U.S. Politics

Laptop with info on Trump Tower, Clinton stolen from Secret Service agent

Laptop with info on Trump Tower, Clinton stolen from Secret Service agent

Image Credit: Getty Images


Police are scrambling to retrieve a laptop that was stolen from a Secret Service agent in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday morning.

The computer contained information about Trump Tower and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, authorities told the New York Daily News

The Daily News and other outlets first reported that the computer’s contents were classified, but a Secret Service statement later indicated otherwise.

“Secret Service issued laptops contain multiple layers of security including full disk encryption and are not permitted to contain classified information,” the statement reads. The Secret Service, however, will of course continue investigating the theft.

The laptop was reportedly swiped from the agent’s vehicle along with other items, including a black bag bearing the Secret Service logo and what the Daily News reports as “coins.”

While the less valuable items have since been recovered, police are still on the hunt for the laptop, as well as the agent’s access card and additional documents described as “sensitive.”

Laptop with info on Trump Tower, Clinton stolen from Secret Service agent

The laptop contained information about Trump’s home in Trump Tower.Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“The Secret Service is very heavily involved and, citing national security, there’s very little we have on our side,” one New York Police Department source told the Daily News. “It’s a very big deal.”

According to the Daily News, the agent’s vehicle was parked in her driveway in Brooklyn’s Bath Beach neighborhood when it was robbed. Video footage from the scene captured the suspect leaving the area with a backpack, which presumably contained the stolen items.

“There’s data on there that’s highly sensitive,” the police source told the Daily News. “They’re scrambling like mad.”

March 17, 2017, 2:36 p.m.: This story has been updated.

Brianna Provenzano

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 17, 2017

Stacy Revere/Getty Images


1. Senators dismiss wiretap claims, but Trump stands by them
Senate Intelligence Committee leaders said in a joint statement Thursday that there were “no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also confirmed — “at least so far with respect to our intelligence community — that no such tap existed.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, however, said Trump “stands by” the allegation, which Trump made in a tweet nearly two weeks ago without offering any evidence. Spicer pointed to a claim by a Fox News commentator, former judge Andrew Napolitano, that Obama used British intelligence and security agency GCHQ instead of U.S. intelligence agencies, a charge GCHQ called “utterly ridiculous.”

Source: Reuters, BBC News

2. Tillerson says military action against North Korea ‘on the table’
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that military action against North Korea was “on the table” if the country’s isolated communist government elevates “the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action.” Tillerson made the remarks in the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea during his first trip to Asia as the top U.S. diplomat. Sanctions and diplomacy have failed to curb the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile programs, but previous administrations avoided talk of military action because the South Korean capital of Seoul, with more than 20 million people, is just 30 miles south of the DMZ, within range of North Korean artillery. Tillerson said, “We do not want things to get to a military conflict,” but Washington’s “strategic patience” policy is over.

Source: CNN

3. Republicans vow big changes to Trump budget
President Trump’s budget proposal came under intense criticism in Congress on Thursday, with even some of his closest allies saying it has no hope of being passed. Defense hawks said Trump’s $54 billion hike in military spending wasn’t enough, while Democrats and some Republicans said that paying for the extra defense spending by sharply cutting the budgets of other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, would cause extensive harm. “While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president’s skinny budget are draconian, careless, and counterproductive,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a member and former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Source: The Washington Post

4. Flynn earned $68,000 from ‘Russia-related entities’
Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, was paid nearly $68,000 from “Russia-related entities” in 2015, according to documents released Thursday by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. Most of the money came from Russia’s state-run broadcaster RT for a December 2015 speech Flynn made in Moscow. U.S. intelligence agencies consider RT to be a Kremlin propaganda tool. Flynn last year acknowledged making the speech, but said he was paid by his speakers bureau, not Russia. Flynn received $11,250 from the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, and another $11,250 from Russian charter cargo airline Volga-Dnepr Airlines. Flynn recently registered retroactively as a foreign agent for work he did to benefit a company linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Source: CNN, The Washington Post

5. Trump and Merkel to discuss NATO, Russia, in first face-to-face meeting
President Trump hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House on Friday in the first face-to-face meeting between the West’s two most powerful leaders. Trump, who harshly criticized Merkel for letting hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, has signaled that he will ask Merkel to back his call for North Atlantic Treaty Organization members to pitch in more for their common defense. Merkel, a close ally of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is expected to focus on NATO funding and relations with Russia. “The president will be very interested in hearing the chancellor’s views on her experience interacting with Putin,” a senior administration official said.

Source: Reuters

6. Letter bomb injures one at IMF Paris office
A letter bomb exploded at the International Monetary Fund’s offices in Paris on Thursday, slightly injuring one person. French authorities said they were investigating the incident as a possible terrorist attack. The blast occurred one day after German authorities found a package bomb they believed had been sent by a Greek terrorist group to the Berlin office of Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble. The French letter bomb appeared also to have been sent from Greece.

Source: The New York Times

7. Florida governor replaces anti-death-penalty prosecutor
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Thursday removed prosecutor Aramis Ayala from the trial of accused cop killer Markeith Loyd after she said she would no longer seek the death penalty in first-degree murder cases. Loyd, who was wanted for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, is accused of fatally shooting Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton when she tried to catch him. Ayala said she made her decision because capital punishment doesn’t deter crime or protect citizens. Scott said he was using his executive authority to replace Ayala with State Attorney Brad King because Ayala would not “fight for justice.” “These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Markeith Loyd to the fullest extent of the law,” he said, “and justice must be served.”

Source: NBC News

8. Student arrested for French school shooting
French police arrested a 16-year-old student for allegedly opening fire at a school in southeastern France on Thursday. At least two students were injured, as was the principal when he tried to intervene. Witnesses said the attacker entered a classroom carrying a long gun, several pistols, and a small grenade, looking for specific people. Prosecutor Fabienne Atzori said there was no reason to believe that the attack had anything to do with terrorism. “The motivation of the student appears linked to bad relations with other students in this high school in which it appears he had some difficulty integrating,” she said. Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the attack, which occurred in the town of Grasse, appeared to be “a crazy act by a fragile young man fascinated by firearms.”

Source: CBS News, The New York Times

9. Mount Etna eruption injures 10
At least 10 people were injured when Sicily’s Mount Etna volcano erupted on Thursday, sending molten rocks raining down on tourists, journalists, and a scientist. About 35 tourists and a BBC camera crew went to the area to observe the volcano erupting, but were caught by surprise when flowing magma hit snow and caused an explosion. BBC video of the incident shows an explosion of steam and hot rocks, and people rushing to get away. “The material thrown into the air fell back down, striking the heads and bodies of people who were closest,” said Umberto Marino, president of the Italian Alpine Club chapter in Catania, after he took some of the injured to safety.

Source: The Associated Press

10. First day of NCAA tournament light on upsets
The No. 12 seeds managed to pull off just one upset as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament kicked off in earnest on Thursday, as Middle Tennessee State beat No. 5 seed Minnesota 81-72 to move into the second round. Another No. 12, Princeton, nearly advanced, but lost to Notre Dame 60-58 after having a shot at an upset in its final possession. UNC-Wilmington came close, too, but squandered a 15-point lead and lost 76-71 to Virginia. The fourth No. 12 seed, Nevada, lost to Iowa State, 84-73. Two No. 1 seeds, North Carolina and Kansas, take their turns on Friday trying to avoid being the first regional top seeds to be upset by a No. 16 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. “I’ll tell you what,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose Tar Heels face No. 16 Texas Southern. “Every coach of the No. 1 always worries like the dickens about it the night before. It’s something you always think about.”

Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Politics

Trump to name coal lobbyist as deputy EPA chief: report

Trump to name coal lobbyist as deputy EPA chief: report

Getty Images


Coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is reportedly President Trump’s pick to be the deputy chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and is expected to be tapped for the position in coming weeks.

Wheeler, who once served as an adviser to Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), is Trump’s top choice to fill the position, but it is unclear when the official announcement will be made, Politico reported Thursday.

Wheeler has experience working as an EPA staffer before working as a Republican staffer on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He now co-leads the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels’s energy and natural resources practice.

He is also a registered lobbyist for the nation’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy, which challenged many of Obama’s environmental regulations in court.

The pick is in keeping with President Trump’s message on environmental policy and climate change so far. Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s head, has close ties to the oil and gas industry, as does his Secretary of State Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson.

Trump’s proposed budget released Thursday would make major cuts to climate efforts.


U.S. Politics

GOP leaders want details before funding Trump’s border wall


Republican leaders in Congress want more details from President Trump about his proposed border wall before appropriating significant funding for the project.

They have questions about the design and how the administration would handle the rights of property owners whose land would be used to build the structure.

“What I’d like to see is a plan that we know is going to be implemented that’s going to be effective before we start writing the check,” said Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Cornyn said the administration needs to spell out “a layered approach” of “infrastructure, technology and personnel.”

He and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who has jurisdiction over the wall, are in negotiations with the Trump administration to figure out precisely what they have in mind.

“We’d like to see what the plan is before we write a big check,” McCaul told The Hill on Thursday.

“We’re in current discussions with the administration. What is it going to look like, how much is it going to cost and how are you paying for this thing?”

Asked if he has received enough information from the administration, McCaul described the talks as “a work in progress.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that it probably wouldn’t make sense to build a wall — which Trump suggested during the 2016 campaign would reach between 35 and 45 feet in height — along the entire length of the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

“There are some places along the border where that’s probably not the best way to secure the border,” McConnell said in an interview with Politico Playbook.

McConnell also said he didn’t think that Mexico would repay the United States in some form for the wall, something Trump has vowed will happen.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the wall is how to build it through along the 1,200 miles of border running through Texas, where most of the adjacent land is privately owned.

It could take years for the federal government to litigate the eminent domain claims necessary to build the barrier.

Trump’s budget submitted to Capitol Hill Thursday requests an initial installment of $4.1 billion for the wall, which GOP leaders initially estimated would cost $12 billion to $15 billion. The total final price tag for the project could run to more than $20 billion, according to other experts.

By requesting more information about the administration’s plans for a border wall, GOP leaders could buy themselves time and avoid a messy standoff with Democrats over including money for the wall in the government funding measure that must pass by the end of April to avoid a government shutdown.

Senate Democratic leaders warned this week that they would not allow the measure to pass if it includes funding for the wall.

They wrote in a letter to McConnell and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) that it would “be inappropriate” to include funding in must-pass bills needed to fund the government.

Democrats say the administration needs to answer questions about eminent domain procedures, the design and location of the wall and whether Mexico will fund any of its construction.

A senior Democratic aide reiterated Thursday that Democrats will not support a funding package to keep the government operating beyond April if it includes money for the wall.

Trump’s border wall proposal creates yet another problem for GOP leaders by calling for it to be paid for initially with cuts to non-defense discretionary spending programs.

His budget asks for $3 billion in fiscal year 2017 funding to pay for initial construction of the wall and improving homeland security — $1.5 billion of that total would go toward the wall.

The president has requested an additional $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2018 funding to continue construction of the wall next year.

Trump wants the money for the wall included in the government funding package that must pass by April 28, but GOP leaders are leery of giving Democrats an excuse to block it. A government shutdown fight would distract from their efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare and begin work on tax reform.

The White House budget request puts McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan(R-Wis.) in a bind because it calls for offsetting half the cost of a $33 billion supplemental spending bill — which includes $30 billion for defense and $3 billion for the wall and additional homeland security measures — with cuts to non-defense programs.

Democrats say this is unacceptable because it violates the agreement of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, which set the spending levels for defense and non-defense programs.

Senate Democrats wrote in their letter to McConnell and Cochran that Congress has already agreed that any extra funding “should be divided equally between defense and non-defense priorities.”

“Is McConnell going to be an enabler and do what Trump wants or is he going to stand up to the president and tell him there’s no way Congress can pass legislation funding the government by the end of April if it cuts non-defense programs,” said a senior Democratic aide.

By delaying funding for the wall and perhaps the rest of Trump’s supplemental spending request until the administration provides more details about the wall, GOP leaders may be able to sidestep a fight with Democrats in the six weeks remaining before government funding expires.

Ryan reminded reporters Thursday that “we just got the president’s budget submission” and “this is the very beginning of the budget process.”

“What I’m encouraged by is the notion that we’re going to begin rebuilding our military, which is something we’re all very worried about, the hollowing out of our military,” he said.

The negotiating time leading up to the deadline to fund the government is compressed by a two-week recess that both chambers plan to take in the middle of April.

McConnell said he hoped to pass the House GOP’s plan to repeal ObamaCare, the American Health Care Act, before the April recess, but that now appears unlikely as GOP senators have raised a variety of concerns with the legislation.

Some GOP senators want the legislation to undergo hearings and markups in the upper chamber, which would delay floor consideration.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has said the House bill will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate.


U.S. Politics

Bannon And Trump Have Quietly Installed An Alt-National Security Council Operating Inside The White House

Bannon And Trump Have Quietly Installed An Alt-National Security Council Operating Inside The White House

attribution: NONE


Less than a month after much-admired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster took over from Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser, Trump’s alter-ego Steve Bannon appears to be more in control of U.S. foreign policy than ever.

There is little sign McMaster will be able to restore traditional U.S. foreign policy commitments to NATO and the European Union, and every indication that Bannon’s shadowy Strategic Initiatives Group, denounced by two national security experts as “dangerous hypocrisy,” is driving U.S. policy.

McMaster, a lieutenant general with a reputation as an intellectual, was perhaps the last-gasp hope of Washington’s foreign policy professionals against the radical ambitions of the Trump administration. He was seen as a man who could speak unpopular truths to Trump and block Bannon’s improvisations while restoring a degree of continuity to U.S. foreign policy under Obama and Bush.

Losing Ground

No sooner had Flynn been fired over undisclosed meetings with a Russian diplomat, it was reported that McMaster would impose order on Flynn’s chaotic NSC, purging ideologues and removing Bannon from the National Security Council as urged by Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Given the gravity of the issues the NSC deals with, it is vital that that body not be politicized, and Bannon’s presence as a member of that body politicizes it instantly,” Mullen said.

McMaster urged Trump not to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” arguing, along with virtually every other U.S. military leader, that the phrase only alienates friendly Muslims and increases the risk to U.S. personnel stationed in Islamic countries without providing any military or political advantages.

McMaster’s influence has been fading ever since. There would be no “purge” at NSC, an unnamed senior White House official told Foreign Policy. “Key NSC officials focused on the Middle East and other vital areas will keep their positions in the near term,” the official said. Bannon remains on the NSC’s Principals Committee, while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is only a part-time participant.

Trump pointedly ignored McMaster’s advice and denounced “radical Islamic terrorism” in his address to the Congress, much to the satisfaction of deputy national security adviser Sebastian Gorka. A lightly credentialed acolyte of Bannon, Gorka seems to have more influence with Trump than McMaster, a decorated lieutenant general.

While Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice-President Joe Biden, recently expressed hope that an “axis of adults” can take control of Trump’s foreign policy, all indications are that the “axis of ideologues,” led by Bannon and Gorka, are ascendant.

What SIG does

The Strategic Initiatives Group is emerging as Bannon’s conduit for aiding the populist right in Europe. Described as a “White House think tank,” SIG is run by Chris Liddell, formerly chief financial officer at a Hollywood talent agency. The group’s mission is described as supporting Trump administration collaboration with “private forums.”

In practice, that seems to mean Liddell will assist in marketing the message of the chauvinist European right.

Last week, Gorka signaled the ascendant ideology by endorsing a white nationalist opus by Georgetown University professor Joshua Mitchell in the debut issue of a policy journal called American Affairs.

For globalists, Mitchell writes, “political justice involved material growth made possible by global management and the identity debt-points that global elites dispensed to this or that oppressed ‘identity’ group as a consequence of past infractions or of the irredeemable fault of others—typically (the imaginary category of) White People.”

“The dark Protestant machinations about human freedom and pride that drove President Bush and President Obama, respectively, make no appearance in the thinking of Trump,” Mitchell writes. “He will ask of foreign nations, simply, are they going to be allies or not; and will America be able to win with or without them?” In other words, Europeans who favor economic integration, ethnic pluralism and military deterrence of Russia are no longer regarded as U.S. allies.

“Trump has made clear that he’s at best indifferent, if not openly hostile to the modern European project, and Bannon has indicated that anti-E.U. populists have a friend in the White House,” writes American conservative James Kirchick in the German daily, FAZ.

Bannon approved of the visit of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to Trump Tower in January. He published Dutch anti-immigration leader Geert Wilders in Breitbart News. And now he seems to be targeting Angela Merkel, the pro-immigration German prime minister who has emerged as the de facto leader of Europe, if not the free world. Merkel, who faces elections this fall, certainly sees Bannon’s media strategy as a threat.

“We shouldn’t underestimate what’s happening on the internet,” Merkel said in a speech to the German parliament last week. “Opinions today are formed differently than 25 years ago. Fake pages, bots, and trolls can distort views.”

Not coincidentally, Breitbart.com is said to be opening a Berlin bureau later this year.

While Bannon often talks in apocalyptic terms about war between the Christian West and Islam, his initial moves in the National Security Council are more political than militaristic. Through SIG, Bannon seeks to midwife a more nationalist and Christian Europe, as a prelude to escalating a “clash of civilizations” war against Islam.

In this geopolitical gambit, Bannon and company are setting the course, while McMaster and the “adults” of the Washington policy elite look increasingly irrelevant.

U.S. Politics

The 78 programs Trump wants to eliminate don’t even pay for his border wall

President Trump with House Speaker Paul Ryan. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci


Here are the things Donald Trump says the government should stop doing forever.

In his initial budget document released on Thursday, President Donald Trump called for huge reductions in government spending. Beyond simply handing some agencies and programs less money to work with, he wants to completely eliminate 78 programs — including the Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Services Block Grant, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Legal Services Corporation, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Minority Business Development Agency, National Endowment for the Arts, United States Institute of Peace, and United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

All told, the money saved from the functions that Trump wants to eliminate comes to just under $23.6 billion, according to a ThinkProgress analysis.

That may sound like a lot of money, but it’s not even half of the increase in funding he wants to give to the military: $54 billion. The United States already spends more on defense than the next seven largest military budgets around the world combined.

The sum is also dwarfed by the size of the tax cut that Trump has proposed enacting, which would cost the government $341 billion in the first year and $6.1 trillion over a decade. Under that plan, the poorest families would get just $110 in annual tax relief, while the richest 0.1 percent of Americans would get more than $1 million in one year.

The amount of money saved by eliminating these government programs wouldn’t even be enough to pay for the construction of Trump’s border wall, the price for which has been put at $25 billion.

CREDIT: Adam Peck/ThinkProgress

Several of the programs Trump wants to cancel have very small price tags and very large impacts. Trump’s decision not to spare even these high-efficiency connections between the government and its people is impossible to justify in budget terms, given their low costs. Instead, these cuts seem to represent a philosophical choice to derail things the president doesn’t believe in doing — even if they help people.

One HUD program tagged for execution generates massive private investment in housing construction, at the cost of just $35 million per year. The Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing program generates more than $20 in private investment in low-income housing for every dollar taxpayers spend. That radically efficient system lured almost $6 billion in low-income housing development spending from private sources since 2010, according to the nonprofit network Enterprise.

By contrast, Trump is forcing taxpayers to spend an estimated $3 million every time he travels to his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida. He could cancel a dozen of his tropical weekends and save more money than he does by eliminating the HUD program — and without savaging the already rocky state of affordable housing investment nationwide.

Other examples from Trump’s proposed budget cuts make even less fiscal sense. He would eliminate the Overseas Private Investment Corporation even though the self-sustaining business development organization actually returns money to the treasury every year. The Interagency Council on Homelessness would be dissolved — saving just $4 million a year in exchange for making it harder to coordinate policies and reach consensus in the fight to end homelessness — as would the $11 million federal organization that investigates chemical accidents like the deadly West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion.

Alan Pyke

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump’s Budget Cuts by the Numbers: Here’s what the president is proposing to do

Donald Trump’s Budget Cuts by the Numbers: Here's what the president is proposing to do

Getty Images


President Donald Trump plans to cut billions of dollars of funding to government agencies to hike defense spending and build his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a budget proposal released Thursday.

The preliminary proposal — “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” — is a budget outline for the coming fiscal year and requires Congressional approval. The “skinny budget” has been met with staunch opposition from Democrats, and some Republicans have objected to certain elements of the proposal.

On Thursday, Trump defended slashing the government budget to pay for the massive increase in military spending, tweeting the country “must make safety its no. 1 priority.”

The “America First” budget does not concretely impact the government agencies targeted for cuts — those can only be made by Congress — but it’s a first look at how Trump’s vague campaign rhetoric could translate into actual policy and an outline of the administration’s priorities.

Here’s a numerical breakdown of Trump’s budget proposal:

$54 billion

How much Trump wants to boost military spending, representing a 10% increase from this fiscal year to the next.

$2.6 billion

The amount of money Trump would like to set aside to start building his “beautiful” border wall — on top of the $1.5 billion he’s already asking Congress to devote to the project in the current fiscal year.

$1.4 billion

How much Trump wants to invest in “school choice” initiatives like charter schools and private school vouchers, while slashing …

$9 billion

… from the Department of Education, which would be the most dramatic budget cut the department has ever endured. The funding hit would “reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training and after-school programs,” according to the Washington Post, and would cut financial aid to low-income Americans seeking to earn a college degree.


The number of employees at the Environmental Protection Agency who’d lose their jobs under Trump’s proposed 31% budget cut to the agency. The EPA would be among the hardest hit agencies targeted by Trump’s budget, which would also cut some $100 million in spending on research and international programs on combating climate change, according to Reuters; Trump and his EPA head, Scott Pruitt, are climate change deniers.


The number of agencies — including the National Endowment for the Arts — whose funding would be eliminated entirely under Trump’s proposed budget.


How much federal funding cuts Trump is proposing for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Many of those cuts were to “soft power” initiatives, Bloomberg reported. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supported the sharp cuts in spending, saying “the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking … is simply not sustainable.”

$6 billion

The amount Trump’s budget would cut from the National Institutes of Health, which could cripple important scientific research that requires NIH funding, STAT news reported. The blueprint calls for a $15.1 billion cut overall to the Department of Health and Human Services, which houses the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Medicare and Medicaid.


The cut in Housing and Urban Development department spending Trump proposed Thursday. The proposal would also eliminate the Community Development Block Grant Program, which helps fund Meals on Wheels.


Trump’s budget cut to the Department of Agriculture. Farm groups say the cut could hurt farmers and rural communities, according to Reuters.

$2.5 billion

The amount Trump has proposed cutting from the Labor department. Job training programs — including those aimed at helping seniors, disadvantaged young people and unemployed Americans — are targeted in the cuts, the New York Times reports.

The administration plans to release its full budget in May.

Eric Lutz

U.S. Politics

Nervous GOP senators rooting for Ryan to fail

AP-paul-ryan-01-as-170308_31x13_1600Photo by Joan Walsh


A growing number of GOP senators are hoping the House fails to pass its bill to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare so they won’t be blamed for killing it in the upper chamber.

Support for the House legislation has “disintegrated” in the Senate, according one Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss internal conference politics.

It will require substantial revisions to win the support of moderate Republicans in the upper chamber — something that will likely make it unacceptable to conservatives.

Given what looks like an unbridgeable divide in the Senate GOP conference, some are saying that it would be better if the bill dies in the House.

“I’ve heard that maybe the best thing is that this doesn’t get out of the House so we’re not the ones who ditch it,” said a Republican senator who has publicly voiced concern about the bill but requested anonymity. “Right now this is disintegrating in the Senate, with everyone off on their own about what they don’t like about the bill.”

The lawmaker said that voting for the House measure could come back to haunt Republicans again and again, just as votes for ­ObamaCare in 2009 and 2010 came back to hurt Democrats in the 2010, 2014 and 2016 elections.

“It’s tough to vote for policy that hurts people,” the senator added.

An analysis released by the Congressional Budget Office Monday found that the House plan, known as the American Health Care Act, would increase the number of uninsured by 24 million compared to current law over a decade.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is emerging as a leading voice in the Senate healthcare debate, called the projection “eye-popping” and “awful.”

Several of his colleagues have had similar reactions, though they are holding back on slamming the House bill out of courtesy to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and their own leadership.

Another Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss the House bill candidly said, “There are no good options.”

The lawmaker acknowledged that not fulfilling the party’s campaign promise to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare would be politically painful in the short-term but worried that voting for bad policy could have negative reverberations for the GOP over the next decade.

“The best thing may be to kill it early so it doesn’t come over here,” the GOP senator said.

“One option may be for it to fail and for ­ObamaCare to continue to implode so that it drives us,” the senator added.

If premiums continue to rise and health insurance companies continue to drop out of the federal and state exchanges, there could be less political blowback from repealing ­ObamaCare, the legislator reasoned.

A third Republican senator said, “I think it’s better if it does not come out of the House in its current form.”

The lawmaker said if House GOP leaders manage to pass it, the measure should undergo a major renovation in the Senate by going through hearings and markups in the Finance and Health committees.

Ryan is determined to pass the House bill and told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview on Wednesday that senators are free to amend the legislation as they see fit. But it remains to be seen if Ryan can get the votes. According to a whip count by The Hill, at least 15 House Republicans are leaning no or are staunchly opposed to it. Dozens are declining to say where they stand. If all members vote and all Democrats reject the legislation, Ryan can only afford 21 defections.

Ryan declined to say whether he could pass the bill if it came to the floor this week.

“It’s going through the legislative process. That legislative process has not been finalized,” he told Tapper. “That’s, no offense, that’s kind of a goofy question or faulty premise, because this goes through four committees. We’ve gone through two so far.”

Earlier this month, Ryan guaranteed that the legislation would pass the House.

David Brooks, a center-right columnist for The New York Times, warned last week that the House healthcare bill, if enacted, “will probably lead to immense pain and disruption.”

“That will discredit market-based social reform, cost the Republicans their congressional majorities and end what’s left of the Reagan-era party,” he predicted.

While not persuasive among conservatives, this doomsday scenario is alarming to Republicans from swing states.

Senate Republican leaders are trying to shore up their crumbling ranks by warning them the political fallout will be worse if their party fails to deliver on its campaign promises over the past several elections to repeal  ­ObamaCare.

“I couldn’t disagree more,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) when told some of his colleagues hope the bill will die in the House.

“How do you explain not keeping the promise we made in the last three elections to repeal ­ObamaCare?” he said.

“We think we know a better way to deliver healthcare through free-market competition and more choices that lower costs,” he said. “If you believe that, you believe this is going to work. If you don’t believe that, it’s a different situation.”

A senior GOP aide said Republicans have no excuse for not repealing the controversial law because “we own government” and noted that President Trump made repeal a core promise of his 2016 campaign.

Yet, Trump has also said on a number of occasions that Republicans could choose to do nothing and watch ­ObamaCare collapse in 2017. Trump, who has endorsed but not fully embraced the House bill, has indicated he wants to sign a repeal-and-replace bill.

During a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) advised Trump that he should let ­ObamaCare falter if he can’t strike a better deal.

Later in the day, Graham told radio host Hugh Hewitt, “If you don’t believe it’s better than ­ObamaCare over the long haul, if you think you’re going to own it for the rest of your life, President Trump, it will be called TrumpCare — don’t buy it.”

Internal talk about delaying the repeal of ­ObamaCare indefinitely has some members of the Senate Republican Conference bristling.

“Now is the time for action,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told a gathering of activists outside the Capitol Wednesday.

“Failure is not an option. If Republicans take this opportunity and blow it, we will rightly be considered a laughingstock,” he warned.

Repealing the law appeared to be a goal that unified the party when the Republican-controlled Senate and House passed legislation that would have gutted the law in 2015. The stakes were lower then because President Obama was widely expected to veto it, and did.

Consensus has disappeared now that Republicans in Congress know that whatever they pass will be signed into law by Trump.

Behind closed doors, moderates are telling their colleagues that the political calculations have changed.

“The debate at my lunch today was over people who want more subsidies, more government subsidies for health insurance,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told The Hill in an interview Wednesday.

“It’s disappointing, but they claim they weren’t really voting last time, they were pretending to vote last time,” he added.

Paul also wants the House bill to fail, but his motivation is different from that of centrist GOP senators.

He wants to scrap the American Health Care Act and replace it with legislation stripped of subsidies that promotes greater competition in the marketplace by equalizing treatment of healthcare insurance between individual- and employer-purchased plans.

“Though I want to believe the glass is half full, I am tempted, very tempted, to smash a glass half full of ­ObamaCare Lite — smash that glass to smithereens!” he wrote in an op-ed published Wednesday on Breitbart.

Another Senate conservative and former House member, Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), last week called on his “friends in the House” to “pause, start over.”

Should the House approve its bill, Cotton said, Republicans could lose their majority in the lower chamber.

“Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote,” he told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos.

House Republicans, however, are vowing to pass the legislation next week. They want to get the political hot potato off their plate as soon as possible.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a large contingent of House Republicans want to pass a bill, even if it is likely to die in the Senate, because they don’t want to get blamed by conservative constituents for failing to pass an ­ObamaCare repeal bill endorsed by Trump.