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DCCC puts Vern Buchanan and Mario Diaz-Ballart near the top of its ‘2018 Retirement Watch List’

Emboldened by the news that South Florida Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen will not run for re-election next year, the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee (DCCC) released its “2018 Republican Retirement Watchlist.”

While Alaska’s Don Young tops the list, Sarasota’s Vern Buchanan and Miami-Dade’s Mario Diaz Balart are listed second and third, respectively.

“Given the negative national environment for the Republican Party, the DCCC knows that there are more retirements to come, particularly in districts that tend to vote for Democrats in other elected positions,” says Tyler Law, national press secretary at the DCCC.

While Buchanan barely survived to win his very first run for his seat in 2006 against Democrat Christine Jennings, he has not since faced a serious challenge. He crushed Democrat Jan Schneider last fall, winning by almost 20 percentage points.

In response to the DCCC, Buchanan spokesperson Gretchen Anderson quipped, “Good to see they still have a sense of humor over there.”

Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate in the GOP House Caucus who has disagreed sharply with Donald Trump, insisted in her announcement that she would not run for re-election that Trump had nothing to do with her decision, which when she steps down next year will mark 30 years in Congress. But the DCCC isn’t buying that, saying that the likely motivating factors in her retirement was her “inability to defend House Republicans’ misplaced priorities and dysfunction in this very Democratic leaning district and the daunting prospect of running for reelection in the shadow of President Trump.”

While it’s true that Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by nearly 20 percentage points in Ros-Lehtinen’s CD 27 seat last November, it should be noted that she dusted off her Democratic opponent, Scott Fuhrman, by 10 percent points.

Here is the DCCC’s 2018 retirement watch list:

  1. Don Young (AK-AL)
  2. Vern Buchanan (FL-16)
  3. Mario Diaz-Ballart (FL-25)
  4. Fred Upton (MI-06)
  5. Frank Lobiondo (NJ-02)             
  6. Leonard Lance (NJ-07)
  7. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)
  8. Pete King (NY-02)
  9. Patrick Meehan (PA-07)
  10. Charlie Dent (PA-15)
  11. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA-03)
  12. Dave Reichert (WA-08)

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will not run for re-election in 2018

Democratic hopes to retake the House in 2018 received a boost Sunday, with the announcement that longtime South Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will not run for re-election.

“There was no epiphany. There was no moment, nothing that has happened that I’ve said, “I’ve got to move on,’” Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida’s 27th Congressional District, told the Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei in an exclusive interview. “It was just a realization that I could keep getting elected — but it’s not about getting elected.”

Ros-Lehtinen served in Congress for 29 years, first elected in 1988. Last November, she defeated Democrat Scott Fuhrman, a first-time candidate, by 10 percentage points — the closest margin in years. But Ros-Lehtinen — the first Hispanic woman and first Cuban-American ever elected to Congress — said she had no concerns about being re-elected in 2018 if she chose to retain the seat.

“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would not only win in this election, but I would win by a greater percentage,” Ros-Lehtinen said confidently.

Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 20 percentage points in Ros-Lehtinen’s district last year, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already boldly declaring that they’ll now take the seat next year. C

“As one of the most Democratic districts held by a Republican Representative, this district was always going to be competitive, ” said Cole Leiter, a spokesman for the DCCC. “Now it is all but guaranteed to be won by a Democrat who will finally provide the hard working people who live there the representation they deserve. As more vulnerable Republicans recognized the distance between their party and their districts, this retirement could well be the first of many.”

In January, the DCCC listed her, along with three other Florida Republicans, as part of a group of lawmakers targeted nationally in a midterm memo circulated to various Democratic allies.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is simply a force of nature,” said NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers. “Her tireless work ethic was only matched by her charismatic personality. She represented her South Florida district well and she will be dearly missed in Washington. I wish her and her family the best. I am confident we will keep this seat red in 2018.”

Ros-Lehtinen was one GOP House moderate who did not support the Paul Ryan led American Health Care Act that was pulled at the last hour back in March. She hasn’t sounded that enthusiastic about the amended health care bill that may be voted on this week, but she says that Trump is not the reason she is stepping down at the age of 64.

“It’s not been part of the calculation of retiring,” she said of Trump, adding, “I would be talking to you even if Hillary Clinton were president.”

Undoubtedly, there will be those announcing their candidacies for the seat over the next few months. Fuhrman already announced he would run again for the seat in 2018, as has Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

Fellow Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, who represents the adjoining South Florida’s 25th Congressional District, called Ros-Lehtinen “one of the most respected and admired” members of Congress. For almost four decades, Ileana has served our community with honor and integrity. From her days as an

“For almost four decades, Ileana has served our community with honor and integrity,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “From her days as an educator to the Florida Legislature, and now ending her tenure in Congress, Ileana truly exemplifies what it means to be a public servant. She never seeks political expediency and always puts the interests of her constituents first. From one corner of the globe to another, she is tireless in her crusade for human rights and democracy.

“To say Ileana is a trusted friend and mentor to me is an understatement; she is a part of my family, and I will dearly miss ‘mi hermana legislativa’ in the halls of Congress. I wish nothing but the best for Ileana, her husband Dexter, their children, and their grandchildren as she begins this next chapter in her life.”

Democrat Ted Deutch, part of the Florida delegation from bit further north in the 22nd Congressional District, called Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement a “tremendous loss” for both South Florida and the entire country.

“As a public servant, she has worked tirelessly for her constituents for over three decades. Hardly a day goes by where Ileana isn’t on the House floor celebrating a remarkable person or event in her district.

Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen after bipartisan delegation visit to Israel in July 2014. (Photo courtesy Ted Deutch)

“Ileana broke barriers as the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress and the first female Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She has been a stalwart champion for human rights around the world, a voice for the oppressed, an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ equality, and one of the most steadfast defenders of Israel. Her legislative contributions have led to some of the toughest international sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, and the promotion of democracy worldwide.

“From the moment I arrived in Congress, Ileana has been a friend and a partner. We have worked together countless times from championing equality to strengthening the U.S. — Israel relationship. It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve with her as Ranking Member of the Middle East Subcommittee. Her humor and good nature (see photo!) provides a welcome respite from the partisan challenges we face each day. Every Member of Congress should learn something from the way Ileana has conducted herself over the past 28 years. She has crossed the aisle to stand up for what she believes is right. She has stood firm in her convictions and stood up for those she represents even when it meant making tough political choices.

“As she finishes out her current term, I know that Ileana will work just as hard as she always has for the people of South Florida and on behalf of our country. I look forward to continuing to work alongside her for the next year and a half, and I will miss working with her when she is gone.”

Deutch’s statement included a photo of him and Ros-Lehtinen at a bipartisan delegation visit to Israel in July 2014.

Sharon Day says Donald Trump offered her a job in White House, mum on details

President Donald Trump has offered Republican Party of Florida National Committeewoman Sharon Day an as-yet-unannounced role in his administration.

Day, who has been with the Florida GOP since 2004, said she would provide more information about the job “at a later date.”

“I have been offered a position within the White House administration,” Day told the audience at the RPOF spring quarterly meeting Saturday morning at the Tampa DoubleTree Hotel.

Although she was not at liberty to divulge any details about the position, Day did elaborate, quipping: “We have gone through more vetting, and they know more about me than I know about me.”

Day recently stepped down from her role as co-chair of the Republican National Committee, a position she had held since 2011.

She’s served on the Executive Committee of the Broward County Republican Party since 1994, and in 1996 was elected as state committeewoman for the county party.

In reviewing Trump’s first 100 days as president, Day took a shot at the GOP-led Congress over the lack of a health care bill.

“I want to know what our Congress was doing for the past eight years as they were constantly passing repeal-and-replace, and then didn’t have anything to repeal and replace it with,” she said. “So I think that we have to ask our elected officials that put our president in a situation where he couldn’t repeal and replace because he doesn’t write the laws, he simply signs the law.”

Day followed that with a spirited defense of Trump’s accomplishments, which, for her, included signing executive orders protecting whistleblowers at the Veterans Affairs Department and rescinding at least six Obama-era executive orders that aimed to curb climate change and regulate carbon emissions.

And despite the adage from her mother that “you never talk politics or religion,” Day declared a need for proud Republicans to talk up, wherever they go, why they support Trump, including at grocery stores or church.

“That’s our job as leaders in this great party,” she said.

Experts: Long road ahead for Donald Trump offshore drilling order

President Donald Trump‘s executive order seeking to find new ocean expanses in the Atlantic and the Arctic for offshore drilling isn’t likely to reach its goals anytime soon, but instead will kick off a yearslong review and legal battle.

Trump signed the order Friday aimed at dismantling a key part of former President Barack Obama‘s environmental legacy.

“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration,” he said. “It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban and directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers.”

Despite Trump’s assertion that the nation needs to wean itself of foreign oil, U.S. oil imports have declined in recent years as domestic production boomed amid improved drilling techniques opening up once unreachable areas.

And environmental law and policy experts questioned Trump’s authority to reverse Obama’s withdrawal of certain areas in the Arctic or Atlantic to drilling, a question likely to be decided in the courts.

“It’s not quite as simple as the president signs something and it undoes the past,” said Sean Hecht, a University of California, Los Angeles environmental law professor.

For instance, Obama used his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect Arctic areas from oil drilling late last year, a move Trump’s order seeks to undo. At the time, Obama administration lawyers said they were confident that move would be upheld in court.

Legal experts say the law has never been used by a president to remove protections, just to create them.

Trump’s order also directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to conduct a review of marine monuments and sanctuaries designated this past decade. Obama issued monument proclamations under the Antiquities Act, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic, which protected that swath of sea from drilling.

Legal scholars said Trump would enter uncharted waters if he seeks to undo a national monument proclamation in an effort to remove environmental protections.

Under Trump’s order, Interior Secretary Zinke will start to review the government’s plan that dictates which federal locations are open to offshore drilling, known as the 5-year plan.

The administration can redo the 5-year-plan, but it’s a long process. Zinke said the leases scheduled under the existing plan would remain in effect during the review, which he estimated would take years before any new leases are possible.

Still, Pam Giblin, an Austin, Texas-based environmental attorney who represents energy companies said Trump’s order is welcome to her clients despite the limitations they see.

“Every one of these orders is primarily aspirational. But it is starting to change the lens through which government is talking about fossil fuels,” she said.

The new 5-year plan could indeed open new areas of oil and gas exploration in waters off Virginia, Georgia and North and South Carolina, where drilling has been blocked for decades. Many lawmakers in those states support offshore drilling, and Alaska’s governor and its Washington delegation all supported the order.

But the plan faces opposition from the fishing industry, tourism groups and even the U.S. military, which has said Atlantic offshore drilling could hurt military maneuvers and interfere with missile tests needed to help protect the East Coast.

More than 120 coastal communities from New Jersey to Florida have passed resolutions opposing any Atlantic drilling.

“Allowing offshore drilling is a forever decision that will forever change our way of life for the worse,” said Frank Knapp, president of Columbia, South Carolina-based Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast.

Environmental groups are preparing for the fight to come, saying that opening up vast areas to drilling harms whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbates global warming.

“We will go to court to enforce the law and ensure President Obama’s protections remain in place,” Trip Van Noppen, president of the environmental legal organization Earthjustice, said in a statement.

Re[published with permission of The Associated Press.

Americans offer hope, prayer in assessing Donald Trump’s 100 days

They are young and old: a high school student who can’t yet vote, a Vietnam vet who did so proudly. They hail from all corners of the United States and very different walks of life: a “downhome boy” from Kentucky, a third-generation Mexican-American from Texas, a stay-at-home mom in Pennsylvania, an Iranian immigrant in Los Angeles.

Some oppose Donald Trump and all that he stands for, while others voted enthusiastically for him. Now, they are critiquing him.

One hundred days into Trump’s presidency, The Associated Press returned to some of the everyday people interviewed these past months to ask them to write a letter to the president, evaluating the job he’s done so far and looking ahead to the months to come.

One supporter tells the president he “might have fallen a little short” — on Obamacare, in particular — but he signs off “with hope.” A refugee implores Trump to “make America more friendly,” but finds optimism in the president’s reaction to this month’s chemical attack in Syria: “I hope this is a turning point.” A Trump objector calls his biggest accomplishment “waking up the public to fight.” She offers this advice: “Make decisions with your heart. It will give you wisdom.”

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FROM RURAL AMERICA, A SUPPORTER SEES HOPE IN TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY

Alan Halsey, 31, is a self-described “downhome boy” from Campton, Kentucky, who along with his wife owns and operates The Swift Creek Courier, a weekly newspaper, and Halsey’s Country Store, “a small business that is a chunk of 1950 set down in 2017.” He says he works seven days a week to try to provide for his family, but is struggling and tired of government regulation and red tape.

He wrote:

” … I supported you quite strongly in the 2016 election, even to the point of hanging one of your signs on the front door of my business. I particularly related to your foreign policy of ‘America First,’ and your promise to bring business back to the United States. So far, I believe you’re heading in the right direction on that front, and I find a glimmer of hope in the future of the American economy.

“Overall, I think you might have fallen a little short on your first 100 days, but I don’t put a lot of weight into a time frame that small. Provided you serve two terms, 100 days is about 4 percent of that. I still feel that something needs to be done with the Affordable Care Act, although I’m not certain exactly what. … I know many ACA recipients that visit a doctor more than once a week, while those that purchase their own insurance wait until a visit to a doctor is imperative to their survival. There must be a middle to that scenario. …”

He signed his letter: “With Hope.”

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CANCER SURVIVOR WORRIES OVER TRUMP’S PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS, BUT PRAYS FOR HIM

Rebecca Esparza, 45, is a freelance writer in Corpus Christi, Texas, who didn’t vote for Trump. A cancer survivor, Esparza fears proposed budget cuts targeting the nation’s premier medical research institution, the National Institutes of Health, will hurt Americans who battle illness.

She wrote:

“. I cannot say I’m proud of your work so far. However, I have respect for the Office of the President, even if I disagree with your political aspirations. … I could write a dissertation on the many ways I disagree with your political ideals. I’m a third-generation Mexican-American, born and raised in South Texas. Your disdain for Mexico, its descendants and immigrants in general troubles me. Your plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of Americans with no other health insurance options, leaves me anguished.

“But what distresses me most is your plan to cut nearly $6 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). On Thanksgiving Day in 2001, at age 30, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. … Cancer research saved my life. … The cuts you are proposing are disconcerting not only for cancer survivors, but for millions of Americans suffering from many types of chronic and rare diseases. …

“I’ll be praying for you, President Trump. … I pray you will carefully consider how your decisions have life or death consequences for hard-working Americans.”

Read more about Esparza.

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ONE-TIME OBAMA VOTER FEELS PRIDE IN TRUMP’S WORK

Laverne Jones Gore, 60, owns an executive leadership development company in Cleveland and voted for Trump after previously supporting Barack Obama. Gore calls herself a “middle-class American who happens to be black” and says she felt uncomfortable voicing her opinion during the Obama years, but Trump has “made me proud to be an American again.” Part of a military family — her deceased husband was a Marine and a son graduated from West Point — Gore’s one hesitation these past 100 days is over Trump’s airstrike in Syria.

She wrote:

” … Mr. President you have absolutely met my expectations. I actually believe you have shown a strength that I had not given to you, and I am surprised by your willingness to meet head on the challenges and resistance within your governing bodies. I don’t believe you have been afforded an opportunity to really show us what you have to offer in the form of leadership of our nation.

“I have no issue with you as it relates to ‘Russians.’ I personally believe most of it was contrived. I have no issue with you as it relates to immigration. I think the issues were in need of control. … I have some reservations about your use of Twitter, but I understand the difficulty you have getting your intended message out.

“Yes, you surprised me with the Syria strike and I am not certain how I feel about another war or thought of war. I am still contemplating your action and observing the responses to come from the world theatre as they absorb your full intent.”

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‘YOUR SIGNATURE CRUSHED MY FAMILY’

Marjan Vayghan, 32, an artist and writer in Los Angeles, parses no words in her evaluation of Trump. An Iranian immigrant who came to the U.S. with her family in the 1990s, Vayghan’s uncle was caught up in the chaos that erupted after Trump signed his first travel ban order in January. Ali Vayeghan was detained at the Los Angeles airport and put back on a plane back to Iran, even though he had an immigrant visa. He returned nearly a week later, after a federal judge blocked the order.

She wrote:

” … We appreciate the greatness of our country and our freedoms, because we’ve consciously fled other places with the hopes of making a better life here. We’ve undergone ‘extreme vetting’ and left behind our loved ones for a chance to be free and follow our dreams.

“On January 27th, everything changed as your signature made my uncle disappear … The following day I saw my father cry for the first time in my life. My mom got sick. I felt afraid and alone. My parents started plans with the expectation we were all about to be rounded up and sent to internment camps. Later that day, we realized our family wasn’t alone in LAX. Countless people showed up, chanting supportive messages and singing songs of love like “this land was made for you and me. …

“As your executive orders crush the immigrants and native-born people of this country together, I have hope that the pressure will forge us into a stronger union. … Seven days into this ‘un-presidented’ adventure, your signature crushed my family. The next day we were embraced by the country’s love and support.”

Read more about Vayghan.

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A BANKER IN COAL COUNTRY TELLS TRUMP TO ‘PROVE THEM WRONG’

James McDonald, 57, of Tazewell, Virginia, is a Trump supporter who believes the president has “brought integrity and honor back to the White House, our country and the way the world views our country.” An assistant vice president at a bank in a small mining community, McDonald’s priorities include reviving the economy and replacing the Affordable Care Act. He sums up his advice for Trump in three words: “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.”

He wrote:

“The fact that you mean what you say and say what you mean is what we have needed in our president for the last eight years. This is one of the few elections that the way I voted was for what was in the best interest of my local community. The war on coal that was waged by the former administration devastated our area. …

” … Since the inauguration my only concern was the handling of the repeal and replace of the Affordable Health Care Act. I felt like you comprised too much, and came close to signing a bad bill. I commend you on your continued efforts to enact this change, however if it’s not a good bill please don’t compromise too much.

” … Of course, keeping America safe is your No. 1 priority, after that in my opinion it is putting people back to work. One quote from the Republican convention that was impressive was when Donald Trump Jr. said that ‘when people tell him it can’t be done, that guarantees that he gets it done.’ They say you can’t make America Great Again. Prove them wrong. …”

Read more about McDonald.

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A FINANCIAL PLANNER URGES TRUMP TO ‘READ. LISTEN. LEARN. PREPARE.’

Brooke Streech, 44, runs a nonprofit in Phoenix that provides financial planning and education for those who cannot afford an adviser. She voted for Hillary Clinton because she believes she was “more qualified, smarter and cared more about people.” The mother of two boys, 10 and 12, Streech urges Trump going forward to “Read. Listen. Learn. Prepare. Work hard to understand the complex issues you are required to face.”

She wrote:

“Your lack of experience and intelligence has certainly shown itself to be an issue so far in your presidency. It might be OK to go into office with your incredible ignorance if you were to surround yourself with smart and talented people. Unfortunately, you have done the opposite. Your administration appears to be run less efficiently and with more chaos than any other in history.

” … I would implore you to spend some time reflecting on how you get your information. Find advisers and spokespeople who are smart, good at what they do, and might disagree with you once in a while with the aim to create dialogue and make decisions with all of the information available..”

Read more about Streech.

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REFUGEE PRAYS GOD WILL GIVE THE PRESIDENT WISDOM

Suliman Bandas, 37, is a refugee from Sudan who could not vote in the election because he is a legal permanent resident and not a citizen. He teaches English as a Second Language to other immigrants in Lincoln, Nebraska. He advises Trump to “make America more friendly, beautiful and strong — by caring for others and defending the weak.”

He wrote:

“I grew up in southern Sudan, which was engaged in a long civil war with the north. In 1986, my uncle … took my father, a teacher, and other civilians in a helicopter to areas that needed aid. I watched from our backyard as that helicopter was shot down. … In 2005, I was accepted to come to the U.S., a place where I can be safe and call home. …

“In my job I help teach refugees, and every day they express to me their worries that this country may reject refugees in the months to come. I have heard you express concern about the Syrian people and I hope this is a turning point. Please, Mr. President, let America continue to treat refugees the same way God wanted them to be treated. That is what made America what it is — strong and different from any other country on the face of the planet. The Bible says: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. …” (Leviticus 19:33-34) Dear Mr. President, may God guide you, give you wisdom and spirit of understanding in these very challenging moments.”

Read more about Bandas.

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A KANSAN FEELS ‘AMERICAN PRIDE AGAIN’ OVER A LEADER WHO ‘BELIEVES IN ALL OF US’

Rick Yearick, 50, is an ad salesman at the local paper in Liberal, Kansas. An avid Trump supporter, he praises the president for a number of things, including flexing his muscles with “decisive action against those who perform badly on the world stage.” He says the president’s biggest failure so far is not successfully uniting Republicans behind him.

He wrote:

“Keep fighting for a secure America with your travel ban for those who seek to do us harm, building a wall to secure a sound immigration policy, and by serving Americans and not trying to be President of the World. …

“I commend you on the selection of (Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch) for his commitment to the Constitution rather than a revisionist who interprets it to fit their political needs. I am sure that given a chance at more appointments, you will do the same.

“I feel American pride again knowing that our president believes in all of us. For the past several years, I could not relate to the direction we were headed as we were divided and at each other’s throats. Now, we are uniting behind the common man with the leadership of a president who honors us all. …”

Read more about Yearick.

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‘LUCKILY, I DON’T HAVE TO FIGHT YOU ALONE’

Kate Young, 43, is a stay-at-home mother in West Chester, Pennsylvania, who says she couldn’t sit idly by after Trump’s election. So she and her neighbors began holding rallies every week to fight to keep the Affordable Care Act, which helped her family after her husband lost his job.

She wrote:

” … When you won the election, I worried that you would put business profits ahead of the environment, and that you would involve the United States in a new, possibly nuclear, war. Today, much sooner than I feared, both dire predictions have come true. Congress rolled back environmental protections … You bombed Syria, and as I write this letter, the news reports that you dropped the ‘Mother of all Bombs’ on Afghanistan. Please don’t go nuclear!

“Every Friday, starting January 20th, I rally with my neighbors in front of Congressman Ryan Costello‘s office. We fight to protect the Affordable Care Act. Claire’s son needs the ACA to manage Type 1 diabetes. Lisa needed the ACA to cover prenatal care and delivery of a healthy baby after her husband left her, uninsured and 10 weeks pregnant. Dr. Jack’s infant patients need the ACA to cover life-saving treatment and eliminate the lifetime caps that they otherwise might exceed before ever being discharged from the NICU. …

“Luckily, I don’t have to fight you alone. Most Americans did not vote for you. We won’t stop holding you accountable for every infraction of American laws, values, or norms.”

Read more about Young.

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INSURANCE AGENT SAYS TRUMP’S LOVE OF COUNTRY ‘IS REFRESHINGLY OBVIOUS’

Carolee Upshur, 60, a life insurance agent in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, says she voted for Trump because he seemed like the only candidate who “had the backbone to withstand the attacks that would come as a result of any attempt to ‘drain the swamp.'” She encourages him to “please move forward with the building of the wall, and do not compromise with the Republican establishment.” As for any failure? “Obamacare. He was elected to get rid of Obamacare.”

She wrote:

” … I have been utterly amazed at your ability to accomplish anything in the environment as it exists in Washington. … You jumped in feet first and set out to do everything you promised during your campaign. …

“I applaud your move to curtail the illegal immigration and build the wall, and continue to be frustrated at the attempts of the progressives to use the judicial system to try and block your attempts to fulfill your duties as president. … I was absolutely thrilled to see the decisiveness with which you acted in Syria and Afghanistan, which sent a strong message to the world that there ‘is a new sheriff in town.’ It is wonderful to have a ‘man’s man’ leading this country from a position of love of country and peace through strength. …

“Please know that I continue to pray for you daily, that God will hold your family together and protect you all.”

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LA TEEN: FOCUS ON HELPING PEOPLE, NOT MAKING MONEY

Amellia Sones, 15, is a high school student in Los Angeles who was spurred to help organize a protest against Trump after his election. Sones says in her letter that even though she’s not yet old enough to vote, she has opinions about the job Trump has done. For one, she worries the younger generation is watching him “act inappropriately and out of line” and will conclude that it’s acceptable behavior.

She wrote:

“. One major thing I do not like is putting a ban on immigrants from entering the United States. I know you were trying to keep terrorists from entering our country, but I do not believe banning immigrants from certain countries is an effective way of doing this. And, after all, the United States is called the melting pot of many nations. …

“Your biggest failure (and there have already been so many) is NOT making an effort to bring our country together. To me, that’s a big part of a president’s job. … I only ask that you start watching the way you speak and try listening to what your people are asking of you. Stop arguing with celebrities over Twitter and start acting like an actual president.”

Read more about Sones.

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EX-DEMOCRAT CALLS TRUMP THE ‘LAST CHANCE TO TURN OUR COUNTRY AROUND’

Ed Harry, 70, of Plymouth, Pennsylvania, is a retired union official and ex-Democratic activist who became a Trump voter. A Vietnam veteran who recalls being spit on and called a baby-killer, Harry encourages Trump to “stay away from any wars.” His biggest failure, he says, is “not having his house in order; all the turmoil in the White House from the staff.”

He wrote:

“I laughed when I heard you were running for president. I didn’t think you had a chance. As the campaign went along, I found out that the Democrats, Republicans … China, India, Mexico, all were opposed to you. At that moment I knew I had my candidate. .

“Considering all the opposition you have had against you, I think you deserve a C+ rating. You’ve accomplished quite a lot: Neil Gorsuch appointment … get rid of a lot of Obama executive orders … “The WALL,” or at least some immigration enforcement I would like to see take place this year. Finally, most of all, do NOT let the neocons or both political parties corrupt your administration. I do, in fact, believe YOU are OUR last chance to turn OUR COUNTRY around!!!”

Read more about Harry.

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‘MAKE DECISIONS WITH YOUR HEART. IT WILL GIVE YOU WISDOM’

Susan McClain, 52, works in customer service for a tech company in Aurora, Colorado. She was a Clinton supporter, and says the greatest thing to come from Trump’s presidency so far is “waking up the public to fight … and stand up for American lives, values, and aspirations.” Still, she has some advice for the president as his term goes on: “Make decisions with your heart. It will give you wisdom.”

She wrote:

“Are you meeting my expectations so far? Sadly, yes. Your first 100 days as president was tragic for Americans and the globe. … Regardless, I would like to thank you. As you rampaged all over America’s values, we understood more deeply what we love and cherish. And, we woke up.

“In you, we see that wealth is not success.

“In you, we see that unchecked ego is dangerous.

“In you, we see the mighty power of words.

“In you, we see that winning must include all of us, not just the rich and powerful.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Senate confirms Alex Acosta as Donald Trump’s secretary of labor

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Alex Acosta as Labor secretary, filling out President Donald Trump‘s Cabinet as he approaches his 100th day in office.

The 60-38 vote confirms Acosta to the post. Once sworn as the nation’s 27th Labor secretary, the son of Cuban immigrants will lead a sprawling agency that enforces more than 180 federal laws covering about 10 million employers and 125 million workers.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., spoke for many Republicans with a statement issued just after the vote saying he hopes Acosta’s focus will be “promoting labor policies that are free of unnecessarily burdensome federal regulations.” Scott said he wants Acosta to permanently revoke rules governing financial advisers and adding Americans eligible for overtime pay.

Democrats said any Labor secretary should advocate for the American workers to whom Trump promised so much during his upstart presidential campaign. They said Acosta has given no such commitment.

“Acosta failed this basic test,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Acosta has been a federal prosecutor, a civil rights chief at the Justice Department and a member of the National Labor Relations Board. He will arrive at the top post with relatively little clear record on some of the top issues facing the administration over key pocketbook issues, such as whether to expand the pool of American workers eligible for overtime pay.

Acosta wasn’t Trump’s first choice for the job. Former fast food CEO Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration last month, on the eve of his confirmation vote, after becoming a political headache for the new administration.

Puzder acknowledged having hired a housekeeper not authorized to work in the U.S. and paying the related taxes years later — after Trump nominated him — and came under fire from Democrats for other issues related to his company and his private life.

Acosta’s ascension would come at a key moment for Trump, just two days before he reaches the symbolic, 100-day marker. The White House has sought to cross the threshold with its own list of Trump’s accomplishments.

Trump can say the Acosta vote was bipartisan, because eight Democrats and one independent voted yes. Joining the Republicans in his favor were Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jon Tester of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia. Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine also voted for Acosta.

Labor secretary is the last Cabinet post for Trump to fill. Trump’s choice for U.S. trade representative, a job considered Cabinet-level, is awaiting a Senate vote.

From the beginning, Acosta’s was a quiet march to confirmation that stood out because it didn’t attract the deep partisan battles faced by some of Trump’s other nominees, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Justice Neil Gorsuch‘s nomination provoked such a fight that majority Senate Republicans used the “nuclear option” to remove the 60-vote filibuster barrier for Supreme Court picks.

Thursday’s vote marks the fourth time Acosta has been confirmed for the Senate.

Democrats and most labor groups were mostly muted in their response to Acosta’s nomination. At his confirmation hearing, Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Warren hammered Acosta for answers on a selection of issues important to labor and whether Acosta would cave to political pressure from Trump. Acosta refused to answer the policy questions until he’s confirmed, and he vowed to be an independent and fair voice for workers. Both senators said they had great concerns, and both voted no.

Our standard can’t be ‘not Puzder,'” Murray said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

But tellingly, even as Acosta’s nomination wound through the Senate, Democrats and their allies also tried to move on to other, labor-related issues — namely, a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour, which Trump opposes.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department’s online landing page bears a glimpse of Acosta’s policy priorities: “Buy American, Hire American.”

That’s the title of Trump’s executive order this week directing the secretaries of labor and other agencies to issue guidance within 60 days on policies that would “ensure that, to the extent permitted by law” federal aid “maximize the use of materials produced in the United States, including manufactured products; components of manufactured products; and materials such as steel, iron, aluminum, and cement.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump tweets on Puerto Rico infuriate Puerto Ricans, raise budget deal questions

President Donald Trump has thrown Puerto Rico into his Twitter cannon, bringing angry responses from Puerto Rican leaders and activists in Florida, including from Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, who charged Trump was declaring war against Puerto Rico.

The president sent out two tweets, one Wednesday night and one Thursday morning, tying Puerto Rico relief to Democrats’ budget demands – and declaring that he won’t go for it.

Behind the tweets is a quiet little budget battle also coming to the attention of Puerto Ricans, as Democrats and Republicans work on a deal to help the island. But there also are disputed reports the pact could pit two desperate island needs against each other: relief for health care, and relief from crushing debts, potentially dividing Puerto Ricans.

But Trump’s tweets appear to focus on his opposition to providing anything to help the islanders, and on that point Puerto Ricans in Florida are shouting back in unison.

“Democrats are trying to bail out insurance companies from disasters #ObamaCare, and Puerto Rico with your tax dollars. Sad!” was the first tweet.

“The Democrats want to shut government if we don’t bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. No!” read the second.

“This is absolutely FALSE,” said Orlando activist Phillip Arroyo, founder of the Coalition for Puerto Rico Justice in Orlando, contending that Puerto Ricans are only seeking equity.

“President Donald Trump has declared war against Puerto Rico,” charged Soto, the Orlando Democrat who is of Puerto Rican descent and whose Florida’s 9th Congressional District has hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican residents.

“Mr Trump continuing in his role as Divider in Chief, has his new staw man,” bemoaned Anthony Suarez, president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Central Florida. “During the election, it was the Mexicans, and undocumented individuals. Now it is the Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens but have no voice in Congress to protect their interest.

“Why? Because they were invaded by U.S. forces in 1898 and kept as a ‘territory’ without rights for 119 years,” Suarez continued. “Perfect straw men for attempting to balance his budget priorities.”

Other Puerto Rican voices are responding widespread, particularly throughout Central Florida, ground zero for the Puerto Rican diaspora in Florid. Responses are coming through social media, decrying Trump’s apparent dismissal of the struggling American territory as abandonment and worse.

The president’s tweets are an apparent reference to a deal being negotiated by Democrats and Republicans in Congress this week.

Democrats are pushing to provide at least $500 million in the budget for additional Medicaid coverage and health care relief for under-covered Puerto Ricans. [At least one published report suggested $600 million.] Republicans reportedly have countered with an offer of $146 million. Negotiations are underway.

“He [Trump] is attacking our push for $500 million in Medicaid and Affordable Care Act funding for the island,” Soto stated. “We Puerto Ricans are American citizens who serve in large numbers in the U.S. Military and pay numerous U.S. taxes. Our Dem votes are essential to pass the budget and we’ll continue to fight for our values. We are not asking for a bailout we are asking for equal treatment”-

Puerto Rico is suffering from separate but related crises, a collapse of its federally under-funded [compared with states] health care system, leading doctors and other medical professionals to flee the island in droves because they can’t get paid; and an economic collapse starting from $75 billion in government debt the commonwealth has declared it cannot pay, which is leading to widespread cutbacks and even closures of schools, hospitals, utilities, police, fire, and other public services.

The PROMESA deal struck last year was to address the problems through economic, regulatory and law reforms, federally-manded austerity measures, some creative financing proposals, and some critical debt restructuring. But now that too may be on the line.

Reports Wednesday and Thursday indicated that the Congressional budget deal in the works may also come with a hitch that already is dividing Puerto Ricans on the prospect: health care relief – in exchange for a delay or revocation of debt relief mechanisms set up in PROMESA.

Soto indicated he has not seen or heard anything about such a hitch being included in negotiations.

He said he has spoken with key Democratic negotiators about the matter, including House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey of New York.

Still, if such a hitch does appear in a budget deal, opposition likely would arise quickly among stateside Puerto Ricans. It’s already arising.

“Darren Soto or any other member of Congress should not celebrate if the $600 million in health care for Puerto Rico is approved in the U.S. Congress,” Arroyo said. “We already know the funds approval was conditioned on exchange of freezing Puerto Rico’s ability to restructure its debt so hedge funds and bondholders can continue to get paid while school on the island are shut down.”

 

Donald Trump tax cut: Huge, vague and likely mild boost for economy

President Donald Trump‘s team boasted Wednesday that its tax-cut plan would lighten Americans’ financial burdens, ignite economic growth and vastly simplify tax filing.

Yet the proposal so far remains short of vital details, including how it would be paid for. And based on the few specifics spelled out so far, most experts suggest that it would add little to growth while swelling the budget deficit and potentially handing large windfalls to wealthier taxpayers.

Trump’s plan would replace the current seven income tax brackets with three, and the top bracket would drop from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. It would also slash the corporate rate from 35 percent all the way to 15 percent, a boon to most companies even though many don’t pay the full tax now. With tax credits and other loopholes, most corporations pay closer to 20 percent, according to calculations by JPMorgan.

Perhaps the most contentious plank would enable taxpayers with business income — including those wealthy enough to pay the top tax rate — to instead pay the new 15 percent corporate rate. That’s because Trump would apply the corporate rate to “pass through” businesses. Pass-throughs include partnerships such as law firms and hedge funds as well as most small businesses — from the local florist to the family-owned restaurant on Main Street.

What’s more, some privately held large companies — including Trump’s own real estate empire — are structured as pass-throughs and would benefit, too.

Here’s a closer look at Trump’s proposal and its likely impact:

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WHO BENEFITS?

It’s hard to say because the administration has released so few details. The three new income tax rates would be 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. But Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, weren’t ready Wednesday to say at what income levels these new rates would kick in.

Tax experts said far more details were needed to determine how average Americans would be affected.

“The impact on Joe Taxpayer is unknown,” said Marc Gerson, vice chair of the tax department of law firm Miller & Chevalier in Washington. “There’s not enough specificity. It’s hard for taxpayers to determine where they’ll come out.”

Cohn asserted that the plan would cut taxes “especially for low and middle income families.” It purports to do so in part by doubling the standard deduction, which is used by taxpayers who don’t itemize their tax deductions.

At the same time, the Trump plan would eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, thereby benefiting some of the richest taxpayers. And that’s on top of shrinking the corporate tax rate that many affluent individuals could likely capitalize on.

___

WHY CUT CORPORATE TAXES?

By making corporations more profitable, the Trump administration hopes to encourage more business spending on equipment — from computers to factories and machinery.

Doing so, in turn, could make the economy more efficient and accelerate growth and hiring. Economic growth has been stuck at about 2 percent a year since the recession ended in 2009. Mnuchin says the administration wants to accelerate it above 3 percent, a pace it hasn’t touched since 2005.

The corporate tax cuts are also intended to encourage more businesses to stay in the United States, which now has the highest corporate rate among advanced economies.

Many large corporations are enthusiastic about lower rates and say they support the elimination of loopholes, which both reduce revenue and make taxes more complicated.

___

WHO’D BENEFIT FROM THE CORPORATE RATE CUT?

Aside from most large companies, many partnerships and small businesses would benefit because they’re structured as pass-throughs, which derives from the fact that they pass on their profits to their owners.

Those owners now pay individual income tax rates, which top out at 39.6 percent. With the pass-through rate dropped to 15 percent, those taxpayers could enjoy an enormous tax cut.

The Trump team stressed the benefits that might flow to small businesses. But the richest windfalls would flow to the wealthy — lawyers, hedge fund managers, consultants and other big earners. Nearly 75 percent of pass-through income flows to the 10 percent wealthiest taxpayers, according to the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“It would tremendously help high earners,” says Brian Thompson, a certified public accountant in Chicago.

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback eliminated state taxes on pass-throughs, which turned out to be a boon for Bill Self, the coach of the University of Kansas’ men’s basketball team. He had previously set up his own company, according to state media reports. As a result, he paid little state income tax despite earning nearly $3 million a year.

Many people, particularly wealthy Americans, could set up companies and reclassify their paychecks as “business income” and have it taxed at 15 percent, experts say. In Kansas, the number of pass-through businesses jumped to more than double the level the state expected, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That cost the state revenue without spurring more job creation.

Mnuchin said the Treasury would issue rules to prevent wealthy people from capitalizing on the lower rate. But many experts are skeptical.

“Good luck with that,” said Mark Mazur, director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and a former Treasury official under President Barack Obama. “The tax agencies tend to be at least a couple of steps behind the businesses.”

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HOW ELSE WOULD BIG BUSINESSES BENEFIT?

The administration is also proposing to tax only corporate income earned in the United States. This is known as a “territorial” system. It would replace the current worldwide system, under which corporations pay tax on income earned in the U.S. and overseas.

Yet companies can avoid the tax if they keep their foreign earnings overseas. Many businesses have kept hundreds of billions of dollars outside the United States.

Mnuchin said Trump’s plan would encourage corporations to return the money to the United States and invest it in plants and equipment. Some analysts counter that corporations might instead use the money to pay dividends to shareholders.

___

WHAT ABOUT THE DEFICIT AND GROWTH?

The government’s budget deficit could explode under the plan, offsetting many of the benefits for the economy, economists say. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s rough estimate puts the loss of revenue at $5.5 trillion over 10 years.

Mnuchin argued that the tax cuts would spur faster growth, which, in turn, would produce more tax revenue. And the elimination of tax deductions and other loopholes would raise revenue as well, he contended.

But the Trump team offered few details on which deductions would be dropped — a move that would likely spark ferocious opposition from the beneficiaries of those deductions. And most economists don’t accept the notion that growth would accelerate enough to offset the lost revenue.

Alan Cole, an economist at the right-leaning Tax Foundation, calculates that the corporate tax cuts alone would reduce government revenue by $2 trillion over 10 years. That would require growth to accelerate nearly a full percentage point, to 2.8 percent a year, from its current level. Yet Cole forecasts that growth would increase only 0.4 percent annually.

Other economists say that if the cuts balloon the deficit, the resulting jump in government borrowing would swell interest rates and make it harder for businesses and households to borrow and spend.

Ethan Harris, chief global economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says such a “crowding out” effect can cancel out any benefits to the economy.

___

SO WILL THE ECONOMY BENEFIT AT ALL?

Most economists forecast that a modest tax-cut package — smaller than Trump’s — is far more likely to become law. With the deficit rising by less, a smaller cut could raise growth to 2.5 percent a year, from its roughly 2 percent pace now, Harris said.

If Trump’s proposals became law, depending on the details, growth could accelerate more quickly, Harris added. But the Federal Reserve would likely counter such acceleration with more short-term rate hikes, to forestall rapid inflation. And that move, in turn, would likely slow the economy.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s 100-days promises: Fewer than half carried out

Sure enough, the big trans-Pacific trade deal is toast, climate change action is on the ropes and various regulations from the Obama era have been scrapped. It’s also a safe bet President Donald Trump hasn’t raced a bicycle since Jan. 20, keeping that vow.

Add a Supreme Court justice — no small feat — and call these promises kept.

But where’s that wall? Or the promised trade punishment against China — will the Chinese get off scot-free from “the greatest theft in the history of the world”? What about that “easy” replacement for Obamacare? How about the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and huge tax cut that were supposed to be in motion by now?

Trump’s road to the White House, paved in big, sometimes impossible pledges, has detoured onto a byway of promises deferred or left behind, an AP analysis found.

Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day “contract” with voters — “This is my pledge to you” — he’s accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don’t require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

He’s abandoned several and failed to deliver quickly on others, stymied at times by a divided Republican Party and resistant federal judges. Of 10 promises that require Congress to act, none has been achieved and most have not been introduced.

“I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days,” the president bragged in a recent interview with AP, even as he criticized the marker as an “artificial barrier.”

In truth, his 100-day plan remains mostly a to-do list that will spill over well beyond Saturday, his 100th day.

Some of Trump’s promises were obviously hyperbole to begin with. Don’t hold your breath waiting for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl to be dropped out of an airplane without a parachute, as Trump vowed he’d do at many of his campaign rallies. China’s leader got a fancy dinner, complete with “beautiful” chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago this month, not the promised “McDonald’s hamburger” and humble pie.

But many promises were meant to be taken seriously. Trump clearly owes his supporters a Mexico border wall, even if it doesn’t end up being a foot taller than the Great Wall of China.

One page of his 100-day manifesto is devoted to legislation he would fight to pass in 100 days. None of it has been achieved.

The other page lists 18 executive actions and intentions he promised to pursue — many on Day One. He has followed through on fewer than a dozen, largely through the use of executive orders, and the White House is boasting that he will set a post-World War II record when he signs more this week.

That’s a change in tune.

“We need people in Washington that don’t go around signing executive orders because they can’t get people into a room and get some kind of a deal that’s negotiated,” he declared in New Hampshire in March 2015. “We need people that know how to lead, and we don’t have that. We have amateurs.”

Efforts to provide affordable child care and paid maternity leave, to make college more affordable and to invest in urban areas have been all but forgotten. That’s despite the advantage of a Republican-controlled Congress, which the White House failed to pull together behind Trump’s first attempt to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

An AP reporter who followed Trump throughout the presidential campaign collected scores of promises he made along the way, from the consequential to the fanciful. Here are some of them, and his progress so far:

___

ENERGY and the ENVIRONMENT:

— Lift President Barack Obama‘s roadblocks on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Done. Keystone XL is revived and construction of the Dakota Access is completed.

— Lift restrictions on mining coal and drilling for oil and natural gas.

Done. Trump has unraveled a number of Obama-era restrictions and initiated a review of the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

— Cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and pull out of the Paris climate accord

Nope. Trump has yet to make a decision on Paris. His aides are torn.

___

ECONOMY and TRADE:

— Pass a tax overhaul. “Just think about what can be accomplished in the first 100 days of a Trump administration,” he told his supporters again and again in the final weeks of the campaign. “We are going to have the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan.” He promised a plan that would reduce rates dramatically both for corporations and the middle class.

Nowhere close. Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on, and his administration’s new package is in its early stages, not only missing the first 100 days but likely to miss a new August deadline set by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Some details may emerge this week.

—Designate China a currency manipulator, setting the stage for possible trade penalties because “we’re like the piggy bank that’s being robbed. We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Abandoned. Trump says he doesn’t want to punish China when it is cooperating in a response to North Korean provocations. He also says China has stopped manipulating its currency for unfair trade advantage. But China was moving away from that behavior well before he took office. Also set aside: repeated vows to slap high tariffs on Chinese imports.

—Announce his intention to renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Backtracked, in essence. A draft of his administration’s plan for NAFTA proposes only a mild rewrite. But in his AP interview, he threatened anew to terminate the deal if his goals are not met in a renegotiation.

— Direct his commerce secretary and trade representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly hurt American workers.

Done. Trump has initiated plenty of studies over the past 100 days.

— Slap a 35 percent tariff on goods from companies that ship production abroad. Force companies like Apple and Nabisco to make their products in the U.S.

Nope.

—Embark on a massive $1 trillion effort to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, including airports, roads and bridges.

Not yet.

__

SECURITY, DEFENSE and IMMIGRATION:

— Immediately suspend the Syrian refugee program.

Trump tried, but the first version of his travel ban was blocked by the courts. A revised version dropped references to Syrian refugees entirely. That was blocked, too. And he has yet to mention another campaign pledge: to deport Syrian refugees already settled in the U.S.

— Inform his generals they have 30 days to submit a new plan for defeating the Islamic State group.

Trump did indeed order up a plan. It’s unclear what it is since it has yet to be made public.

— Suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” where he says vetting is too difficult.

Trump’s effort to bar immigration temporarily from some Muslim-majority countries has been stymied by courts.

— Implement “extreme” immigration vetting techniques.

In progress. The Homeland Security Department is considering a number of measures, like asking for visitors’ phone contacts and social media passwords.

—Build an “impenetrable physical wall” along the length of the southern border, and make Mexico pay for it.

The government has been soliciting bids and test sections could be built as soon as this summer. Mexico is not paying for this work.

—End federal funding to “sanctuary cities” — places where local officials are considered by Washington to be insufficiently cooperative in arresting or detaining people in the country illegally.

The Justice Department has threatened to do so, but there are legal limits.

— Immediately deport the estimated 2 million “criminal aliens” living in the country, including gang members, in joint operations with local, state and federal law enforcement.

Deportations have not increased. Arrests of people in the U.S. illegally are up and illegal border crossings are significantly down.

—Cancel visas for foreign countries that won’t take back criminals deported by the U.S.

There’s been no discussion of this yet.

—”Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties,” one of which allows young people brought into the country as children to stay and work.

Trump has made no effort to end the program, even though it would take a single phone call. In fact, he told AP these young people can “rest easy” and not fear deportation.

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GOVERNMENT and the SWAMP:

— Ask agency and department heads to identify job-killing regulations for elimination.

Done.

— Propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.

Nope.

— “Drain the swamp.”

On his pledge to curb the power of special interests, Trump has so far used an executive order to prohibit political appointees from lobbying the government for five years after serving in his administration and to ban outgoing officials from representing foreign governments. But he’s discontinuing the Obama-era practice of releasing White House visitor logs, restoring a shroud over what special interests are getting in his gates. He’s also issued at least one waiver to his lobbying ban, allowing a White House budget adviser to go advocate for a business trade group

— Impose a hiring freeze on federal employees, excluding military and public safety staffers.

This was one of Trump’s first actions. But the freeze has since been lifted.

—Require that two regulations be eliminated for each new one imposed.

Trump signed an order requiring agencies to identify two existing regulations for every new one imposed — though there is nothing in the order that requires the two to be eliminated.

___

FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

— End the strategy of nation-building and regime change.

Trump’s foreign policy posture is still in its early stages, though he has already intervened in Syria and has escalated rhetoric against North Korea.

— Move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The administration says it is studying the issue.

— Negotiate the release of all U.S. prisoners held in Iran, even before taking office. Renegotiate or leave the Iran nuclear deal.

No prisoners have been released. The administration is studying the nuclear deal and Trump told AP “it’s possible” the U.S. will withdraw.

— Create a safe zone in Syria for refugees, paid for by the Gulf states.

Not yet.

___

HEALTH CARE, COURTS and GUNS:

—”My first day in office, I’m going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability. You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. It’s going to be so easy.”

The bill to replace “Obamacare” was pulled from Congress because it lacked enough support. He will try again with a revised plan.

— Begin selecting a new Supreme Court judge to fill the court’s vacancy.

Done. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch and the Senate approved him.

— Eliminate gun-free zones in schools and on military bases.

Nope.

___

REALLY?

— “I promise I will never be in a bicycle race.”

So far, so good. Trump’s vow came after John Kerry, then secretary of state, broke his femur in May 2015 while riding a bicycle. He was not in a bicycle race.

—Bar his generals from being interviewed on television.

Never mind that. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, as Trump’s national security adviser, recently appeared on a Sunday news show. Several senior military officers have done Pentagon news conferences in the past few months that are taped by the networks. Gen. John Nicholson, the top general in Afghanistan, appeared at a news conference Monday.

—No time for play.

Most weekends as president, Trump has broken his pledge to avoid the golf course, after years of criticizing his predecessor for playing the game. “Because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” he told a Virginia rally in August. “Believe me.”

—Season’s greetings.

“If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store. … You can leave ‘happy holidays’ at the corner.”

As president-elect over the holidays, he sent a “Merry Christmas” tweet. So did President Obama. And both sent Happy Hanukkah wishes.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago loses State Department promotion posting

The State Department has removed its promotional posting about President Donald Trump‘s Florida resort, after a storm of ethics criticism.

In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as “Trump’s Florida estate,” where he has hosted foreign leaders. “By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,” the post said.

Left unsaid: Mar-a-Lago is part of Trump’s business empire. After his election, the resort doubled its membership fee to $200,000. As president, Trump has visited the property seven times, and its restaurant fills up when he’s in town.

The State Department said late Monday that its intention was “to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders” and that it regrets “any misperception.” That statement now appears in place of the original blog post.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether it had any involvement in the original posting or the decision to take it down.

The post originated on “Share America,” a State Department project. Its website describes its mission as “sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.”

Other topics on the Share America page include a new U.S. coin honoring Frederick Douglass, debate over the Confederate flag and news about first lady Melania Trump’s participation in the State Department’s International Women of Courage award ceremony.

The Mar-a-Lago post was nearly three weeks old but gained traction Monday when several people noticed the U.S. embassy to the United Kingdom was featuring it. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, asked on Twitter why taxpayers are “promoting the president’s private country club” and referred to the incident as “kleptocratic.”

Norman Eisen, who was President Barack Obama‘s chief ethics attorney, said the promotion is “exploitation.”

Eisen compared it to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway‘s promotion of Ivanka Trump‘s clothing business, for which she was “counseled” but not otherwise reprimanded by the White House.

“This idea of using government for private gain is metastasizing,” Eisen said. “It must be stopped.”

On Twitter, Richard Painter, who served in an ethics role for President George W. Bush, called the State Department post “Use of public office for private gain pure and simple.”

Eisen, Painter and other attorneys have sued Trump, alleging violation of the “emoluments clause” of the U.S. Constitution. That provision says the president may not accept foreign gifts or payments without the consent of Congress.

The Trump Organization argues that this prohibition wasn’t intended to cover fair-market exchanges.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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