliminating 3000 positions.
And on the eve of the march, Pruitt’s EPA scrubbed its website of any findings connected to climate change.
“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” J.P. Freire, the agency’s associate administrator for public affairs, said in a statement. “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
The first page to be updated is a page reflecting President Trump’s Executive Order on Energy Independence, which calls for a review of the so-called Clean Power Plan. Language associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date. Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed, according to the statement from Scott Pruitt’s EPA.
According to the Washington Post, an EPA staffer stated “we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site.
At the rally beneath the Washington Monument that followed the march, an EPA employee – who had spent two decades in the Marines before working for 17 years at the EPA, said, “What this Administration is doing to us would be considered an act of war.” Indeed, the very chemical in sarin gas, which Trump used to justify bombing Syria, was just okayed by the Trump Administration.
Trump, he said, is vilifying federal workers like the EPA who work to protect the American people. “We are federal servants. We take the same oath as I took when I joined the Marine Corps. We’ve been made scapegoats.
“America is not for sale,” he said. “We will fight back.”
This past week, President Trump signed an executive order to “review” the last 21 years of large national monument designations — including Bears Ears National Monument – a huge affront to every American whose birthright Trump would sell off to satisfy corporate greed, but especially, yet another attack and violation of treaties made with Native Americans.
“Not only are national monuments an inherent part of Western culture, they hold historical significance to local Tribes and contribute to a $887 billion dollar recreation industry that employs millions of people around the country,” writes Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).
“We need to come together and fight on this. One of the most consistent marks of Trump’s presidency so far has been an outright assault on environmental protections. He could do more damage by rescinding national monument designations and selling off public lands to the highest bidder.”
Indeed, the Peoples Climate March will not be a one-off, a show of strength to a dumb and deaf Trump Administration and its complicit Congress.
Sustaining Momentum After People’s Climate March
Climate activists are looking to sustain momentum and are focusing on local actions to counter the federal dismantling of climate action initiatives.
“Across America, DFA members are mobilizing in their own communities to fight for environmental justice and resist Trump and his oil industry friends. Even after today’s marches, we still have a lot of work to do,” Robert Cruickshank, Democracy for America stated.
“Tomorrow, DFA Electoral Director Annie Weinberg will be leading a training in D.C. hosted by our friends at Climate Hawks Vote.She’ll be training climate activists on how to win elections and build a more reflective democracy.
“In fights to stop coal and oil exports, to block pipelines, and resist oil companies, it’s become clear that elections at every level of government matter. City and county governments grant crucial permits. State governments regulate emissions and help develop renewable energy sources. And the federal government plays the biggest role of all.
“Humanity was already failing to stop climate change before Trump took office. But now our climate is poised to get much, much worse. If we don’t act now, we may lose our final chance at averting a catastrophe.”
Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action is launching a new organizing strategy aimed at winning local elections.
“Our plan is simple but incredibly ambitious: lay siege to fossil fuels at the local level. Everywhere. All at once. We’ll push local lawmakers to do everything in their power to obstruct the fossil fuel industry. With Trump opening a new wave of oil and gas drilling, we know we need to stand strong locally to create the clean energy future that we need.,” writes Katy Kiefer, Director of Distributed Organizing, Food & Water Watch. “Onward to the Clean Energy Revolution.”
Other organizations, like Earth Justice, are mounting lawsuits based on the public health and environmental destruction of rolling back environmental initiatives and violating the spirit and letter of the Clean Air and Clear Water acts, as well as the Antiquities Act.
Donald Trump had nothing to say, no tears to shed when a teacher and a student were murdered when her husband, a man who had already been cited for domestic violence, came into her classroom and shot her with a gun. But he had a lot to say to the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, on April 28, his 99th day occupying the Oval Office, becoming the first since Reagan to address the conference. He profusely thanked the NRA membership for support in taking the Electoral College, and the Heritage Foundation for supplying the list of nominees he should tout for Supreme Court justice. He extolled the Rule of Law and abiding by the Constitution – that is, the Second Amendment – and made sure to conflate the Second Amendment with building a wall to keep out Mexicans.
“But we can’t be complacent. These are dangerous times. These are horrible times for certain obvious reasons. But we’re going to make them great times again. Every day, we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment. We must be vigilant…
“So let me make a simple promise to every one of the freedom-loving Americans in the audience today: As your President, I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Never ever. Freedom is not a gift from government. Freedom is a gift from God.”
Thank you, Chris, for that kind introduction and for your tremendous work on behalf of our Second Amendment. Thank you very much. (Applause.) I want to also thank Wayne LaPierre for his unflinching leadership in the fight for freedom. Wayne, thank you very much. Great. (Applause.)
I’d also like to congratulate Karen Handel on her incredible fight in Georgia 6. (Applause.) The election takes place on June 20th. And, by the way, on primaries, let’s not have 11 Republicans running for the same position, okay? (Laughter.) It’s too nerve-shattering. She’s totally for the NRA and she’s totally for the Second Amendment. So get out and vote. She’s running against someone who’s going to raise your taxes to the sky, destroy your healthcare, and he’s for open borders — lots of crime, and he’s not even able to vote in the district that he’s running in. Other than that, I think he’s doing a fantastic job, right? (Laughter.) So get out and vote for Karen.
Also, my friend — he’s become a friend, because there’s nobody that does it like Lee Greenwood. Wow. (Applause.) Lee’s anthem is the perfect description of the renewed spirit sweeping across our country. And it really is, indeed, sweeping across our country. So, Lee, I know I speak for everyone in this arena when I say, we are all very proud indeed to be an American. Thank you very much, Lee. (Applause.)
No one was more proud to be American than the beloved patriot — and you know who I’m talking about — we remember on gatherings like today, your former five-term President, the late Charlton Heston. How good was Charlton? (Applause.) And I remember Charlton, he was out there fighting when maybe a lot of people didn’t want to be fighting. He was out there for a long time. He was a great guy.
And it’s truly wonderful to be back in Atlanta, and back with my friends at the NRA. You are my friends, believe me. (Applause.) Perhaps some of you remember the last time we were all together. Remember that? We had a big crowd then, too. So we knew something was happening. But it was in the middle of a historic political year, and in the middle of a truly historic election. What fun that was— November 8. Wasn’t that a great evening? Do you remember that evening? (Applause.) Remember that? (Applause.)
Remember they were saying, “We have breaking news: Donald Trump has won the state of Michigan.” They go, “Michigan? How did that” — “Donald Trump has won the state of Wisconsin, whoa.” But earlier in the evening, remember, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, all the way up — we ran up the East Coast. And, you know, the Republicans have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College, you know that. Tremendous disadvantage. And to run the whole East Coast, and then you go with Iowa and Ohio, and all of the different states. It was a great evening, one that a lot people will never forget — a lot of people. (Applause.) Not going to forget that evening.
And remember they said, “There is no path to 270.” For months I was hearing that. You know, they’re trying to suppress the vote. So they keep saying it, so people say, you know, I really like Trump, he loves the Second Amendment, he loves the NRA; I love him, but let’s go to the movie because he can’t win. Because they’re trying to suppress the vote.
But they’d say — I mean, hundreds of times I heard, there is no — there’s no route. They’d say it, “There is no route to 270.” And we ended up with 306. So they were right: Not 270, 306. (Applause.) That was some evening. Big sports fans said that was the single-most exciting event they’ve ever seen. That includes Super Bowls and World Series and boxing matches. That was an exciting evening for all of us, and it meant a lot.
Only one candidate in the General Election came to speak to you, and that candidate is now the President of the United States, standing before you again. (Applause.) I have a feeling that in the next election you’re going to be swamped with candidates, but you’re not going to be wasting your time. You’ll have plenty of those Democrats coming over and you’re going to say, no, sir, no thank you — no, ma’am. Perhaps ma’am. It may be Pocahontas, remember that. (Laughter and applause.) And she is not big for the NRA, that I can tell you.
But you came through for me, and I am going to come through for you. (Applause.) I was proud to receive the NRA’s earliest endorsement in the history of the organization. And today, I am also proud to be the first sitting President to address the NRA Leadership Forum since our wonderful Ronald Reagan in 1983. (Applause.) And I want to thank each and every one of you not only for your help electing true friends of the Second Amendment, but for everything you do to defend our flag and our freedom.
With your activism, you helped to safeguard the freedoms of our soldiers who have bled and died for us on the battlefields. And I know we have many veterans in the audience today, and we want to give them a big, big beautiful round of applause. (Applause.)
And, like I promised, we are doing a really top job already — 99 days — but already with the Veterans Administration, people are seeing a big difference. We are working really hard at the VA, and you’re going to see it, and you’re already seeing it. And it’s my honor. I’ve been telling you we’re going to do it, and we’re doing it. (Applause.) Thank you.
The NRA protects in our capitols and legislative houses the freedoms that our servicemembers have won for us on those incredible battlefields. And it’s been a tough fight against those who would go so far as to ban private gun ownership entirely. But I am here to deliver you good news. And I can tell you that Wayne and Chris have been fighting with me long and hard to make sure that we were with you today, not somebody else with an empty podium. Because believe me, the podium would have been empty. They fought long and hard, and I think you folks cannot thank them enough. They were with us all the way, right from the beginning. (Applause.)
But we have news that you’ve been waiting for for a long time: The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. (Applause.) You have a true friend and champion in the White House. No longer will federal agencies be coming after law-abiding gun owners. (Applause.) No longer will the government be trying to undermine your rights and your freedoms as Americans. Instead, we will work with you, by your side. We will work with the NRA to promote responsible gun ownership, to protect our wonderful hunters and their access to the very beautiful outdoors. You met my son — I can tell you, both sons, they love the outdoors. Frankly, I think they love the outdoors more than they love, by a long shot, Fifth Avenue. But that’s okay. And we want to ensure you of the sacred right of self-defense for all of our citizens. (Applause.)
When I spoke to this forum last year, our nation was still mourning the loss of a giant, a great defender of the Constitution: Justice Antonin Scalia. (Applause.) I promised that if elected, I would nominate a justice who would be faithful and loyal to the Constitution. I even went one step further and publicly presented a list of 20 judges from which I would make my selection, and that’s exactly what we did.
And, by the way, I want to thank, really, Heritage. And I want to thank also all of the people that worked with us. Where’s Leo? Is Leo around here? Where is he? He’s got to be here. Where is he? He has been so good. And also from Heritage, Jim DeMint. It’s been amazing. I mean, those people have been fantastic. They’ve been real friends. (Applause.) The Federalist people — where are they? Are they around here someplace? They really helped us out.
I kept my promise, and now, with your help, our brand-new Justice — and he is really something very special — Neil Gorsuch, sits on the bench of the United States Supreme Court. (Applause.) For the first time in the modern political era, we have confirmed a new justice in the first 100 days. (Applause.) The last time that happened was 136 years ago, in 1881. Now, we won’t get any credit for this, but don’t worry about it, the credit is in the audience, right? The credit is in the audience. (Applause.) All of those people. They won’t give us credit, but it’s been a long time, and we’re very honored.
We’ve also taken action to stand up for America’s sportsmen. On their very last full day in office, the previous administration issued an 11th-hour rule to restrict the use of lead ammunition on certain federal lands. Have you heard about that, folks? I’m shocked to hear that. You’ve all heard about that. You’ve heard about that. On his first day as Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke eliminated the previous administration’s ammunition ban. (Applause.) He’s going to be great. Ryan is going to be great.
We’ve also moved very quickly to restore something gun owners care about very, very much. It’s called the rule of law. (Applause.) We have made clear that our administration will always stand with the incredible men and women of law enforcement. (Applause.) In fact, countless members of law enforcement are also members of the NRA, because our police know that responsible gun ownership saves lives, and that the right of self-defense is essential to public safety. Do we all agree with that? (Applause.)
Our police and sheriffs also know that when you ban guns, only the criminals will be armed. (Applause.) For too long, Washington has gone after law-abiding gun owners while making life easier for criminals, drug dealers, traffickers and gang members. MS-13 — you know about MS-13? It’s not pleasant for them anymore, folks. It’s not pleasant for them anymore. That’s a bad group. (Applause.) Not pleasant for MS-13. Get them the hell out of here, right? Get them out. (Applause.)
We are protecting the freedoms of law-abiding Americans, and we are going after the criminal gangs and cartels that prey on our innocent citizens. And we are really going after them. (Applause.)
As members of the NRA know well, some of the most important decisions a President can make are appointments — and I’ve appointed people who believe in law, order, and justice. (Applause.)
That is why I have selected as your Attorney General, number one, a really fine person, a really good man, a man who has spent his career fighting crime, supporting the police, and defending the Second Amendment. For the first time in a long time, you now have a pro-Second-Amendment, tough-on-crime Attorney General, and his name is Jeff Sessions. (Applause.)
And Attorney General Sessions is putting our priorities into action. He’s going after the drug dealers who are peddling their poison all over our streets and destroying our youth. He’s going after the gang members who threaten our children. And he’s fully enforcing our immigration laws in all 50 states. And you know what? It’s about time. (Applause.)
Heading up the effort to secure America’s borders is a great military general, a man of action: Homeland Security Director [sic], John Kelly. (Applause.)
Secretary Kelly, who used to be General Kelly, is following through on my pledge to protect the borders, remove criminal aliens, and stop the drugs from pouring into our country. We’ve already seen — listen to this; it never happened before, people can’t even believe it. And, by the way, we will build the wall no matter how low this number gets or how this goes. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it. (Applause.)
You know, they’re trying to use this number against us because we’ve done so unbelievably at the borders already. They’re trying to use it against us. But you need that wall to stop the human trafficking, to stop the drugs, to stop the wrong people. You need the wall. But listen to this: We’ve already seen a 73 percent decrease — never happened before — in illegal immigration on the southern border since my election — 73 percent. (Applause.)
You see what they’re doing, right? So why do you need a wall? We need a wall.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Build the wall!
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll build the wall. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it. That’s an easy one. We’re going to build the wall. We need the wall.
I said to General Kelly, how important is it? He said, very important. It’s that final element. We need the wall. And it’s a wall in certain areas. Obviously, where you have these massive physical structures you don’t need, and we have certain big rivers and all. But we need a wall, and we’re going to get that wall. (Applause.)
And the world is getting the message. They know that our border is no longer open to illegal immigration, and that if you try to break in, you’ll be caught and you’ll be returned to your home. You’re not staying any longer. And if you keep coming back illegally after deportation, you will be arrested, prosecuted, and you will put behind bars. Otherwise it will never end. (Applause.)
Let’s also remember that immigration security is national security. We’ve seen the attacks from 9/11 to Boston to San Bernardino. Hundreds of individuals from other countries have been charged with terrorism-related offenses in the United States.
We spend billions and billions of dollars on security all over the world, but then we allow radical Islamic terrorists to enter right through our front door. That’s not going to happen anymore. (Applause.) It’s time to get tough. It’s time we finally got smart. And yes, it’s also time to put America first. (Applause.)
And perhaps — I see all of those beautiful red and white hats — but we will never forget our favorite slogan of them all: Make America Great Again. All right? (Applause.)
Keeping our communities safe and protecting our freedoms also requires the cooperation of our state leaders. We have some incredible pro-Second Amendment governors here at the NRA conference, including Governor Scott of Florida. Where is Governor Scott? Great guy doing a great job. Governor Bryant of Mississippi. What a wonderful place. Governor Bryant is here. Thank you. Governor Deal of Georgia. (Applause.) And we’re also joined by two people that — well, one I loved right from the beginning; the other one I really liked, didn’t like, and now like a lot again. (Laughter.) Does that make sense? Senator David Perdue — he was from the beginning — and Senator Ted Cruz — like, dislike, like. (Applause.) Where are they? Good guys. Good guys. Smart cookies.
Each of these leaders knows that public officials must serve under the Constitution, not above it. We all took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States — and that means defending the Second Amendment. (Applause.)
So let me make a simple promise to every one of the freedom-loving Americans in the audience today: As your President, I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Never ever. (Applause.) Freedom is not a gift from government. Freedom is a gift from God. (Applause.)
It was this conviction that stirred the heart of a great American patriot on that day, April, 242 years ago. It was the day that Paul Revere spread his Lexington alarm — the famous warning that “the British are coming, the British are coming.” Right? You’ve all heard that, right? The British are coming.
Now we have other people trying to come, but believe me, they’re not going to be successful. That I can tell you. (Applause.) Nothing changes, right, folks? Nothing changes. They are not going to be successful. There will be serious hurt on them, not on us.
Next, came the shot heard around the world, and then a rag-tag army of God-fearing farmers, frontiersmen, shopkeepers, merchants that stood up to the most powerful army at that time on Earth. The most powerful army on Earth. But we sometimes forget what inspired those everyday farmers and workers in that great war for independence.
Many years after the war, a young man asked Captain Levi Preston, aged 91, why he’d fought alongside his neighbors at Concord. Was it the Stamp Act? Was it the Tea Tax? Was it a work of philosophy? “No,” the old veteran replied. “Then why?” he was asked. “Young man,” the Captain said, “what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: We always had governed ourselves, and we always meant to” govern ourselves. (Applause.)
Captain Preston’s words are a reminder of what this organization and my administration are all about: the right of a sovereign people to govern their own affairs, and govern them properly. (Applause.) We don’t want any longer to be ruled by the bureaucrats in Washington, or in any other country for that matter. In America, we are ruled by our citizens. We are ruled by each and every one of you.
But we can’t be complacent. These are dangerous times. These are horrible times for certain obvious reasons. But we’re going to make them great times again. Every day, we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment. We must be vigilant. And I know you are all up to the task.
Since the first generation of Americans stood strong at Concord, each generation to follow has answered the call to defend freedom in their time. That is why we are here today: To defend freedom for our children. To defend the liberty of all Americans. And to defend the right of a free and sovereign people to keep and bear arms.
I greatly appreciated your support on November 8th, in what will hopefully be one of the most important and positive elections for the United States of all time. And to the NRA, I can proudly say I will never, ever let you down.
Thank you. God Bless you. God Bless our Constitution, and God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
Here’s the backdrop for the People’s Climate March, which took place April 29, on the 100th day of Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office: the administration withdrew its challenge in the court paving the way for Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, regulating coal-powered plants and the essence for how the US would meet its commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement, to be overturned by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma AG, was one of the states challenging the plan in court.
And, two days before the climate march, Trump signed an Executive Order, effectively opening up all the protected marine sanctuaries through to the Continental shelf to new oil and gas drilling and exploitation. What is more, Trump’s goal is not just under the banner of American First Energy Independence, he sees the US as the major new supplier of fossil fuel energy to “allies”, which would necessitate building and converting infrastructure designed for import to export.
Most of the so-called “accomplishments” Trump has touted for his first 100 days have been reflexively overturning and reversing President Obama’s climate actions and environmental protections (with anti-women’s health and reproductive rights thrown in). It’s now okay for mining companies to throw their toxic waste into streams.
At the signing “ceremony” for the “Executive Order on an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” Trump declared, “This is a great day for American workers and families, and today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs. Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves. But the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production. And when they say closed, they mean closed.
“This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth. I pledged to take action, and today I am keeping that promise.
“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration. It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban. So hear that: It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban, and directs Secretary Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our Treasury and jobs to our workers. (Applause.) In addition, Secretary Zinke will be reconsidering burdensome regulations that slow job creation.
“Finally, this order will enable better scientific study of our offshore resources and research that has blocked everything from happening for far too long. You notice it doesn’t get blocked for other nations. It only gets blocked for our nation.
“Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless good jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent. This action is another historic step toward future development and future — with a future — a real future. And I have to say that’s a real future with greater prosperity and security for all Americans, which is what we want,” Trump said during the signing ceremony.”
The day before, at a press availability, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said, “94% of outer continental shelf is off limits for possible development – as of Mar 1 2007, only 16 million acres on the outer continental shelf out of 1.7 billion acres were under lease for oil & gas development; more than 97% of current leases are in Gulf of Mexico.”
In 2008, revenues of $18 billion came from offshore; in 2016, that amount dropped $15 billion to $2.8 billion, he noted.
Zinke added, “We like export to other countries – energy security is not only to provide for ourselves but supply allies – oil and gas exports to Asian basin is all part of it. A lot requires infrastructure – this country set up for importing energy, looking at ways to reverse that – a lot is infrastructure, we are behind. We want to supply our allies with affordable energy.”
Asked whether melting ice caps in the Arctic Circle has made for new opportunities (and have any companies specifically asked for leases), he said he had not thought about climate change shifting geographical requirements.
EarthJustice greeted the EO with promises of a lawsuit: “We won’t let this administration destroy these essential protections at a time when they’re so critically needed. In response, we’re preparing to file a lawsuit immediately to challenge this order,” writes Trip Van Noppen, President.
“Tomorrow, people from Washington, D.C., to Oakland, CA, will march in the streets to show this new administration that if the next four years are anything like the first 100 days, we’ll be here, fighting back every step of the way.”
The Peoples Climate March on Saturday, April 29 will begin near the Capitol, travel up Pennsylvania Avenue, and then surround the entire White House Grounds from 15th Street in the East to 17th Street in the West, and Pennsylvania Avenue in the North to Constitution Avenue in the South. The march will close with a post march rally, concert and gathering at the Washington Monument.
Events also are being held in hundreds of communities around the country.
Here is the White House Fact Sheet touting their America First Energy Independence Plan:
President Donald J. Trump to Open Up America’s Energy Potential
“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.” – Donald J. Trump
AMERICA’S ENERGY RESOURCES ARE LOCKED AWAY: Under the previous administrations, America’s offshore resources were blocked from responsible development.
Ninety-four percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf’s (OCS’s) 1.7 billion acres are either off-limits to or not considered for oil and gas exploration and development under the current (2017-2022) leasing program.
o Days before leaving office on January 17, 2017, the Obama Administration approved the latest schedule for oil and gas lease sales that would last for five years until 2022.
o There are hundreds of millions of acres of federal waters in the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico.
The OCS is expected to contain 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas.
In FY 2016, Federal revenues from the OCS were $2.8 billion; the actual sales value of the oil and gas resources was $26 billion and generated $55 billion in total spending in the economy. These expenditures supported approximately 315,000 American jobs.
Alaska has seen a number of nearby OCS areas closed off to development and now has the second highest unemployment in the country, as its resource sectors, particularly oil and gas, have lost thousands of jobs.
o At least one energy company has announced it would withdraw from all but one of its OCS leases in Alaska because of uncertain federal regulations.
Revenue to the Federal Government from leasing the OCS has fallen by over 80 percent, from $18 billion in 2008 to $2.8 billion in 2016. On average, OCS energy development generates $10-12 billion annually.
FREEING AMERICA’S ENERGY POTENTIAL: President Donald J. Trump is removing restrictions on the OCS that locked away America’s energy potential.
President Trump signed an Executive Order today to direct the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Commerce to take action on OCS restrictions.
The Secretary of the Interior will review areas closed off by the current five-year plan for sale of oil and gas leases in the OCS, without disrupting scheduled lease sales. These planning areas include:
o Western and Central Gulf of Mexico
o Chukchi Sea
o Beaufort Sea
o Cook Inlet
o Mid and South Atlantic
The Secretary of the Interior will review four rules and regulations put in place last year that could reduce exploration and development in the OCS. These include:
o Notice to Lessees and Operators of Federal Oil and Gas, and Sulfur Leases, and Holders of Pipeline Right-of-Way and Right-of-Use and Easement Grants in the Outer Continental Shelf
o Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf-Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control
o Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance
o Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf—Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf
The Secretary of Commerce is directed to refrain from designating or expanding National Marine Sanctuaries unless the proposal includes “a timely, full accounting from the Department of the Interior of any energy or mineral resource potential”—including offshore energy from wind, oil, natural gas, and other sources—within the designated area and the potential impact the proposed designation or expansion will have on the development of those resources.
The Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior will work together to develop a streamlined permitting approach for privately funded seismic data research and collection to expeditiously determine the offshore resource potential of the United States.
FOLLOWING THROUGH ON HIS PROMISE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: President Trump is following through on the energy development policies he promised to the American people.
o “We need an America-First energy plan. This means opening Federal lands for oil and gas production; opening offshore areas; and revoking policies that are imposing unnecessary restrictions on innovative new exploration technologies.”