Week 6, Monday
President Trump will put together a budget that includes a $54B increase in military spending. He will balance this spending with large cuts to the EPA and State Department, as well as to social safety net programs that don’t benefit retirees. This sets up a potential showdown with Rep. Paul Ryan, who has said repeatedly that Social Security and Medicare are the biggest drains on the budget and that spending on these programs needs to be curbed. Trump, instead, wants to drastically cut just about every other federal agency and program, apart from the military and law enforcement, preserving entitlements to seniors, as he believed Ryan’s proposed cuts to those programs led to the Republican loss in 2012.
Philip Bilden, Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Navy, withdrew from consideration on Sunday, approximately one week after Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that he absolutely would not be withdrawing.
Spicer, in other news, began searching the phones of his staff this weekend in order to try to identify who was leaking information to the media. News that he was searching staffers’ phones was immediately leaked to the media.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, denied this morning that there was any evidence of contact between the Trump campaign and Russians known to US intelligence based on “What I’ve been told by many folks.” He went to say there was no need at this time for a special prosecutor and that the “major crimes” were leaks to the media about Russia. Finally, Nunes said he would not request Trump’s tax returns, which Democrats have called on him to do. The White House reached out to Nunes to ask him to combat stories about the Trump team and Russian officials, providing him with a phone number for a reporter; Nunes says he sees nothing inappropriate with any of this.
Senate Democrats are asking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to provide information regarding a trademark for construction services provided to the Trump organization by the Chinese government. Trump tried, for a decade, to get this trademark and was unsuccessful. And then he became president and the trademark was granted, a potential violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
As Congressional Republicans continued to work on a plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, President Trump met with health insurance company CEOs and remarked, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
Trump has not yet thrown his support behind any of the work done by Republicans on the Hill, though he said today that “We have a plan that I think is going to be fantastic. It’s going to be released fairly soon,” which is how he has talked about replacing the ACA for at least a year now.
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