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News Wrap: Two U.S. troops killed in Afghan raid
Author: PBS NewsHour
Thu, Apr 27, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. military has taken more casualties in Afghanistan as it battles fighters of the Islamic State. Two troops were killed overnight and a third was wounded. They’d gone with Afghan forces on a raid in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border.
A U.S. special forces soldier was killed there earlier this month, and, days later, the U.S. dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on caves in the region.
The Pentagon’s inspector general confirmed today that his office is investigating President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. It involves payments Flynn received from Russia’s state-supported TV network and from a Turkish businessman after he left the military in 2014.
The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Representative Elijah Cummings, said today that Pentagon documents made the rules clear.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-Md.: The Constitution prohibited him from accepting any foreign government payments without advance permission. The Pentagon’s warning to General Flynn was bold, italicized and could not have been clearer.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Flynn’s attorney insisted the Pentagon was given documents that implied he was being paid for a trip to Russia.
Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Sean Spicer disputed Cummings’ claim that the White House refused to turn over material the committee wanted.
SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: With all due respect, he got the documents that he requested. Our job — they sent a form letter to multiple agencies asking for a copy of this. What we did was properly refer him to the issuing agency and department and said, this is where you got it, and he got it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Spicer also charged that the Obama administration was responsible for Flynn’s security clearance. And he said President Trump — quote — “made the right call” when he fired Flynn in February over his contacts with the Russians.
China today welcomed a softening in the U.S. tone on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. On Wednesday, top Trump administration officials tamped down speculation that a military confrontation is brewing. They said the focus is on diplomacy. China’s Foreign Ministry called it a positive message.
Israel has struck across the border into Syria, blasting an arms depot of the militant group Hezbollah. The strike apparently targeted advanced weapons from Iran and earmarked for the militants. Video on social media showed early morning explosions at an airport outside Damascus. Later, the Israeli military said that it intercepted a projectile fired from Syria.
The U.S. Congress moved today to keep the government running for another week, past Friday’s midnight deadline. A one-week funding extension will prevent a shutdown, while talks continue on a long-term spending bill through September, the end of the federal fiscal year.
House leaders traded blame today for holding up the negotiations.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: Democrats are dragging their feet. Even if we get an agreement let’s just say in 10 minutes, we simply can’t process the paperwork that long, and we have a three-day rule. We people need to be able to read the bill.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: I assume that they have the votes to pass their extension. We are never going to shut the government down. In fact, we don’t even have the power to do so.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump weighed in with a series of tweets accusing Democrats of trying to shut down national parks and harming the safety of troops overseas.
The Kentucky physician who was dragged from his seat on a United Airlines flight has reached a settlement with the carrier. Dr. David Dao’s attorney says that it’s for an undisclosed amount of money. Dao’s treatment at the hands of Chicago aviation police was captured on cell phone video and sparked widespread public outrage. United also announced today that it will start offering up to $10,000 to passengers who give up their seats.
Wall Street had a quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained six points to close at 20981. The Nasdaq rose 23, and the S&P 500 added one point.
And they’re cheering at NASA for the space probe Cassini. Overnight, the spacecraft passed through the gap between Saturn and its famous rings. On the way, it got the closest look ever at those rings and at the planet’s atmosphere. Images of a massive swirling storm are among the highlights. Cassini has been orbiting Saturn for 13 years and it will crash into the planet in September.
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As Trump weighs options, what are the hazards of unwinding NAFTA? Author: PBS NewsHour
Thu, Apr 27, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: President Trump’s tough talk and threats over the North American Free Trade Agreement and the push to revisit the 23-year-old deal.
It’s been a central theme for the president and a source of anger and anxiety among some voters.
At the White House, John Yang starts us off.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big shock to the system, we will renegotiate.
JOHN YANG: With the visiting president of Argentina looking on, President Trump told reporters he made his decision after talking to the leaders of Mexico and Canada.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I was going to terminate NAFTA as of two or three days from now. The president of Mexico, who I have a very, very good relationship, called me, and also the prime minister of Canada, who I have a very good relationship. And I like both of these gentlemen very much. They called me. And they said, rather than terminating NAFTA, could you please renegotiate?
JOHN YANG: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today terminating the 23-year-old deal would cause a lot of problems.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Canadian Prime Minister: I highlighted that, quite frankly, whether or not there was a better deal to come, there were an awful lot of jobs, an awful lot of industries right now that have been developed under the NAFTA context. And a disruption like canceling NAFTA, even if it, theoretically, eventually might lead to better outcomes, would cause a lot of short- and medium-term pain for an awful lot of families.
JOHN YANG: There have been conflicting reports about Mr. Trump’s intentions on NAFTA, reflecting the internal debate and division among his advisers.
Big business and agricultural interests had argued against outright canceling the deal, which brought down most trade barriers between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Unhappiness with NAFTA was a signature campaign issue.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m going to renegotiate NAFTA, one of the worst trade deals ever signed in the history of our country, perhaps the worst ever signed in the history, frankly, of the world.
JOHN YANG: The move comes as the administration gets tough on trade as it nears the 100-day mark. This week, the White House announced new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber imports, and the president said U.S. milk was being blocked from Canadian markets.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If I’m unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA.
JOHN YANG: While the president said negotiations are starting today, in fact, the United States has to give legal notice of its intent to renegotiate. Then comes a 90-day period of consultation before any talks can begin.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang at the White House.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now for one perspective on the latest signals from the White House on American trade negotiations, I spoke with Representative Tim Ryan. He’s a Democrat from Ohio who agrees with the president that NAFTA has hurt the U.S. more than it’s helped.
REP. TIM RYAN, D-Ohio: Well, it certainly has devastated communities. A lot of the promises that were made, that we were going to have trade surpluses with Mexico, never came to fruition.
We have about a $4 billion trade deficit every single month. We have lost about 160-some-thousand jobs up to 2013 directly related to trade with Mexico primarily. And the jobs that kind of replaced those jobs are about $7,000 a year less in pay.
So, it has wiped out entire communities. I understand, in the aggregate, sometimes, a lot of free trade proponents say that it’s good in the aggregate, but when it’s not in the aggregate, it’s wiped out a lot of communities like the ones I represent in Northeast Ohio.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you make of the president’s statements over the last day or so? He started out saying that he wanted to terminate the U.S. participation in NAFTA, and then later on, he said, no, I will negotiate, now that I have talked to the leaders in Mexico and Canada.
REP. TIM RYAN: Well, it certainly is not the first day of these 100 days where the president has said some inconsistent statements back-to-back. He’s been doing that throughout his presidency.
So, it worries me, because I think he may be a little too flippant with how he handles this situation. While I know NAFTA has devastated many communities, maybe unwinding NAFTA in a way that isn’t prudent can do even more damage.
These are supply chains that have been integrated over the last almost 30 years. And so it’s going to take time and effort and patience and a lot of work to reestablish a more fair trading regime. And I get the sense that the president doesn’t have the attention span, quite frankly, to be able to sit down and hammer those kind of things out.
And when you see his tweets and you see his statements that conflict each other within hours of each other, it makes you worry that maybe he’s just not the guy to handle this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we heard him in the campaign say that NAFTA was one of the worst deals ever made in the United States. It sounds like — are you saying you’re worried the the’s not going to follow through on this?
REP. TIM RYAN: Well, I’m worried that he may follow through in a way that doesn’t make things better. He may actually make the problem worse, if he doesn’t sit down and pay attention and work this the way it needs to be worked.
We have seen the devastation that it caused, and we know it needs fix, but is he the person to sit down and actually fix it? And the fact that he doesn’t quite understand the ramifications, quite frankly, even the process — he said they already started negotiating, when the fact of the matter is you have to send a letter to Congress to even begin the process of having the conversation within your own country, within your own Congress, within the industry groups that would be affected by it.
That’s a 90-day process before you even start the negotiations with the other countries. And the fact that he didn’t even know that before he made his statements, both — the statement — is worrisome to me that he may actually, through trying to — excuse me — renegotiate NAFTA, he may actually make the process worse.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You said a minute ago that you hear these arguments ultimately the U.S. will benefit. You don’t see that yet.
But there are — you have fellow Democrats, Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin, for example, who says, you undo NAFTA, he says you’re going to decimate the dairy industry in his state. He said half the industry will be wiped out if NAFTA goes away.
What do you say to him?
REP. TIM RYAN: This is exactly why you need to be very methodical and very thorough in your negotiations, in your conversations with how you’re going to handle all of these scenarios, whether it’s pharmaceuticals, whether it’s the dairy industry, local foods, food protection.
All of these issues are on the table once you open this thing up, and so you need people and you need a president that’s going to be able to understand that, when you move one piece on the chessboard, a lot of other pieces are going to move simultaneously. And I don’t think he quite understands that.
And really the reality too, is, Judy, is that automation in the next decade or so is really going to be the 800-pound elephant in the middle of the room that we need to satisfy. That’s a whole other show you could do, but it’s not just NAFTA. It’s not just trade.
The main issue coming down the pike is automation, displacing workers, whether it’s in manufacturing, driverless cars, in the retail sector, in grocery stores. Automation is going to be the thing displacing.
So, I don’t want him to — there’s no plan in this administration to be able to deal with that main issue that is really going to face most workers in the American work force in the next couple of decades.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you.
Representative Tim Ryan, thank you very much.
REP. TIM RYAN: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will get a different perspective on NAFTA from Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich later in the program.
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FCC chair Ajit Pai explains why he wants to scrap net neutrality Author: PBS NewsHour
Thu, Apr 27, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: A political fight is brewing about access to the Internet. The new head of the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, wants to clear away regulations about who controls and polices the flow of content on the Internet.
William Brangham has that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We’re talking here about what’s known as net neutrality, not the easiest concept to grasp, so bear with me.
Almost all of us in America get our Internet access via one main provider. These are the telecom and cable giants like Verizon, Comcast, Charter, Time Warner. They provide the infrastructure that delivers the bounty of the Web to our homes and phones: sites and apps like Google, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, you name it.
The telecoms build the highway. The others guys are like the cars traveling that highway.
The idea of net neutrality is that the telecoms have to treat that highway as an open road. They can’t pick and choose which Web sites or services get to you faster or slower. The fear is that, if they do have that power, they will be tempted to favor their content, their sites, their own videos over a competitor’s.
But the telecoms argue that’s not fair, they should be able to control that flow, and be able to charge more for faster access.
In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama wanted to lock in these net neutrality rules, but it faced intense pushback by the industry.
The fight even spilled into pop culture, with this from HBO’s John Oliver:
JOHN OLIVER, Host, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”: If we let cable companies offer two speeds of service, they won’t be Usain Bolt and Usain Bolt on a motorbike. They will be Usain Bolt, and Usain bolted to an anchor.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But those net neutrality rules did pass and have been in place for the last three years.
But Ajit Pai, President Trump’s new FCC chairman, now wants to get rid of those rules, arguing they’re too burdensome. And this week, he began the process of rolling them back.
And FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai joins me now.
Welcome to the NewsHour.
AJIT PAI, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission: Thank you for having me.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, you, I understand, are not a fan of these net neutrality rules from a few years ago. What is your principal concern?
AJIT PAI: Well, I favor a free and open Internet, as I think most consumers do.
My concern is with the particular regulations that the FCC adopted two years ago. They are what is called Title II regulations developed in the 1930s to regulate the Ma Bell telephone monopoly.
And my concern is that, by imposing those heavy-handed economic regulations on Internet service providers big and small, we could end up disincentivizing companies from wanting to build out Internet access to a lot of parts of the country, in low-income, urban and rural areas, for example.
And that, I think, is something that nobody would benefit from.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is there evidence, though, that these rules have disincentivized those companies? There are — businesses are doing very, very well. They’re spending billions on the spectrum.
AJIT PAI: There is significant evidence that investment in infrastructure has gone down since the adoption of these rules.
For example, there is a study by a highly respected economist that says that among the top 12 Internet service providers in terms of size, investment is down by 5.6 percent, or several billion dollars, over the last two years.
And amongst smaller providers as well, just literally this week, 22 Internet service providers with 1,000 customers or less told us that these Title II regulations have kept them from getting the financing that they need to build out their networks. And, as they put it, these net neutrality regulations hang like a black cloud over our businesses.
And so what we’re trying to do going forward is figure out a way that we can preserve that free and open Internet that consumers want and need and preserve that incentive to invest in the network that will ultimately benefit even more consumers going forward.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I know there is a whole other group of Internet companies, Facebook, Google, Instagram, those types of companies that have said to you, these rules are not a hindrance to us. We have been able to thrive and survive under these rules. Don’t change them.
What do you say to them when they argue this to you?
AJIT PAI: Well, two different points.
First, if you look carefully, a lot of those companies don’t say that they like Title II specifically, these particular regulations. What they say is that they care about the principles of a free and open Internet.
And so I actually think there is a decent amount of common ground there. And it’s just a matter of finding the appropriate legal framework to reach that common ground.
But the second point I would make is that these companies are the best evidence of the success of the light-touch regulatory framework that originated in the Clinton administration, and that’s something that I favor.
From the dawn of the commercial Internet in the 1990s until 2015, we had light-touch regulation, where the agency or where the country monitored the market, let it develop organically, and then took targeted action if necessary, if there was an example of anti-competitive conduct.
And it’s under that light-touch framework that the companies like Google, like Facebook, like Netflix were able to become globally known names. And that’s the kind of success that we want to promote in the future with light-touch regulation.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One of the issues here is whether or not we treat broadband like a utility. And if it’s treated like a utility, the requirement is that you as the provider are not allowed to put your finger on the scale and slow one person down or speed somebody else up.
And I just want to pose a hypothetical to you.
AJIT PAI: Sure.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s just say Comcast created a new TV series, and it just so happened that that competed with a Netflix series very similarly.
If these rules go away, how is there not an incredible incentive for Comcast to slow Netflix down coming into my house and make their video, the Comcast video, very robust?
AJIT PAI: So, under that hypothetical, one of the things that’s important to remember is that it is a hypothetical.
And we don’t see evidence of that happening in the marketplace on a widespread level.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There have been some examples of ISPs blocking certain things. The Google Wallet was blocked. Skype was blocked. One Canadian telecom blocked pro-labor sites.
I mean, they’re — it’s not like this doesn’t happen.
AJIT PAI: Well, there are isolated cases, but if you look at the FCC’s own records, there are only scattered anecdotes to support this.
And the argument I have made is that, in order to justify preemptive regulation of all 4,462 Internet service providers, you should have pretty concrete evidence of an overwhelming market failure.
But, secondly, the other argument I would make is that the hypothetical is a classic question of competition and consumer protection law.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, you would feel comfortable telling consumers, you can trust the Comcasts, the agencies, the Verizons, to not do that, to not put their finger on the scale and promote their stuff, at the expense of someone else’s?
AJIT PAI: Not at all.
I would say, as a government regulator, that we don’t put faith in any single particular sector of the economy, a particular company. We put our faith in the rule of law. And the rule of law, which includes antitrust law and consumer protection law, is basically administered by the federal government agencies and state agencies that are charged with executing that law.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Back when the FCC was first talking about changing these rules a few years ago, there was something like four million comments posted. And the overwhelming majority of those were people saying, we want net neutrality. We want to know that these protections are in place.
Does that evidence not sway you that maybe these rules shouldn’t be dismantled?
AJIT PAI: Well, I certainly understand that there is a wide variety of public interest in this particular issue.
But when I meet with consumers — and I have met with folks from Kalamazoo, Michigan, down to Carthage, Mississippi, from Barrow, Alaska, to Diller, Nebraska, what they tell me is that the concern is not that their Internet service provider is blocking lawful traffic or doing something like that. It’s that they want more competition. They want better, faster and cheaper Internet.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, thank you very much for being here.
AJIT PAI: It’s great to be with you.
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What 100 days of foreign policy says about Trump as a leader Author: PBS NewsHour
Thu, Apr 27, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: We take a look at the foreign policy accomplishments and setbacks during the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
Hari Sreenivasan will bring us two viewpoints.
But we begin with this report from correspondent Margaret Warner.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.
MARGARET WARNER: That mantra typified President Trump’s world view as a candidate and as a newly inaugurated president.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
MARGARET WARNER: The slogan was a signal that Mr. Trump planned to focus his presidency on improving Americans’ economic prospects here at home, not getting embroiled in messy conflicts overseas.
But, in his first 100 days, global crises have challenged Mr. Trump with frequent and treacherous tests. One of Mr. Trump’s early dilemmas, an April 4 sarin gas attack that killed more than 80 Syrian civilians in a town held by opponents of President Bashar Assad.
The president’s response? On April 7, 59 Tomahawk missiles were fired on a regime air base identified as the chemical attack’s launch site. It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government in the country’s six-year civil war.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That’s a butcher. So, I felt we had to do something about it.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Trump’s campaign hopes for a fresh start with Russia had already dimmed amid investigations into Moscow’s alleged election meddling. The gas attack by its ally, Assad, inflamed matters further, prompting tough words from U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Assad has no incentive to stop using chemical weapons as long as Russia continues to protect his regime from consequences.
MARGARET WARNER: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did go to Moscow a few days later. But after a two-hour meeting with President Vladimir Putin, he emerged to say relations were — quote — “at a low point.”
Mr. Trump also has shifted on America’s commitment to the NATO alliance, which he derided during the campaign.
But on April 12, standing with NATO’s secretary-general, he had this to say:
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.
MARGARET WARNER: Perhaps the gravest challenge thrust on Mr. Trump came from North Korea’s February 12 firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, followed by five others, and apparent preparations for a sixth nuclear test.
North Korea’s aggressive pursuit of these weapons has bedeviled the president’s three predecessors, but it’s become too urgent to ignore.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve. People put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem.
MARGARET WARNER: After meeting at his Florida estate with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president is counting on Beijing to pressure Pyongyang to abide by U.N. resolutions.
Still, Washington has made clear all its options are on the table, moving an aircraft carrier group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula, and deploying an anti-missile defense system to South Korea. Two other military fronts remain active as well.
In the fight against ISIS, Mr. Trump has added more forces in Syria, and kept up airstrikes there and in Iraq. And, in Afghanistan, as the Taliban gains ground, the U.S. targeted ISIS caves and tunnels this month with the so-called Mother of All Bombs.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.
HARI SREENIVASAN: To dig deeper into the president’s overseas record to date, I’m joined by James Carafano. He’s currently vice president at the Heritage Foundation. He had a 25-year career in the Army and writes extensively about U.S. foreign policy. And David Rothkopf is the CEO and editor of “Foreign Policy” magazine and the author of “National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear.”
James Carafano, let me start with you.
As Margaret pointed out, the president has in these 100 days pivoted from campaign mode certainly towards the center on a lot of different issues. While he was campaigning, he repeatedly criticized President Obama for even the possibility of taking military action in Syria, but here he is, faced with the reality on the ground, and he sends 59 Tomahawk missiles in.
Is this a one-off?
JAMES CARAFANO, Heritage Foundation: I think it is.
First of all, I think there’s nothing more worthless than 100 days’ measurement in foreign policy. You kind of jump up — you jump into foreign policy in kind of the middle of where things are, so you don’t start with a fresh start.
And many, many issues, Syria, North Korea, almost every big foreign policy issue on the table today isn’t going to get resolved in 100 days. So, 100 days kind of tells you nothing.
But I think there are indications in what the Syria mission said. So, the president isn’t interested in an aggressive foreign policy that could overextend and create high risk. He’s not interested in regime change or nation-building.
But he is interested in protecting U.S. interests in key parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East, Western Europe and Asia. And in the Middle East, the administration is trying the stabilize the refugee population, stabilize Iraq, defeat ISIS and al-Qaida.
And Assad in a sense was destabilizing the region and expanding the war with a chemical weapons attack. And so the 59 cruise missiles were a pretty serious message to President Assad that you are conflicting with our interests, and here’s a warning to just back off.
HARI SREENIVASAN: I take your point that 100 days, a lot of times, you’re walking into the middle of existing foreign policy, but candidates are also to blame for making promises that they maybe can’t keep.
That said, if this is a one-off, is there a consistent and cohesive Trump doctrine of foreign policy that’s emerged in these 100 days for you?
JAMES CARAFANO: Well, there is. And I say that because I worked on the presidential transition team and talked to the candidate doing candidate briefings and worked with ambassadors during briefings at the convention in Cleveland.
So I have been watching these guys a long time. And there is a focus. And there are three regions of the world that are vitally important to the United States where peace and stability is really important, Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East. And the administration is primarily focused on returning peace and stability to those three areas and dealing with the kind of challenges that are on — that everyone says are the big — Russia is the great destabilizing influence in Europe.
In the Middle East, it’s ISIS, and it’s al-Qaida, influence of Iran. And in Asia, it’s the relationship between the United States and China and North Korea. And that’s where the administration is putting its focus.
HARI SREENIVASAN: David Rothkopf, James outlined a foreign policy that seems to be fairly clear. Is that clear for somebody who didn’t help President Trump write this?
DAVID ROTHKOPF, CEO and Editor, “Foreign Policy”: No.
I don’t think there’s anything clear about Trump’s foreign policy. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything like a policy about Trump foreign policy.
It has been marked by reversals. First, he was against the one-China policy. Then he was for it. Yesterday morning, he was against NAFTA. Then he was for it. He was pro-Russia. Then he has gotten a little bit cooler on Russia.
But, secondly, there have been a whole series of inconsistencies in his policy. Is he concerned about Europe, the support for right-wing nationalists like Marine Le Pen or the support for Brexit suggests that he’s not clear on what is actually in the interests of Europe or the United States there.
The Syria strike, while encouraging on some levels, actually doesn’t seem to be in the context of any kind of coherent policy. And you do see ratcheting up elsewhere. We have also seen him embrace dictators and authoritarians, from Sisi in Egypt, to the Erdogan regime, where he called up Erdogan to congratulate him on his undermining of democracy.
In terms of North Korea, again, there’s been bluster. There’s also been incoherence. He hasn’t been able to locate where his carrier battle groups have been. He was instructed, as he himself said, by the Chinese leader on the nuances of all of this.
And, of course, on top of that, you have the blemish, and this very serious blemish, of appointing a national security adviser who lasted 24 days in office and may well end up in jail, appointing Steve Bannon, who supported white supremacist views,to the National Security Council, and then asking him to step down, and not having virtually any of the senior positions at the State Department or the Defense Department filled right now.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David, I won’t accuse you of not having a laundry list prepared on this answer.
But I think something that David, and, Jim, both, you can agree on is that foreign policy problems are complex, when they often require allies.
So, David, I want to ask, what are the sort of — the sequence of events, the missile strikes into Syria, sending the carrier group toward the Korean Peninsula, the largest non-nuclear bomb into Afghanistan, what’s the message that sends to our allies and adversaries, David?
DAVID ROTHKOPF: Well, I think if they were in the context of a coherent policy, they might send a message that we’re likely to be more forceful.
The problem is that if you strike Syria and then you don’t follow up, or you strike Syria and then you play footsie with the Russians, or you send a carrier battle group, but you don’t actually know where it is and you don’t know what you’re going to do to follow up with it, then it sends the message that is more like bluster.
It’s a little bit more like Trump on the campaign trail, talking big, but not really having a clear plan about how to deliver.
HARI SREENIVASAN: James Carafano, I don’t expect any human to take an office of the presidency and know everything about everything.
JAMES CARAFANO: Right.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But, as David points out, when the president has a meeting with Xi Jinping, and he’s actually being schooled on North Korea from the Chinese president, or Angela Merkel is telling him that he cannot have unilateral deals with a E.U. member nation, what does this say about the people that he has surrounded himself with who should be briefing him perhaps a lot better when he walks into these meetings?
JAMES CARAFANO: Well, I think the commentary we had is typical is kind of the unserious commentary and analysis that we have had with the Trump presidency.
If you want the focus on a whole bunch of points that you want to pick up, which are — kind of reflect the showman and the public discourse, that’s fine, but ignores kind of the serious part of the president.
So, there’s a showman part and there’s a serious part. And when the president does the serious part, he acts very serious. And I — two data points on this. We get an average of about five foreign delegations a day visiting the Heritage Foundation since the election.
And I have talked to every minister who has been in town. I have talked to even heads of government like President Sisi, and that have met with the president and met with his senior team.
And, uniformly, they come back to me — and these are our allies across Europe and the Middle East and Asia — and they say they think this is a serious administration. They do feel reassured on that.
And if you actually look at the team he has around him, H.R. McMaster, Mattis, Kelly, Tillerson, Vice President Pence, Ambassador Haley, it’s actually a really, really good team. And it’s a team that works together. And, more importantly, it’s a team that the president takes really seriously and works with. And they have confidence in the president as well.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, James Carafano, David Rothkopf, we will have you back the try to finish this. This could take all show.
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Why the U.S. pays more for health care than the rest of the world Author: PBS NewsHour
Thu, Apr 27, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the big battles of the president’s first 100 days that remains unresolved is the fate of Obamacare.
But one thing that experts across the political spectrum agree on is that health care in America often costs too much.
A new book looks at the multiple causes of this and calls the whole thing “An American Sickness.”
It’s the focus of our report from economics correspondent Paul Solman. It’s part of his weekly series, Making Sense.
NARRATOR: If you have high blood sugar, ask your doctor about Farxiga.
NARRATOR: Diarrhea and abdominal pain.
PAUL SOLMAN: Feel like you’re seeing more prescription drugs ads lately?
Well, you are.
NARRATOR: Side effects including dehydration, swelling, bruising and/or diarrhea, numbness, gas, and runny nose.
PAUL SOLMAN: Spending on pharmaceutical ads is up 62 percent since 2012, in the world’s only country, besides New Zealand, to even allow TV drug advertising.
NARRATOR: Linzess works differently from laxatives.
PAUL SOLMAN: Pills for millions of us.
NARRATOR: It can help relieve your belly pain.
PAUL SOLMAN: Pills for far fewer.
NARRATOR: A circadian rhythm disorder.
PAUL SOLMAN: But, regardless, the drug companies charge pretty much whatever they want. In fact, says Elisabeth Rosenthal:
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, Author, “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back”: When one manufacturer puts a price up to a new high level, everyone else just says, oh, look, he got away with it, and lifts their prices up to that level too.
PAUL SOLMAN: A journalist and former practicing physician, she’s now editor in chief of Kaiser Health News. Rosenthal has written a new book, “An American Sickness,” chronicling how and why American health care costs are by far the highest in the world.
It boils down to one basic truth:
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Prices will rise to whatever the market will bear.
PAUL SOLMAN: And while the health care market in the U.S. isn’t exactly a free market, it’s market-driven enough to push profits above all, and thus the prices we all wind up paying.
And so, as a consequence, we spend 20 percent of our entire GDP, our entire economic output every year, on health care. And it’s been going up.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: We spend two or three times what other countries do on health care, without getting better results, which is the key here. We’re not getting a good deal for all the money we spend.
PAUL SOLMAN: We’re not living longer?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: We’re not living longer. I think one of the most damning studies I have seen recently that was that people with cystic fibrosis, which is a very serious primarily lung disease, live longer in Canada than they do in the U.S.
And this is a treatment-heavy disease with a lot of technology, new medicines. And we like to think, well, at least we do that better than everywhere else in the world.
PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, yes. I thought that.
We don’t, but we sure pay more for it. Why? Because of what the market will bear, says Rosenthal, but also because:
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Around the world, there are very few developed places, perhaps none, that have no mechanism for some kind of price control.
PAUL SOLMAN: Really?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: I think we’re pretty unique in that.
Other countries will say, here’s the maximum price. Go ahead and compete below that. And in other countries, there’s policy that you can charge a lot when you have a wonderful new technology, but as it gets older, that price has to keep coming down. And what we see in the United States, pretty much uniquely, is, as technologies get older, sometimes the price can go up, and can go up a lot.
PAUL SOLMAN: Case in point, MRI scans, a now-venerable procedure, which can still cost thousands of dollars.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: In Japan, that same test would cost $100 to $150, because, in Japan, those prices have to go down over time. You can’t say, wow, this was a great new technology 30 years ago, and so we’re going to raise the price because it’s even greater now. It’s not. It’s basically the same.
PAUL SOLMAN: Or consider Gleevec, a breakthrough cancer drug when it was approved by the FDA in 2001.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Fifteen years later, the price is four times what it was when it came on the market.
PAUL SOLMAN: One hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year, despite so-called copycat Gleevecs and even off-patent generic versions.
So, how come?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: We’re stuck buying American, even though the price of pharmaceuticals in other countries is a third to a half of what we pay here, and sometimes way less. There’s one wonderful story in the book about an oncologist, Dr. John Siebel, who, his grandkids had pinworm?
PAUL SOLMAN: Pinworm?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Pinworm, it’s a little infection that kids get.
PAUL SOLMAN: Right.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: The drug for that, which is called albendazole, in the rest of the world, costs pennies. And it used to cost pennies here too. But when he went online to check out the prescription, it cost something like $5 a pill. So, he ordered it from Canada.
PAUL SOLMAN: And was it legal to do that?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: It’s technically illegal.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, you’re outing him here — in the book, I mean, and now here on television?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: I am.
But I think a lot of people are so outraged right now. You know, he’s not a criminal normally. But he’s just like, this is extortion. I’m not going to pay.
PAUL SOLMAN: Extortion because we don’t allow foreign competition, do allow health care providers to consolidate, from ever-bigger pharma to ever-bigger hospitals.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: In the ’80s and ’90s is, there was consolidation of hospitals. And a lot of those in the early phases were about efficiency. But, at a certain point, consolidation in local markets becomes effectively monopoly.
PAUL SOLMAN: And this is the classic dilemma of mergers and acquisitions, right?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Exactly.
PAUL SOLMAN: You acquire another company because you will then have market power to buy things in bulk and therefore more cheaply, and you won’t be repeating the things that you each individually were doing.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Right.
PAUL SOLMAN: But, then, if there are no competitors left, you can charge whatever you want.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Right.
And we have reached the level of consolidation in many markets in health care where there isn’t, effectively, competition.
PAUL SOLMAN: And as providers consolidate, so do payers. There are now just five mega-health insurers, and only that many because judges blocked Anthem’s $48 billion deal to buy Cigna, Aetna’s $37 billion bid for Humana.
Yes, insurers have an interest in paying as little as possible, but that interest has evolved into a nightmare cat-and-mouse game between insurers and providers. In Rosenthal’s book, it’s one of the rules of what she calls the dysfunctional medical market.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: There are no standards for billing. There’s money to be made in billing for anything and everything.
PAUL SOLMAN: Ah. So, this is when you get charged for it even if the doctor only says, hi, how you doing, see you later.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Billing and collections became an industry. We started using codes for medical billing. And that has spawned this crazy, crazy industry.
MAN: So, they actually take every little service your doctor did. They take all those little things.
PAUL SOLMAN: The Khan Academy tries to explain it all in a 12-minute online tutorial that, as Rosenthal points out, is five minutes longer than its video explaining Newton’s Second Law of Motion.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: It’s endlessly complex, so that now there are coding degrees and coding specialists and professors of coding. The insurers have coders to make sure the hospitals are coding correctly. The doctors learn coding so they can make sure their office will get the money they deserve for what they have done.
PAUL SOLMAN: But isn’t insurance the problem here? Since we’re not paying for things ourselves, we don’t care what the drugs cost, what the procedures cost?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Well, when insurance was covering everything, no one cared. Everyone was price-insensitive.
PAUL SOLMAN: Right. So, we should have skin in the game.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Skin in the game has worked in other countries where prices are controlled. But a 10 percent co-payment on an MRI that’s billed for $10,000, your co-payment is $1,000. And we’re no longer talking skin in the game. We’re talking, I like to say a kidney in the game, you know?
PAUL SOLMAN: Or you’re getting skinned.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Right.
PAUL SOLMAN: Last question.
We spend about $3 trillion on health care in this country. If we rationalized the system, so that it was no more expensive, given the same level of outcome as, say, Germany, we’d shave a trillion or two off the number, right?
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: I’ll tell you, at this point, even if we stopped going up, it would be a great achievement. Start turning the ship around, get back to $2.5 trillion, that would still be more than anyone else spends per capita.
PAUL SOLMAN: But that’s a half-a-trillion dollars that wouldn’t go to doctors, hospitals, insurers, investors.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Right.
Yes, somebody’s got to take the hit. But, right now, you know, I think a lot of the political people, the congressmen, the senators, are responding to lobbying from pharma, from the hospital industry, from insurers. And it’s so much not about what’s good for health care, and so much about what’s good for revenue.
PAUL SOLMAN: Elisabeth Rosenthal, thanks very much.
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: It was a pleasure to be here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, Elisabeth Rosenthal offers six questions you should be asking at your doctor’s appointments.
That’s at pbs.org/newshour.
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John Kasich: Nothing works if we’re always fighting Author: PBS NewsHour
Thu, Apr 27, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: One year ago, as a presidential candidate, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich told an audience that voters faced a choice: one based on solutions and the other based on paranoia, exploiting the fears and anger that could drive America into a ditch.
Now Governor Kasich has written a new book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United.” It’s the newest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.
And Governor Kasich joins me now.
And thank you for being here in our studio.
GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-Ohio: Such a pleasure to be with you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, thank you.
You’re here to talk about the book. And we’re going to, but I do want the start with our lead story tonight, NAFTA. As you know, President Trump …
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, are we in or out? I can’t quite tell.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, yesterday, the president announced that he was going to terminate U.S. involvement in NAFTA.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But then, a little after that, he said he’s changed his mind, that he wants to renegotiate it.
You have been someone with strong views on NAFTA. You have described yourself as a free trader. You heard the president go after you and after NAFTA during the campaign. But what do you make of what’s going on right now?
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I mean, it’s pretty amazing.
One minute, you say it’s over, and the next minute, you say it isn’t. So, I — that’s kind of not the way I have seen things work throughout my career.
But, it’s — as I asked you, it’s 23 years old. There’s nothing wrong with taking another look at it. But I believe that trade is good. I actually went to the Oval Office with President Obama in the lame-duck trying to get the Pacific trade agreement passed.
I will tell you why. One is that it was good for us economically to be able to work with these fledgling countries. And, secondly, it was good strategically, because we look at the pivot to Asia, right? So, in our own neighborhood, we have Canada and Mexico. I mean, Canada’s been a great friend of ours, and Mexico has great potential.
I mean, their problem is corruption, but have great potential. And I think these relationships have benefited all of us. And there’s never anything wrong with taking a look.
But I hope it doesn’t just go away. The idea they want to tweak it, look at it, talk, I’m all in favor of that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s not just the president who has a problem with NAFTA.
Earlier on the show, we interviewed a congressman from your state of Ohio, Tim Ryan, a Democrat, who says NAFTA has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country. He talked about how the jobs that have replaced those jobs, those salaries are lower.
How do you — what do you say to those …
GOV. JOHN KASICH: I don’t think he’s right.
I think that NAFTA, on balance, has been slightly our way. But it’s also resulted, I think, in the ability to — look, part of the thing about trade is, it makes everybody get better because there’s a competition.
Now, if a country is going to cheat, if a country is going to not follow the rules, then I think we need an expedited process, so that people don’t lose their jobs once the bureaucracy goes through the process of hearing the case. I’m all in favor of that.
But the idea that — you know, that America should withdraw, lock the doors, pull down the blinds, and all the problems we have in this country is because of NAFTA, I think is such an overstatement. I don’t agree with it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about the book.
You take the reader on a tour of the country during your campaign last year. And among other things, you say that fear was the driving emotion of last year’s election.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you mean by that?
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I grew up in a town where people — if the wind blew the wrong way, people found themselves out of work.
So, there’s a lot of people who are either underemployed, unemployed or their kids can’t get a job. And there’s a lot of reasons for it. And so there’s two ways to deal with it. You can either tell people, well, you don’t have something because somebody else took it, and I’m a strongman, and I can fix it.
Or you can look at them and say, I understand your problems. They’re complicated. And we’re going to work our way out of them.
But, today, people look for, I like a pill, I would like an app, everything will be great, just fix it tomorrow.
And it’s not that simple. Now, we need an entirely new way of training workers, Judy, of educating our young people. And that’s a long, long interview which some day I would love to do with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: But, at the end, you want to bring people together.
And it’s not just a book about politics. It’s also a book about the fact that we all need to start listening to one another. We can’t be divided. Nothing works if we’re always fighting.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and along those lines, you say — on Election Day, you said America chose, I think you called it the path to darkness.
What needs to be done from keeping Americans from doing that again? And, by the way, the people who voted for Donald Trump, all the polls are showing they would stick with him.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, it’s early. I mean, we’re only 100 days in.
And, look, I went and saw him. They invited me to the White House. I spent a large — a long meeting with him. And he listened to the things that I had to say. And it was very, very cordial.
So, I root for him. I don’t want a president — I root for every president. You know, that doesn’t mean you’re silent. It doesn’t mean — you can praise them when they do a good job, but you can criticize them when they do a poor job.
But I think the answer is, for all of us — I will give you one little lesson. Why doesn’t everybody every day read spend at least 10 minutes reading something they don’t agree with, so we can begin talking to another — one again?
And I believe that the strength of this country comes from the bottom up. In other words, we have to work to solve problems where we live, rather than worrying about what the heck is happening in Washington all the time.
What about your neighbor, what about your family, what about your community? Do something to become a healer and a lifter. And, in that process, I think we can get America back on the strong, right, positive track, which is what I believe Americans really want.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And I think a lot of people would agree with you. At the same time, they would ask, is it realistic?
And with regard to the president, what has he done? I mean, just in picking up on your theme, finally, what has he done that you have seen is going to unify the country and raise it to a higher point?
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I do think the strike in Syria was a positive.
And I will tell you why. I went the Munich, at the invitation of Senator McCain, to the defense conference. And a lot of world leaders were like, what is going on with America?
That action, which can be interpreted many different days for whatever reason, I saw it as a way the reassure our friends and allies and leaders around the world that we’re not going away, that we are going to play a role in international affairs. That was very good.
I don’t like the knock-and-talk policy, where we’re going into homes and checking things, and even in some case with ICE dividing families. We don’t need any more broken families.
I will say I’m glad that I’m not hearing so much about Twitter anymore. But, listen, when I was in the White House, Judy — this is an interesting story. When I became governor, I had a rocky time. And my wife said to me, you’re the father of Ohio. Why don’t you act like it?
And I told the president that story. And I think he will get better. At least we should hope and pray that he will be a unifier. That’s what we need in America.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we hope to have another conversation with you. There’s so much to talk about.
The book is “Two Paths: America Divided or United.”
Governor John Kasich, thank you.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Thank you. Thank you very much.
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The art of silence, from the mouth of a mime Author: PBS NewsHour
Thu, Apr 27, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.
Tonight, we hear from artist and performer Bill Bowers, who teaches mime, a theatrical technique that uses gestures, instead of words. He’s at New York University.
BILL BOWERS, Mime: I am from a big, quiet family in Montana. I was an incredibly shy younger person.
I am also a gay man, which the word gay didn’t even exist back then, but I knew about silence early on for all of those reasons. I got older and learned that there was an art form about not talking. I thought, oh, my God, that’s perfect. I’m in.
I loved mime once I learned more about it. When I had a chance to put my focus on being a mime performer, I really went in that direction.
A story came on the news that Marcel Marceau was embarking on his 80th birthday world tour. And I thought, I have got to study with Marcel Marceau. I sought him out. I was intimidated by him. He was a very famous, very old French mime. And all of that came into the room with him.
He talked about himself in the third person a lot. He said: “People say Marceau is genius. I say, no, Marceau is not the genius. Genius is where Marceau and the people meet.”
A lot of times, what happens for me, especially performing in the U.S., is people hear that it’s a mime show, and they don’t want to come. I mean, if I heard there was a mime show, I probably wouldn’t come.
BILL BOWERS: It’s actually not about you as the performer. It’s about the connection you make with an audience. And the space between you is where this thing can happen.
What I find really interesting with audiences for my show is that, if you sit in silence, something happens. A lot of people end up feeling more than they ever imagined.
I think mime provides this quiet space that’s harder and harder to find in the world. And if you sit with yourself for any period of time, you’re probably going to feel something.
And I think a lot of the world right now is putting stuff in front of actually feeling. Maybe if we sit and let — silence is right now, just together.
My name is Bill Bowers, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on silence.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How often do you hear silence on television?
Well, you can find more of our Brief But Spectacular videos online. That’s at pbs.org/newshour/brief.
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News Wrap: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says tax reform plan will pay for itself Author: PBS NewsHour
Wed, Apr 26, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The Trump administration is out with the broad strokes of what it says would be the largest tax reform in U.S. history. The plan’s main features, released today, include cutting corporate tax rates to 15 percent from 35 percent.
It would also consolidate existing income tax brackets into just three, ranging from 10 percent to 35 percent. And it would double the standard deduction, while repealing the estate tax.
At a White House briefing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised the plan will not make the deficit worse.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. Treasury Secretary: This will pay for itself with growth and with reduced reduction of different deductions, and closing loopholes.
We will be working very closely, as I said, with the House and Senate to turn this into a bill that can be passed and the president can sign, and there’s lots and lots of details going into how that will pay for itself.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican leaders said the plan offers critical guideposts for a tax overhaul, but Democrats called it a massive tax break for the wealthy.
On another issue, Secretary Mnuchin said today that President Trump — quote — “has no intention” of making his own tax returns public.
Congress moved closer today to trying to prevent a government shutdown on Saturday. Democrats said one stumbling block apparently fell away when the White House agreed to continue subsidies for millions of poor people under Obamacare.
Meanwhile, conservative House Republicans announced that they will back a newly revised plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. It is not yet clear if moderates will go along.
There is word that President Trump has settled on a course of action against North Korea. A top national security official says it begins with diplomacy, but includes a range of options. That word came as all 100 senators took a bus caravan to the White House for a classified briefing.
Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware was among those who spoke afterwards.
SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-Del.: I was encouraged that they chose to brief the entire Senate. And I think the — it was a sobering briefing, in which it was clear just how much thought and planning is going into preparing military options, if called for, and a diplomatic strategy that strikes me as clear-eyed and well — well-proportioned to the threat.
JUDY WOODRUFF: House members had their briefing later at the Capitol.
And North Korea issued a new warning that it will — quote — “go to the end,” apparently meaning a nuclear strike, if there is an all-out war with the U.S.
China today unveiled its first domestically built aircraft carrier, the latest step in a major naval expansion. The vessel slowly slipped into the water in the port city of Dalian to much fanfare. It is expected to become operational by 2020, after undergoing sea trials.
President Trump today decried a new legal blow to his immigration policy. On Tuesday, a federal district judge in San Francisco blocked his order to withhold funding from so-called sanctuary cities, which seek to protect many of those who are undocumented. The president tweeted that the decision was — quote — “ridiculous” and he vowed to appeal. He lumped that in with criticism of the 9th Judicial Circuit, where appellate courts also blocked his travel ban.
Later, he echoed that complaint:
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m never surprised by the 9th Circuit.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As I said, we will see them in the Supreme Court.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Trump also told The Washington Examiner newspaper that he has considered proposals to split up the 9th Circuit.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security formally opened a new office to help victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants. Secretary John Kelly said that it will help shine a light on victims as part of the president’s push on illegal immigration. Multiple studies show that native-born Americans are more likely to commit crimes than are immigrants.
The Trump administration is going to review so-called national monument designations for millions of acres of federal land. They go back to President Clinton’s time in office. Mr. Trump ordered the review at the U.S. Interior Department today. It is aimed at what he called a — quote — “massive federal land grab” that bars drilling, mining and other uses.
Environmental and Native American tribal groups denounced the action.
And Wall Street gave a little ground today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 21 points to close at 20975. The Nasdaq fell a quarter of a point, and the S&P 500 slipped one point.
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Mulvaney: Trump tax plan benefits middle class and ‘the places where they work’ Author: PBS NewsHour
Wed, Apr 26, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: On this day when the White House is unveiling the outline of a tax system overhaul, and negotiating down to the wire over a federal spending plan to fund the government through September, I sat down with Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget.
I spoke with him at his office this afternoon, before there were reports of a deal on health care subsidies.
Director Mick Mulvaney, thank you very much for talking with us.
MICK MULVANEY, Director, Office of Management and Budget: Judy, thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I do want to start by asking you about taxes. That’s the big announcement coming from the administration today.
MICK MULVANEY: Sure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The proposal, among other things, calls for increases in the standard deductions, individuals and families.
MICK MULVANEY: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Big cuts in corporate business taxes.
What is the administration trying to accomplish with this proposal?
MICK MULVANEY: Getting economic growth back where it’s supposed to be.
I think what we have forgotten for the last decade is that America used to be a fast-growing economy. If you look over the course of our 200-plus years, we’re supposed to grow at about 3 percent, on average, and that’s where we have been since World War II, at the very least, even further back than that.
But, for the last decade, we have been growing at less than 2 percent. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you think about it in terms of the power of compound interest, when you take an economy our size that only grows 2 percent a year for a decade, instead of 3 percent a year, the difference between those things are tremendous.
Folks who are 30 years old have never had a job during a time when the economy was growing at 3 percent. And it’s entirely different. When I was a young person, if you got fired, you could find another job. If you wanted to quit, you could go start your own company.
We haven’t had that for 10 years now. And we’re trying to get back to that. And that is what is driving not only everything we do at the White House, but specifically this tax plan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A number of the analysts who have looked at say, when you put together the proposed business tax cuts, some of the individual cuts, and when you look at the proposal to do away with some of the taxes that are now in the Affordable Care Act, in essence, it’s the top 1 percent of Americans, 1 percent of American, high-income level, who are going to benefit the most from this.
How do you answer that?
MICK MULVANEY: I’m not sure how could they could come to that conclusion.
I would be curious to know what assumptions they’re making regarding the value of deductions. For example, we get rid of all the deductions on the personal side, except, I think, let’s see, charity and some of the home interest deduction.
So, I’m not sure how you could make that conclusion, unless you’re making some wild assumptions about the nature of those deductions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Where do you see the benefits falling, what income?
MICK MULVANEY: Middle class. Middle class and business, writ large, both large business and small business.
In fact, it should be one of the largest reductions on small business, what we call S Corporations, in the history of S Corporations. So, we’re trying to drive the economic benefit here to the taxpayers in the middle, the folks who are in the middle class, who are paying the taxes, and the places where they work.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We know the tax cuts for these so-called pass-through businesses, owner-owned businesses, are going to be among the beneficiaries. We know President Trump, it’s the kind of business he has.
How much does he stand to benefit? And I ask people of because people are saying, we don’t know what his tax income situation is. He has said he’s not going to release that. How does the public know that he doesn’t stand to benefit significantly?
MICK MULVANEY: Well, I actually don’t care about whether or not someone else benefits. I care about whether I benefit, I being just anybody. Right?
As long as I’m better off, why should I care if somebody is as well? What I look at through is the lens of the business I used to run. I owned a restaurant. It was a fast, fresh Mexican restaurant. In fact, I rolled burritos the day that I announced I was running for Congress.
And this would be a huge benefit to us, to the point where S Corporations right now pay tax at the pass-through rate, which is typically the highest individual rate of the owners of the business.
You take that number to 15 percent, it allows me to keep a lot more money in my business. And what I would have done, had I still been in that line of work, is start preparing to open another restaurant.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I also want to ask you about the revenue loss that comes from all these tax cuts.
The administration at one point was talking about a border tax, some kind of adjustable tax at the border. That doesn’t appear to be part of the proposal right now. How do you address significant drop in revenue, at a time when the country is — has deficits that are historic?
MICK MULVANEY: Sure.
And we can talk about deficits more. And I want to. But let’s talk about — you asked a couple different things, which is the border tax. Keep in mind that this is the first round of discussions. It’s not a pre-cooked bill. It’s not prepackaged. This is sort of our principles, so just because it’s not in this first round of principles doesn’t mean it won’t be in a final version of the bill.
The president is interested in trying to figure out a way to tax imports, especially from countries that tax our exports.
Regarding the revenue loss, keep in mind that the corporate income tax only generates, I think, about only $300 billion a year. So, you can do a fairly good bit within the corporate tax, and not cost a lot of revenue.
And, finally — and you have heard Secretary Mnuchin talk about this today — we’re hoping for really, really good growth from these numbers, from this tax reform.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as you know, when big tax cuts instituted during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, that growth didn’t materialize. They ended up having to raise taxes again by the end of his administration.
MICK MULVANEY: Actually, that’s not true. We did get really good growth from the Reagan years.
You saw GDP grow at very high rates as we came out of the recession, something that didn’t happen at the end of the recession in 2007-2008. President Obama chose to deal with his recession by increasing regulations and getting government more involved in the economy.
President Reagan decided to do the exact opposite. President Reagan got a tremendous result in terms of economic growth. President Obama gave us eight years without 3 percent growth. So, I do think history shows us, if we do the tax reform right, that we can put people back to work and grow the economy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to move on to the budget.
MICK MULVANEY: Sure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You finish up the fiscal year later on. Right now, we don’t know if there’s an agreement on a spending — on a spending plan for the rest of this year. Where does that stand right now?
MICK MULVANEY: That is a really, really good question, and I don’t know either, which bothers me a little bit, because I’m the budget director.
But we had thought we had a deal on Monday. The Democrats had objected to our inclusion of the bricks-and-mortar portion of the border wall. They said that that was a poison pill. And to sort of drive home their point, they said, well, now we want these cost-sharing payments, cost — the CSR payments, cost-sharing reduction payments to the insurance industry as part of the Obamacare.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
MICK MULVANEY: And they said — they put that on after they found out our request for the wall.
Well, we took the wall request away on Monday. And we’re still waiting for the Democrats to let us know where they stand. So, we thought we had a deal on Monday, almost 48 hours ago now, and we have no idea where the Democrats are.
We don’t know if they’re doing internal polling that maybe says they’re going to benefit from a shutdown. We’re really — we’re not concerned yet, but I’m a little surprised that we haven’t buttoned this up.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is the administration, are you, the president, prepared to go ahead with a spending arrangement that doesn’t include these payments to — subsidy payments to insurance companies that help low-income Americans?
MICK MULVANEY: Well, that’s the whole idea, is that the bipartisan bill that is being — that I think has been negotiated now for three months, two months, on the Hill never included those payments until about two weeks ago.
So, we just assumed when we gave up on our immediate demands for the bricks-and-mortar wall that the Democrats would do the same thing. And for some reason, they’re not being straightforward yet about what they want to do on those payments.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House, you mentioned the wall, the fact that the president initially said this was something he felt very strongly about. It had to be — there had to be money in there to pay for a bricks-and-mortar wall.
What signal that does it send, though, that he — that was a centerpiece of his campaign.
MICK MULVANEY: Yes.
The day after we sign the bill that keeps the government open for the last five months of the fiscal year — our fiscal year ends the end of September — the discussions begin immediately for the larger budget for the full 2018 fiscal year. In fact, that’s the budget we happen to be working on today as well.
We’re doing ’17 and ’18 at the same time. Those conversations will have actually already started in terms of what wall funding will be in 2018. So, I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s dropped anything. We simply said, look, this is the last five months of the fiscal year. There’s very little we can get built in five months anyway, so let’s focus instead on things we agree on.
The Democrats say they support border security. In 2006, for example, then-Senator Obama voted for a lot of the stuff we’re asking for right now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not a lessening of his — that this is a priority for him?
MICK MULVANEY: It’s simply a recognition of the fact that we only have five months left in the year anyway. That’s the only discussion we’re having right now, and that there are other things we can agree on.
So, let’s agree on them. Let’s fund the government and let’s start talking about 2018.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Final question. We’re coming up on the 100-day mark.
MICK MULVANEY: I’m familiar with it. Yes, I have heard a little bit about it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For President Trump.
As you know, there are critics, even friends of the administration out there, who are saying, this has been a rocky beginning for this administration, that you haven’t been able to get as much done as you wanted. Pulling back — Obamacare hasn’t been repealed and replaced, the border wall that we have just been discussing.
How do you see these first 100 days?
MICK MULVANEY: A lot of the stuff that was entirely in our control, I think we have actually exceed our own expectations.
You can talk about the number of bills that the president has signed. I think there’s been at least 13, more than any president since World War II, the number of executives orders that we have issued. Again, it’s not just number of these things, but what they have done.
By passing this legislation, we have undone a lot of the regulatory regime that the previous administration put in. We have undone a lot of damage they did with our executive orders. So, we have actually been able to reduce role of government in your life a great deal in the first 100 days.
We take that as a huge success. I think President Trump is the first president since the 1880s to have a Supreme Court justice in the first 100 days. Yes, we have not gotten health care done. Yes, we’re just starting tax reform today.
But keep in mind those are things we had to work with Congress, and Congress turned out to be a lot more broken than we thought it was. In fact, one of the reasons we think the Democrats have not responded on our funding proposals for this year is that they don’t want to give it to us within the first 100 days.
So, that’s how poisonous the atmosphere is that we’re working in, that they sort of agreed in principle. They want to say yes, but they won’t say yes until after the 100 days to deny that to the president. That’s just absurd. And the folks back home pay the price for that, which is unfortunate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, thank you very much.
MICK MULVANEY: Thanks, Judy.
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An argument for how Trump’s tax plan could exacerbate inequality Author: PBS NewsHour
Wed, Apr 26, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a very different view of the president’s tax plans.
William Brangham takes it from here.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In addition to cutting the corporate rate and reducing the number of tax brackets, the president’s blueprint calls for eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT, as well as the estate tax.
It would also eliminate any taxes on the first $24,000 of a couple’s earnings. And it would cut all itemized deductions, except for two big ones, mortgage interest and charitable giving.
I’m joined now by Jared Bernstein. He’s an economist who served in the Obama administration. He’s now a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
JARED BERNSTEIN, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Thank you.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: First reaction to the president’s tax proposal?
JARED BERNSTEIN: There are a lot of problems with this proposal.
I can think of three or four right off the top of my head, first of all on the revenues. This is a tax plan, even though we don’t know all the details yet, what we do know suggests very clearly that this is going to lead to a loss of north of at least $3 trillion to the treasury, and it could be as much as $6 trillion. That’s over 10 years.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, potentially big deficit hits.
JARED BERNSTEIN: Big deficit. Big deficit debt hits.
And there are argument that the growth effects of these tax cuts will offset those revenue losses, those arguments are completely unfounded. There’s just not a shred of evidence, not a shred, that tax cuts pay for themselves in the totality, which is what they’re suggesting.
That’s not to say that tax cuts can’t have some growth effects, but they tend to be really quite small. So, that’s the first point. The growth point was number two.
The third point — and I really think Director Mulvaney got this pretty backwards — was, this tax cut plan exacerbates after-tax inequality. That means most its benefits accrue to those at the very top of the scale.
We can go through some of the details, some of the pieces that you announced that generate that effect, but it mostly has to do with this very sharp cut in the corporate rate and this pass-through rate that you heard him talk about.
And, finally — and this relates to this pass-through problem — this tax plan oppose up a huge loophole. Every high-end earner has an incentive now to become an independent business, an S Corp, an LLC, to take advantage of a pass-through rate is now going to be 15, 20 percentage points below what they would otherwise pay.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Secretary Mnuchin in his briefing today — and you heard Mick Mulvaney make the same argument — they argue that these taxes are geared largely to middle-income earn earners.
You don’t see any evidence that there’s targeted tax breaks for them in this?
JARED BERNSTEIN: Just a slightest bit, which is this increase in the standard deduction. So, that’s going to help some folks at the bottom.
But that’s tiny. The vast majority of the revenue losses that I was describing, the trillions that are not going to be flowing to the treasury if this tax cut ever becomes law, very much swamp anything to the middle class.
Let me give you an example. This sounds to me very similar to a House plan that was written by Paul Ryan quite recently. And with that plan, the top 1 percent, their after-tax income went up 11 percent. That’s about $240,000. OK?
The middle class, their income went up 0.1 percent, which we can just call zero. That’s 60 bucks. So that’s the kind of imbalance we’re looking at here. And that’s what I mean when I say this really exacerbates a problem we already have, which is one of high levels of inequality.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You heard Judy and Mick Mulvaney talk about these pass-through companies and the huge tax cut that they’re going to be getting.
Can you explain what those companies are and what that tax cut would mean?
JARED BERNSTEIN: These are the small businesses, but they’re not the moms and pops. That was another misleading part of that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, they argue that this is — that that is largely a tax cut for small business.
JARED BERNSTEIN: So, that’s — well, it is a tax cut for some small business, but which small businesses are we talking about?
The moms and pops, you think about the corner store, they’re already paying a low rate on their pass-through income, something close to the 15 percent that we’re talking about. The ones who get the huge break here are high-end small businesses, you know, law firms and private equity funds and hedge funds.
And, again, the point here is that, if you’re being paid a high salary, you now — which you have to pay on your personal income side, which, under their plan, would be 35 percent, you now have a very big, very tempting incentive to go to your boss and say, starting tomorrow, you’re no longer paying me a paycheck. I’m Jared Bernstein LLC, and I’m going to tap that 30 — that 15 percent loophole.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You’re a veteran of a lot of tax battles in the Congress and the Senate and the administration. Isn’t this just the opening salvo of the Trump administration? This is their beginning of their negotiating position?
JARED BERNSTEIN: It is an opening salvo. I think that’s an important point and we shouldn’t forget that.
The problem is that the — this opening salvo goes completely in the wrong direction. We are a society, an economy, a government that is going to need more revenues in the future, not less. Think about demographics alone. The share of elderly people in our country is going to go from 15 to about 21 percent over the next couple of decades. Now, that’s baked in the cake. That’s going to happen.
That creates certain budgetary pressures. So, the idea that we’re even starting with an opening salvo that’s going to keep, you know, $3 trillion, $4 trillion, $5 trillion over 10 years of going into the coffers at the treasury is starting from precisely the wrong place.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Jared Bernstein, thanks very much for your analysis.
JARED BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.
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How Trump’s first 100 days compares to past presidencies Author: PBS NewsHour
Wed, Apr 26, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: As President Trump nears his 100th day in office, White House correspondent John Yang begins our look at his accomplishments and setbacks, with a focus on the home front.
JOHN YANG: For President Trump, today’s tax announcement amounted to a campaign promise kept.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s a great plan. We’re going to put people back to work.
JOHN YANG: It comes as he nears his 100th day in office. President Trump dismisses that milestone as not very meaningful and a ridiculous standard, even as administration officials aggressively push his accomplishments online and on-camera.
SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: When you think about what he’s started, it’s been a huge, hugely successful first 100 days.
JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump came to the White House intent on shaking things up, changing how Washington works. He and his advisers have focused on asserting executive action. He is on track to sign the most executive orders in his first 100 days since World War II.
But like other presidents bent on changing Washington, he’s run into obstacles in Congress and in the courts.
There have been clear victories. Administration officials tout the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, though Republicans had to change Senate rules to do it.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I got it done in the first 100 days. That’s even nice.
JOHN YANG: And he moved quickly to revive construction of the Keystone pipeline with executive action. The courts have stymied other executive actions, like his immigrant travel ban, and, just yesterday, his effort to strip federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities.
While stinging from those court actions, administration officials say the president’s tough talk has led to a sharp drop in illegal crossings over the southern border since January, reversing a nearly 20-year trend.
Mr. Trump has also reversed himself on some campaign promises, such as not declaring China a currency manipulator, as he had pledged to do in campaign rallies across America.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What should have done years ago.
JOHN YANG: And now the White House is working to turn around the most embarrassing setback of his first 100 days, the initial failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a signature pledge of his campaign.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We were very close. It was a very, very tight margin.
JOHN YANG: That episode shook some administration officials’ confidence in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s ability to deliver votes.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: We came really close today, but we came up short.
JOHN YANG: On tax reform and on other major legislative initiatives in the near future, such as the promised infrastructure rebuilding, there are indications the White House intends to chart its own course as they search for the victories the president wants to turn his vision of making America great again into a reality.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang at the White House.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on President Trump’s first 100 days, and how he compares to his predecessors, I am joined by Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, and presidential historian and NewsHour regular Michael Beschloss.
And we welcome both of you to the program.
Michael, I’m going to start with you.
First, remind us quickly, where did this 100-day standard come from?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: It came from Franklin Roosevelt. He had 100 days that started a couple days after — a few days after he was inaugurated.
And he was trying to deal with the Great Depression and had this amazing success with Congress, getting all this legislation, fixing the banks, trying to relieve the poor, Tennessee Valley Authority, Public Works, a kind of legislative record that we probably will not see again.
And every president since then has hated it, because they’re measured against this almost-unreal standard.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Barbara Perry, here we are, almost 100 days in for President Trump. How does he compare to his predecessors at this point?
BARBARA PERRY, University of Virginia Miller Center: Depends on what you want to compare him on.
So, if you want to look at, let’s say, executive orders, certainly, in terms of the numbers, he would be right up there in the categories of most presidents.
But, as Michael said, in reference to legislation, I think FDR passed 76 laws in the first 100 days through a very amenable Congress. Obviously, Trump is not going to come anywhere near that record, and probably no other president will either.
But I would say, certainly on executive orders, on the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch, he gets A’s in terms of getting what he wanted based on some of the promises that he made during the campaign.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael, how do you see him compared to others?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I think I would say it a little differently, because Trump made such a point before the campaign just before the election, saying, elect me. This is a referendum on my 100-day action plan. I will get all these things through Congress with a Republican Congress, which he has had.
And, in retrospect, as you do say, this has been 100 days with almost nothing of great importance, despite the fact that he had promised health care reform and big tax reform, which he’s getting to this week and a number of other things, border wall.
So, if you’re looking at the 100 days largely as a legislative standard — and that is what is usually is in history — Trump is really pretty low down on the list.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Barbara, Michael referenced where this 100-day standard comes from, but how often do presidents get a lot done early on in their administration?
BARBARA PERRY: It depends on the president, of course.
If you look at someone like Lyndon Johnson, who had, of course, two first days — first 100 days, one after the Kennedy assassination, and then being elected in his own right, but particularly after the 1964 election, in 1965, as he moved forward with the Great Society, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, so we will point to a president like that.
Again, no one will ever again standard of FDR in legislation. I also look out where they come out in the first 100 days on approval ratings, which is a fascinating parlor game to play. We know this president coming in, of course, came in with the lowest entering approval rating of any president.
But it also doesn’t matter necessarily if you make a mistake, because the person with the highest rating after 100 days is John F. Kennedy, after the Bay of Pigs. But the way he handled that issue by going before the American people and saying, I’m responsible for this, I’m the responsible officer of the government, caused his approval ratings to spike even further.
So he comes in with an 83 percent rating. We know Trump’s approval ratings is down in the low 40s at this point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Dig a little deeper there, Michael, in terms of how Donald Trump has done compared to other presidents. You started to talk about this a moment ago with the setting of the standard. But how does he stack up?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Well, you know, a lot of this, you know, what presidents do, above and beyond their congressional record, is, do they expand the base that they had on Election Day?
Donald Trump, you know, got, what, 47 percent of the popular vote. Now he is down to about 40, which would suggest that, if anything, he’s alienated some of the people who voted for him.
Usually, with presidents you see — and this is true of almost every president back to FDR — the opposite. They get elected, they say, I need people who didn’t vote for me, who are skeptical of me. I’m going to reach out to them. I’m the president of all the people.
And you see the numbers go up because people appreciate the fact that they are reaching out. That is the one thing Donald Trump — and this has been his own choice — has not done. He’s essentially said, I’m happy with my base. I will play to them. I am not going to make a big effort to reach out to Democrats and independents in Congress or out among the American people.
And I think the numbers show that he’s paid for that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One other feature of this presidency has been his unusual attacks, if you will, Barbara, on the judiciary. Time and again, he has singled out the courts, judges, justices when he didn’t like what they ruled.
BARBARA PERRY: He has, which is a little odd, in the sense that his sister is a federal judge, and a circuit judge at that.
But he is following in the footsteps of some other presidents, and we can point directly to FDR, for example, who took on the judiciary headlong, not necessarily even in the first term, but certainly once he was reelected by a landslide in ’36, and famously, or infamously, tried to pack the court.
But I always go back to a speech that he gave in which he said, the two branches of government, president and Congress, are pulling a wagon. There are two horses pulling in the same direction, and the court, particularly the Supreme Court, which kept striking down his many pieces of New Deal legislation, is pulling in the opposite direction.
That was a metaphor that the American people could understand. But they never supported in the main or for the majority his court-packing plan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not so unusual, Michael. But it is — there has been a frequency we haven’t seen.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I think that’s right.
And Reagan talked about unelected judges. But in Trump’s case, you have had — and this is historically unusual — two big executive orders within these first 100 days, including most recently sanctuary cities, and earlier on the travel ban.
Each time, he would say, almost in anger, this was something that an unelected judge did, or something that a so-called judge did. And it’s sort of the opposite of conservatism, because one of the things that is most fundamental in being a conservative is having respect for the democratic institutions that we think are important.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk, finally, Barbara, about what the first 100 days tells us about the rest of a presidency. To what extent can we look at Donald Trump’s first few months in office and say this forecasts whether he’s going to be successful or not?
BARBARA PERRY: Well, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, originally, and we’re about to do the Kentucky Derby, so I say a horse can stumble out of the gate or it can be running last in the first third …
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Absolutely.
BARBARA PERRY: … and still come on to win.
So, to the point about low approval ratings and Michael’s point about not necessarily accomplishing all of the list of things he said he would do in the 100 days doesn’t mean that he won’t be reelected or that he will have a failed presidency.
And if you think of someone like Bill Clinton, who had a rather chaotic start in a host of ways in those first 100 days, and even up to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and people were saying, oh, it’s the shrinking presidency and the shrinking Bill Clinton as president, and yet he came on strong. And we know that he was reelected in ’96.
So, it’s not a Ouija board. And, as a professor, I would say to the students in the first third of the semester, if they scored lower than they wanted on the first test, I would say, you have more tests to do, you have a term paper, participate in class.
So, Trump still has many more things on which to be graded.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this first …
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I totally agree with that.
And that is that it’s a standard that historically doesn’t tell us a lot, because think of all these presidents and what turns out to be important about their administration, these moments like Kennedy and the missile crisis, or Johnson and the Vietnam escalation, or George W. Bush and 9/11.
None of those things happened in the first — during the first 100 days. So, if we were having a great conversation like this 100 days into each of those presidencies, we wouldn’t have been able to predict what historians now think was really turning out to be pivotal.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Beschloss, Barbara Perry, thank you both.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Judy.
BARBARA PERRY: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, tomorrow, we will take a look at the Trump administration’s successes and setbacks overseas within its first 100 days.
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Sebastian Junger on the consequences of not stepping in on Syria Author: PBS NewsHour
Wed, Apr 26, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a look at a new film about the brutal Syrian civil war.
Hari Sreenivasan has that story.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The French government said today its analysis of samples from a chemical attack in Syria earlier this month prove that the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible.
That attack was one more flash point in a war that has now entered its seventh year, and it is the subject of a searing new documentary called “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS.”
It debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival this week here in New York, and will air later this summer on National Geographic.
It is co-directed by the journalist and author Sebastian Junger, who also narrates the film.
Thanks for joining us.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER, Co-Director, “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS”: Thank you.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Why make this right now?
SEBASTIAN JUNGER: We started about two years ago.
We wanted to explain why the Syrian civil war happened, how it evolved, and particularly why ISIS came out of it. ISIS is a kind of rare phenomenon. And we wanted to explain that to the American people.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But there’s a family that you intersperse throughout this documentary. They are making their way out of Syria, or attempting to as they go along. And there’s a real telling clip early on in the film where there’s a father just trying to comfort his kids.
Take a look.
MAN (through interpreter): Don’t be afraid, dear. Don’t be afraid.
MAN (through interpreter): Honestly, I’m about to explode. I can’t express what is happening inside of me. I have to smile against my will, so the kids don’t get scared.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, this is juxtaposed with a phrase that you have from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saying, we don’t indiscriminately bomb anyone.
And here we have a family who clearly could be the target of this.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Yes. I mean, that clip shows a nighttime bombing by the Syrian government, by the Syrian air force. Assad is just lying. Plenty of politicians do, and he’s one of them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the interesting things, there’s also a little map that you have throughout this film about how massive this tiny country, this tiny war has gotten, meaning how many other global partners or parties are involved in this.
It’s not just the reason. I mean, you have proxies in Russia and the United States involved, but you also have so many countries around it that are involved now.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Yes.
I mean, wars a little like tumors. You know, they sort of like drawn draw in more and more blood supply, and they grow. And so there’s arms going in. There’s oil coming out. There’s antiquities coming out. There’s people coming out. And there’s jihadis going in.
And it’s the whole ecosystem. And even on the sort of diplomatic level, on the sort of national level, there are a good dozen countries that are directly involved in the mechanics of that war, and some very, very powerful players in the world.
So, it’s like a bar fight that, you know, the longer it goes on, the more people are involved, until everyone is fighting, and one of the rationales for stepping in early and trying to stop these civil wars before they get this kind of critical mass.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Speaking of stepping in early or later, one of the things that you point out is that there’s a legacy that goes all the way back, perhaps, to the de-Baathification in Iraq and how that contributed to what is happening in Syria.
And also you take a fairly pointed look at President Obama and the red line and the United States’ inability to do anything after that red line was crossed.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Oh, there are huge missteps by the United States, the invasion of Iraq arguably being one of them.
After we invaded Iraq, the de-Baathification put on the street tens of thousands of Baath Party members who weren’t necessarily loyalists, but they were sort of expelled from government, expelled from the military, expelled from their jobs.
And then we helped install a Shia government in Baghdad that really starting preying on these people, killing them. And so of course those people saw ISIS as — ISIS presented themselves as their protectors. And so, you know, of course, that — you know, that worked quite well for ISIS.
And had that not happened — and, you know, this analysis comes from American generals. This isn’t some sort of far-out left-wing analysis. These are American generals looking back at the war in Iraq and thinking, my God, was that a mistake.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And the ripple effects now it has even going all the way up into Europe and even political repercussions of the migrant influx into Europe.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Yes.
In the modern world, and maybe even the ancient world, you really can’t say that someone else’s problems aren’t your problems. They will eventually reach you. My first war was Bosnia. It was a war that a lot of people sort of ignored, but it started just pumping millions of refugees out of Eastern Europe into neighboring countries, and along with that came a lot of problems, including organized crime into allied countries, countries that we’re allied with.
So, eventually, President Clinton stepped in and put a stop to it. But there are real consequences. And in Syria, it’s a sort of cauldron of an awful lot of things that will affect us, refugees, terrorism, and a huge nexus of sort of illegal activity, arms sales, drugs, antiquities.
And wars are not something you want happening in the world, and they will affect everybody, including people in the United States. I think people don’t quite understand that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Sebastian Junger, thanks for joining us.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Thank you.
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Nature knows no borders. Border security can take a heavy toll on endangered wildlife Author: PBS NewsHour
Wed, Apr 26, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has long said he wants to build a hardened wall across the U.S.-Mexico border to reduce the flow of drugs and illegal immigration.
But what would a continuous wall from California to Texas mean for wildlife in the area?
William Brangham is back again with a report from Arizona. It is part of our weekly series examining the leading edge of science.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tens of thousands of migrants risk their lives each year crossing this dangerous, remote desert between the U.S. and Mexico.
Some have found creative ways to get over or around the steel fences built to keep them out. But many of the wild plants and animals here in the Sonoran Desert can’t do that. These miles of fencing divide their natural habitat and threaten their survival.
At least 50 species near the border are already endangered, like the Sonoran pronghorn, the gray wolf and the ocelot.
SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Nature has no borders. Nature knows no political boundaries.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sergio Avila-Villegas is a wildlife biologist with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. He’s spent the last 16 years studying this area.
He took us to the Coronado National Memorial in the Huachuca Mountains on the Arizona-Mexico border. He says the border fence — you can see it there in the distance — means animals have to range farther afield to find food, water and mates.
There’s this one, what seems to my eye a very thin fence that runs across the border, but you’re saying this really does have a major impact on the species that live here?
SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: From a sparrow perspective, from a grasshopper perspective, and from even plant perspective, this is a very difficult thing to overcome, and this blocks reproduction of plants and animals.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In one study from 2011, biologists found border fences increased the risk of population decline and extinction, especially for endangered species.
Another study from the same year found border security infrastructure could interfere with black bear breeding. Before the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico went up about 10 years ago, conservationists tried to stop it, but ultimately lost that fight.
Eighty percent of Arizona’s border with Mexico has some kind of barrier. Gaps do occasionally exist where wildlife can pass, but finding those places isn’t easy.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would build a great wall.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Now that President Trump plans to build what may be a continuous wall from California to Texas, Avila-Villegas and other scientists worry this will only accelerate the extinction of some animals.
SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: Long-term, this could be a division of genetical populations, where a group of animals from one side cannot reproduce with another group of animals, breaking the connectivity, creating some genetical problems. The survival of the species is at risk.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Species like this jaguar, which was spotted several times in Arizona over the last few years.
Historically, these jaguars roamed from the Southwest United States down through the Amazon Basin, all the way to Argentina. Scientists estimate this big cat now occupies less than half of its original range because of habitat loss and poaching. There may be fewer than 50,000 breeding adults left.
SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: If there’s an impermeable barrier, we are losing the opportunity to have the third largest cat in the world to recover its populations in the United States. Jaguars deserve an opportunity to live in this place too.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Coronado National Memorial is considered a critical habitat zone, meaning it would normally be protected by the Endangered Species Act.
But Congress wanted the fence built quickly. In 2005, it allowed the Department of Homeland Security to bypass all environmental laws during construction, including the requirement to study what this fence would do to wildlife.
Congressman Rob Bishop, Republican from Utah, thinks those exemptions aren’t enough. He’s introduced legislation that would extend those legal waivers to Border Patrol agents, who do have to obey environmental laws.
REP. ROB BISHOP, R-Utah: So, everything from California to Texas is almost all federal property, and over half of that is in a wilderness designation, which has specific requirements for what can and cannot be done.
That’s where the Border Patrol is prohibited from doing their job, and that’s the mistake, because that becomes the avenue for most of the illegal entrants into this country. And I think it has a direct correlation to the amount of federal land and the amount of restrictions the Border Patrol has on how they can do their jobs on that corridor.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Border Patrol can’t build bases, towers, or roads without permission from other federal agencies, like the Fish and Wildlife Service. They’re also not allowed to drive over protected lands, a rule smugglers don’t have to follow.
CYNDI TUELL, Environmental Lawyer: We have one of the largest wilderness areas in a national wildlife refuge in Southern Arizona, and Border Patrol has been driving over it for close to a decade.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Cyndi Tuell is an environmental lawyer and border lands conservation advocate who says she’s seen Border Patrol in places they’re not supposed to be.
CYNDI TUELL: The main focus of my work as a conservation attorney is to try to get Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security to follow the law. If they’re one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country, they very much need to be complying with the law themselves.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: She spends part of her time travelling the backcountry, looking for signs of Border Patrol’s impact on public lands. She says their vehicles can crush vegetation and erode soil, and that habitat is destroyed when they build bases and surveillance towers.
CYNDI TUELL: Every time I’m out here, though, I interact with a Border Patrol agent, or I see the signs of militarization. I see tanks. I see heavily armed men. I see vehicle tracks two or three miles into a wilderness area that I know shouldn’t be there.
GIL KERLIKOWSKE, Former Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Customs and Border Protection has to be able to be on the borders, whether it’s in environmentally sensitive land or not.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Gil Kerlikowske served as the commissioner for customs and border protection from 2014 until the new administration took over. He’s now a fellow at Harvard University.
GIL KERLIKOWSKE: I think it’s very difficult for those agents and their vehicles and other types of equipment to be in an area and not to leave some type of footprint.
But I would mention that, as often as hard as they work to try and reduce their environmental impact, I think there’s always going to be, as a result of that human intervention, some type of an effect on the environment.
SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: The infrastructure seems to be a one-solution-fits-all for many different problems, and I don’t think it’s addressing the root causes. And I really think that the environment is paying the ultimate price for this.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Have you and the conservation community made those concerns known to the Border Patrol and the Customs and Border Protection?
SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: A lot of our concerns have been voiced through the conservation and science community to the Department of Homeland Security. They don’t go anywhere. The Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security have no mandate to listen to these concerns.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We asked the Department of Homeland Security if they have required any passageways for wildlife in the solicitations they have put out to contractors who want to build the new wall.
They have told us that the current plans — quote — “will not result in significant environmental impacts. As a result, for this particular project, DHS is not planning for mitigation.”
President Trump ordered 5,000 more agents be hired and deployed along the border, and plans for his wall are now being drafted. The few wildlife corridors that do remain could soon be closed for good.
From the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, I’m William Brangham for the PBS NewsHour.
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Remembering Jonathan Demme, acclaimed director of eclectic, edgy films Author: PBS NewsHour
Wed, Apr 26, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And finally tonight, Hari Sreenivasan is back with an appreciation of an Oscar-winning director.
ANTHONY HOPKINS, Actor: Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things, not about this case, though, about yourself.
HARI SREENIVASAN: After years making B-movies, Jonathan Demme’s first major commercial success was 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs,” and, for many, would remain his best-known film.
The dark thriller, based on a book, followed Jodie Foster as an FBI field agent on the hunt for a serial killer, using the counsel of a psychopath named Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins.
ANTHONY HOPKINS: What is your worst memory of childhood?
JODIE FOSTER, Actress: The death of my father.
ANTHONY HOPKINS: Tell me about it, and don’t lie, or I will know.
JODIE FOSTER: He was a town marshal, and one night, he surprised two burglars coming out of the back of a drugstore. They shot him.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It earned Demme the Academy Award for best director.
KEVIN COSTNER, Actor: To Jonathan Demme for “Silence of the Lambs.”
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HARI SREENIVASAN: And it remains the only horror film to ever win for best picture.
JONATHAN DEMME, Director: Hi, mom. And thanks for transferring your love of movies to me. And thanks, dad, for making me think I could actually be part of this industry. And thank you.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mike Sargent is a film critic for Pacifica Radio.
MIKE SARGENT, Film Critic: At the time, a thriller and horror were kind of seen to be the same thing. And a movie about a serial killer is not the kind of movie that really gets acclaim.
So, he took something that could’ve been considered pulpy, and really turned it into high art. He really elevated the form.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But Demme did more than crime thrillers. Over his career, he made indie films, dramas, documentaries, comedies and concert movies, too, including 1984’s “Stop Making Sense,” a stylized look at the band the Talking Heads.
DENZEL WASHINGTON, Actor: So, you were concealing your illness.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In 1993, Demme directed “Philadelphia,” one of the first major Hollywood films to confront the HIV/AIDS crisis. It starred Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of a gay lawyer infected with HIV.
DENZEL WASHINGTON: Didn’t you have an obligation to tell your employer you had this dreaded, deadly, infectious disease?
TOM HANKS, Actor: That’s not the point. From the day they hired me to the day I was fired, I served my clients consistently, thoroughly, with absolute excellence. If they hadn’t fired me, that’s what I would be doing today.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Five years later, Demme directed the adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved,” starring Oprah Winfrey.
OPRAH WINFREY, Actress: Could stay the night, if you had a mind to.
DANNY GLOVER, Actor: You don’t sound too steady in the offer.
OPRAH WINFREY: Oh, it’s truly meant. It’s just I hope you will pardon my house.
DANNY GLOVER: “My house.” I like the sound of that.
MIKE SARGENT: He was definitely someone who I think was sensitive to issues of race and sexuality and things like that.
TOM HANKS: What I loved the most about the law?
DENZEL WASHINGTON: Yes.
TOM HANKS: Is that every now and again, not often, but occasionally, you get to be a part of justice being done.
MIKE SARGENT: I think he stacks up there in the top 25 of great American directors, I would say, I would say, for the kind of films he did and the amount.
If you look at the body of work he did, and what he produced, and the people whose careers he really helped, I think he was more than significant. I think he will be looked back on even greater than he was when he was here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Demme continued to work up until his death this morning. He passed away from esophageal cancer at his home in New York. He was 73 years old.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And he made a string of remarkable movies.
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News Wrap: Michael Flynn accused of breaking the law by House Oversight leaders Author: PBS NewsHour
Tue, Apr 25, 2017
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JUDY WOODRUFF: A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked President Trump’s order on so-called sanctuary cities. It sought to withhold some federal funds from localities that don’t cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities. The district judge said today that the president has no authority to take that step. His ruling is in effect nationwide while a lawsuit against the order is being heard.
The bulls had the run of Wall Street today, and the Nasdaq hit a milestone. The rally was fueled by strong earnings at Caterpillar, McDonald’s and other companies. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 232 points to close at 20996. The Nasdaq rose 41 points, to close above 6000 for the first time ever. And the S&P 500 added 14.
Congress is back in session, and raising new questions about contacts between Trump advisers and the Russians. Leaders of the House Oversight Committee said today that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn broke the law by taking money from Russian organizations in 2015. As a retired general, he was barred from doing so.
Republican Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings spoke after reviewing classified material.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-Md.: There is no evidence, as the chairman said, anywhere in these documents that said he reported the funds he received for this trip. There is also no evidence that he sought permission to obtain these funds from a foreign source.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R-Utah: He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia, to not only accept that payment, but to engage in that activity.
JUDY WOODRUFF: An attorney for Flynn defended his actions.
Meanwhile, Representative Cummings complained that the White House refused to hand over relevant documents on Flynn. Separately, a Senate subcommittee announced that it will hear next month from former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, who played a role in Flynn’s firing. The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will also testify.
Russia denied again today that it is arming Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. That is after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said that he wouldn’t refute such reports. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the claims.
SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): As to statements about alleged supplies of arms by us to the Taliban, these are unprofessional, they are baseless. Whatever negative things they say about Russia now, simply look into it. No one is providing a single fact that would prove such negative statements.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia has said that it does maintain ties with Taliban officials, but only to push for peace negotiations.
North Korea held mass live-fire exercises today for the 85th anniversary of its military, but it didn’t carry out a nuclear test, as feared. Instead, Pyongyang marked the occasion with celebrations. Many people left flowers at the statues of the country’s former leaders.
Turkish warplanes targeted Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria today, drawing criticism from the U.S. Turkey’s military released video of the operations, and activists in Syria said more than 20 combatants were killed. Most belonged to a Syrian Kurdish militia that is fighting the Islamic State. Turkish officials claimed the group is linked to rebels who are battling the government of Turkey.
The state of Arkansas has carried out the nation’s first double execution in 17 years. It happened last night, when two men were put to death within three hours.
William Brangham has our report.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For 12 years, the death chamber at the state prison in Varner, Arkansas, sat unused. But last night, both Jack Jones and Marcel Williams died there. Both had been on death row for more than 20 years, both for rape and murder. Jones went first, as witnesses looked on.
DAVID LIPPMAN, KTHV Reporter/Execution Witness: He said: “I’m so sorry. I’m so genuinely sorry. I hope someday you can learn more about me to learn that I’m not a monster.”
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The daughter of Jones’ victim, Mary Phillips, had survived the attack in 1995. She was just 11 years old.
LACY PHILLIPS SEAL, Victim’s Daughter: I’m glad it’s done. I’m glad that part of my life is — that chapter is closed.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lawyers for Marcel Williams charged that Jones had been gulping for air as he died. But after a brief delay, Williams was given the lethal injection as well. He’d expressed remorse last month.
MARCEL WILLIAMS: To those I hurt, I’m sorry is not enough. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The mother of Stacy Errickson, the woman killed by Williams in 1994, said he’d finally gotten what he deserved.
Arkansas has now put three men to death in the last week. This sudden rush is because one of the state’s lethal injection drugs, midazolam, expires at the end of April, and the drugmakers, citing concerns over how the drugs were obtained and how they are being used, are trying to block the state from getting any more.
Governor Asa Hutchinson defended the process.
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON, R-Ark.: I don’t want to go back to these victims’ families and say, well, we’re worried about how this looks, or the speed of this, and so we’re not going to be able to carry out the will of the jury and courts and the sentencing.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The state hoped to execute eight men this month. Four have been blocked by courts. A final execution is set for Thursday.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, a special commission in Oklahoma recommended a continued moratorium on executions until the system for carrying them out is reformed.
And first daughter Ivanka Trump got a rough reception today at a women’s summit in Berlin, Germany. At one point during a panel discussion, the audience groaned and hissed as she argued that her father is a — quote — “tremendous champion” of enabling women and families. Later, she dismissed the reaction as — quote — “politics” and said, “I’m used to it. It’s fine.”
Still to come on the NewsHour: the White House and Congress attempting to avert a government shutdown; Senator Bernie Sanders weighs in on what Democrats need to do to get back on top; a new tariff President Trump has levied against Canada, and much more.
One of the biggest obstacles to keeping the United States government funded beyond this Friday’s deadline may have been averted today.
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