Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Trump v. Bannon

Meh.

The president disavowed Mr Bannon after he was quoted in a new book describing a meeting between Mr Trump’s son and a group of Russians as “treasonous”.

The Russians had offered Donald Trump Jr damaging information on Hillary Clinton at the June 2016 meeting.

Mr Bannon’s quote appears in a new book by journalist Michael Wolff.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Mr Trump said in a statement on Wednesday.

I’m finding it difficult to get exercised over this latest dust up. First, it’s a pissing match between two world-class liars. Second, up until five minutes ago, the Left told us that Bannon was a white nationalist liar bent on the destruction of America. Today he is apparently the noble whistle-blower. I can’t keep up on who I’m supposed to hate or not. Third, if there’s anything we have learned about Bannon, it’s that he is unswerving in his support for Bannon. He is cashing the ultimate “insider” check with his “tell all.” And the media is helping him get richer.

I’m going to go back to worrying about Trump’s big button. That was funnier.

Trump’s conservative record

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

The closing of one year and opening of the next offers the opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate one’s preconceptions and biases. As a conservative who opposed President Donald Trump, I must admit that I have been very favorably surprised by his first year in office.

My reasons for opposing candidate Trump were simple, if heart wrenching. He is a man with a history of wretched character who rode a dangerous populist wave to the White House while shouting some empty conservative rhetoric. My worry was, and continues to be, that Trump will govern as a big-government populist and tear apart the conservative movement in the process. That may still come to be, but his accomplishments during his first year in office would be the envy of any would-be conservative president. For that, he deserves praise and thanks.

The most recent accomplishment was the monumental tax reform bill that Trump signed into law a couple of weeks ago. With the help of the Republican Congress, Trump has slashed the corporate tax rate to slightly below the worldwide average, cut and simplified the income tax for individuals, moved the U.S. to a territorial tax system, cut taxes for other businesses, eliminated the alternative minimum tax for businesses and scaled back the alternative minimum tax for individuals. Any one of those would have been a conservative victory.

That’s not all. The tax bill also repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate, which imposed an unconstitutional tax penalty for people who chose to not purchase health insurance. This was a key pillar that underpinned Obamacare and was a flash point in every debate about repealing Obamacare, but it passed in the tax bill with barely a protest.

Also in the tax bill was the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development. This has been a goal for 30 years and it was finally done with barely a whimper of protest.

The passage of the tax reform law alone, with all of its provisions, would have been considered a massive accomplishment for any conservative president. That was merely the capstone of Trump’s tremendous year.

Trump and the Republican-led Senate set a record for appointing conservative federal judges. The most important was the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, but he also appointed 18 other federal judges in his first year. Given how liberals challenge every piece of conservative legislation in federal court, filling the federal judiciary to a constitutionally conservative judges is critical to any long term reform.

In the area of federal regulations, where Trump has far more unilateral authority, he has made incredibly aggressive and sweeping conservative reforms. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has been sharply pulled back into its constitutional cage, as have the Education Department, Health and Human Services, Federal Communications Commission, and many other regulatory agencies. Thousands of individual regulations have been repealed or reprioritized with the overriding objective of getting the federal government out of people’s lives.

Among those regulatory reforms were the FCC’s repeal of President Obama’s 2015 Net Neutrality regulation, which imposed stringent regulations on internet service providers in favor of Big Media and others. Also, Trump’s administration broke loose the intentional regulatory roadblocks of the Obama administration by approving projects like the Keystone Pipeline.

Trump held firm on his campaign promises to honor our veterans. The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act improved backlogs at VA facilities while other legislation improved overall access to healthcare and expanded educational opportunities for veterans.

In foreign affairs, Trump has reoriented our nation’s policies under the “America First” banner. Far from being the isolationist posture that many feared, Trump’s foreign policy is engaging and muscular. Trump has returned the U.S. to a more realpolitik foreign policy where our nation will act energetically to support our national interests and expects other nations to do the same.

To that end, Trump rightly pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accords and Trans-Pacific Partnership – both of which were designed to benefit other nations at the expense of America. Trump has taken a less appeasing stance toward tyrannical regimes in North Korea and Iran. He is finally fulfilling the rhetorical promises of his predecessors of both parties by moving America’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Trump also decertified the treacherous Iran deal where Obama gave Iran a path to nuclear arms and billions of dollars to get there in exchange for empty promises of peace.

Perhaps most impressive, if woefully downplayed by much of the media, was the defeat of the Islamic State. Under Obama, who called them the “JV team,” IS rose to power conquering a huge territory in Iraq and Syria. IS exported terrorism to the world while murdering Christians, Jews and anyone else in their reach who did not subscribe to their cruel ideology. Trump allowed the military the latitude to act without tactical permission from political agents in Washington and supported our allies in Iraq and elsewhere to act aggressively. The result is that after years of growing and spreading, IS has been largely defeated and pushed completely out of Iraq.

It would be easy to lament what could have been had a traditional conservative won the Republican primary, but debating alternative futures is the realm of fiction authors. Trump’s record of conservative reforms is impressive as it stands. Let us hope that he can maintain pace and direction of reform in 2018.

Trump Fires Entire HIV/AIDS Council

Shock!

President Donald Trump reportedly fired the sixteen remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) Wednesday via a letter FedExed from the White House.

According to Newsweek, the mass dismissal arrives months after six members from PACHA resigned in June and penned an open letter to Trump, saying that his administration was promoting legislation that would harm those living with HIV.

Of course, you have to read all the way down to the last paragraph to learn this:

However, as Newsweek noted, the move by an administrator to “purge” PACHA is not unprecedented as the Obama administration also eliminated all of former President George W. Bush’s appointees in the same way once he assumed power.

Sooooo… what’s the issue?

President Obama Pushes for Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Effort

Oh, It’s President Trump’s idea? Well, okay then. Still no.

West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN)President Donald Trump, looking ahead to a critical election year where his record will be on the ballot alongside Republican lawmakers, plans a major push on infrastructure in January, aides said this week.

[…]

Despite promising a $1 trillion infrastructure bill during the campaign, Trump’s plan is shaping up differently. A White House official said on Tuesday the current proposal — set to be unveiled in the middle of January — would propose spending at least $200 billion on infrastructure projects over the next decade, with the hopes of spurring an additional $800 billion in state and local funding.
Some Democrats and business groups have said that $200 billion is too low. But the White House official characterized the figure as a floor, not a ceiling, and said Trump is willing to spend more federal dollars if it means getting a package through Congress.

Byron York: Trump’s Productive First Year

Indeed.

Assume that tax reform passes and is signed into law. If in, say, 2014, a Republican, of either the conservative or moderate variety, predicted that in 2017 a newly-elected GOP president and Congress would —

  1. Cut corporate and individual taxes.
  2. Repeal the Obamacare individual mandate.
  3. Appoint a highly-respected conservative to the Supreme Court.
  4. Appoint a one-year record number of judges to the circuit courts.
  5. Get rid of reams of unnecessary regulations.
  6. Destroy ISIS.
  7. Approve pipeline projects and new oil drilling.
 — then a lot of Republicans would probably have cheered. Loudly.

Trump acts on Obamacare

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

President Trump, frustrated with Congress’ failure to repeal Obamacare, has begun to take unilateral action to reintroduce market forces into the health insurance market and pick at the pillars of Obamacare. His actions are a great first step.

Before getting into the specifics of Trump’s actions, we must note that the continued concentration of power in the presidency is abhorrent and an existential threat to liberty. That concentration has been progressing for decades, but greatly accelerated during the President Obama’s terms. Whereby Obama bragged about governing with a “phone and a pen,” Trump is exercising that same arbitrary authority. And while Trump’s most recent orders are good policy, the same power can and will be used for bad policy and worse. The fact remains that so much arbitrary power — the power over the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans and trillions of dollars — should never be concentrated in the pen of one person.

Obama used that arbitrary authority to implement Obamacare and make changes to our health care insurance market — sometimes in ways not legal. Trump is using that same arbitrary authority to make different changes to our health care insurance market.

Trump’s first executive order was a series of directives to various cabinet agencies and tweaks to find ways to allow more health insurance options and more flexibility in the health insurance market. The first directive was to the Labor Department to find ways to allow small businesses and individuals to collectively buy insurance through association health plans.

Allowing small businesses and individuals to group together — particularly if they are allowed to do so across state lines — would allow them to gain more purchasing power, better rates and in some circumstances, alleviate them of many of Obamacare’s regulations by shifting their plans under federal regulation instead of state regulations.

The second thing Trump’s order did was to allow people to buy more kinds of short-term health insurance plans. Obama limited these plans to 90 days, but allowing people to by plans for up to a year provides much more flexibility to people between jobs or open enrollment periods.

The third thing Trump’s order did was allow employers more ways to give employees tax-free money to pay for health care expenses elsewhere. In the past, some employers that did not provide health insurance could instead give their employees money to buy insurance on the individual market through a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). Obamacare forbade this accommodation and Trump’s order allows it again.

These series of changes are all positive and allow for more flexibility and competition in the health insurance market. It was Trump’s second action, however, that really undercut Obamacare. When the Obamacare law was written, the lawmakers knew that it would dramatically increase the cost of health care insurance. It sought to address that by shifting costs to the taxpayers in two primary ways. The first way was to give subsidies to people buying Obamacare policies if they couldn’t afford it through a tax credit.

The second way was to mandate that the insurance companies providing Obamacare policies cut what they charge health care providers — even if those cuts results in a loss to the insurance company. This was done with the understanding that the taxpayers would pick up the losses of the health insurance companies, but the Obamacare law never appropriated any money for such subsidies. Lawmakers at the time were justifiably fearful of being accused of subsidizing the profits of big health insurance companies, so they did not appropriate the money. President Obama picked up the ball and began illegally giving the health insurance companies subsidies to prop up their profits beginning in 2014.

Trump is ending this illegal practice. Ironically, all Trump is doing is following the law as written. The result is that the insurance companies are still required by law to keep their billings lower — sometimes below costs — but they will not get a check from the taxpayers to cover those losses. They will be forced to either pass those costs on to policy holders through massive premium increases, or exit the Obamacare exchanges. The structural flaws of Obamacare will no longer be covered up with billions of taxpayer dollars illegally funneled to insurance companies.

Obamacare has already failed America. Trump is just trying to mitigate and hopefully reverse some of the damage.

Trump Links Border Wall to DACA

Good.

The White House has tied any new deal on young undocumented immigrants to a clampdown on illegal immigration, including a border wall with Mexico.

US President Donald Trump is asking for funding for the wall, speedier deportations and the hiring of thousands of new immigration officials.

Last month he ended the Obama-era “Dreamer” programme which had protected some 690,000 immigrants.

Leading Democrats in Congress have rejected the latest proposals.

They accused Mr Trump of backtracking on a commitment not to include the border wall in negotiations over the status of young immigrants, who are mostly from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Goodell Slams Trump

Heh.

(CNN)NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday slammed President Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem in remarks the President made at a rally in Alabama Friday night.

Goodell called Trump’s comments “divisive” and said they show a “lack of respect” for the league and its players.
I would argue that the people kneeling during the National Anthem are “divisive” and show a “lack of respect” to this nation and all that it stands for. In fact, I would argue that that is the precisely the intent of the protest.

Trump Speaks at the United Nations

You can read the entire transcript at this link. I highly encourage you to do so. It’s a remarkable speech that defines a new era in American foreign policy – the Trump Doctrine. Most of Trump’s positions, if not the manner in which he expressed them, would have been perfectly understood and agreed with when the UN was founded. Trump hearkens back to the age of muscular internationalism that American foreign policy rested upon from FDR to Reagan.

I’m a big fan of the Trump Doctrine and think that the president struck the right message and tone in his speech. Welcome back, America.

Trump’s Green Acres

Because everyone should see this.

Hat tip David Mortosko

Trump Spins on DACA

Okay…. so somebody is lying. Given the track record of this crowd, it could be all of them.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump pushed back Thursday morning against claims by top congressional Democrats that a deal has been reached over legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants and that a border-security package would not include a wall along the US-Mexico border.

“No deal was made last night on DACA,” Trump tweeted. “Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”
Late Wednesday, Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi said they had “agreed to enshrine the protections of (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
But Trump also refuted that specific assertion by the Democratic leaders about a border wall, tweeting, “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.”

Trump Should End DACA

Indeed.

Recent reports suggest that President Trump is torn about what to do about DACA, the de facto amnesty for so-called DREAMers instituted by Barack Obama. We understand the hesitation, since many of the beneficiaries of this amnesty have sympathetic stories, but as a matter of fidelity to our constitutional system and his campaign promises, Trump must end DACA. If we are going to amnesty an entire class of people, it should obviously be done through the democratic process and, in our view, happen only in exchange for reforms to the immigration system.

DACA contravenes the elementary principle that the legislative branch ought to pass laws and the executive branch ought to enforce them. In 2012, after Congress rejected the DREAM Act, President Obama issued the policy by unilateral decree. Under DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — illegal immigrants under the age of 36 can apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for deferred status. And while the Obama administration pretended the policy would be implemented via “prosecutorial discretion,” with each case considered individually, in practice, USCIS officials say, any illegal immigrant who appears eligible is granted deferred status — which comes with benefits such as a work permit, a Social Security number, and a driver’s license. More than 750,000 illegal immigrants currently enjoy this functional amnesty.

Trump Announces Afghanistan Policy

I’d rather get in or get out. I’m glad to be moving away from a static policy.

President Donald Trump has said a hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan would leave a vacuum for terrorists to fill.

He said his original instinct was to pull US forces out, but had instead decided to stay and “fight to win” – avoiding the mistakes made in Iraq.

He said he wanted to shift from a time-based approach in Afghanistan to one based on conditions on the ground and said he would not set out deadlines.

However, the US president warned it was not a “blank cheque”.

“America will work with the Afghan government, so long as we see commitment and progress,” he said.

Mr Trump also warned Pakistan that the US would no longer tolerate the country offering “safe havens” to extremists, saying the country had “much to lose” if it did not side with the Americans.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars – at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said.

He also said the US would seek a stronger partnership with India.

Trump Says Both Sides to Blame in Charlottesville

Yup.

US President Donald Trump has again blamed both sides for the violent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one protester dead and others injured.

In a statement on Monday, he had condemned white supremacists.

But in New York on Tuesday he also blamed left-wing supporters for charging at the “alt-right”.

He also defended the time it took to make his statement, saying he had wanted to establish all the facts.

Mr Trump had been accused over the weekend of failing to condemn the far right specifically.

Heather Heyer, 32, died and 19 others were hurt when a car was driven into people protesting against a far-right march in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Mr Trump said that the car driver was a disgrace to himself and his country.

The whole response to Charlottesville has been a prime display of the hyper-polarized cultural environment we are currently in. The same people who say that we must take a nuanced view and response of phenomena like Islamist Terrorism or Black Lives Matter, which we must, are enforcing a rigid binary response to Charlottesville. What we are supposed to do, according to the media and the Left, is categorically condemn the white nationalists as the bad guys here and that’s it. Any suggestion of a more complicated story than “racist white Americans caused a riot that killed people” is to be included among those racists.

Trump is trying to present a more comprehensive response to what happened. It appears that we had at least four broad groups at work here. First, we had white nationalist and Nazi bigots. Second, we had Antifa anarchists and communist provocateurs. Third, we had relatively normal people protesting the removal of Confederate statues and purging of Southern history. Fourth, we had relatively normal people protesting the racists white nationalists and Nazis.

Primarily, we had the first and second groups enter into the day with the intention to provoke violence and they succeeded. There’s a lot of fault to go around and it is possible to condemn the Nazis and white nationalists with all possible vigor and still condemn the actions of the Antifa movement which has repeatedly sparked destruction and violence. One does not detract from the other.

The side issues around this are also worth exploring. Were the police properly deployed to keep the competing protests separated? It appears that the driver of the car was on anti-psychotic drugs. We have seen that be related to violence before. Are we properly helping the mentally ill?

Instead of focusing on whether or not Trump sufficiently condemned the white nationalists (he did), wouldn’t it be a more useful exercise to try to understand the undercurrents of our culture that led to what happened in Charlottesville?

AGs Sue Trump

While the suit is clearly grandstanding and another symptom of Democrats trying to overturn an election that they lost, I’m interested in seeing the case progress. The first question I wonder is whether or not these Attorneys General have standing?

The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia plan to sue President Trump on Monday, alleging that he has violated the Constitution by accepting foreign money through his business empire, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The attorneys general of Maryland and D.C., both Democrats, have scheduled a news conference for noon ET in Washington.

The suit, to be filed in federal court in Maryland, will allege that Trump has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress, according to the person.

Sessions Offered to Resign?

Yet another story from unnamed sources. Is it true? Who knows. So much of the media has become little more than gossip rags.

As the White House braces for former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday, sources tell ABC News the relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

Another Oval Office conversation Leaked

Since practically everything Trump allegedly has said to foreigners from the Oval Office has been leaked, one would think that he would have narrowed down the culprit by now. I don’t care how scandalous you think these comments are (and they aren’t), it is unacceptable that people are leaking the president’s Oval Office conversations.

WASHINGTON — President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

Trump Fires Comey

It is pretty funny to watch the political contortionists at work.

President Trump lashed out on Twitter Tuesday, hours after his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and accused Democrats of hypocritical criticism of the abrupt ouster.

The stunning dismissal led to Democrats and even some Republicans to boost the case for an independent prosecutor to oversee the FBI’s investigation into whether any Trump associates colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Many critics connected the unprecedented firing to Richard Nixon’s administration.

In particular, Trump attacked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who said last November of Comey: “I do not have confidence in him any longer.” Schumer is among the Democrats calling for a new independent prosecutor.

It’s pretty safe to say that Director Comey had lost the confidence of pretty much everyone with his bungling of multiple investigations. The only mistake Trump made here was waiting so long to pull the trigger, but I think he was waiting for Sessions to get his feet under him first.

Trump Signs Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty

Great!

The Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty directs the IRS to provide “regulatory relief” to faith-based organisations that are tax-exempt, a White House spokesman said on Wednesday night.

A current provision in the US federal tax code, known as the Johnson Amendment, says that churches can be investigated and lose their tax-exempt status if they directly support or oppose any political candidate.

Since he cannot repeal the law without congressional legislation, Mr Trump is directing the IRS to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment”.

Few religious groups are known to have lost their tax status for violating the law, despite many churches openly advocating for political causes and hosting candidates during their campaigns.

“A crippling financial punishment,” Mr Trump said ahead of his signing, adding “very, very unfair. But no longer”.

The order also directs federal agencies to exempt some religious groups from providing birth control to employees and staff, as required under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

I like both parts of this order. For the first part, I have always thought that it was unconstitutional to make a tax break for religious organizations contingent on them saying (or not saying) what the government wants them to say (or not say). Our nation has generally decided to make religious organizations tax exempt because their existence and activities helping society is a positive that we want to encourage. If we no longer think that and want to tax them, then that is a decision our nation can make. But that decision should be based on the merits and not on whether or not some politician approves of the political activities of the religions organization.

Furthermore, as the story indicates, many churches have openly flaunted the Johnson Amendment for years with no consequences. Bill Clinton practically lived at the pulpit of black churches in the south when he was campaigning. So if we’re not going to enforce it for everyone, why have the law at all?

On the second part, this Obamacare rule violates the rights of these organizations to exercise their faith. Good riddance.

It’s good to see some progress this week on pulling back the coercive force of government.

Un’s Cookies

Something about cookies

“People are saying: ‘Is he sane?’ I have no idea…. but he was a young man of 26 or 27… when his father died. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others.

“And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.”

Trump is probably right. Un is not unintelligent and received a good education. But his secret to holding power is probably more rooted in his ruthlessness rather than his intellect.