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Associated Press

Florida Supreme Court says yes to first execution in months

The Florida Supreme Court is refusing to block the state’s first execution after a hiatus of more than 18 months.

The court on Monday ruled 6-1 that the state can go ahead with the scheduled Aug. 24 execution of Mark Asay.

Asay, 53, was originally scheduled to be executed in March 2016, for the 1987 murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in Jacksonville.

The execution was put on hold after the U.S. Supreme Court found the state’s death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional.

The Legislature has since twice changed the law, most recently this year when it required a unanimous jury recommendation for the death penalty.

Justices rejected several arguments that Asay made to block his execution, including his questioning of a new drug the state plans to use for lethal injection.

1 Florida Confederate memorial removed, another vandalized

Crews on Monday were removing one Confederate statue in a Florida city and authorities said someone had splashed red paint around a Confederate memorial park in another city.

Sounds of a jackhammer echoed in downtown Gainesville as workers tore out the foundation of the statue known as “Old Joe” after local authorities decided to move it from outside the Alachua County Administration Building.

The statue’s removal had been in the works for months after protests and several failed attempts to relocate it. It was unclear if the work was hastened by violent protests surrounding the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.

The statue is being returned to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected it in 1904. The county said it did not know where the statue would go, the Gainesville Sun reported.

In Tampa, a passer-by called 911 after seeing that paint had been tossed on and around the Confederate memorial’s columns and derogatory comments were scrawled in paint, Hillsborough County sheriff’s officials said in a news release. The site is on private property near Tampa on Florida’s west coast.

Other Confederate memorials in the area have been targeted as well.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted on July 19 to remove a different monument in the county, this one in downtown Tampa and on county property, after several heated meetings filled with public discussion.

On Wednesday, the commission is scheduled to discuss the monument again with an update on the relocation.

The attention focused on Florida’s Confederate monuments comes as similar debates heat up in other states. Tension flared into violence this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white nationalist rally that was tied to protest against the removal of a Confederate statue there.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Scott wants tax measure on 2018 ballot

Gov. Rick Scott wants to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would make it harder for state legislators to raise taxes or fees.

The Republican governor will announce his proposal Monday. Scott, who is considering running for the U.S. Senate, wants the measure to go before voters in 2018.

If passed by 60 percent of voters, state legislators could not pass any future taxes or fees without a supermajority vote.

Scott has not yet exactly outlined what would be covered by the proposal or how large a supermajority would be needed.

Several other states, including California, have similar restrictions.

Scott wants the Florida Legislature to place the amendment on the ballot. But the governor said he may also ask the Constitution Revision Commission to consider the proposal

Wildlife agency: Review won’t jeopardize panther protections

Wildlife officials say a federal review of the Florida panther’s endangered species status will not jeopardize protections for the big cats.

The panther is one of over a dozen animals whose listing status is being reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Panther biologist David Shindle said in a News-Press report that his agency’s review aims to gather the best available data on panther biology, habitat and conservation plans, as well as threats to their survival.

Shindle said any change to the panther’s status would require separate action from the wildlife service.

Public comments for the panther’s review will be accepted through Aug. 29. Officials expect to complete the review by 2019.

The panthers once roamed the entire southeastern United States, but now their habitat mostly is confined to southwest Florida.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Why won’t Donald Trump condemn white nationalism?

Why doesn’t President Donald Trump just unequivocally condemn white supremacists?

It’s a jarring question to ask about an American president. But it’s also one made unavoidable by Trump’s delayed, blame-both-sides response to the violence that erupted Saturday when neo-Nazis, skinheads and members of the Ku Klux Klan protested in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump has faced such a moment before — one that would have certainly drawn swift, almost predictable condemnations from his recent predecessors, regardless of party. As a candidate and now as president, when racial tensions flared or fringe groups rallied around his message, Trump has shown uncharacteristic caution and a reluctance to distance himself from the hate.

At times, his approach has seemingly inflamed racial tensions in a deeply divided country while emboldening groups long in the shadows.

On Saturday, as Trump read slowly through a statement about the clashes that left dozens injured and one woman dead, he condemned hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides.” The president was silent when journalists asked whether he rejected the support of nationalists’ groups.

That silence was cheered by the white supremacist website Daily Stormer: “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

Trump denies that he’s racist or sympathetic to such groups. Son-in-law Jared Kushner, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, are among those who have defended the president against those charges.

Still, he has a history of engaging in high-profile, racially fraught battles.

Early in his career as a developer, Trump fought charges of bias against blacks seeking to rent at his family-owned apartment complexes. He long promoted the lie that the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States. As a candidate, he proposed temporarily banning Muslims from the United States. He retweeted a post from accounts that appeared to have ties to white nationalist groups. And he was slow to reject the endorsement of former KKK leader David Duke.

Some of the president’s friends and advisers have argued that Trump is simply refusing to bend to liberals’ desire for political correctness. A boastful, proudly disruptive politician, Trump often has been rewarded for saying impolite and impolitic things. Some supporters cheered him for being someone who said what they could not.

Democrats frequently assert that Trump sees a political advantage in courting the support of the far right. Indeed, he has benefited politically from the backing of media outlets such as Breitbart or InfoWars. They have consistently promoted Trump and torn down his opponents, sometimes with biased or inaccurate reports.

Charlottesville’s mayor, Democrat Mike Signer, said Sunday that Trump made a choice during his campaign to “go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices.”

“I think you are seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices,” Singer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

White House senior adviser Steve Bannon ran Breitbart before joining Trump’s campaign, and several of the president’s other aides believe Bannon continues to have influence over the website. In “Devil’s Bargain,” a new book about his role in the Trump campaign, Bannon is quoted as saying that attempts by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to tie Trump to the alt-right and nationalists did not move voters.

“We polled the race stuff and it doesn’t matter,” Bannon said, according to the book.

But there here’s no reliable public polling on the scope of Trump’s support among those with white nationalist leanings or the percentage of the electorate they comprise. The reaction from Republicans following Trump’s statement Saturday suggests there may be greater political risks for the president in aligning himself with bigoted groups.

“The president needs to step up today and say what it is,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who was one of several GOP lawmakers urging Trump to be more strident in calling out the nationalists and neo-Nazis that gathered in Charlottesville. Gardner said plainly: “It’s evil. It’s white nationalism.”

By Sunday, the White House was scrambling to try to clean up the president’s statement. The White House issued a statement saying the president does condemn “white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

The spokeswoman who issued the statement refused to be named. And the president himself remained silent.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump drawing criticism for not explicitly rebuking white supremacists

President Donald Trump is drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists in the aftermath of violent clashes in Virginia, with lawmakers saying he needs to take a public stand against groups that espouse racism and hate.

Trump, while on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, addressed the nation Saturday soon after a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters in Charlottesville, a college town where neo-Nazis and white nationalists had assembled for march. The president did not single out any group, instead blaming “many sides” for the violence.

“Hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said. “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and … true affection for each other.”

Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He added: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

He did not answer questions from reporters about whether he rejected the support of white nationalists or whether he believed the car crash was an example of domestic terrorism. Aides who appeared on the Sunday news shows said the White House did believe those things, but many fellow Republicans demanded that Trump personally denounce the white supremacists.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tweeted: “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

Added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis,the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

GOP Chris Christie of New Jersey, a staunch Trump supporter, wrote: “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.”

On the Democrat side, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said “of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for. Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasn’t done his job.”

The president’s only public statement early Sunday was a retweet saluting two Virginia state police officers killed in helicopter crash after being dispatched to monitor the Charlottesville clashes.

The previous day, Trump tweeted condolences to those officers soon after the helicopter crashed. His tweet sending condolences to the woman killed in the protests came more than five hours after the incident.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Sunday that he considered the attack in Charlottesville to be terrorism:

“I certainly think anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism,” McMaster told ABC’s “This Week.”

“It meets the definition of terrorism. But what this is, what you see here, is you see someone who is a criminal, who is committing a criminal act against fellow Americans.”

The president’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, defended the president’s statement by suggesting that some of the counter-protesters were violent too.

When pressed, he specifically condemned the racist groups. The president’s daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump, tweeted Sunday morning: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”

White nationalists had assembled in Charlottesville to vent their frustration against the city’s plans to take down a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters massed in opposition. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car drove into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the rally. The driver was later taken into custody.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke attended the demonstrations. Duke told reporters that the white nationalists were working to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Trump’s speech also drew praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. … No condemnation at all.”

The website had been promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its “Summer of Hate” edition.

Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat, said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Trump, as a candidate, frequently came under scrutiny for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once declared that his former news site, Breitbart, was “the platform for the alt-right.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida NAACP chapter wants Confederate monuments removed

The president of a Florida NAACP chapter says a white supremacist rally in Virginia has prompted him to resume efforts to remove Confederate monuments.

James Muwakkil leads the NAACP chapter in Lee County, which is named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The chapter’s 2015 efforts to change Lee’s portrait in county commission chambers were unsuccessful.

The News-Press reported that Muwakkil placed an American flag at a statue of Lee in Fort Myers on Saturday and said he would approach city and county officials about removing both monuments.

Fort Myers Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown said Lee is part of history, but she is “not always proud of what happened in our history.”

David McCallister, Florida Division Chief of Heritage Operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the Lee County NAACP was exploiting the turmoil in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Donald Trump answers call of crisis with familiar bluster, spontaneity and norm-breaking risk that defined his political rise

A nuclear showdown. The world’s most unpredictable foe. A world on edge. What will the new president do?

Be Trump.

Faced with perhaps his gravest international crisis yet, President Donald Trump this week responded precisely as his some of supporters hoped and his critics long feared. The mix of plain-spoken bluster, spontaneity and norm-breaking risk that defined his political rise defined his approach to a round of fresh threats from nuclear North Korea. When Pyongyang punched, Trump counterpunched harder — much as he did on a debate stage flanked by political opponents.

But this was not a Florida debate stage or a low-stakes celebrity Twitter war of the sort Trump perfected before entering politics. It was a standoff over North Korea’s rapidly developing nuclear program, complete with trading threats of war and the safety of millions in the balance. Over the course of the week, Trump unleashed provocative rhetoric and dismissed the careful or precise diplomatic language favored by his predecessors.

“They should be very nervous,” Trump said of North Korea. “Because things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?

Still, Trump’s strategy was familiar. He tweeted regularly. He took it personally. He spoke off the cuff. He talked — a lot — holding a two-day blitz of press conferences, each yielding moments that immediately sparked chatter, confusion, criticism and attention.

On Friday, after striking a slightly toned-down message to North Korea, Trump offered that he would consider military action in Venezuela, where the president has consolidated power and sparked widespread international condemnation. In the course of a 12-minute exchange with journalists, the remark raised the prospect of the use of military force against two countries in two different hemispheres.

Trump’s pugnacious public talk is matched by his private conversations with aides and allies. Trump has told associates that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has disrespected him and the United States and that he believes the rogue nation will only respond to toughness and the threat of force, according to two people who, like others interviewed, requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Some aides were surprised when Trump declared Tuesday, soon after word spread that North Korea had made a nuclear breakthrough, that the isolated nation would face “fire and fury” if the threat continued. The president had not used those words in a conference call with advisers beforehand when discussing the matter.

He also told aides, including new chief of staff John Kelly, that he had no intention of softening his tone, according to two White House officials, who also demanded anonymity to discuss the conversations.

The president has gone out of his way to discuss the threat posed by North Korea, tweeting frequently and engaging reporters at length four times over two days in his golf club.

On Thursday, as he fielded questions from a small group of reporters, he ignored press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who repeatedly held up a hand-written sign that urged him to take just one final question. Instead, he frequently made eye contact with individual reporters to seek out their inquiries. He ended up talking for 30 minutes, much of it in ominous language about North Korea.

His plain-spoken tough talk, which is easily distilled into tweets and the ticker headlines that crawl across cable television, has frequently thrilled supporters.

“Trump is simply trying to communicate in vivid, clear language to a dictator not used to listening to anybody that they are facing the potential end of their regime,” said frequent Trump adviser Newt Gingrich. “I think that what he’s trying to do in the short run is to communicate with great intensity that we are serious.”

For others, Trump’s rhetoric only appeared to be escalating the crisis.

“Presidents have used tough language about adversaries,” said Julian Zelizer, history professor at Princeton University. “The difference is how unscripted this is … this is ad hoc and improvised, which most presidents have understood to be dangerous when nuclear weapons are involved.”

Trump dismissed such criticism on Friday evening, as he answered more questions from reporters, and issued more threats.

“My critics are only saying that because it’s me,” Trump said. “We have tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with what I’m saying because they’re saying finally we have a president that’s sticking up for our nation and frankly sticking up for our friends and our allies.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Beyond bluster, U.S., N. Korea in regular contact

Beyond the bluster, the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, addressing Americans imprisoned in the communist country and deteriorating relations between the longtime foes, The Associated Press has learned.

It had been known the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student. But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than U.S. detainees.

People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation, including on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, should President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un put aside the bellicose rhetoric of recent days and endorse a dialogue.

Trump refused to discuss the diplomatic contacts. “We don’t want to talk about progress, we don’t want to talk about back channels,” Trump told reporters Friday.

The diplomatic contacts are occurring regularly between Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s U.N. mission, according to U.S. officials and others briefed on the process. They weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Officials call it the “New York channel.” Yun is the only U.S. diplomat in contact with any North Korean counterpart. The communications largely serve as a way to exchange messages, allowing Washington and Pyongyang to relay information.

Drowned out by the furor over Trump’s warning to North Korea of “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has expressed a willingness to entertain negotiations. His condition: Pyongyang stopping tests of missiles that can now potentially reach the U.S. mainland.

Tillerson has even hinted at an ongoing back channel. “We have other means of communication open to them, to certainly hear from them if they have a desire to want to talk,” he said at an Asian security meeting in the Philippines this week.

The interactions could point to a level of pragmatism in the Trump administration’s approach to the North Korean threat, despite the president’s dire warnings.

On Friday, he tweeted: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.” But on Thursday, he said, “we’ll always consider negotiations,” even if they haven’t worked in the last quarter-century.

The contacts suggest Pyongyang, too, may be open to a negotiation even as it talks of launching missiles near the U.S. territory of Guam. The North regularly threatens nuclear strikes on the United States and its allies.

The State Department and the White House declined to comment on Yun’s diplomacy. A diplomat at North Korea’s U.N. mission only confirmed use of diplomatic channel up to the release of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier two months ago.

Trump, in some ways, has been more flexible in his approach to North Korea than President Barack Obama. While variations of the New York channel have been used on-and-off for years by past administrations, there were no discussions over the last seven months of Obama’s presidency after Pyongyang broke them off in anger over U.S. sanctions imposed on its leader, Kim. Obama made little effort to reopen lines of communication.

The contacts quickly restarted after Trump’s inauguration, other people familiar with the discussions say.

“Contrary to the public vitriol of the moment, the North Koreans were willing to reopen the New York channel following the election of President Trump and his administration signaled an openness to engage and ‘talk about talks,’” said Keith Luse, executive director of the National Committee on North Korea, a U.S.-based group that promotes U.S.-North Korean engagement.

“However, the massive trust deficit in Pyongyang and in Washington toward each other has impeded the confidence-building process necessary to have constructive dialogue,” he said.

The early U.S. focus was on securing the release of several Americans held in North Korea.

They included Warmbier, who was imprisoned for stealing a propaganda poster and only allowed to return to the U.S. in June — in an unconscious state. He died days later. Yun traveled on the widely publicized mission to Pyongyang to bring Warmbier home.

Despite outrage in the U.S. with Warmbier’s treatment and sharp condemnation by Trump, the U.S.-North Korean interactions in New York continued.

Yun and his counterpart have discussed the other Americans still being held. They include Kim Hak Song, a university employee detained in May accused of unspecified “hostile” acts; Tony Kim, a teacher at the same school, accused of trying to overthrow the government; and Kim Dong Chul, sentenced last year to a decade in prison with hard labor for supposed espionage.

But the American and North Korean diplomats also have discussed the overall U.S.-North Korean relationship. The two countries have no diplomatic ties and are still enemies, having only reached an armistice — not a peace treaty — to end the 1950-1953 Korean War. Twenty-eight thousand U.S. troops are still stationed in South Korea.

In its own convoluted way, North Korea has indicated openness to talks in recent weeks, even as it has accelerated the tempo of weapons tests.

On July 4, after the North test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially strike the continental U.S., leader Kim added a new caveat to his refusal to negotiate over its nukes or missiles. Instead of a blanket rejection, he ruled out such concessions “unless the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat to the DPRK are definitely terminated.”

That message has been repeated by other North Korean officials, without greater specification. Nor have they offered an indication as to whether Pyongyang would accept denuclearization as the goal of talks.

Still, advocates for diplomacy, including some voices in the U.S. government, view the addendum as a potential opening.

“North Korea is assessing its options,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America think tank who participated in unofficial talks with North Korean officials in Oslo in May, where Yun also met with the North Koreans. “They recognize that at some point they have to return to the table to address what’s becoming a crisis. That’s what they are weighing right now: the timing of engagement.”

Any negotiation would face huge skepticism in Washington given North Korea’s long record of broken promises. The last serious U.S.-North Korea negotiations collapsed in 2012 when Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket that derailed an agreement of a North Korean nuclear freeze in exchange for U.S. food aid.

North Korea’s weapons program has developed significantly since then. As a result, its price in any such negotiation is now likely to be far higher. At a minimum, Pyongyang would renew its long-standing demands for an end to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises — which are set to resume this month — and an eventual peace treaty with Washington.

To date, the Trump administration has heavily concentrated its diplomatic energy on cranking up international pressure on North Korea’s government, in particular pressing China to lean on its wayward ally. Last weekend, the U.N. adopted its strongest economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

Trump has been widely accused of injecting a new element of unpredictability and even chaos into U.S. policy toward North Korea, especially with his tweets and proclamations this week. It’s unclear what effect they may have on the back-channel contacts being maintained by Yun.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Study: Donald Trump actions trigger health premium hikes for 2018

The Trump administration’s own actions are triggering double-digit premium increases on individual health insurance policies purchased by many consumers, a nonpartisan study has found.

The analysis released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that mixed signals from President Donald Trump have created uncertainty “far outside the norm,” leading insurers to seek higher premium increases for 2018 than would otherwise have been the case.

The report comes with Republicans in Congress unable to deliver on their promise to repeal and replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Trump, meanwhile, insists lawmakers try again. The president says “Obamacare” is collapsing, but he’s also threatened to give it a shove by stopping billions of dollars in payments to insurers. Some leading Republicans are considering fallback measures to stabilize markets.

Researchers from the Kaiser Foundation looked at proposed premiums for a benchmark silver plan across major metropolitan areas in 20 states and Washington, D.C. Overall, they found that 15 of those cities will see increases of 10 percent or more next year.

The highest: a 49 percent jump in Wilmington, Delaware. The only decline: a 5 percent reduction in Providence, Rhode Island.

About 10 million people who buy policies through HealthCare.gov and state-run markets are potentially affected, as well as another 5 million to 7 million who purchase individual policies on their own.

Consumers in the government-sponsored markets can dodge the hit with the help of tax credits that most of them qualify for to help pay premiums. But off-marketplace customers pay full freight, and they face a second consecutive year of steep increases. Many are self-employed business owners.

The report also found that insurer participation in the ACA markets will be lower than at any time since “Obamacare” opened for business in 2014. The average: 4.6 insurers in the states studied, down from 5.7 insurers this year. In many cases, insurers do not sell plans in every community in a state.

The researchers analyzed publicly available filings through which insurers justify their proposed premiums to state regulators. To be sure, insurers continue to struggle with sicker-than-expected customers and disappointing enrollment. And an ACA tax on the industry is expected to add 2 to 3 percentage points to premiums next year.

But on top of that, the researchers found the mixed signals from the administration account for some of the higher charges. Those could increase before enrollment starts Nov. 1.

“The vast majority of companies in states with detailed rate filings have included some language around the uncertainty, so it is likely that more companies will revise their premiums to reflect uncertainty in the absence of clear answers from Congress or the administration,” the report said. Once premiums are set, they’re generally in place for a whole year.

Insurers who assumed that Trump will make good on his threat to stop billions in payments to subsidize co-pays and deductibles requested additional premium increases ranging from 2 percent to 23 percent, the report found.

Insurers who assumed the IRS under Trump will not enforce unpopular fines on people who remain uninsured requested additional premium increases ranging from 1.2 percent to 20 percent.

“In many cases that means insurers are adding double-digit premium increases on top of what they otherwise would have requested,” said Cynthia Cox, a co-author of the Kaiser report. “In many cases, what we are seeing is an additional increase due to the political uncertainty.”

That doesn’t sound like what Trump promised when he assumed the presidency.

In a Washington Post interview ahead of his inauguration, Trump said, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody.”

“There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it,” he added. “That’s not going to happen with us.”

People covered under Obama’s law “can expect to have great health care,” Trump said at the time. “It will be in a much-simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”

But the White House never produced the health care proposal Trump promised. And the GOP bills in Congress would have left millions more uninsured, a sobering side-effect that contributed to their political undoing.

The Trump administration sidestepped questions about its own role raised by the Kaiser study.

Spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said rising premiums and dwindling choices predate Trump.

“The Trump administration is committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare and will always be focused on putting patients, families and doctors, not Washington, in charge of health care,” Marre said in a statement.

The ongoing political turmoil for people who buy individual health insurance stands in sharp contrast to relative calm and stability for the majority of Americans insured through workplace plans. The cost of employer-sponsored coverage is expected to rise around 5 or 6 percent next year, benefits consultants say.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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