Posts Tagged ‘Mike Pence’

Republicans Aren’t Team Players

July 17, 2017

GOP Senators who defect from ObamaCare repeal will hurt themselves, their party and the country.

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July 16, 2017 2:17 p.m. ET

Politics is a team sport, and Republicans are playing it poorly. They have one more chance in the Senate to repeal and replace ObamaCare—possibly their last hope for a victory.

Democrats are performing like a well-coached team. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has all 48 members of his caucus on board with saving ObamaCare at all cost. It’s been a successful strategy.

It works for one reason: Republicans are divided. Their 52-48 majority in the Senate means they can lose two votes and still prevail, since Vice President Mike Pence is the tiebreaker. After promising to get rid of ObamaCare for the past seven years, it shouldn’t be difficult.

But as many as eight Republican senators opposed the first GOP bill, forcing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to come up with a revised version. While an improvement, it has encountered opposition too. Mr. McConnell is skillful in bringing senators together. But here his task is more difficult than usual because the dissidents don’t all agree on what’s wrong with the bill. Appeasing one senator may alienate another.

This is an example of why legislative success depends on operating as a team. You don’t abandon your team just because you don’t get everything you want (or want left out). You hold your nose and vote for an imperfect measure, sometimes merely because it’s politically beneficial and better than the alternative.

This is especially true in dumping ObamaCare. The Republican alternative is a more free-market health-care system in which people can buy the insurance they want, not what government requires.

Sticking with the team makes that possible. But too many Republicans aren’t comfortable as team players. To them, it’s shady and unprincipled to vote for something about which you have serious doubts. Democrats are more realistic and less persnickety, so they’re better at uniting.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/republicans-arent-team-players-1500229048

If Trump Really Loves America, He’ll Resign

July 15, 2017

Handcuffed by Ego

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Commentary

Donald Trump Jr. “took a meeting” with a Russian government attorney and a group working to defeat Hillary Clinton.

At least, that’s what he thought, according to his email records.

No other facts are relevant.

Republican commentator Charles Krauthammer says it may be bungled collusion but it’s still collusion.

Meanwhile, the healthcare bill is going nowhere fast, there is no tax overhaul plan, and no infrastructure spending plan has been passed and funded.

The stock market is going great but the Wall Street Journal reports that the gains in the stock market haven’t translated very much into the real economy. Manufacturing is still slow, jobs have been made but the future is unclear, retail is not doing well and optimism for the U.S. economy is slipping.

“Hopes for a prolonged period of 3% GDP growth sparked by Trump’s victory have largely vanished,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist for the University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment survey.

We are in a tough spot in North Korea — maybe on the brink of war. American troops remain involved in wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, along with the occasional bombing in Somalia or someplace else.

The nation needs the full attention of the Commander in Chief.

Trust in any White House policy with regard to Russia is now under assault. China is watching closely as Donald Trump looks more and more to them as a temporary stand-in president under siege and perhaps just hours or days from incapacitation due to lack of public support.

Xi Jinping can watch CNN, too.

Never in the history of the nation has a “resistance movement” dogged a U.S. president from within. Never have the media been so emotionally transfixed upon who said what in the White House, in Air Force One, on the trip and the rest. Never have we seen so many leaks and unnamed sources. Committees of Congress are questioning former Directors of National Security and the FBI, plus a long list of lesser notables. Doubt reigns.

Then, somewhere in the bowels of the FBI, there’s Robert Mueller III, lingering like the hangman.

It sounds like a bad movie. The perfect storm in Washington D.C.

But it’s real: offering three plus years of gridlock — or worse.

But there is a way out. There is always a way to do what is in the best interests of the people of the United States. There is always a way to do what’s right for the sake of the nation. There is always gain in uniting the nation and ending the foul stench — of just about anything.

Donald Trump will have to resign. His pride will refuse to entertain the notion, of course. But the alternatives may sway him.

The best part of the Trump Presidency may be over. Many achievements already won can be maintained under a new Republican President. Maybe a healer can even start the process of moving us past…

If President Trump decides to stay, and fight a war of a 1,000 tweets all the way to impeachment — as his ego will tell him to do — his place in history will be destroyed.

Plus enemies around the globe will be gloating at the prospect of the U.S. on the brink of ungoverned and ungovernable for the next year or two. Putin’s evil master plan has already succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

As Trump stands today, he’s the rock star of the age that got into the White House in a kind of miracle of populism. The dream of “Making America Great Again” is a good one and could be preserved, and maybe even fulfilled in some ways, if he resigns.

If he stays, ignoring the advice of national solons who tell him he should resign “for the good of the nation,” the historians will rip him to shreds as a selfish, ego driven megalomaniac that really doesn’t care if American ever becomes Great Again. He will be seen as one who only cares about schmoozing with Mrs. Macron in the Eiffel Tower and sending insulting tweets to the Mayor of London.

Now who should lay all this out for Donald Trump? Who can engineer the intervention?

My first thought is for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, two brothers from different mothers.

But more importantly, two men who have worked in the Oval Office to serve the American people.

Two former presidents. Two men in Trump’s same unique club.  They have to make the case to their successor in the Oval Office.

But the only people Donald Trump really trusts are those in his inner circle: Donald Jr., Jared Kushner and Ivanka. They got him where he is. They will have to play a role in getting him out.

Otherwise, they will all become a part of a long, painful, ego-fueled national nightmare.

And nobody will be better for it.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

Mr. Carey has written commentary for The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and other newspapers.

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What Robert Mueller Learned From Enron

Robert Mueller, foreground, arriving at the Capitol for a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June. Credit Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

It seems safe to assume that nobody read Donald Trump Jr.’s damning emails with a Kremlin-connected lawyer more closely than Robert Mueller.

Mr. Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, will surely be looking into the now infamous meeting, including the president’s son; the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort.

As he does, will Mr. Mueller be able to build a case that goes all the way to the top?

That could depend on what lessons he learned from overseeing the task force that investigated one of the biggest fraud cases in American history: the collapse of the energy giant Enron.

In December 2001, Enron filed what was then the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history. Just weeks later, Mr. Mueller, then the F.B.I. director; Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson; and the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, Michael Chertoff, formed the Enron Task Force, an elite team of F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors assigned to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the Houston-based energy trader. Andrew Weissmann, who recently joined Mr. Mueller’s Russia team, later led the task force.

The Enron team was patient and learned from its investigative and trial mistakes. After its yearslong run, it set a high-water mark for complex, high-profile financial inquiries, successfully indicting and imprisoning almost all of the company’s top executives.

Early on, the Enron team also won a jury conviction of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, Enron’s auditor, on an obstruction-of-justice charge. That experience could prove valuable as the Russia team investigates — among many possible routes — whether President Trump obstructed justice when he fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director.

Prosecuting the Enron executives went slowly. Not until 2006 did a jury find the former chief executive, Jeffrey K. Skilling, and the former chairman and chief executive, Kenneth L. Lay, guilty. (Mr. Lay died before sentencing.)

The frauds Enron was accused of were audacious. The company had hidden debt in a complex web of off-the-books companies and had faked its profits. Yet prosecutorial success was not inevitable. Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay pleaded ignorance, blaming lower-level employees and arguing they had relied on the advice of their attorneys and auditors. The government did not have damning emails or wiretap evidence from either man. Prosecutors may face a similar challenge with Mr. Trump, who tweets but reportedly does not use email.

The Enron team got off to an auspicious start, with the Department of Justice providing adequate prosecutorial resources. Mr. Mueller helped recruit talented prosecutors and investigators from around the country and then got out of their way.

He and other top Justice Department officials then gave their team political cover. Enron and its executives were particularly close to the Bush family and top Republican officials. Early on, the team interviewed White House officials about their recollections. Republican political operatives voiced displeasure, but the team persisted.

The task force conducted its investigations effectively, flipping lower-level employees to build cases against the top bad actors. The Enron team made aggressive and risky moves. For example, it shocked Houston high society by charging the wife of Andrew Fastow, the chief financial officer, with tax evasion to put pressure on him. It worked. Mr. Fastow began to cooperate with the government. (His wife pleaded guilty.) Every prosecutor knows this strategy works, but for various reasons today, few put in the painstaking work needed to penetrate the sophisticated legal defenses of highly paid executives.

As it proceeded, the task force weathered relentless attacks. First, critics charged it was moving too slowly. Later, white-collar defense lawyers accused the team of intimidating witnesses and overzealously charging executives. The legal establishment particularly criticized the prosecution of Arthur Andersen. The government won at trial in 2002, but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict three years later on a narrow issue involving jury instructions.

Despite its successes, the Enron Task Force emerged with a mixed legacy thanks to its trial losses and reversals from higher courts. Among them, the Supreme Court reversed part of the Skilling verdict.

Today, many Justice Department officials have learned the wrong lessons from the Enron experience, accepting the idea that the task force was overzealous. Even Democratic appointees like Mary Jo White, President Obama’s chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Lanny Breuer, his assistant attorney general for the criminal division, came to believe the prosecution of Andersen had been a mistake.

Drawing the wrong lessons has consequences. In subsequent years, the Justice Department did not assign prosecutors to work solely on financial crisis cases. While the Bush Justice Department had acted quickly to create the Enron Task Force, the Obama department allowed plans to create a similar task force, after the banking collapse of 2008, to die amid bureaucratic infighting.

It was no surprise, then, that the Justice Department never put any top bankers from the biggest banks in prison after the financial crisis. Forgetting what went right with the Enron prosecutions has contributed to a problem that still plagues the Justice Department: It has lost the will and ability to prosecute top corporate executives from the largest corporations.

Today Mr. Mueller’s team is operating in an even hotter kitchen than the Enron Task Force did. The president has repeatedly called the investigation “a witch hunt,” and rumors abound that he could fire Mr. Mueller any day. A Trump ally, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has grumbled conspiratorially that the former F.B.I. director was the “tip of the deep state spear” aimed at the president.

But the Enron Task Force may have given Mr. Mueller a hide thick enough to protect him from those attacks. More than that, Enron honed skills he’ll need now in the Russia investigation, which may well touch on money laundering, secrecy havens, complex accounting maneuvers, campaign finance violations — and multiple lies.

As I talked with Mr. Mueller’s former Enron Task Force colleagues in recent weeks, it became clear to me that he believes the Enron team was successful — and understands why. That means his special counsel team will probably move more slowly than people anticipate. But it might also shock people with its aggressive investigative and prosecutorial tactics. If Mr. Trump and his advisers committed crimes, Mr. Mueller will find them.

Mike Pence Gets New Chief of Staff As Trump Staff Still Struggles

July 14, 2017

Pence Hires Fixer Chief of Staff as Trump Falls Apart

Thirty-four-year-old Nick Ayers has been a behind-the-scenes player in Vice President Mike Pence’s political circle, and now he’s about to take center stage as his chief of staff.

For many Republicans in Donald Trump’s Washington, Vice President Mike Pence has been the ax behind the glass you’re supposed to break in case of emergency: solid, sharp, and there to save you when the place is going up in flames.

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Now, as the Trump White House has become engulfed in one media firestorm after another, Pence is bringing in a new chief of staff, a veteran political operative who Pence loyalists expect will help him manage one of the thinnest, highest tightropes in Washington—balancing the vice president’s need to be loyal to a president who requires it, while keeping his own brand and capital strong enough to stand on its own.

The man on the way to fill that role is Nick Ayers, a 34-year-old political consultant who has helped more than a dozen top Republicans in around the country launch, rescue, or cement their political careers, including Mike Pence.

If Ayers’ name is new to casual observers, it isn’t all new to anyone working in Washington. In 2007, Ayers burst onto the scene as the 24-year-old executive director of the Republican Governors Association. But his political break came even earlier, when Ayers, then 19, hit it off with a longshot candidate for Georgia governor named Sonny Perdue. Perdue hired Ayers as his driver, and then won the governor’s mansion a year later. Four years later, Ayers ran Perdue’s successful reelection in 2006 and then went with Perdue to the RGA, when the Georgia governor helmed the committee tasked with electing Republicans to governors’ mansions.

During Ayers four years at the RGA, success and attention followed. The Washington Post called him “Washington’s  youngest important operative.”

Some of his fellow young conservatives, like Matt Lewiscalled him “the most hated campaign operative in America,” complaining that young Ayers’ track record didn’t warrant the hype.

But after two full cycles with Ayers running daily operations at the RGA, Republicans went from holding 25 governors mansions in 2007 to 32 in 2011. Among the pick-ups were Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, and Rick Snyder in Michigan. It was also the period when Nikki Haley won her first term in South Carolina and Chris Christie pulled off an upset in New Jersey.

“It’s  hard to overstate how dramatic it was that he was in this position at that age,” said Nathan Daschle, a Democratic lobbyist who was the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association when Ayers ran the RGA, when the two became rivals and friends.

“In Nick, Mike Pence will get a very savvy and aggressive political mind,” Daschle said. “He’ll also get intense loyalty.  He won’t have to worry about Nick and that he’s got 100 percent loyalty out of his top person.”

With the successful run at the RGA under his belt, Ayers left Washington and became a campaign consultant and media buyer. His highest-profile race was also his biggest bomb—Tim Pawlenty’s spectacular presidential flameout, which ended abruptly five months after it began. Although Pawlenty initially said he dropped out because he lost the 2011 Iowa straw poll to then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (and even Rep. Rand Paul), the Pawlenty campaign was essentially broke—with $450,000 in debt still on the books two months after he dropped out.

A series of lower-profile Senate and governor’s races put Ayers on a winning streak—running outside PACs or advising campaign operations for Sens. Ted Cruz in Texas, David Perdue in Georgia, Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Gov. Bruce Rauner in Illinois, Gov. Eric Greitens in Missouri, and, importantly, the 2016 reelection effort for Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana.

Pence had met Ayers while he was at the RGA and signed him up for his 2016 bid, but Ayers started early after a 2015 religious-freedom bill in Indiana both ignited controversy in the state and took Pence from a 62 percent approval rating to a number in the mid-40s.

“When Gov. Pence was looking for outside consulting help, his team talked extensively with Nick,” said Bob Grand, a longtime Pence adviser and Indianapolis lawyer. “All of us were very impressed, at a young age he has great insight. And I think the governor, now vice president, was very comfortable with his style and his advice.”

Ayers was already working for Pence when the call came to assess the governor’s interest in joining Donald Trump as his running mate.

“Nick was intimately involved in that process,” said Grand. “A lot of things changed for all of us in a fairly quick period of time and Nick ended up very quickly in a very good role for the vice president.”

That role, initially, was as an outside adviser and sounding board for Pence and a board member of the super PAC supporting the Trump administration’s agenda, including an attack ad against GOP Sen. Dean Heller over his refusal to negotiate to support the GOP health-care bill.

“He came back to the table,” a Republican operative observed of the ad, which GOP senators groused about.

Ayers also recently helped Pence launch his own leadership PAC and has been helping Pence host dinners for major donors at the vice president’s residence.

And although he seriously considered a run for governor of Georgia himself, according to The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution, Ayers’ role with Pence continued to grow as the scrutiny on all members of the Trump administration ratcheted up.

While Pence has remained mostly on the sidelines of the Russia investigation, he has twice insisted in media interviews that no Trump associates ever met with Russians during the 2016 campaign for president.

“All the contact by the Trump campaign and associates were with the American people,” Pence wrongly told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Pence was also at the center of dismissal of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, after Pence defended Flynn publicly as having no Russian ties, only to learn weeks later that that, too, was false.

Paul Bennecke, the executive director of the RGA, said having Ayers on the inside of his vice-presidential operation should help both Pence and Trump by having someone on point to execute on their agenda.

“I think it’s a great asset to the president and the vice president to have someone who can figure out what the big objectives are, but more importantly, figure out what they can control and achieve, so that those objectives become reality.”

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who was the RGA chairman during much of Ayer’s time there, said Ayers will also be an important point of contact inside Pence’s operation for the governors and senators he’s worked with before.

“Obviously a lot of people will find Nick to be someone they’re comfortable going to share their views.”

Going forward, veterans of past White Houses that were similarly under the microscope said Pence’s toughest, and most important, job might just be staying focused on his actual job and staying out of the West Wing intrigue as much as possible. And that’s where the chief of staff comes in.

David Thomas, an aide to then-Vice President Al Gore at the height of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, said Gore’s chief of staff directed the staff daily to “do your job” and say and do nothing related to the impeachment.

“It’s hard enough to work for a White House in crisis,” Thomas said. “But if the White House also has internal battles, you won’t get through it.” Thomas also said the best play for Pence and his team at this point is to keep their heads down and themselves out of the spotlight.

Ayers, who will start officially at the end of the month, declined to be interviewed for this article.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/pence-hires-fixer-chief-of-staff-as-trump-falls-apart

Trump hamstrung at home as he seeks closer ties with Moscow

July 4, 2017

Reuters

By Roberta Rampton | WASHINGTON

During his presidential campaign, Republican Donald Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “strong leader” with whom he’d like to reset tense U.S.-Russian relations.

But as Trump heads to his first face-to-face meeting as president with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany on July 7-8, he is under pressure at home to take a tough line with the Kremlin.

Allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. elections have alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who are pushing to extend tough sanctions placed on Russia following its 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula belonging to Ukraine.

Lawmakers including Cory Gardner, a Republican senator from Colorado, are also concerned Russia has prolonged the civil war in Syria by backing its President Bashar al-Assad, a strongman whose forces have used chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians. The chaos has fueled instability in the region and a flood of migrants to Europe.

“President (Trump) needs to make it clear that the continued aggression by Russia around the globe … is unacceptable, and that they will be held accountable,” said Gardner, who was among six lawmakers invited by the White House last month to discuss foreign policy with Trump over dinner.

Meanwhile, the appointment of a special counsel who is investigating potential links between the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign has weakened the president’s ability to maneuver with Russia, foreign policy experts say.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded Russia sponsored hacking of Democratic Party groups last year to benefit Trump over his Democrat challenger Hillary Clinton. Russia has denied those allegations while Trump has repeatedly dismissed the idea of any coordination between his campaign and Russia as a “witch hunt.”

Still, just the optics of Trump meeting with Putin, a former KGB agent, are fraught with risk, foreign policy experts say.

“If (Trump) smiles, if he wraps his arm around Putin, if he says ‘I’m honored to meet you, we’re going to find a way forward,’ … I think Congress is going to react extremely negatively to that,” said Julie Smith, a former national security aide in the Obama administration.

EVOLVING U.S. POLICY

Trump has signaled an interest in cooperating with Russia to defeat Islamic State in Syria and to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

The White House has been mum on what Trump would be willing to give Russia in exchange for that help. But there has been speculation he could ratchet down sanctions, or even return two Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and Long Island. President Barack Obama seized those facilities and expelled 35 Russian diplomats just before he left office as punishment for the election hacks.

While some administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also support engagement, others, such as Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, have taken a hawkish line on Russia.

The lack of a unified strategy has left U.S. allies anxious. And it has lowered expectations for American leadership to help resolve crises in Syria and Ukraine, where Russian cooperation would be critical.

“Trump is like a horse with his front legs tied,” said a German diplomat, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity. “He can’t make any big leaps forward on Russia. If he tried people would immediately suspect it was all part of some big conspiracy.”

Trump’s administration is still reviewing its Russia policy, a process that may not be wrapped up for a couple of months, a U.S. official said.

Speaking with reporters last week about Trump’s upcoming meeting with Putin, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said his boss would like “the United States and the entire West to develop a more constructive relationship with Russia. But he’s also made clear that we will do what is necessary to confront Russia’s destabilizing behavior.”

THIRD TRY AT A RESET

Trump is just the latest president to grapple with the complicated U.S.-Russia dynamic.

George W. Bush and Obama sought to improve the U.S. relationship with Russia early in their administrations only to see relations deteriorate later.

Among the concerns for this president is Trump’s apparent lack of interest in policy details and his tendency to wing it with foreign leaders.

McMaster told reporters that Trump has “no specific agenda” for his meeting with Putin and that topics would consist of “whatever the president wants to talk about.”

Michael McFaul, who was U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama, said he feared Trump might be headed to the meeting without clear objectives.

“I hope that he would think about first: what is our objective in Ukraine? What is our objective in Syria? And secondarily, how do I go about achieving that in my meeting with Putin?” McFaul said.

Other Washington veterans say Trump won’t be able to make meaningful progress with Russia on anything until he confronts Putin about the suspected election meddling.

“(Trump) really has to raise the Russian election hacking last year, and has to say something like, ‘Vladimir, don’t do this again. There will be consequences,'” said Steve Pifer, a long-time State Department official focused on U.S.-Russia relations.

So far Trump has shown little inclination to do so, a situation that has heightened speculation about the potential impact from his coming encounter with the Russian leader.

“The shadow of all these investigations hangs over this,” said Angela Stent, a professor at Georgetown University and former National Intelligence Officer for Russia.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Arshad Mohammed, Warren Strobel, Richard Cowan, Jonathan Landay, John Walcott in Washington; John Irish in Paris; Noah Barkin in Berlin; Christian Lowe in Moscow; Editing by Caren Bohan and Marla Dickerson)

Trump: US patience with the North Korean regime ‘is over’ — Trump’s honeymoon with China’s Xi also seems to end

July 1, 2017

Updated 6:31 PM ET, Fri June 30, 2017

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President Donald Trump and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in at the White House, June 30, 2017. Photo: Xinhua

Washington (CNN)  President Donald Trump, speaking alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, declared Friday US patience with the North Korean regime “is over.”

“The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed,” Trump said in a statement from the Rose Garden. “And, frankly, that patience is over.”
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The remarks were the latest sign that Trump is growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in curbing North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which top US officials have eyed with increasing concern in recent months.
The South Korean President’s visit to the White House came after Trump approved a series of measures designed to ratchet up pressure on North Korea — while also sending signals to China about the US’ shrinking patience.
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 US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in give a joint statement at the White House. Photo: Xinhua
The Treasury Department on Thursday imposed new sanctions on a Chinese bank and several Chinese nationals while the State Department approved a $1 billion arms deal with Taiwan. Both moves appeared aimed at unsettling China, which the US has repeatedly urged to pressure North Korea into changing its behavior, with little success.
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Trump on Friday warned that the US is facing “the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea” that “has no regard for the safety and security of its people or its neighbors” and vowed the US would continue to act to defend US interests and allies in the region.
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Moon, who was elected on a platform of increased engagement with North Korea, also warned that “threats and provocations from the North will be met with a stern response” and vowed South Korea and the US will “strengthen” their joint deterrence capabilities.
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But he also urged the North Korean regime “to promptly return to the negotiating table” to achieve a peaceful end to its nuclear program.
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Beyond its ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile activity, the sense of alarm in the US has also grown after American student Otto Warmbier fell into a coma while in North Korean custody and died days after he was returned to the US.
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“The North Korean dictatorship has no regard for the safety and security of its people or its neighbors and has no respect for human life — and that’s been proven over and over again,” Trump said, before also thanking Moon for expressing his condolences over Warmbier’s death.
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The two men did not take questions, marking the second consecutive foreign visit where Trump has not taken questions alongside a world leader he is hosting at the White House.
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Moon first arrived at the White House Thursday night where he and his wife dined with Trump and the US first lady.
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Moon returned to the White House on Friday morning for a series of meetings after first laying a wreath at the Korean War memorial with Vice President Mike Pence.
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Trump and Moon’s discussions went beyond ways to confront the North Korean regime, also centering on the trading relationship between the US and South Korea, following Trump’s criticism of the bilateral free trade deal between the two countries, which Trump has called a bad deal for the US.
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“We are renegotiating a trade deal right now as we speak with South Korea and hopefully it will an equitable deal, a fair deal to both parties,” Trump said as he greeted Moon in the Oval Office on Friday morning.
.”It’s been a rough deal for the United States but I think that it will be much different for the United States.”
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Trump added in the Rose Garden that he was “encouraged by President Moon’s assurances that he will work to create a level playing field so that American workers and businesses and especially automakers can have a fair shake at dealing with South Korea.”
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But even on trade, China appeared to be at the forefront of the administration’s mind.
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In remarks during the bilateral meeting between the US and South Korean sides, National Economic Director Gary Cohn knocked China’s “predatory practices” on trade and said the Trump administration hopes to partner with South Korea to jointly tackle Chinese trade abuses that impact both countries.
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Includes video:
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 (A lesson in how China carries out its international commitments and promises)
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US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands during a dinner at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, on April, 6, 2017, watched by Mr Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan. PHOTO: NYTIMES

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 (China and Russia don’t generally agree on this)

 (They say it didn’t happen but eye wintesses say it DID HAPPEN)

 (China did not even criticize North Korea…)

GOP senator calls for ObamaCare repeal first, replacement LATER

June 30, 2017

By 
The Hill

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) told Fox News on Friday that if Republicans can’t pass a bill to replace ObamaCare soon, they should repeal the entire law and work on a replacement later.

Speaking on “Fox and Friends,” Sasse said that if progress isn’t made by July 10, he’ll call on the president to separate the process.

“To date, we’ve been trying to do those two things at once, and not been making enough progress” Sasse said. “I still hope that process can work, but most people are leaving D.C. today to go home for the Fourth of July weekend.”

“If we don’t get this resolved by the Monday of next week, July 10, if there isn’t a combined repeal-and-replace plan, I’m writing a letter to the president this morning urging him to call on us to separate them,” he told Fox News.

Sasse said that the GOP has the votes it needs in the Senate to repeal ObamaCare, and it should focus on that first.

“Every Republican except one has already voted for repeal in the past,” Sasse said. “Let’s do that first, if we can’t do them together.””Let’s do as much repeal as we can,” Sasse continued, “And then let’s ask the president to cancel our August 8 work period, and then stay here and work on replace separate.”

Nine GOP senators have already said they won’t vote for the Senate’s bill to replace ObamaCare in its current form. The Senate GOP holds a 52-48 majority, meaning they can afford just two Republican defections and still pass the bill.

Includes video:

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/340213-gop-senator-calls-for-maximum-repeal-of-obamacare-first-then-replacement

Related:

Senators Urge Trump to Back Wholesale Obamacare Repeal if GOP Bill Stalls

June 30, 2017

‘We must keep our word,’ says Ben Sasse of Nebraska

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse listens to testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on June 21.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse listens to testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on June 21. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS
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June 30, 2017 8:24 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Two key senators in the Republican effort to pass a health-care bill on Friday morning called for the White House to intervene with a more aggressive strategy if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t locked in 50 votes by the time lawmakers return from the July 4 recess—and President Donald Trump seemed to embrace the idea.

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said that congressional leaders’ prospects of overturning parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and enact their own provisions in its place were dimming. He said the party’s best hope for passing a health-care bill now could be to wipe out the law in its entirety, then work on a deal to fill the void.

“On the current path it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that looks to prop up many of the crumbling Obama care structures,” he said in a letter he announced he was sending to the White House.

“We must keep our word. Therefore, if on July 10 we don’t have agreement on a combined repeal and replace plan, we should immediately vote again on H.R. 3762, the December 2015 Obamacare repeal legislation that the Congress passed but President Obama vetoed.”

Within minutes of Mr. Sasse’s announcement, which he also discussed on “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump suggested his support in a tweet.

If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!

“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” he wrote.

Rand Paul of Kentucky, another senator whose support could make or break the legislation’s prospect, also endorsed the idea.

“I have spoken to @realDonaldTrump & Senate leadership about this and agree. Let’s keep our word to repeal then work on replacing right away,” he said on Twitter.

I have spoken to @realDonaldTrump & Senate leadership about this and agree. Let’s keep our word to repeal then work on replacing right away.

Conservative grass-roots groups have long pointed to the “dry run” vote that 49 current GOP senators took in 2015 under President Barack Obama to repeal the law they call “Obamacare,” saying that it put them on record as supporting a more sweeping measure than some are willing to accept.

Mr. Sasse said that another two GOP senators who have since joined Congress should also be expected to support the measure. The 52nd, Susan Collins of Maine, was in office but did not support it in 2015, but such a bill could pass with only 50 votes assuming it had the support of Vice President Pence. Mr. Sasse also said the Senate should stay in town for the month of August, working six days a week to pass replacement legislation by Labor Day.

Mr. Sasse has bucked the administration on things including the firing of FBI Director James Comey and Mr.Trump’s tweets. But he had kept his position on health-care legislation relatively quiet, even as almost a dozen other centrist and conservative Republican senators made various misgivings known. On Friday, he replied warmly to Mr. Trump’s suggestion on Twitter.

Glad you agree, Mr Pres. If no agreement next wk, 2 steps:
1. Repeal 1st; then
2. Spend August full-time on replace:http://video.foxnews.com/v/5488870187001/ 

“Glad you agree, Mr. Pres.” If no agreement next wk, 2 steps: 1. Repeal 1st; then 2. Spend August full-time on replace,” he wrote.

Senate Republicans can afford to lose no more than two votes to pass health-care legislation, counting on Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie and assuming no support from Democrats.

The White House had been eyeing Mr. Sasse and a handful of other undeclared conservative legislators; earlier this week, Sens. Sasse, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Tom Cotton of Arkansas dined with Mr. Pence, joined by the more openly critical Mike Lee of Utah.

Mr. Sasse’s move makes clear the extent of the challenge now facing Mr. McConnell, who in the past week has already seen an unusual rebuke to his authority when senators threatened to block a motion to proceed with a vote on the health-care bill.

But it also exposes the long-running pressure that GOP leaders from Mr. McConnell to Mr. Trump are under to mediate disputes between competing wings of the party.

Conservative groups have said since Mr. Trump’s election that they want to hold newly empowered Republicans to their campaign-trail promises to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a substantially different health-care policy.

Centrist Republicans have sought to retain popular provisions of the law, fearing disruption and a backlash if people lose coverage or states face funding crunches.

And both sides say they want to ensure that Republicans, now in control of both Congress and the White House, can notch legislative wins.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com

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Short on Backers, GOP Delays Vote on Health Bill Until After July 4 Recess

June 28, 2017

Senate Majority Leader McConnell tells lawmakers vote wouldn’t happen until July 4 recess

Senate Republicans Delay Vote on Health Bill
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Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) announced on Tuesday that Senate Republicans have delayed a vote on their health-care bill until after the July 4 recess. McConnell added that President Trump has been “very involved” in helping push the bill, which currently doesn’t have enough support to pass. Photo: AP

Senate Republican leaders abruptly postponed a vote Tuesday on a sweeping health-care bill until after Congress’ July 4 recess, setting off a high-stakes lobbying sprint that could determine the fate of the GOP’s legislation to topple most of the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who worked for weeks in closed-door sessions to craft a bill, told lawmakers that a vote wouldn’t happen until Congress returns from recess the week of July 10.

The delay came after efforts stalled to tweak the legislation and garner support from the nine Republican senators who now oppose the bill. The Republican opposition was significant enough that even a routine procedural motion allowing the vote to proceed faced potential defeat.

In a test of his leadership, Mr. McConnell now will need to bridge a divide between conservative Republicans, who say the bill retains too many of the ACA’s regulations to significantly lower premiums, and GOP centrists, who worry the legislation goes too far in cutting funding to Medicaid.

From now until Congress’ return from the recess, there is likely to be a run of deal-making, arm-twisting and lobbying, with voters voicing their opinions in town-hall meetings, Republican leaders offering changes and organizations trying to sway senators on all sides.

The delay is a setback for President Donald Trump and Mr. McConnell, who had promised a vote this week. On Monday, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, tweeted that “I am closing the door” on a delay because “we need to do it this week.” On Tuesday, asked if the door was back open, Mr. Cornyn tweeted, “Just a crack.”

Still, Senate leaders took comfort from the experience of House Republicans, whose own health bill was initially declared dead. They were then able to regroup, bring it to the floor and pass it in May.

Senate Republicans say they must pass the legislation before Congress’ August recess. If that doesn’t occur, the path ahead would become more difficult and other parts of the GOP agenda would be at risk. Success, on the other hand, could boost momentum for other Republican priorities such as a tax overhaul.

Republican senators said the delay had become unavoidable, especially after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found the bill would result in 22 million more people uninsured than the ACA over the next decade.

“It’s the only way forward. People have issues that need to be addressed,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) Tuesday, who has said he has some concerns about the bill but hasn’t come out against it. “I read the CBO report this morning at about 4 a.m., and as you go through it, it raises questions and they’re legitimate.”

GOP leaders will try to hammer out a compromise in coming days. “The hope is that we can at least have an agreement on what we can get enough votes on this week and turn to it when we get back,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.). “It’s possible. I can’t tell you if it’s likely until we know more about what options are to address people’s concerns.”

Others were less optimistic. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), who objected to the level of Medicaid cuts in the bill, said senators are “coming at it from all angles.” She said she isn’t sure “how or if” Republicans can come together behind a final version.

Democrats said Republicans’ struggles reflected the bill’s underlying problems, particularly the fact that it would reduce health coverage while giving a tax cut to the wealthy.

“While I’m glad that Senate Republicans have delayed the vote on their health plan, this isn’t cause for celebration,” said Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.). “This bill, which has been misguided from the start, needs be thrown out.”

Mr. McConnell’s challenge is that the bill’s GOP opponents come from both wings of his party, and appeasing one faction could harden the other side’s resistance.

Conservative Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are pushing for more deregulation and lower premiums. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas also joined the bill’s opponents on Tuesday, saying the sprint to a vote should be slowed down.

Centrist senators opposing the bill are especially concerned about cuts to the Medicaid program, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Rob Portman of Ohio and Ms. Capito.

Mr. McConnell can only afford to lose two of the 52 Republicans in the chamber, with Vice President Mike Pence able to break a 50-50 tie. No Democrats are expected to support the health-care bill.

Securing the votes would be a major coup for Mr. Trump, who largely stayed on the sidelines of the Senate discussions until recently. After the vote was postponed Tuesday, the president summoned all Republican senators to the White House.

Key centrists—including Ms. Collins, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado—were seated near the president. Mr. Trump opened the meeting with exhortations to get the bill passed, saying “we’re getting very close.”

He added, “We have really no choice but to solve the situation,” arguing the ACA, sometimes called Obamacare, is collapsing, an assertion disputed by Democrats.

Mr. McConnell, speaking outside the White House, said “we made good progress” inside. He said the president had heard from conservative Republicans about their calls for insurance-market changes, and from others about the future of Medicaid.

“The one thing I would say is that I think everybody around the table is interested in getting to yes,” he said, “because we know the status quo is simply unacceptable and unsustainable, and no action is simply not an option.”

Separately, Mr. Pence had half a dozen meetings Tuesday afternoon, including with Messrs. McConnell and Portman, and hosted another four senators for dinner at the vice president’s residence in the evening.

Both chambers have to pass the same legislation, and there are several paths to do that. The fastest way would be for the House to vote on the version that passes the Senate. Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of three dozen conservative House Republicans, said Tuesday that amendments would need to be added to get enough Republicans there to support it.

“If it’s predominantly the bill that’s currently in the Senate without significant amendments, there would not be enough votes in the House or the Senate to pass it,” Mr. Meadows said.

The Senate bill would strike down much of the ACA, including a requirement that most Americans have insurance or pay a penalty. It would provide smaller tax credits than the ACA’s to help people buy insurance, and it would impose steep spending cuts to Medicaid as well as phasing out enhanced federal funding to the 31 states that expanded the program under the current health law.

Republican leaders hope the delay gives them time to reverse the defections and build support, but they acknowledge it could give opponents time to mobilize against the bill. “The politics of this doesn’t get any easier the longer you wait,” said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.). But he added, “If we can make some changes that improve the policy in a way that makes it more likely that we can get 50 of our senators to vote for this, then this was a good judgment on behalf of the leader.”

At the same time, some Republican governors continue to express concern.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a frequent critic of the GOP health efforts, said the Senate bill was “unacceptable.” Echoing Democratic complaints, Mr. Kasich said the bill didn’t provide adequate funding for resources such as Medicaid and tax credits that help low-income people obtain insurance, in exchange for tax breaks to the “already very wealthy.”

Write to Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com and Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com

Includes videos:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/senate-health-bill-vote-delayed-until-after-congress-july-4-recess-1498586899

Australia: US Vetting of Pacific Island Refugees Nearly Done

June 21, 2017

CANBERRA, Australia — U.S. officials are “in the final stages” of vetting up to 1,250 refugees rejected by Australia for resettlement in the United States, an Australian offiical said on Wednesday.

The refugees are among hundreds of asylum seekers — mostly from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka — who have been languishing for up to four years in immigration camps on the impoverished Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

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Refugees at Manus Island

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said U.S. State and Homeland Security Department officials should be commended for their effective work with the Australian, Papua New Guinea and Nauru governments to fulfill a promise by President Barak Obama’s administration to take up to 1,250 refugees off Australia’s hands.

“There’s no delay in the process,” Dutton told reporters. “It’s in the final stages and I’m very pleased that hopefully as soon as possible we can get people … off the islands.”

Dutton declined to outline any details of that process or say when the first refugees were likely to leave the islands. Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump berated Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during their first telephone conversation as national leaders in January over the deal which Trump described in a tweet as “dumb.”

Trump said the refugees would be subjected to “extreme vetting” before they were accepted. There are few details on what that would entail.

Image result for Manus Island, vetting, u.s., photos

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence assured Turnbull during a visit to Australia in April that the Trump administration will honor the deal, but “that doesn’t mean we admire the agreement.”

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul, an Australia-based advocate, said he had been told that U.S. officials had interviewed around 600 asylum seekers and conducted more than 200 medical examinations on Nauru. They had interviewed 300 at the men-only facility at Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and completed 70 medical examinations, he said.

“We are getting close to some people being taken from Nauru,” Rintoul said.

Image result for Manus Island, vetting, u.s., photos

Australia will not settle any refugees who try to arrive by boat — a policy that the government says dissuades asylum seekers from attempting the dangerous and occasionally deadly ocean crossing from Indonesia. Australia instead pays Papua New Guinea and Nauru to house asylum seekers in camps that have been plagued by reports of abuse and draconian conditions.

Australia last week reached a settlement of 90 million Australian dollars ($68 million) with more than 1,900 asylum seekers who sued over their treatment on Manus Island.

Vice President Mike Pence To Go Campaigning As Fears Grow for Republicans in Midterm Elections

June 1, 2017
 Vice President Mike Pence waves as he walks past reporters upon his arrival on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)Vice President Mike Pence is mapping out a schedule that will take him through several Midwestern battlegrounds. | AP Photo

Pence to make campaign push amid GOP concerns over Trump

Increased political activity also stokes speculation that the vice president is positioning himself for post-Trump era.

Vice President Mike Pence is embarking on a cross-country summer campaign tour amid rising fears that the GOP, reeling from a barrage of Trump-fueled controversies, is headed for a midterm election disaster.

Pence is mapping out a schedule that will take him through several Midwestern battlegrounds and to traditionally conservative Southern states like Georgia, where an unexpectedly competitive June special-election runoff is alarming party strategists. The vice president will also attend a series of Republican Party events that will draw major donors and power brokers, where talk about 2018 is certain to be front and center.

The push comes at a time of growing consternation among senior Republicans who say the White House has given them little direction on midterm planning. Many complain that they do not even know who to contact about 2018 in an administration that has been consumed by chaos.

“He has an appetite to fight, so he’s going to get out there and fight on the president’s behalf,” said Nick Ayers, a longtime Pence strategist.

At the same time, the vice president’s increased electoral activity has stoked speculation that Pence is positioning himself for a post-Trump future in the party, something his advisers strenuously deny.

Pence has already formed a political action committee, the Great America Committee, enabling him to raise money for candidates who need help in 2018, an unusual move for a sitting vice president. And his upcoming effort to strengthen ties to the party’s rank and file and connect with key donors is likely to fuel the perception that Pence wants to fortify his position atop the party independent of his relationship to President Donald Trump.

Vice presidents have often taken the lead on down-ballot campaign travel: Dick Cheney was a Republican favorite at donor events, and ahead of the 2010 midterms, a catastrophic election for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden was a much-relied-upon surrogate for House members.

Read the rest:

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http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/30/mike-pence-campaign-push-trump-gop-238921