Category Archives: Trump Administration

‘Election Integrity’ Commission Eliminates Middleman in Giving Trump, Republicans Tools to Steal Elections

Trump’s “Election Integrity” commission should be less focused on whether there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes cast, than how Russia – and any future cybercriminal – hacked 39 states’ election rolls. The fact it isn’t, points to its true purpose. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

While everyone was obsessing over the latest Trump twitter outrage, his administration was moving forward with the latest assault on democracy and American rights. His Orwellian-named  “Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity“  (which is anything but), otherwise known as the Voter Fraud Commission, sent out a letter signed by Kris Kobach to every state’s election official “requesting” (since the commission has no real authority or power) their entire voter database, including party registration, a decade’s worth of voter history, address, partial social security number, birthdate, military service and felony convictions, and whether  the voter is registered in more than one state.

Indeed, Secretaries of State, be they red, blue, purple or green, are horrified at the notion of transmitting this information, which, contrary to Kobach’s claim, is not “public.” Moreover, there are “protected classes” such as victims of domestic violence, whose private information is shielded. Louisiana told the commission to “jump in the Gulf”; Kentucky’s said “there isn’t enough bourbon” that would make her deliver this information.

But Kobach’s “request” sounds less like an effort to find out whether our elections are honest and fair, versus a data mining operation for Trump and the Republicans so that they can expand upon their tactics of the 2016 campaign – focusing on fake news, social media trolling in pinpointed districts where just a small nudge could tilt the balance in their favor- which is why a mere 70,000 votes across three states trumped a loss of 3 million popular votes for Hillary Clinton nationally.

That is what is at the heart of the Russia collusion investigation – and what Kobach and his commission, if he is really interested in “election integrity” should be examining, but clearly they are not, because Trump was the beneficiary and because it contradicts his claim of a “mandate” to unleash his ultra-rightwing agenda.

And what if they find that there are 5 million or even 10 million people who have registered in more than one place – like Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon – or that there are 1 million “dead people” still on the rolls? Unless they voted twice or if a dead person sent in an absentee ballot, they did not alter the result.

What is more, Kobach is demanding this data be sent over unsecured email servers, an engraved invitation from this inept administration for malevolence, when even government agencies as secure and cyber-sophisticated as the NSA, Pentagon, Office of Personnel Management, the Secretary of State’s office, indeed the election rolls of 39 states, have been hacked.

The cyberattacks are getting more and more dangerous, moving closer and closer to infrastructure – like shutting down utility plants, the power grid, air traffic control, rail switching stations, and yes, voting  databases and machinery. Putin’s goal was to foster suspicion in the democratic process – and he succeeded beyond his wildest imagination, helped by candidate Trump’s constant claims of a “rigged election” and urging his minions to strongarm their way into polling places to make sure that “those people” don’t vote (which had the strategic effect of preventing Democrats to scream “foul” afterward, since they had already made pronouncements that the elections were fair).

The states’ election machinery – made worse after the “Help America Vote Act” that followed the 2000 pregnant chads controversy – is woefully inadequate, and was even in 2004 when Walden “Wally” O’Dell, CEO of Diebold, the black box manufacturer promised to deliver Ohio to George W. Bush, and he did (see story)– and if the NSA, Pentagon, banks, utilities could all be hacked, why would elections not be?

The argument here is that elections are so decentralized, the results could not be altered sufficiently. In the first place the weak link is where the various election districts electronically send their results to a single center for tabulation. And the 70,000 versus 3 million vote tally which gave Trump the White House is proof enough that the argument that decentralization is what protects the sanctity of the democratic process is specious. (See: Russian hackers’ election goal may have been swing-state voter rollsRussian Hacking on Election More Widespread Than ReportedElection Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say)

There is something wrong in America with voter turnout rates of 60% in the presidential election (higher than 2012, as it turns out, but less than the 62.2% that turned out in 2008) as controversial and consequential as 2016. (And how much of that was voter suppression or outdated voting lists?)

States that made it easier to register to vote had higher turnout – such as Oregon, Connecticut, Alaska, Vermont and West Virginia, where eligible citizens who interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles are automatically registered to vote. Similar laws are taking effect in California and Colorado. No wonder Republicans will use the commission to find an excuse to roll back the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known as the motor-voter law, which has registered millions of voters, as Richard Hasen writes in Slate, Trump’s Voter Fraud Endgame.

In Oregon, automatic voter registration added an extra 225,000 people to the rolls; in Wisconsin, which Trump “won” by a mere 25,000, voter suppression tactics reduced turnout by 200,000.

Kobach’s “election integrity” commission is about voter intimidation, on top of the voter suppression tactics that Republicans have put through in the states they control, because Republicans realized long ago that low turnout favors their candidates. The problem isn’t over voting, it is under-voting – and this is exactly how the data that Kobach is mining could be weaponized. There are already enumerable examples of Republicans committing election fraud.

Instead of the non-existent voter fraud issue – 44 instances out of more than 1 billion votes cast between 2000-2012, a rate of 0.0000044% – there needs to be reforms made to voting, which though a function the constitution leaves to the states, should still include federal minimal standards for access to voter registration and polling places (to satisfy the 14th Amendment providing for Equal Protection as well as the 15thAmendment, the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged)  – where located, people served, hours of opening, minimal number of voting machines per voters, provisions for early voting and absentee voting; requirements for security for electronic, black-box voting devices, back-up paper ballots and auditing after each election, as well as requirements for mandatory hand recounts if the margin is 1% or less; a requirement that when a person is “purged” from voting rolls, a letter be sent informing them, with a remedy for correcting the record; making tampering with voter registration, rolls or elections, including giving fraudulent information about voting places, hours, accessibility a felony crime; and yes, a provision for nullifying an election which has been demonstrated to have been substantively tampered with.

Also,  a reason why young people do not vote in the numbers they should: they are too fearful of breaking a law if they vote absentee in their home districts after having moved to a new place for a job. And moved. And moved again. There needs to be clarification of rules allowing people to vote where they were last registered, or regularly vote, and provisions that require people who have not voted in a district for, say, 10 consecutive years, to reregister or be removed.

On this July 4th, even Trump supporters should be standing up for the basic principle of a government established for and by its people. Which means promoting voting, not suppressing it.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump, to Save Presidency, Expand Powers, Sets Himself on Path to be War President

Memorial Day Parade, Long Island, NY. Where are the parades for the peacemakers? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This weekend we properly honor the millions who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation since the Revolutionary War, which established us as a free and independent nation founded upon “We the People” as its governing principle.

But where are the parades for the peacemakers who just as equally keep us free, independent, who are the shield to our values and our way of life? Where are the parades for the diplomats, the professors and teachers, the scientists and researchers, the doctors and nurses and social workers?

Donald Trump, on his first overseas trip, has expressly shown his values, as epitomized in the $110 billion military deal he signed with Saudi Arabia, embracing Saudi Arabia as an ally in the fight against ISIS but ignoring Saudis’ role in 9/11 and in funding the schools that breed anti-Israel and jihadist ideology and terrorism. And it is clear in how in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he fomented hostility against Iran even as the Iranians overwhelmingly reelected President Rouhani, a moderate who has shifted even further away from the hard-liners in pursuing better alliances with the West.

Trump doesn’t care because he needs an enemy to march against, to battle against. That is his unifying principle, he thinks, to gain position for Israel among the Sunni-majority nations, and resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict – not with diplomacy but with militancy.

(How fitting that Trump was welcomed to Saudi Arabia with a traditional dance of the Najd region, that is typically performed to celebrate victory in war. Trump was in the middle of the melee, along with his top aides Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon and photographers and videographers captured him swaying to the drumbeat-fueled chanting.)

Trump’s budget just released by henchman, OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, shows his priorities and his values: 10% increase ($54 billion) to the military (to $603 billion), slashing an equal amount from domestic programs (to $462 billion) – accomplished by slashing health care spending and defunding Planned Parenthood, slashing Food Stamps and Meals on Wheels and Public Broadcasting, student loans, Social Security disability program, environmental programs altogether, and significantly rebalancing the budget already bloated in favor of the defense industry. (The United States already spend more on Defense than the next 7 countries combined, a list that includes Russia and China.)

It is not just the domestic programs that go toward everyday Americans that are cut, it is also dramatically slashing diplomacy in favor of war.

Trump’s budget calls for nearly 30% cut in allocations for the State Department (from $38.8 billion to $27.7 billion), which was already so pressed for funding, it had trouble paying for the level of security that might have prevented the Benghazi tragedy. And, oh yes, dramatically cutting foreign aid, including cruelly expanding the Global Gag Rule from denying aid not just to family planning services that don’t explicitly censure abortion, but ALL global health assistance programs including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria and global health security.

Trump (and the Republicans because this is really Paul Ryan’s budget) would cut programs for health, climate change and environment that counter famine, drought and flooding, foreign aid and diplomacy. This would do nothing to address the underlying issues that lead to violent conflict, but rather add gasoline to the fire of seething discontent, both abroad and at home.

And that’s because Trump craves to be a War President. He sees that War Presidents can enact martial law, erase personal liberties, suspend habeus corpus, promote torture as an instrument of national security, suspend a free press. He can be the unquestioned, unchallenged, adored autocrat.

Why didn’t he condemn Turkey President Erdogan’s goons for beating up American protesters in Washington DC? Because he is smacking to do the same thing, to have an excuse to crack down on free speech, free press, free assembly.

For Trump, military power is the path to unfettered domestic control. After all, the hot-war in Iraq (as opposed to the less flashy missions to route out the Taliban who were shielding Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan) worked so well for Bush/Cheney to get their tax cuts. Indeed, Trump is close to reigniting that war, by sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan.

Trump has installed generals in traditionally civilian roles in charge of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, while installing the most inept, inexperienced, corrupt to head agencies most directly involved in domestic programs (housing, environment, interior, health and human services, education, commerce).

Recently, when he was in a well-publicized video chat with NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, in response to a statement of the importance of international cooperation to achieve such milestones as a Mars mission, Trump, without missing a beat, remarked on the “military applications of space.” Who does that?

He showed his predilection when, on Day 1, he told the CIA “we may have a second chance at getting at Iraq’s oil” because, you know, he learned  when he was a boy that “to the victor belongs the spoils.” He also complained that the US doesn’t win wars anymore.

His intense interest in spending on costly military hardware is telling because, barring Trump instigating a new hot war, the next war will be fought in cyberspace, and the battlefield will be the electric grid, the financial networks and the utility plant. Our main enemy now consists of some tens of thousands of militant terrorists, including lone wolves recruited over the internet and under the spell of radical ideology, who could pop up anywhere with a home-made bomb in a backpack, a machete, or a truck to ram into a crowd of pedestrians, but won’t be defeated by sending in bombers or brigades.

Nonetheless, Trump wants to explode the domestic budget – cutting billions from programs which benefit everyday Americans – to pay for military hardware.

Why? Because for Trump, the $ is Almighty. Spending money on clean energy and sustainability is an investment toward a better future; spending money on bombs has to be constantly replenished. I wonder how much that spending will come back to him as profit – he already profited on the stocks he owned when he spent $80 million on the 59 Tomahawk missiles exploded in the staged attack on a Syrian air base which actually did not harm the base or the planes. It will definitely profit him, though, as a payoff to his donors.

In theater when you show a gun in the first act, it will absolutely be used by the third act. But let’s examine why: this gives Trump the big shiny, flashy, muscular objects that feed his narcissism. But also, it expands his virtually unlimited power as Commander-in-Chief (a function he has already proved completely inept at), while domestic programs are much more controlled by Congress. But by expanding the military in the way he intends, he continues to show that his “vision” is based on the world of the 1950s and 1960s. Hence his renewed interest in expanding, not reducing nuclear weapons.

Trump is upping US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where is the outrage over the service members and civilians and allies (like the Russian soldiers) who have been lost in flawed, failed missions orchestrated by the most inept Commander-in-Chief this country has ever had, who casually gives a “go” for a raid over dinner, without consultation or consideration of the ramifications? Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were in office, there would be mobs with pitchforks flooding the streets, demanding resignation or impeachment.

The real worry is that he will use North Korea as his means to become a War President, just as Bush/Cheney used fictional WMD, conflated with 9/11, to invade Iraq. Unfortunately for Trump, South Korea has just elected a “sunshine” president who favors engagement with North Korea, which may result in Kim Jong-un tamping down his own saber-rattling.

But Trump’s saber-rattling against Iran will only bolster North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons because they see what happens when an autocrat gives them up or doesn’t have them: Libya. Ukraine. Iraq. Iran. If he were truly interested in diplomacy, he would realize that.

He’s not interested in diplomacy or human rights or for that matter, American values.

Asked about his failure to extract human rights reforms as a condition for the $110 billion sale of armaments ($350 billion over 10 years), Trump said, “We have to defeat these forces of evil [Islamic radical terrorism]. Only then can you create the conditions to really allow human rights to flourish.”

“The glaring absence of human rights from Trump’s agenda will only embolden further violations in a region where governments flout the rights of their own people in the name of the fight against terror, and violate international humanitarian law in conflicts fueled on large part by US arms transfers,” said Amnesty International.

Trump’s reaction to the Saudi deal? “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs”

And in remarks with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Trump said , “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.”

Trump is the Arms-Dealer-In-Chief.

Trump also is content to brush aside human rights in negotiating new trade deals.

“Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His ‘America First’ approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States,” Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times (April 4, 2017).

Trump’s only value is that The $ is Almighty, greenbacked by military might.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

A Day Without Women? Strike Sex Instead

The Capitol Building, still draped in flags for Donald Trump’s inauguration the day before, is backdrop for nearly 1 million who flooded Washington DC to stand up for Women’s Rights. The success of the march led organizers to call for “A Day Without Women” strike on International Women’s Day, March 8 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

For those women who flexed their liberated muscles by opposing Hillary Clinton (because after all, what did they have to lose?), two stories from this week stand out:

GOP Lawmaker Asks Why Men Should Pay for Prenatal Care

Judge resigns over rape trial comment: ‘Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?’

Trump has not only set back American progress on every aspect of civil, environmental, economic and criminal justice a century to the Gilded Age, but threatens to do the same with women’s rights and standing in society. And I’m not just referring to the fact that he has made it okay to be a misogynistic, sexist, racist, xenophobic bit.

Hillary Clinton in her campaign noted that it isn’t just “attitude” or “culture” that propagates bias, but systemic reinforcement in the economy, the tax code, the courts, the law, and most especially health care and reproductive rights, that, more than anything else for all practical purposes keep women down and lacking power.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), explicitly reversed those impediments, which allowed insurance companies to make women pay higher premiums for their pre-existing condition of being a woman.

The health care “reform” that Republicans are trying to ram through would not only restore that ability of insurance companies to charge women more so that they couldn’t actually afford prenatal care, or for that matter a delivery, or the necessary care for their infant, especially one that is born without all the advantages of its mother having had access to prenatal care, but they propose to defund Planned Parenthood, used by 4 million people (52 million visits a year), resulting in 551,000 fewer unintended pregnancies, and of course, they intend to end women’s reproductive rights altogether.

After the Women’s March on Washington the day after inauguration, which brought out millions across the US and the world, I proposed that women should strike to demonstrate how essential to the economy women were. On March 8, International Women’s Day, there was just such a strike, “A Day Without Women.” But as the big day approached, I realized it had to fail because women predominate in jobs that are life and death – nurses, teachers, home healthcare and daycare providers, legal services (the list goes on and on and on).

“My babies,” is how a Great Neck kindergarten teacher described her students during a school board hearing on the proposed bond, noting that there is a significant difference in learning readiness for children who come to kindergarten with or without having attended pre-K, which follows through throughout their elementary schooling. They don’t catch up. I am quite sure she was in her classroom teaching instead of joining the “Day Without Women” strike.

Moreover, unless a woman worked for a sympathetic boss, she likely could not afford to lose pay, and possibly her job.

Consequently, the full impact of women on the economy, and in society – that women comprise half of the entire paid labor force for the first time in history, mothers are now close to 50 percent of all primary breadwinners, and women drive 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchasing – went unnoticed, and women as a political force were pretty much told to sit down and shut up, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senator Elizabeth Warren.

But, as ever, Senator Warren expressed best why “women’s issues are economic issues” and how the system is rigged against them:

Women are the main breadwinners, or joint breadwinners, in two-thirds of the families in America, she said, but:

  • Having a child is the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.
  • Single moms are more likely than any other group to file for bankruptcy – more likely than the elderly, more likely than divorced men, and more likely than people living in poor neighborhoods.
  • Single moms who have been to college are actually 60% more likely to end up bankrupt than those with just a high school diploma.

“The deck has been stacked against working women and moms for years. And with the Republicans in charge, it’s getting worse – a lot worse.”

Warren noted:

Women struggle under the burden of student loan debt, child care costs that equal college tuition,  make 78 cents to the dollar of her male colleague and can be fired just for asking what the guy down the hall makes (Republicans are blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act).

Mothers are 10 times more likely than fathers to take time off when their kids are sick, and 60% are not paid for that time off. Too many women fear losing their jobs because they are stuck having to choose between work or caring for someone they love. (Republicans won’t even let us have a vote on paid sick time and family leave, and Trump rolled back Obama’s executive orders on parental leave and overtime pay).

Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women but the minimum wage hasn’t gotten a federal raise in seven years, and mothers of very young children disproportionately work low-wage jobs (Trump rolled back Obama’s executive order and Republicans have blocked every effort to raise it.).

Because women make less than men throughout their lifetimes, they receive, on average, about $4,000 less a year than men in Social Security benefits (as well as pensions). This really hurts because women are less likely to have other assets, so they rely more heavily on those Social Security checks to keep them out of poverty. Republicans still threaten to cut Social Security for women and families and raise the retirement age, while their health care plan would also increase the cost of having health care and likely toss off millions of women and children from any health care at all.

“Donald Trump was right about one thing: the game is rigged. It’s rigged for rich guys like Donald Trump. The system works great for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but it leaves women and families behind. A system in which Republicans work tirelessly to rip away health care from millions of women and defund Planned Parenthood health clinics, while giving away billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil. A system that cuts Head Start programs and NIH medical research, but protects tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations,” Warren stated.

And no where is this “rigged system” more apparent than in the Trump/Ryan plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a plan that will strip health insurance from millions, raise the cost for women, for older people, for the poor and sick, in order to give the 400 richest Americans—who averaged incomes of $318 million in 2014—a tax cut of about $7 million a year, a windfall that they will happily reinvest in buying the election of candidates who will do their bidding. (Trump doesn’t pay taxes, so this wouldn’t benefit him.)

Indeed, as it turns out, there isn’t a single “Women’s Issue” but rather, a broad gamut of issues are central to women: climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, gun violence prevention, food, water and drug safety, education, workers rights, health care and public health; infrastructure and mass transportation; immigration rights, criminal justice reform, affordable housing. What is there about life that doesn’t concern women?

The fascinating thing about that ignorant lout who is unbelievably serving in Congress but can’t understand why a man should have to pay for prenatal care is that society has a collective interest in women’s health, and public health. If someone doesn’t go to the doctor and can’t afford to stay home from work, their communicable disease will spread. When people don’t go to the doctor for an early diagnosis, but only go when the condition becomes severe, society as a whole foots the bill for catastrophic care, and is deprived of that individual’s productivity.

Clearly, there should be a different sort of strike, one that would not require women to relinquish their work responsibilities: they should strike sex. Women are considered mere vessels to incubate an embryo (an elected official actually said that), a lesser person with fewer legal and political rights than a zygote. Women are singularly punished for having sex. Sex in Trump’s misogynistic RightWing America has come to mean enslavement. (And yes, I realize this sounds as crazy as Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who has taken over Housing & Urban Development, who equated the slaves who were brought to the US in chains at the bottom of boats to “immigrants” with their high aspirations.)

John Oliver, in his summation of International Women’s Day on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, said: “Every year, the best way of gauging not just how far women have come, but perhaps how far they still have to go, is by watching powerful men around the world trip over their dicks while talking about the day.”

He highlighted Vladimir Putin, who told his nation, “Women give us life and perpetuate it in our children. We will do our utmost to surround our dear women with care and attention, so that they can smile more often.”

Women in Congress (still only 20%) wore white to Trump’s joint address, to symbolize the suffragettes of a century ago and show solidarity.

“We wear white to unite against any attempts by the Trump Administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century, and we will continue to support the advancement of all women,” Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., the chair of the party’s Women’s Working Group, said in a statement.

See also:

Lessons From the Historic Women’s March: How to Counter Trump

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Fly on the Wall: Trump Blasts Obamacare, Praises GOP Health Plan, in Session with ‘Victims’ and First-Ever Cabinet Meeting

Donald Trump holds his first-ever cabinet meeting. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pool Reporter Alex Leary, Washington Bureau Chief for the Tampa Bay Times, brings us into the inner sanctum of the White House to learn how Donald Trump and Mike Pence are manipulating the debate over the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with the Republicans’ American Health Care Plan (Ryancare).

On March 13, he hosted a group of Obamacare “victims”, followed by his first-ever meeting of his Cabinet which featured remarks by Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price’s dismissal of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scathing report projecting that 24 million people would lose health care under the Republican plan:

This is Leary’s report:

POTUS entered the room at 11:26 a.m. and pool was inside for roughly 33 minutes.

POTUS thanked the participants for sharing their stories about “the very, very failed and failing Obamacare law.”

Several times POTUS complained about news media coverage of the debate. “The press is making Obamacare look so good suddenly. I’m watching the news. It looks so good. … First of all, it covers very few people and it’s imploding. And ’17 will be the worst year.”

POTUS cast the coverage as nostalgia. “It’s a little bit like President Obama. When he left, people liked him. When he was here, people didn’t like him so much. That’s the way life goes. That’s human nature. The fact is, Obamacare is a disaster.”

The best political play, POTUS said, would to let the law collapse on its own over the coming year – “because it’s going to blow itself off the map. But that’s the wrong thing to do for the country. It’s the wrong thing to do for our citizens.”

POTUS said his administration and “a lot of people in the Senate and a lot of people in the House are committed to repealing and replacing this disastrous law with a health care plan that lowers costs, expands choice and ensures access for everyone. You represent the millions of Americans who have seen their Obamacare premiums increase by double-digit and even triple-digits …”

POTUS said the House bill would provide “far” more choices at lower costs. “Americans should pick the plan they want. Now they’ll be able to pick the plan. They’ll be able pick the doctor they want. They’ll be able to do a lot of things that the other plan was supposed to give and it never gave. …”

You’re not going to have one-size-fits-all. Instead, we’re going to be working to unleash the power of the private marketplace to let insurers come in and compete for your business and you’ll see rates go down, down, down and you’ll see plans go up, up, up. You’ll have a lot of choices. You’ll have plans that nobody is even thinking of today.”

Seated across the table in the Roosevelt Room was VPOTUS. At one head of the table was HHS Secretary Tom Price; at the other. Gary Cohn, director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

The rest of the table was filled out by individuals (see list below) invited to tell their stories.

A collection of Obamacare “victims” from across the country shared their stories. (names below as provided by WH).

But first, more from POTUS, who said the Obamacare repeal and replacement must come in three steps, due to working with Congress. “I’d love to do it all in one package, but if you did it that way, it can’t get done.” 

As pool was led out, a reporter asked POTUS if he had “any message” for people worried about losing coverage if Obamacare goes away.

“It’ll get better. If we’re allowed to do what we want to do, it will get better. Much better.,” POTUS replied. “Hopefully it will get very good.”

  1. Carrie Couey, from Colorado, said her rates are “three times” higher than when Obamacare began and that has hurt her family cattle ranching business. “We can’t afford our equipment if we’re paying these rates year after year after year. Our food source is in jeopardy because of this health care law.”
  2. Brittany Ivey, Georgia, said she left a full-time job in 2009 to raise her two children. She said a family plan for four cost them $650 per month and by 2015, it had gone up “102 percent.” She said her husband’s employer dropped the family from coverage so she looked for a new job but couldn’t find one that offered insurance. At that point, the family got Obamacare. “We believed the sales pitch that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Even though we were going to have to pay $1,300 a month for Obamacare, we thought we’d still be ok with our doctors.” But she said doctors would not accept the coverage. “We paid them $8,000 in five months and were never able to use it.” She and her husband earn a combined $74,000 a year, Ivey said, but health care is too burdensome. “It’s almost put our family in financial ruin.”
  3. Elias Seife, Florida, said his individual plan was canceled. He said his parents came from Communist Cuba. “They know what socialism is all about. I know what socialism is … and this whole system was meant to have one single provider.”
  4. Kim Sertich, Arizona, said her premium last year was $365 a month and it had risen to $809 a month this year, with a deductible of $6,800. “It just didn’t seem like a good use of my money,” she said, adding she had opted out and went into a faith-based program.
  5. Louis Brown, Virginia, said he worked for the Democratic National Committee when the Affordable Care Act was going through Congress in 2009 and that he later resigned, citing opposition to abortion. He supported Trump in the election and said that he was on hand to support efforts to place people “at the center of our American health care system, not the government.”
  6. Manny Sethi, Tennessee, says he runs nonprofit called Healthy Tennessee and that he’s noticed that people can’t afford rising premiums. “So what they are doing is, effectively, they’re paying the tax penalty because it’s cheaper and works out better than paying for the insurance. That’s been a big problem that we’re seeing across the state.”
  7. Joel Brown, Tennessee, said he’s in farming and he considered paying the penalty for not carrying insurance. He said there is only one option for coverage, Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee and the premium is $540 a month with a $7,000 deductible. “You’ve got to pay a high premium for a plan that I don’t need or don’t want.”
  8. Robin Armstrong, Texas, said a lot of patients are not adequately covered by Obamacare and are hit with high premiums and deductibles. “I actually read the bill that’s been produced, that’s coming out of the House now and I really like a lot of the changes in it. I think this is going to correct a lot of issues that Obamacare has had.”
  9. Gina Sell, Wisconsin, said she’s a nurse and mother and had to get a full-time position to pay the costs. “We could not afford a premium of $1,200 per month and a deductible that didn’t cover anything.” She said now the deductible is $6,500 “and so if I have a child who is extremely sick, it’s going to cost me hundreds of dollars.” Last week, she said, her daughter had a fever and she sent her to school for “three days straight because I had to work to afford our insurance” and couldn’t pay for a trip to the doctor. “It has been devastating for our family.”
  10. Greg Knox, Ohio, began by giving POTUS a note and drawing from his 11-year-old son. The note was written on the back of a cutout face with orangeish hair. “Looks nothing like you,” Knox said to laughter. POTUS flashed a big smile and said, “I wish I looked that good.” Knox said he had meet with Secretary Price and Vice President Pence during a recent roundtable in Cincinnati. “We have the best health care system in the world. We do. But it needs to be fixed. Small business owners like myself — I’m a manufacturer — what we’d like to see is not a government-operated market but a free market.”
  11. Stan Summers, Utah, said his son was born premature 26 years ago and they had good insurance but it deteriorated over time. Enter the ACA. “I’m not going to call it the other word. I call it the last president’s health care bill. I don’t need to say that name.” (POTUS: “Other than that, you like him a lot.” Laughter.) Summers said he has three businesses and drives a school bus to provide coverage for his family. He said he expects to meet a $6,000 deductible in April.

Secretary Price gave brief remarks about the stories. “This is about real people, about real patients.” He said he was “really excited” to help install a replacement.

POTUS then again bemoaned what he deemed “wonderful press” about Obamacare. “It’s a horrible thing, actually, and getting worse.” 

VPOTUS thanked the participants. “These people are emblematic of the Americans that Obamacare has failed.”

Trump Convenes His First Cabinet Meeting

Later, at 3:48 pm, Trump convened the first-ever meeting of his Cabinet, lamenting that, “We have four empty seats, which is a terrible thing.

“Because the Senate Democrats are continuing to obstruct the confirmation of our nominees for the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, the director of national intelligence and the United States Trade Representative, somebody I want very badly. … The main victim of this very partisan obstruction is the American public.”

POTUS began by giving an update on the approaching storm…

He then touted actions by the nascent administration, including stripping away “job crushing” regulations, and alluded to the coming executive order to “begin the process of reorganizing the executive branch to make it less wasteful and more productive.”

POTUS reiterated his earlier remarks about Obamacare and talked about the replacement plan on Capitol Hill. “It’s a big, fat beautiful negotiation,” he said, drawing snickers. “Hopefully we’ll come up with something that’s going to be really terrific.” He thanked “Paul Ryan” and “Mitch.” 

POTUS said he’d be sending a budget request with the major increase in defense spending. “And it will be fully paid for,” POTUS said, Secretary James Mattis on his left. “I saved a lot of money on those jets, didn’t I? Did I do a good job?”

POTUS talked about immigration and enhancing vetting. “We will not rest until the job is done.”

“This is our first Cabinet meeting,” POTUS said. “I hope this is going to be a historic Cabinet meeting, historic in the sense that we’re going to do a fantastic job for the American people, for our country and for the future of our country.”

He did not respond to a request for comment on the “wiretapping.”

A number of officials were on hand, including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

HHS Secretary Price ‘Disagrees Strenuously” With CBO Report on GOP Health Care Plan

“We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out,” HHS Secretary Tom Price told reporters at the White House after the CBO score was released on the GOP health care plan.

Price argued that the CBO report looked “at a portion of our plan, but not the entire plan.” He explained that HHS can employ the “regulatory apparatus” to “make certain that patients are helped and that costs are decreased.”

Price said CBO ignored other legislative action.

“We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and their family, not that the government forces them to buy.”

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said he had not read the entire CBO report but found a bright spot. “The numbers that I’ve seen in the first glance is that CBO says that premiums will go down by at least 10 percent.”

A reporter noted that CBO got to that figure by estimating that fewer older Americans would get coverage but Price waved that away, again saying CBO did not take into account the full plan for repeal and replace. “The fact of the matter is, we’re working on the regulations right now.”

Asked about the report’s finding that 14 million more people would be left without insurance next year, Price said it’s “virtually impossible to have that number occur.”

Reporter: So CBO is wrong, they are not credible?

“Well, you just look at the numbers,” Price said. “There are 8-9 million people who are on the exchange currently. I’m not sure how they are going to get 14 million people uninsured, if that’s what they say, with only 8 million people on the exchange.

“They are individuals, I guess that they assume that are on Medicaid who aren’t paying anything in the Medicaid system who are not going to take the Medicaid policy just because the mandate ended or something happened. It’s just not believable is what we would suggest. We’ll look at the numbers and see.”

Reporter: Without that mandate to buy coverage, wouldn’t you concede there will be millions of uninsured?

“No, I wouldn’t concede that at all,” Price said. “The fact of the matter is they are going to be able to a coverage policy that they want for themselves and for their family. They are going to have the kind of choices that they want. … So we think that CBO simply has it wrong.”

Mulvaney echoed those points, criticizing CBO for assuming Medicaid changes will happen “on day one. It’s just absurd.”

White House Only ‘Listening’ to Conservatives on Repeal of Obamacare

Donald Trump and Mike Pence are only courting right-wing conservatives on policies that impact all Americans’ lives, including health care and women’s reproductive health.

The only ones the Trump/Pence/Ryan/McConnell Administration care about, speak to are the ultra-rightwing conservatives.  This from the White House, Friday, March 10:

READOUT OF THE VICE PRESIDENT’S LISTENING SESSION WITH CONSERVATIVE LEADERS

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price assembled dozens of conservative leaders today at the White House to discuss the multi-faceted effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Vice President and the Secretary highlighted the work being accomplished through legislative and regulatory efforts to end Obamacare’s government takeover of healthcare and provide market-based reforms that will lower costs and provide more choice to Americans. They also invited conservative groups to continue offering their ideas for improving healthcare in America and agreed to keep communication channels open as the President and Congress work to fulfill the promise of repealing and replacing the flawed Obamacare law.

The following individuals participated:

Thomas Binion, Heritage Foundation
Melissa Ortiz, Able Americans
Mia Heck, ALEC
Jason Pye, FreedomWorks
Brian McManus
Matthew Schlapp, American Conservative Union
Nan Swift, National Taxpayers Union
Richard Manning, Americans for Limited Government
Grace Turner, Galen Institute
Kenneth Cuccinelli, Senate Conservatives Fund
Jennifer Butler, State Policy Network
Daniel Schneider, American Conservative Union
John McKechnie, ABA Health Savings Account (HSA) Council
Stephen Keen, National Federation of Independent Business
Lisa Nelson, ALEC
Jennifer Hatten, ABA Health Savings Account (HSA) Council
David Bozell, ForAmerica
Phil Kerpen, American Commitment
Peter Sepp, National Taxpayers Union
Timothy Chapman, Heritage Action
Bradley Close, National Federation of Independent Business
Kent Lassmam, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Jennifer Martin, Tea Party Patriots
Shonda Kalra, Tea Party Patriots
Amanda Moorhead, National Federation of Independent Business
Bill Pascoe, Tea Party Patriots
Christopher Jacobs, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks
Michael Cannon, CATO
Bob Carlstrom, Association of Mature American Citizens
Andy Roth, Club for Growth
Heather Curry, CATO

Trump Muslim Travel Ban Will Hurt US Standing in World, National Security, Economy at Home

Trump’s Muslim ban barring travelers, students, businesspeople, immigrants, refugees from seven countries makes a mockery of all the Statue of Liberty stands for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Trump’s Muslim ban barring travelers, students, businesspeople, immigrants, refugees from seven countries makes a mockery of all the Statue of Liberty stands for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In one stroke of his pen, Trump overturned and violated foundational American principles and values enshrined in the Constitution that bars favor or disfavor for any religion, that guarantees due process of law and that every person deserves equal justice under law. His ban on travel, immigration and refugee asylum goes against American history and heritage as a nation built by immigrants, many who came as refugees fleeing war and persecution. It ignores the many instances in American history when government violated its own principles, such as its original sins, the genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Africans, going on to the Chinese Expulsion, the Japanese internment, the ramifications of turning back boatloads of Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust. Trump would like to go back to those bad ol’ days.

And he did it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Note: Trump’s statement released on Friday failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, clearly the imprint of White Nationalist Steve Bannon, Trump’s key advisor.)

Trump, through his dismissive foreign policy tweets concerning NATO, nuclear weapons, climate change, indeed his entire America First policy – reinforced by the new UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in a defiant, “You have our back or we’re taking names” threat; his trade war launched with Mexico which likely will spread to China and others, his stance to pull the US out of global climate action – will turn the US into a pariah among nations, opening the way for China to step up influence in Mexico (a Pacific nation), and Africa, and Russia in the Middle East and Eastern Europe (after all, who will stop Putin’s push to establish a new Soviet Empire?).

The immoral, unconstitutional, anti-American, and ultimately self-destructive impacts of Trump’s Muslim Ban will not make the United States safer, but rather feeds into radical Jihadists’ war cry against the Crusader West, not to mention the misery, anxiety it has imposed on thousands of immigrants and refugees who have already suffered the terror of war and the trauma of leaving homelands, sending them back into dangerous and desperate circumstance.

The callous disregard for the toll on humans because of the horrendous way the order was rolled out – making the first two weeks of the Obamacare roll out look like the 1969 moon landing – gives proof to the lie of Trump as a “businessman” rather than King of Debt who drove his businesses into the ground, while screwing the workers and contractors, and raises real terror than he will in fact run the country as he ran his businesses.

There has been superb reporting on the individuals caught in Trump’s limbo. But I want to focus on the economic and social impacts of undermining travel and tourism, reviving anti-Americanism abroad and undermining the appeal of the United States as a destination.

Trump, with an America First philosophy, says he wants to expand economy and jobs, lower the trade deficit, but his policies already are guaranteed to damage one of the nation’s most vigorous, reliable engines of economic growth, jobs and social mobility, lifting minorities and women into the middle class, not to mention international goodwill: international travel.

Indeed, tourism is part of trade. Travelers coming into the United States are an “import,” and the dollars spent here go a long way to reducing the trade deficit. How much? According to the US Travel Association, travel and tourism generates $2.1 trillion in economic output (2.7% of GDP) from domestic and international visitors (includes $927.9 billion in direct travel expenditures that spurred an additional $1.2 trillion in other industries through a ripple effect). Travel expenditures support 15 million jobs (8 million directly); account for $221.7 billion in wages, and generate $141.5 billion in tax revenues to federal, state and local governments, levels that increased significantly over the past eight years, helping to lift the nation out of the Great Recession.

Just as Trump unleashed his ban – catching up people who were already in transit, many after years of vetting, and even green card holders and legal residents who happened to be traveling outside US – I was at the Javits Center for the New York Times Travel Show, a stunning gathering of travel suppliers and representatives from around the world and people who sell travel and value travel.

I stopped at a booth of an operator who organizes trips to Iran (earlier, Iran was cited as one of the “hot” new destinations for Americans, along with Cuba). In response to Trump’s ban on all arrivals from Iran, Iran retaliated with a ban on Americans coming in (Iraq is now talking about expelling Americans, where we have some 5,000 troops, already primed to hate Americans after Trump told the CIA he would like a “second chance at getting Iraq’s Oil” after all, “to the victor belong the spoils.”).

Cuba is another destination that Americans have been flocking to since Obama normalized relations and eased travel restrictions – a way to succeed where 50 years of isolation have failed, to introduce a taste for democracy to Cubans living under a Communist dictatorship. Now that is up in the air.

“If [Trump] makes it look like Mexico is the enemy, people will stop traveling to the enemy,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group said on a “State of the Travel Industry” panel. “That would hurt us badly, but it would also hurt the United States. Most importantly, it would hurt the humanity and the morals and the principles of the United States.”

Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, a travel agency company, noted that on a trip to Mexico recently, he found Mexicans who normally take ski vacations in Aspen and Vail are going to Vancouver, Canada, instead.

The 20% tariff that Trump proposes against Mexico (which would be paid for by American consumers, not Mexico), the second largest trading partner with the US which supports 6 million US jobs,  will likely be retaliated with a tariff on American goods, making them more expensive and unaffordable for Mexicans, whose economy will likely be devastated (already the currency is taking a hit), and further destabilizing the country.

Trump’s domestic and foreign policies have a singular theme: disruption and destabilization. And he doesn’t care who is killed or how many suffer. A bully takes pleasure out of terrorizing vulnerable people.

In just his first few days occupying the Oval Office, Trump has managed to overturn the goodwill, and foment anti-Americanism. A travel insurance company actually came out with an alert to travelers to be more aware. The headline: “What to Be Aware of When Traveling in the Apocalypse; APRIL Outlines Simple Precautions for Traveling in a Post-Trump World”

“It’s not our role to influence or pass judgment on the political process in America, but regardless of personal opinions on Trump’s presidency, travel counselors recall the anti-American sentiments prevalent during the George W. Bush administration. They are therefore cognizant of shifting perceptions of Americans internationally,” explained Jason Schreier, CEO of APRIL USA.

“Vacationing is a staple of American society and one of the primary ways Americans enrich themselves culturally. World events should not deter one from traveling, but vacationers need to be aware of their vulnerabilities and protect themselves accordingly.” Sad.

The value of international tourism goes beyond economic growth, jobs and tax receipts, though these are vitally important – but in essence literally brings peoples together. American travelers are unofficial ambassadors of American values and ideas, fostering good will. In the same vein, Americans who meet people face to face, where they are no longer “others” to be feared, but rather seen as human beings more similar than different. Travelers are the first line of diplomacy, the first line or promoting peace and cooperation.

President Obama understood this, which is why he encouraged young people to study, work and travel abroad and created mechanisms to help them find opportunities to do that; why he encouraged foreign students to attend our schools, to foster people-to-people exchanges, and why he eased restrictions on travel to Cuba.

Trump’s ill-conceived and executed travel & immigration ban is heinous (the chaoic, dysfunctional way it was rolled out – without even consulting his new Defense and Homeland Security Secretaries, without instruction to Customs and Border Patrol agents, making the roll out of Obamacare look like the 1969 Moon Landing), a violation of law (due process, religious freedom) and American values and morals. And though Trump justifies it as keeping Americans safe, it is not designed to do that – none of the 7 countries that are banned have ever been connected to terrorism on US soil, while the countries that have (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan) were not part of this ban. Not to mention that his wall along the Mexico border (where hysterical rightwing conspiracy theorists have said that ISIS has infiltrated) would do nothing to block the actual war-weary refugees that welcoming Canada has taken in.

Trump excuses his callous and grotesque policy as “extr-e-e-e-me vetting.” But these refugees already go through batteries of screening – at least 18 federal agencies – in an intensive process that takes years. And through all of this, Trump has not actually said what he would add to the process to make it more secure. The fact is, none of the refugees that have come through the process set out by the Obama Administration have had anything to do with terrorism in the US. What is happening in Europe, with the flood of hundreds of thousands of refugees that flowed through the continent, has nothing to do with what is happening in the US.

Trump’s America First foreign policies (trade, climate action, weakening NATO for example) are intended to isolate the United States, to put up our own Iron Curtain, our own Bamboo Curtain so that an autocrat can keep its people in darkness, ignorance, fear and insecurity and therefore malleable and controllable, which is what dictators and autocrats like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and the Iranian Ayotollahs.

“President Trump’s travel ban on Iranians is a gift to the Islamic republic and its hard-line rulers,” writes Hadi Ghaemi, founder and executive director of the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in the Washington Post. “It will not deter terrorism on U.S. soil. Not a single terrorist involved in the 9/11 attacks or other fatal terrorist attacks in the United States since then has been of Iranian origin. Instead, Trump’s policy is a collective punishment of a diverse and changing nationality, and will ironically serve the purposes of Iran’s hard-line rulers.”

As for terror, let’s compare the number of Americans killed on American soil as overt acts of radical jihadist terrorism (as opposed to domestic terrorism, such as anti-abortion, anti-Muslims) including the Boston Marathon, San Bernadino and Orlando: there have been 15 deaths since 9/11, compared to 445,000 killed by gun violence on US soil. Toddlers are more lethal than terrorists, killing one person a week.

As for the number of foreign infiltrators, immigrants or refugees who participated in terror attacks in the US? The Washington Post reporting on a study by nonpartisan think tank New America Foundation, of 400 individuals charged with or credibly involved in jihad-inspired activity in the U.S. since 9/11 2001, 197 were U.S.-born citizens, 82 were naturalized citizens, and 44 were permanent residents; just 11 were on a non-immigrant visa, 8 were illegal immigrants, and 12 had refugee status.

Indeed, the United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are among the countries that issued travel advisories against travel to the US over concerns about epidemic gun violence, mass shootings, police violence, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes and the Zika virus.

Tina Müller, 54, of Berlin, was quoted in USA Today (“Overseas Travel Warnings about USA Mount”) saying she had no plans to visit the US anytime soon, “They need to get rid of their guns. It would solve a lot of their problems. We have racism and prejudice in Europe, but we don’t have mass shootings and violence on that level.”

Yet Trump bases an unconstitutional ban on refugees, immigrants, green card and visa holders on a slogan of “protecting the safety of Americans”. But if he cared that much for Americans’ health, welfare, national security and safety, he would be signing executive orders for sensible gun restrictions starting with “No Fly, No Buy,” and smart-guns, instead of proposing a “Guns Everywhere” policy; he would be expanding the public option instead of repealing the Affordable Care Act to save tens of thousands of premature, needless death and suffering, and spending money to create vaccines against Zika and Ebola; and he would be expanding trade instead of putting up barriers and launching trade wars, to uplift people around the world from deprivation and poverty rather than exacerbating destabilizing income inequality.

Trump has demonstrated that he intends to rule as he campaigned, by stoking fear and terror and insecurity. That may well serve another goal: keeping Americans insulated from the world so they are kept in darkness and ignorance and malleable to his policies.

That is not a recipe to “Make America Great Again,” nor keeping Americans safe. That is a recipe for widening violence and terror as well as economic insecurity. There will be a domino effect, through the global economy, just as the US mortgage crisis triggered a global meltdown, starting with retaliatory policies such as trade tariffs and travel bans.

The anti-globalism, anti-trade isolationism implicit in Trump’s populism is quite frightening. The undermining of global institutions which effectively prevented World War III – the United Nations, European Union, NATO, even the international cooperation in outer space – edges us closer to the existential apocalypse given the technological capacity in the control of a single person.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump-Pence Campaign Leaders Launch ‘America First Policies’ Advocacy Group

Trump-Pence Campaign leaders have launched America First Policies to aggressively advocate for the policies and initiatives coming from the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Trump-Pence Campaign leaders have launched America First Policies to aggressively advocate for the policies and initiatives coming from the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Even as millions around the country and the world have been protesting the policies coming down from Donald Trump – the immigration and travel ban, global gag order on women’s health facilities, attacks on environment and climate action, attacking the media, threatening new voter suppression actions (the list goes on and on) – today a senior group of key Trump-Pence campaign, transition, and inauguration leaders announced the formation of America First Policies, a non-profit organization dedicating to advocating the initiatives and policies of the White House.

“As an issue advocacy organization, America First will be dedicated to empowering, educating, and mobilizing tens of millions of Americans who believe in policies that put America First,” the press release stated. “The organization will promote policy, support leaders, coalitions, and other organizations who back America First policies, and communicate directly to citizens – directly challenging the agenda of the liberal and biased media.”

America First Policies will be led by Nick Ayers, Rick Gates, Marty Obst and Brad Parscale – a team who worked closely throughout much of the campaign, transition, and inauguration and have tremendous experience in public policy, issue advocacy, fundraising, and political organization. In addition, David Bossie and Katrina Pierson will also be joining the newly formed entity. The group said it will not accept any donations from federally registered lobbyists.

“President Trump campaigned on a bold but basic concept: America First,” the team said in a joint statement. “This is a concept the American people both understand and support, but few in the media recognize and many politicians beholden to special interests will oppose. We will provide the counter balance. And while our funding will be significant – the most powerful thing this organization can do is harness the power and energy from everyday ordinary Americans, and give them a voice in this process. If their voices are heard, ‘America First’ policies championed by The White House will prevail.”

Trump to Auto Execs: Don’t Worry About Environmental Regulations, Permits

Women’s March Protesters kept at a distance from the White House on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Many called for protecting the environment and climate. Donald Trump is dismissive, telling auto manufacturers that environmental regulations “are out of control.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March Protesters kept at a distance from the White House on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Many called for protecting the environment and climate. Donald Trump is dismissive, telling auto manufacturers that environmental regulations “are out of control.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

George Condon, National Journal, reports on Donald Trump’s meeting with auto executives earlier today:

The president, accompanied by the vice president, entered the Roosevelt Room at 9:11, shook hands and greeted the auto executives who had been standing around on one side of the table waiting for him and chatting with top administration officials. The executives took their seats at the table and the president gave brief welcoming remarks before the pool exited at 9:16.

Transcript of remarks to come. But the tenor was set even before everybody sat down when he playfully said to two of the executives “start building in the U.S.”

As everyone sat down, he was the gentleman and held the chair for Mary T. Barra of General Motors, saying, “Let me help you with that.” After thanking them for coming, he assured them “you’re not being singled out.” Of job creation, he said, “It’s happening; it’s happening big league.” He added, “We’re bringing jobs back to the U.S. big league.” He talked of regulations and the need to control them. He brought up environmental regs, saying, “I am an environmentalist…. But it’s out of control.” He promised that they would get answers on their permits much faster than they are now.

The president sat in the center chair. To his right was Barra, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of General Motors, then Craig Glidden of GM, then Steve Bannon. Across the table from Bannon was Stephen Miller, then Jared Kushner, the Gov. Matt Blunt, then Mark Fields of Ford, Ziad Ojakli of Ford, Hope Hicks, then Priebus. Back on the president’s side of the table, it was Sergio Marchionne of Fiat to the president’s left, then Shane Karr of the alliance of automobile manufacturers, and Josh Pitcock of the vice president’s office. The vice president sat directly across the table from the president. In other small talk, the president kidded Marchionne about having spent the night flying to get to the meeting. And he wished one of the executives, Mark Fields, a happy birthday.

Here are his notes of what Trump told the executives:

“I want to just thank you all for being here. We have a very big push on to have auto plants and other plants, many other plants. You’re not being singled out, believe me, Mary, I promise. But you have a lot of plants from a lot of different items built in the United States. And it’s happening, it’s happening big league.

“We had Whirlpool up yesterday, we’re talking about big construction facilities. And it’s not the construction I want although that brings jobs. It’s the long term jobs that we’re looking for.

“We’re bringing manufacturing back to the United States big league, we’re reducing taxes very substantially and we’re reducing unnecessary regulations. And we want regulations but we want real regulation that mean something.

“Mark and I were together yesterday and I think we understand that. We’re going to make the process much more simple for the auto companies and for everybody else who wants to do business in the United States.

“You’re going to find this to be from being very inhospitable to extremely hospitable. I think we’ll go down as one of the most friendly countries and right now it’s not.”

“I have friends that want to build in the United States, they go many, many years and then they can’t get their environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before. And it’s absolutely crazy.

“I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it. But it’s out of control and we’re going to make it a very short process. And we’re going to either give you your permits or we’re not going to give you your permits. But you’re going to know very quickly. And generally speaking we’re going to be giving you your permits.

“And it is an honor to be with you today.”

Belgian Billionaire Congratulates his Friend & Biz Partner Donald Trump, Comparing him to Putin, While Pitching Project

Donald Trump: never before has anyone attained the presidency with so little experience, expertise, or inclination to govern on behalf of the people, but so much self-interest. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Donald Trump: never before has anyone attained the presidency with so little experience, expertise, or inclination to govern on behalf of the people, but so much self-interest. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This letter from Mark Elie Klein, Belgian billionaire and real estate promoter, congratulating his friend and business partner, Donald J. Trump, and praising Vladimir Putin, while also pitching a new business venture, basically says it all about the incoming Trump administration and its extraordinary conflicts of interest. Trump campaigned saying he would be the voice of the forgotten (white) man? Are you kidding or just delusional? 

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, November 19, 2016 — President Donald Trump represents an opportunity for the United States and for the world. This is a man who has succeeded at everything he has done in his career, and who is going to restore lost greatness to the USA and to the American dream.

mark-elie-kleinPresident Donald Trump will get along well with his counterpart Vladimir Putin. Putin has solidified his control over Russia, and anyone who has watched the chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting of individual power dynamics towards Putin on the international scene. Putin has worked his way up through the ranks and built his charismatic appeal on what appears to be a simple formula: keeping his promises.

The Russian people sought a leader able to restore their honor and make their country great again; he has succeeding in establishing a vertical power structure and forging a dominant position on the continent.

The Russian people demanded vengeance after the terrorist attacks; he meted out punishment.

The Russian people called for control over their own economic interests; he re-established the state’s grip on oil, gas and other strategic sectors.

The Russian people wanted the country to regain its status as a great power; he has shown that he takes lessons from no one.

All negotiations depend on a position of strength. This position is occupied by Putin. Reconstruction of the Russian empire has been definitively validated.

Most Europeans I have spoken to would like to see Europe having its own version of Putin.

With the arrival of President Donald Trump, these two exceptional men will be the Presidents of a changing world.

For five years, my partners and I have been working to develop a new “SKY & SEA” concept: a ‘next generation’ building, spearheaded by cutting-edge technology in terms of ecology, economy, architecture, design and materials.

Eiffel built the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty in New York, and so on.

We will soon be announcing to the media that construction has begun on our “SKY & SEE” building.

This concept will be presented to President Putin with a view to offering him the only building of its kind in the world, in keeping with the greatness of his country, including a museum illustrating the history and culture of Russia. The site could receive an estimated seven million visitors per year, equivalent to the numbers visiting the Eiffel Tower. President Putin will certainly be delighted by this development, which could be named in his honor.

Similarly, the election of President Trump has inspired me to present a project to him which will also mark his Presidency. As a major property mogul, he will certainly appreciate our expertise, and we will propose to him that we advance this concept together.

In conclusion, the year 2017 will be marked by Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, as Presidents of a world they are going to change together.

Come and visit my website, denouncing in particular the injustices perpetrated by French politicians towards President Putin, who is coming to the rescue of powerless Europe in the Middle East conflict.

Stop criticizing President Trump, who has just been elected, when you do not even know his program. The voice of the people must be respected.

I have followed the path of Gerard Depardieu, as many others have done, and returned my French passport. The only reason I have not moved to Moscow is because the weather is too cold…

All those who share my ideas will find a warm welcome and exceptional hospitality at my first “KEY HOTELS & RESORTS” in the Dominican Republic.

Allow me to emphasize once again my support for Presidents Trump and Putin, who will undoubtedly work together to change our declining world.

–Mark Elie Klein

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