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Social Conservatives Are ‘Over the Moon’ About Trump

On the eighth floor of the Marriott Marquis in New York’s Times Square, Marjorie Dannenfelser stabbed anxiously at a plate of salad while offering a series of defensive and unconvincing answers. It was June of last year, and Dannenfelser, a social conservative titan and president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, was one of nearly a thousand Christian activists to attend a summit that afternoon with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. She also was one of roughly 50 to join him for a VIP meeting beforehand. Many of these leaders, including Dannenfelser, had opposed his candidacy from the outset of the campaign; now that they were closing ranks around a thrice-married Manhattan socialite and self-described womanizer with a history of running casinos and supporting partial-birth abortion, I had a simple question for Dannenfelser: Why would social conservatives stake their credibility and moral authority on Donald Trump?

After several halting responses, Dannenfelser leaned forward and lowered her voice. “All along the way he was our last choice,” she told me. “But when you get to the end, to the point of having a binary choice, you must choose.”

Dannenfelser chose Trump. So did dozens of other prominent Christian leaders, inviting the scorn and skepticism of critics who accused them of abandoning their principles in the pursuit of partisan victory. There was considerable downside: If Trump lost, they would have nothing to show for allying themselves with someone whose lifestyle was a manifest rebuke to their values; if he won, Trump could easily turn against them, tacking leftward on issues of life, marriage and religious liberty to broaden his appeal. “It was a risk,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who organized last summer’s New York meeting, tells me this week. “But it was a calculated risk.”

It paid off—and then some.

The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency have been pocked with disappointment for various constituencies: Immigration hawks haven’t seen funding for a border wall; Obamacare haters haven’t seen a repeal-and-replace bill pass either chamber of Congress; Wall Streeters haven’t seen a realistic plan for overhauling the tax code; protectionists haven’t seen China tagged a currency manipulator; and America-Firsters have seen neither NATO pushed aside nor the Middle East placed on the presidential back-burner.

The one group Trump has paid outsized attention to—and consistently delivered for—is the social conservative movement. He reinstated and even toughened the Mexico City Policy, which eliminates U.S. funding for international NGOs that perform abortions. He rescinded President Barack Obama’s protections for transgender students to use preferred bathrooms in public schools. He signed legislation that routs federal money away from Planned Parenthood. He cut off funding to the U.N. Population Fund, which critics say has long supported coercive abortions in China and other countries. He stockpiled his administration with pro-life evangelical Christians in critical roles, including Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services, Betsy DeVos as education secretary and Mike Pence as vice president. And, most significantly, he appointed Neil Gorsuch, a conservative originalist in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to the United States Supreme Court.

Once a punch line in conservative circles and a walking worst-case-scenario for many on the religious right, Donald Trump has emerged in the early days of his administration as something else entirely: a crusader for traditional social values.

“I think a generation away we’ll look back at this wild moment, where there were low expectations and fantastic delivery on promises, and we’ll say this was the turning point,” Dannenfelser tells me this week, reflecting on what feels like an watershed in America’s culture wars. She laughs when I bring up our conversation in New York. “It was a leap of faith. Trump was untested,” she says. “It became very hard to stand [by him]. But all that disruption, all that anxiety, all that tension—it was worth it. Because he has turned out to be a man of his word.”

“How ironic it is,” says Ralph Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, “that Donald Trump, of all people in the Republican Party, would become a champion for social conservatives.”

These sentiments echo across pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming discussions with some of the most influential figures on the right. Trump hasn’t just made good on campaign pledges, they say; he has involved them and embraced their input since the day he took office. Dannenfelser has been to the White House seven times since Trump’s inauguration, and notes that Pence was the first-ever vice president to speak at the March for Life in Washington. (He’s also keynoting the Susan B. Anthony List’s annual dinner in early May.) Other top activists have also been repeat visitors, having received invitations to attend bill signings, coalition meetings and, of course, Gorsuch’s nomination and swearing-in.

After eight years in which conservatives—and particularly evangelical Christians—believed themselves to be under siege from secular forces in the federal government, the judiciary and popular culture, Trump’s presidency feels like a renaissance. Not only do they have a seat at the table again, as they did during the famously evangelical-friendly George W. Bush years; many of these activists say Trump has already surpassed the 43rd president as an ally and advocate.

“The Bush administration didn’t come close to being this friendly to social conservatives,” says Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America. (“Who knew?” she adds, laughing. “I can’t say I would have ever guessed that a billionaire playboy from Manhattan would wind up being the closest ally of Christian conservatives.”) Perkins, for his part, tells me: “I’ve been at the White House for meetings more in the first four months of the Trump administration than I was during the entire Bush presidency.”

Pete Wehner, one of several high-ranking evangelicals who served in the Bush White House, takes issues with that characterization. “I think it’s the expectations,” he tells me. “People knew President Bush was a committed Christian and a social conservative and they expected him to govern that way; Trump is a Manhattan liberal and I don’t think anyone believes in their hearts that he believes in these issues.” Still, Wehner, one of Trump’s toughest critics throughout the campaign, gives him credit for following through on his commitments to social conservatives—especially in appointing Gorsuch to the high court. “I found it very reassuring.”

Wehner still hasn’t come around—he’s been a blistering detractor in the early stages of Trump’s presidency, and he certainly wasn’t supportive of the Republican nominee on Election Day. But most of his brethren were: Eighty percent of self-identified white born-again Christians voted for Trump and just 16 percent for Hillary Clinton, exit polls showed, the biggest margin in modern presidential history. It was a jarring conclusion to a campaign in which many conservative leaders had coalesced around Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican primary, some of whom publicly mocked Trump for cringeworthy incidents like his citation of “Two Corinthians,” and others who swore him off after the October release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump boasted of grabbing women by the genitals. What changed?

Short answer: the Supreme Court. Tim Goeglein, who worked for Bush as the White House liaison to faith leaders, says the community’s “natural skepticism” of Trump started to soften last May when he released his list of potential replacements for Scalia. Two months later, his selection of Pence signaled a serious partnership with social conservatives, as did his embrace of what was arguably the GOP’s most conservative platform ever. And yet many who voted for Trump did so primarily out of loathing toward Clinton, wary even after Election Day of the president’s intentions. Only when he began filling his administration with their allies—and when he picked Gorsuch for the Supreme Court—did they put their trust in Trump. “Personnel is policy,” Goegelin, now the vice president of external relations at Focus on the Family, says. “The nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch is what cemented the relationship.”

This doesn’t mean social conservatives are resting easy. Nobody I spoke with thinks Trump has undergone a road-to-Damascus conversion and is suddenly a subscriber to all of their core convictions. (The exception being abortion; everyone believes Trump is now authentically and entirely opposed.) What’s fascinating is that some activists believe it’s Trump’s distance from their worldview that has made him such an effective partner. “It actually gave him a greater degree of freedom to advocate in a very transparent and forward-leaning fashion on their behalf,” Reed tells me. “Not necessarily as one of them, but as a friend and an ally.”

Indeed, the social conservative leaders I spoke with believe Trump is doing what a smart politician does: delivering on promises to a key constituency whose mobilization is essential to executing other parts of his agenda and, eventually, winning reelection. Perkins repeatedly emphasizes that Christian voters were “critical” to Trump’s victory last November, heavily implying that the president, who is suffering from historically high disapproval early on, can’t afford to lose their support. I ask whether Trump advocating for his agenda feels transactional. “Transactional?” Perkins replies. “Yeah, probably so.” Because of this, activist leaders are applying steady pressure on the White House, hoping to preempt any drift toward the middle as they plot a series of further victories in the remaining 1,360 days of Trump’s first term.

Conservatives are anxious about the scores of federal judgeships with lifetime appointments that remain vacant, wondering why Trump has yet to fill them. They want to see Trump sign a sweeping set of pro-life policies into law, including a permanent ban on federal funds going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers as well as a nationwide ban on abortions after five months. They also want the administration to eliminate the Obamacare provision that requires employers’ health plans to cover contraceptives. Perhaps most urgently, they are waging a fierce battle behind the scenes to ensure that Trump issues an executive order on religious liberties—an issue that has exposed some of the ideological fault lines inside the White House.

A draft of the original executive order, which would have established broad exemptions for people and groups to claim religious objections under virtually any circumstance, was leaked to The Nation on February 1. Liberals blasted it as government-licensed discrimination toward the LGBT community. Conservatives fumed that the leak was strategic on the part of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, who have made no secret of their progressive social views. The White House distanced itself from the draft in a public statement and the episode was scored internally as a victory for the Ivanka-Jared camp. But conservatives inside the administration—namely, Pence and his longtime allies in the legislative affairs shop, Marc Short and Paul Teller—have teamed with allies on the outside in re-wording the executive order and pressuring Trump to sign it. The fight has until now played out privately but might soon burst into public view with dozens of congressional Republicans writing a letter to Trump urging him to sign the original draft order.

If this is indicative of a tug-of-war inside the White House—“a creative tension” over cultural issues, says Ken Blackwell, a longtime fixture on the right who led the president’s domestic transition team—conservatives feel confident that they have already triumphed over Trump’s more liberal advisers. “You start from the reality that the president is not a movement conservative, he’s not a church leader, and a lot of the folks who came into the administration haven’t been Republicans and aren’t Republicans now,” Blackwell says. “The president has delivered. … There are a couple big items still outstanding, but people have a greater sense that it’s down to a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”

And yet 100 days is a mere fraction of the president’s first term. Ideologically, Trump has been consistently inconsistent throughout his public life. Some on the right opposed him for this very reason, and continue to urge caution now. “In my experience over the last 30 or so years of political life, there’s hardly any group in American politics that is as easily won over or seduced by power as Christians,” Wehner tells me. “The fact that the Trump people are paying attention to them makes them feel very, very good, and especially because they didn’t expect to be paid attention to very much. So they’re just over the moon.”

But Wehner fears Trump’s affection could prove fleeting. “These are not convictions for him. He’s a recent convert on every one of these issues, from judges to abortion to other issues. And there’s going to be a pushback among more cosmopolitan liberals, including his daughter and son-in-law,” he says. “But for now, social conservatives have reason to be happy with him. And they are.”

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Trump Is Very Corrupt

Sadly, it seems that U.S. politics is getting more and more corrupt each election season. As we elect each new president, the corporations and organizations funding their campaigns are often not clear. However, the audacity of Donald Trump’s wild campaign has brought media attention to his close ties with the Russian government. Trump’s connections with Russia go back before the end of Cold War in 1987. Trump visited Russia and his plane was purportedly escorted by Russian jets. In 2015, Putin complimented Trump as being a talented man.

 

Russia’s long-term plans in hacking the United States election were first warned of years ago by Anatoliy Golitsyn. Golitsyn was a high-ranking Russian spy during the Cold War. He warned the United States Congress after the Cold War that Russia was not finished with fighting the U.S. They just had agreed to go undercover and pretend to adopt democracy. This is why the Communist Party is still quite large in Russia. It is also why Russia is not considered a democracy. Some observers think that the Soviet Union may still quietly exist, which is why Russia is continuing to militarily interfere in its former satellite states.

 

Russia is continuing its long-term objective of burying the United States. They have now succeeded in planting a puppet in the White House. Trump may have business connections that make it hard for him to stop getting help with Russia. The Trump family gets a lot of money from Russian business sources. The conflict of interest should trouble an observer, but the deeper issues are more concerning.

 

The Russian government has become less friendly with the United States during the presidency of Vladimir Putin. They have stopped being a party to a post-Cold War nonproliferation agreement with the United States. The Russian civilian population recently drilled for a large war. While the United States has been relaxing in Disneyland, Russia is still prepared for conflict.

 

The extent of corruption in the United States government as revealed by the recent Trump scandal shows that even our own politicians are not above recruitment by our former biggest adversary.

 

Betsy DeVos’ Philanthropy

Betsy DeVos was recently appointed to serve as the Education’s secretary in Trump’s government. Previously, she was known for her advocacy for charter schools and school voucher programs. Her political past also played a big role in her being considered eligible for that position.

Visit: http://www.betsydevos.com/policy-involvement/

Education and Early Life

Betsy is the daughter of Edgar Prince, the founder of Prince Corporation which is the largest supplier for automobile parts in Holland, Michigan. She was raised in Holland, in a Christian background that taught her to be a firm Christian since an early age. Being highly religious, her parents took her to the Holland Christian High School. She passed with good grades and was admitted to Grand Rapids’ Calvin College, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts.

Political Career

Betsy DeVos has always been passionate about politics, since an early age. Since she was in Calvin College, she was involved in the politics of the campus. However, her political career officially began in the year 1982. That was when he joined the Michigan Republican Party. In the year 1986, she was elected as the local precinct delegate for the Michigan Republican Party. He stayed in this position for the next sixteen years. Meaning that she was re-elected eight consecutive times. She also worked as a Republican Party Committeewoman for Michigan for five years, since the year 1992 and as the chairman of the Michigan party since the year 1996 to the year 2000.

Philanthropy

Betsy DeVos comes from a very wealthy family and is also married to the wealthiest family in Michigan. With all the wealth, and due to her religious background, she has always found joy in helping the undeserved. She co-founded Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that donates to various charitable courses. The foundation mainly concentrates on education, leadership, arts, community and Justice.

In the year 2009, Betsy DeVos founded ArtPrize. This is an international competition that aims at awarding the best talents in the arts industry. Also, she served on the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts board, where she was appointed by President Bush and she served for 6 years. Following her historical donation of $22.5 million dollars, to the foundation, the center was renamed to DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

Betsy is the biggest advocate for School Choice. She believes that parents should have more choice when it comes to schools that their children attend. With the school choice, there will be more for-profit charter schools. This way, education in America does not have to stay monopolized. She also advocates for school vouchers. The vouchers can be used by students, funded by the public, to attend private schools. Visit betsydevos.com to know more about Betsy.

Why Trump is starting a trade war with Canada

President Donald Trump’s administration fired its first shot in a potential trade war, but it’s not Beijing or Mexico City in the crosshairs. The target: Our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada.

Trump has escalated what were modest and longstanding frictions with Ottawa over U.S. dairy products and Canadian lumber into a full-blown trade dispute largely because Canada is an easy target and doesn’t have many weapons to fight back. By slapping a massive tariff on Canadian lumber, while touting his protection of dairy farmers – especially in Wisconsin, a key swing state – Trump has a chance to look tough and decisive on the international stage as he tries to renegotiate NAFTA, one of his big campaign promises.

“Canada is an easy villain,” said Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “They cannot retaliate with the force of a China or a Mexico. It’s not like Canada is going to open up the border and let a whole bunch of Central Americans into the United States. So Canada is a pretty safe target.”

The Commerce Department on Monday announced a preliminary decision to hit more than $5 billion worth of softwood lumber imports from Canada with tariffs of up to 24 percent. The announcement comes on the heels of Trump continuing to hammer Canadian policies that have effectively blocked certain U.S. dairy exports north of the border.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acknowledged that there are few “legitimate” retaliatory actions Canada could take.

“I’m not aware of anything that we have violated, so I don’t know what it is they could that would be a legitimate action,” he said at Tuesday’s White House briefing.

But the real-world impact of new lumber tariffs could be significant, especially for a U.S. housing industry just now reaching a point of recovery. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that market uncertainty caused by the prospect of tariffs has already increased lumber prices, resulting in the addition of almost $3,600 to the price of a new home.

Ross downplayed the effect of the tariffs on lumber prices in the U.S.

“We do not think the price of lumber will go up by anything like the 20 percent but there may be some small increase in the price of lumber for a house,” he said, adding that lumber is a “pretty small percentage” in the total price of a house.

Following the tariff announcement, Ottawa warned that the penalties would make U.S. housing more expensive and cited a National Association of Home Builders estimate that even a $1,000 increase in the cost of a new house could put home ownership beyond the reach of 150,000 American families.

Canadian officials say the tariffs will negatively affect workers on both sides of the border.

“Canada buys more from the U.S. than any other country – including the EU, Mexico, China, and Japan,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a recent statement. “We are America’s number one customer.”

Trump’s recent attacks may just be a negotiating tactic of hitting hard first, then slowly walking negotiations back. Even though the lumber case will proceed, the administration could revive efforts to negotiate a settlement – either through separate talks or in NAFTA discussions — if Canada moves to ease its dairy restrictions.

“Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!” Trump defiantly tweeted Tuesday, seemingly linking the issue with the recent lumber tariffs.

He slammed Canada on dairy and lumber issues last week, calling them “another NAFTA disaster.”

Ross drew an even more explicit connection Tuesday between the issues of lumber and dairy and NAFTA’s perceived failings.

“If NAFTA were functioning properly you wouldn’t be having these sorts of very prickly, very unfortunate developments back to back,” he said. “In that sense it shows that NAFTA has not worked as well as it should.”

He added that NAFTA’s failure to address U.S.-Canada dairy trade is one of the agreement’s “problems.”

In Congress, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) warned that the president’s tough talk toward Canada on its dairy policy was “asking for trouble.”

“Any time you have a subject that stirs the waters like this, it makes other issues more difficult,” Roberts said, when asked if the president’s stance could muddy an effort to renegotiate NAFTA. “We’d like to separate it, of course. I think it could be a problem, but it’s not anything we can’t surmount.”

Ross, however, cast doubt on whether the tariffs could spark a larger trade war, telling CNBC earlier in the day that the actions represented “a very precise set of tariffs on a very precise set of imports.”

Lumber and dairy trade frictions between the U.S. and Canada are in no way new.

The lumber decision is the latest in a 30-year struggle by the U.S. to manage the trade impact of Canada’s timber wealth. The decision on Monday was the result of a case filed by U.S. lumber producers last year who claim that Canadian imports are underpriced and subsidized as the result of provincial governments giving companies cut rate access to timber on vast public lands.

The dairy issue has also dogged trade relations between the two countries for decades. U.S. dairy exports are already largely shut out of the Canadian market because of a supply management system set up to stabilize the incomes of Canadian farmers. U.S. producers, however, were able to find a loophole in the system to ship roughly $133 million of ultra-filtered milk to Canada last year. That export boon is likely to end with a new Canadian industry pricing policy that favors domestically produced product.

But under previous administrations, it’s unlikely the two issues would have risen to attention outside the insular world of trade officials and industry groups meeting between Washington and Ottawa. President Barack Obama last year referred to the lumber issue as a “minor irritant” – a major shift from the provocative Tweets and combative statements of 2017.

“Dairy and lumber are anomalous and they shouldn’t be used as indictments of the broader North American trading project,” Dawson said.

Catherine Boudreau contributed to this report.

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Ivanka Trump faces tough audience in European women

BERLIN — Ivanka Trump’s personal brand, upcoming book and burgeoning position on the world stage have all been based on her image as a do-it-all feminist and working mother.

That powerful package has resonated in some parts of the world, like China, where the first daughter is worshiped by young women infatuated with her looks — nary an errant hair out of place, a perfect outfit rarely repeated — and awed by her apparent ability to juggle family and career.

Judging from her mixed reception here, European women are more incredulous about Ivanka Trump’s brand of feminism and her attempts to reconcile her own moderate politics with her father’s fierce conservatism.

And they viewed her arrival in Berlin, her first international trip as a representative of the U.S. government, on Tuesday with the deep uncertainty they reserve for all things branded “Trump,” shorthand for a hard-right, nationalistic, “America First” worldview.

Ivanka Trump appeared unruffled during a somewhat tense outing at the W20 Summit, where she shared a stage with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands to discuss women entrepreneurs.

As her global recognition grows, her public image fares better further afield. In China, where wealthy and connected children of business and political leaders often run state-owned enterprises or hold other prominent positions, young women are enchanted by her perfectly curated public façade, as the New York Times recently reported.

They view her, Jared Kushner and their three children, often photographed against a brilliant Palm Beach sunset as they descend the steps of Air Force One, as something akin to a 21st century version of the Kennedys’ “Camelot.”

That image doesn’t translate to Europe, POLITICO found in interviews with more than a half-dozen women who make up Berlin’s fashionable and intellectual set, including lawyers, journalists, jewelry designers and translators. These cosmopolitan women keep themselves up to date on all things Ivanka-related — from the trademarks her brand has applied for abroad, to her career that started on the catwalk, to the official role she now plays in the White House as a self-professed champion of women and girls.

But if she has come to be viewed as a role model in China and by some of her father’s critics at home as the better angel on his shoulder — a softening influence who keeps private counsel with the president and guides him toward a more moderate approach — that trust in her judgment has yet to puddle-jump across the Atlantic.

Women in Berlin expressed bewilderment at Ivanka Trump’s elevation to a senior role in the White House with no previous political experience. And they said they struggled to reconcile her image as a feminist with her fierce and unquestioning defense of her father.

“People wonder about her seeming like a very strong woman, and at the same time seeing him as the worst kind of sexist, and wonder how that works out,” said Heather Kimber, a British translator who works in Berlin. “Of course, she’s very beautiful, which is likely to generate more skepticism than if she looked a little bit less like a model.”

Lilian von Trapp, a Berlin native and former lawyer who recently launched her own eponymous ethical jewelry line, said her own experience creating a business from scratch gave her some respect for Ivanka Trump’s entrepreneurial spirit. But von Trapp (who is distantly related by marriage to the famous “Sound of Music” von Trapp family) said she does not view the first daughter as a role model or as qualified to hold a position on the global stage.

“German people are more critical,” said von Trapp, contemplating the first daughter over a cup of coffee at SoHo House Berlin. “If you’re born that rich and your first job after modeling is to work in the office of your father, how hard can that be? All of her clothing lines are produced in China. It gives you an off feeling about all of this.”

That “off feeling” about the role Trump’s family members play in the White House is felt at home, too. About 61 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump installing his daughter and son-in-law, Kushner, in senior administration roles, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll last week.

“She sells herself very well,” von Trapp said. “The truth is, we really know nothing about her behind the image. We are in this kind of waiting position now, to see if she can be taken seriously, or whether this is just a fake.”

Tuesday’s conference was an opportunity for Ivanka Trump to prove herself to this discerning European set, which appeared critical but open to be proven wrong.

“As a feminist, I do believe we have to empower each other before criticizing,” said Nuray Ozea, an activist in the women’s movement in Turkey, who attended the W20 conference with no preconceived notions about the first daughter. “I’m not in a position to judge whether she is qualified or not. I am happy to see her lobbying for women’s rights.”

And Ivanka Trump — fresh off a commercial overnight flight from Washington — came prepared with facts and figures at her fingertips to prove she was a serious advocate for female entrepreneurs.

Discussing how a lack of technology serves as a deterrent to entrepreneurship, she pointed out that “1.7 billion women don’t have access to a smartphone.” She said it was “critical” to focus on science, technology and math education, and she called a lack of mentors for women “an interesting challenge to solve.”

“There certainly isn’t one solution for it,” she said. “When you talk to female entrepreneurs, their networks are smaller than their male counterparts.”

Members of the audience booed and hissed when she described her father as “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive,” but she shrugged it off, telling reporters after the panel, “I’m used to it,” and doubling down on her portrayal of the president as a champion of women throughout his private-sector career.

Ivanka Trump followed up the panel with a tour of Siemens, the German manufacturing giant, and a visit to Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. In the evening, she was scheduled to attend a closed-press gala dinner.

White House officials said Ivanka Trump made the trip at Merkel’s invitation and hoped to use the platform only to emphasize her policy aims.

But the majority-female audience she addressed Tuesday at the Intercontinental Berlin, as well as the German press, viewed her trip as in part a diplomatic mission to further relations with Europe.

The president and other top advisers have espoused a more nationalistic, anti-European Union outlook that has alarmed some in cities like Berlin.

“Everything and everyone associated with Donald Trump is viewed with suspicion in Europe,” said Julian Reichelt, a journalist with the largest Berlin tabloid, Bild, who traveled with Merkel to Washington last month. “In general, the view of her is not very flattering — it’s of a rich kid daughter, who now has even more privileges through her dad, with zero competence to work in the White House.”

Still, some women in Europe were willing to give Ivanka Trump time to prove herself.

“My preference is that we focus on her role as an entrepreneur and a mother,” said Megan Brown, who works as a consultant in Brussels and attended the W20 conference in Berlin. “She’s built a business with help from her father. But the business and the brand, she’s built.”

“Maybe she should think to change the name to just Ivanka,” Brown said. “Her brand is stronger than her father’s.”

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Trump administration moving to replace fired U.S. attorneys

The White House has struck tentative agreements with more than a dozen senators on picks to fill U.S. attorney positions left vacant since early March, according to officials at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

White House chief counsel Don McGahn has spent much of the past three weeks meeting with senators and their staff, the officials say. The administration hopes to announce some of the appointments in the next three weeks, according to three people familiar with their thinking.

President Donald Trump removed almost all of the sitting, Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys in a Friday afternoon purge in March, in a highly unusual move that’s left federal prosecutors’ offices under the supervision of acting U.S. attorneys since then.

As with other political appointments, the Trump White House has been slow to fill the vacancies.

“That was an unfortunate decision that could have been more discerning and made….with a scalpel instead of a meat axe, especially because they didn’t have nominees in the pipeline,” said Ronald Weich, the Justice Department’s top legislative liaison under President Barack Obama and now dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law.

“The acting US attorneys will follow direction, but will not be as committed to the president’s agenda as Senate-confirmed appointees,” he added.

Yet it’s still likely to be months before appointees can be confirmed, according to longtime observers and former U.S. attorneys. Appointees have to be screened and vetted by the FBI, and the Senate has to schedule hearings.

“The problem is the convergence of judicial vacancies and all executive branch vacancies, so there’s only so much the FBI can do every week,” said one lawyer involved in the process. “On top of that, there have been some rumors that the Judiciary Committee doesn’t have capacity to move quicker than it historically has, which historically has only been a few nominations per week. It’s just frustrating but it’s hard to get things through the process.”

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Democrats are also threatening to slow the process, according to people familiar with the talks. While the filibuster has now been completely dismantled for both judicial and executive branch nominees, senators retain an effective veto over U.S. attorney, judge and marshal nominations in their states through a Senate procedure known as the blue slip.

The century-old practice allows either of a state’s senators to effectively block a nominee by failing to return the so-called “blue slip.” Recent Senate Judiciary Committee leaders have generally declined to hold hearings on nominees until the blue slip is returned. As a result, presidents have rarely nominated U.S. attorneys or judges without the advance consent of both home-state senators.

The process has sometimes led to senators setting up committees or more informal arrangements to recommend potential judicial and U.S. attorney candidates in their states, so the nominees would essentially be pre-cleared.

It’s unclear whether Trump’s White House has blessed any such arrangements yet, but the easiest vacancies for the White House to fill could be those in red states where both senators are Republicans.

While the blue slip policy has sometimes been bent to allow confirmation of judges, particularly at the appeals court level, Victoria Bassetti, a former Judiciary Committee staffer, said doing so to get U.S. attorneys in would be highly unusual.

“Appointing a U.S. attorney without the blue slips is considered a no-go zone. You better get both blue slips when it comes to U.S. attorneys,” she said.

Trump cares more about some picks than others. None are more important to him than the U.S. attorney posts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, two of the most prominent offices in the DOJ, which are known for handling white-collar crime and terrorism cases.

The Manhattan office, which oversees the Southern District of New York, was previously headed by Preet Bharara, who was the only U.S. attorney fired in March, after he refused to resign. He’d visited Trump Tower in November, after the election, and had said that Trump promised him he’d be able to remain in his post.

White House officials and outside advisers with a crucial say in the picks, like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, are still talking to candidates for the two New York jobs.

Giuliani didn’t return a call for comment.

The White House also hopes to announce at least 10 judges in the next two weeks, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

The federal court system currently lists 119 vacancies at the district and circuit courts, including 49 judicial emergencies—long-term vacancies in courts facing serious caseloads. The longest vacancy, in the Eastern district of North Carolina, has been unfilled for more than 11 years.

Trump’s first judicial nominee was a crucial one: the selection of 10th Circuit judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. He was confirmed earlier this month.

So far, Trump has tapped only one other judicial nominee. Amul Thapar is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thapar, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been nominated to a slot on the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

One potential hang-up for the U.S. attorney nominees could be the lack, until this week, of a permanent No. 2 official at the Justice Department. Trump’s choice for deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, was confirmed by the Senate, 94-6, on Tuesday afternoon.

Rosenstein may wish to have sign-off on the U.S. attorney nominations since the deputy attorney general effectively serves as their boss in the Justice Department hierarchy.

Bassetti said it’s still unclear how the prosecutor jobs or judgeships in most states will be handled under Trump and whether mechanisms used during the Obama era—like state-level commissions to vet nominee—will be kept in place.

“It’s open to renegotiation every 2 years,” she added. “Every single one of them is a jump ball right now.”

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Ryan likely to get rolled on tax reform

Donald Trump is set to steamroll Paul Ryan on tax reform, the issue the speaker has devoted his political career to achieving.

But don’t expect Ryan to relinquish his pet cause easily.

The White House on Wednesday will drop the outlines of a tax plan that insiders expect will contradict the blueprint Ryan has been working on for more than a year. It won’t include the House speaker’s controversial new tax on imports, which was expected to bring in $1 trillion to finance lower tax rates. And top Trump officials are insisting their tax plan need not be paid for, rejecting Ryan’s stance that any package should not add to the deficit.

The administration’s sudden change of course came as a surprise to the speaker’s office, which didn’t get a heads-up before Trump announced on the fly last week that he would drop a tax plan Wednesday. Ryan had been working with the administration on a tax proposal “hand in glove,” as he put it, and the administration seemed content to let him take the lead.

But after Ryan failed to get his Obamacare replacement bill over the finish line last month, the White House changed its mind. Trump decided the administration needed to take a more hands-on role in tax reform rather than leaving the details to the speaker, three administration sources told Politico. Indeed, Ryan’s team has been kept largely in the dark on some key details of the plan, congressional and White House sources say.

“We made a mistake last time” in having Ryan take the lead on health care, one senior administration official told Politico. “We learned our lesson.”

Still, the White House strategy could backfire, namely because it’s far from certain that it can pass.

If the administration were to pursue a tax cut that’s not paid for — sticking instead with the supply-side theory that tax cuts pay for themselves — it would take at least eight Democrats to get it through the Senate. That’s a tall order, because Democrats generally are loath to pass tax cuts for corporations, especially without corresponding cuts for individuals.

Trump’s plan would drastically lower the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent — at an eye-popping price tag of $2 trillion.

“The best chance to have tax reform is through reconciliation,” said a senior House Republican, referring to GOP leadership’s plan to use a fast-track tool to pass the bill on simple-majority votes.

Ryan’s office stressed that talks are ongoing and nothing is decided.

“We all agree on the benefits of tax reform and the place we want to land, and the question is how you reach that place,” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in a statement. “We continue to have productive discussions with the administration about all ideas on the table.”

To be sure, only the House — not the White House — has the power to write a tax bill. In that regard, Trump can’t force the hands of Ryan or Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who’s been writing the tax plan with the speaker.

It’s unlikely that Ryan and House leaders would completely step aside for the White House. Ryan’s expertise on tax reform carries significant weight with members, and even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he, like Ryan, believes a tax overhaul should be done through reconciliation, not on a bipartisan basis.

But should Ryan forge ahead with his own proposal, without White House blessing, he would almost certainly find himself lacking votes to pass his tax bill. It would also likely further undermine his relationship with Trump, who badly wants a legislative win after the troubles with health care reform.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn were expected to huddle Tuesday evening with Ryan, Brady, McConnell and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to talk about tax reform. But even before the meeting, reports circulated suggesting Trump told staff he is serious about wanting to lower corporate rates to 15 percent, a promise he made on the campaign trail. (Ryan’s plan would reduce the rate to 20 percent because that’s the lowest level he could realistically pay for.)

Other top White House advisers have also hinted in TV interviews in recent days that tax cuts need not be paid for, an idea the White House has discussed since January.

Administration sources also confirmed to Politico that Ryan’s controversial so-called “border adjustment” idea is unlikely to be included in the White House plan. Under that idea, companies that import products would have to pay income tax on the value of those products, which they don’t have to do now. And companies that export would no longer have to pay income tax on their earnings from those exports.

Senate Republicans and several White House advisers have panned the idea, and several members of Ways and Means have expressed skepticism about the proposal. But few have offered alternatives to generate the estimated $1 trillion it would produce. A senior administration official said the White House is looking at “three or four” possible revenue replacements.

It’s unclear whether Ryan and Brady will continue to push the border adjustment idea. Also unknown is whether they’ll move forward with their strategy to use reconciliation to pass a tax overhaul plan along party lines.

Under the Senate’s complex reconciliation rules, legislation that’s fast-tracked must not add to the deficit in the long term, which is defined as anything beyond a 10-year window. That’s why Ryan and his team are so focused on making sure any proposal is paid for.

The White House, however, is not yet sold. It is considering courting Democrats and trying to clear the 60-vote threshold to invoke cloture. One administration official said it would be wise to seek bipartisan buy-in after “what happened in the health care fight” — watching a GOP-only bill fall victim to party infighting.

There’s another possibility being tossed around: a temporary tax cut that is not paid for but could still be approved under reconciliation rules because it would not add to the deficit in the long term. President George W. Bush sidestepped reconciliation rules using that loophole, passing major tax cuts that expired after a decade.

Lawmakers later voted to extend most of those tax cuts.

But GOP leaders say going that route would not constitute true comprehensive tax reform because the tax cut would end after 10 years unless Congress intervened. They argue that it would not provide the kind of lasting assurance to the business community needed to produce long-term investments and economic growth.

Leaders are also not certain a temporary tax cut would be scored as deficit neutral, even if it were to sunset in 10 years. A letter Tuesday to Ryan from the Joint Committee on Taxation, obtained by Politico, suggests the cost of a mere three-year corporate tax cut to 20 percent — from 2018 through 2020 — would spill over into the second decade window, thus barring the bill from being fast-tracked.

“We project a non-negligible revenue loss in the tax years immediately following the budget window,” the letter states.

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Republicans finalize new Obamacare repeal proposal

The White House, top House conservatives and a key moderate Republican have finalized an Obamacare repeal-and-replacement agreement they hope will break a month-long GOP logjam over the issue.

GOP leadership has been circulating the text to the House Freedom Caucus, a hard-line conservative group that helped block the original bill, as well as more centrist Republicans. It is unclear if the deal will provide Speaker Paul Ryan the 216 votes needed for the House to pass the legislation.

The proposal calls for allowing states to opt out of key Obamacare regulations under certain conditions.

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Russia Is Preparing For World War III

Russia is quietly preparing for World War III using an ancient technique, political espionage. The Russian economy is now growing well. The best way to achieve victory over the United States is to do so from inside the U.S. Federal bureaucracy. The executive office is now inhabited by an individual who got there partly through Russian funding and propaganda warfare. Recently, Trump met with one of the few U.S. Congressman who is favorable about Russia, Dana Rohrabacher. Dana has been friends with Vladimir Putin, and they have met before. Rohrabacher represents a congressional district covering a huge section of metro Los Angeles, California. The cities in Rohrabacher’s district include Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Rohrabacher’s district is just south of Anaheim and it is southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

 

Some sources have placed Russian funding behind the recent push for California to secede from the United States. It is led by Marinelli, who has spent many years living in Russia. Russia is letting the Cal-Exit movement have an embassy in Moscow.

 

High ranking politicians, including the United States President Donald Trump, have become pawns of the ambitions of the Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin. Russian troops have already been allowed to train in the United States in joint military exercises. Now that the Commander in Chief of the United States military is pro-Russian, it seems more likely that this sort of thing will occur more frequently.

 

Conclusion

Preparing for less U.S. national sovereignty may be beneficial to private citizens. The fact that Trump’s companies have hundreds of millions in money from Russian sources should be disturbing. As should the high quantity of loans that Trump’s private company and the U.S. government has from China. It is up to private citizens to write to their congressman and demand investigations of Donald J. Trump’s business dealings. Our country is no longer fully ours if the executive is acting under the orders of a foreign power.

 

Obama returns — and avoids Trump

CHICAGO — True to form, the beginning of Barack Obama’s public post-presidency was all studious symbolism, as he teasingly played off the crowd and cautiously avoided saying anything about things he didn’t want to discuss — most of all, the man who succeeded him in the Oval Office.

Except for one short joke as he took the stage here at the University of Chicago — “So … uh, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” — he spoke Monday almost as though Donald Trump, whom he spent last year calling a threat to the republic and not to be trusted with America’s nuclear arsenal, weren’t in the White House.

Obama mapped out a sense of urgency — about the need for more civil discussions. He suggested that there is cause for panic — about the reasons young people aren’t voting in the numbers he’d want.

Leading a conversation about young leaders with six local students, he took aim at gerrymandering, special interest money and low participation as the causes of what’s gone wrong in American politics, and said he hopes to help identify and break down the barriers that keep young people from getting more involved.

“What is the most important thing I can do for my next job? What I’m convinced of is that although there are all kinds of issues that I care about, and all kind of issues that I intend to work on, the most important single thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world,” Obama said, in his opening remarks.

Ticking off economic inequality, lack of opportunity, criminal justice reform, climate change and reactions to violence, Obama said, “all those problems are serious, they’re daunting, but they’re not insoluble. What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life.”

Trump represents not just a challenge to what Obama put in place during his eight years in office, but also to his sense of American politics. He spoke repeatedly during the 2016 campaign about how he assumed voters would never go with Trump, and that he’d never be able to actually win.

In response, Obama on Monday tweaked his most famous line from his most famous speech, which essentially launched him into the presidency on a sense that he represented the unity in America that was otherwise being overlooked.

“When I said in 2004 that there were no red states or blue states, there are United States of America, that was an aspirational comment,” Obama said.

That may be true of one-on-one interactions, Obama added, but “obviously, it’s not true when it comes to our politics and our civic life, and maybe more pernicious is the fact that people just aren’t involved. They get cynical, and they give up.”

Obama taught here on the law school faculty before running for U.S. Senate, and he returned here last year for an event a few blocks away to promote his effort to name Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court. But arriving as a former president came with some notable changes: a smaller motorcade, a tiny entourage with a staff small enough that he had to call out at one point to ask how long he was supposed to stay on stage, a group of Secret Service agents new to his detail but security light enough that audience members didn’t even have their bags checked, let alone have to go through magnetometers.

Outside, there were all of four demonstrators: three from the Revolutionary Communist Party holding signs that read “Obama — We Are Not On the Same Intramural Team as Trump!!” playing off the former president’s comments after the election results came in, and one man who stood silently on the sidewalk outside holding large American and Mexican flags.

But fresh off his most recent vacation in French Polynesia with Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks, Obama entered to cheers and applause, starting off with remarks from Richard Omoniyi-Shoyoola, an undergraduate who briefly recounted Obama’s runs for president: “He won … and then, in 2012, he won again.”

Omoniyi-Shoyoola compared Obama’s life to “one of America’s great historical narratives,” alongside those of Frederick Douglass and Teddy Roosevelt.

“His legacy is still being understood, cemented and challenged. But the man stands as ready as ever to assume one of the most essential roles of democracy, that of the citizen,” Omoniyi-Shoyoola said.

Obama spent most of the event asking questions, on what could be done to get more students to be like the ones on stage and involved with their communities, on whether a member of the University of Chicago College Republicans felt that his voice is drowned out on campus, on how to tackle the fragmentation of journalism, and how young people are basing more of their information on social media than verified facts.

Picking up lines he delivered at the end of his presidency, he chalked up his successful run for U.S. Senate from Illinois to meeting people in person even in heavily Republican parts of Illinois, and how that prepared him to do the same in Iowa in 2008 and beyond.

The need to build more connections between Democrats and Republicans, Obama said, was reflected in his relationship with Dick Lugar, the former Republican senator from Indiana who had been a mentor to him when he first arrived in the Senate but who then lost a primary from the right because he was perceived as too moderate and Washington-centric, or, as Obama put it, “because he talked to me.”

Obliquely, he talked about the current state of immigration policy in response to a student’s question about what to say to undocumented immigrant workers whose nervousness has spiked since the election.

“Historically, when you look at surveys, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that America is a nation of immigrants and that immigration has contributed,” Obama said. “Sometimes, they feel frustrated if it is perceived that folks are breaking the rules or cutting the line, essentially.”

But he warned “not to assume that everyone who has trouble with the current immigration system is automatically racist.”

Obliquely, he talked about the lessons of losing an election by answering another student’s question about failure. He mentioned the book he’s started writing since leaving office — reflecting on his own story and, particularly, the embarrassing failure of his 2000 House primary campaign against Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) — and gave some advice for young people looking to get into politics.

“As I was writing, when I thought about that race, what I was reminded of was the degree to which that was probably the sole time in my political career where I think I ran more just because it was the next thing, rather than running because I had a good theory of what I wanted to do,” Obama said. “If you’re more concerned with, ‘I want to be a congressman,’ or ‘I want to be a senator,’ or ‘I want to be rich,’ some people may succeed in chasing that goal, but when they get there, they don’t know what to do with it. And if they don’t get there, they don’t have anything to show for it.”

He said he’d be answering more. But, perhaps sensing the tension in the crowd eager to hear him say more about the current political situation, and wanting to avoid a question from one of the students asking him about Trump more directly, Obama cut off the event at two questions.

“There’s a reason why I’m always optimistic even when things look like they’re sometimes not going the way I want,” Obama said, closing the event, “and that is because of young people like this.”

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