From another mass shooting to a huge deficit projected for infrastructure

Donald Trump unveiled a US$4.4 trillion budget for next year that heralds an era of $1 trillion-plus federal deficits and — unlike the plan he released last year — never comes close to promising a balanced ledger even after 10 years.

The growing deficits reflect the impact of last year’s tax overhaul, which is projected to cause federal tax revenue to drop and does not yet reflect last week’s two-year bipartisan $300 billion pact that wholly rejects Trump’s plans to slash domestic agencies.

Trump’s budget includes money to start building 65 miles of border wall in south Texas as well as money to bring immigration jails up to a capacity of 47,000 and add 2,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees and 750 Border Patrol agents. [He just has to get his money for The Trump Wall any way he can.] A deficit of $1.2 trillion is more plausible after last week’s budget pact and $90 billion worth of disaster aid is tacked on. That’s more than double the 2019 deficit the administration promised last year. The new budget sees accumulating deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade; Trump’s plan last year projected a 10-year shortfall of $3.2 trillion.

The Trump administration is making a push to sell off federal assets as part of its infrastructure plan. Among the targets: Reagan National and Dulles International airports and two major parkways serving the Washington region, as well as power assets around the country, according to a copy of the proposal. It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Same with the two airports in Virginia, which are leased from the federal government.

The White House says its plan will create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America’s infrastructure. Only $200 billion of that, however, would come from direct federal spending, according to White House aides. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio.

To help pay for the infrastructure, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has proposed hiking the federal gas tax, which hasn’t gone up since 1993, to raise $394 billion over 10 years. Over the past year, Democrats have accused Trump of seeking to create the $200 billion infrastructure fund by proposing cuts to other infrastructure-related programs.

Trump tweeted “This will be a big week for Infrastructure. After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!” He then rambles on how that money could have been used for America’s infrastructure. That amount is inflated as experts say after anticipated future spending on veterans and other factors related to the wars so far are added it would be $5.6 trillion. Most of that money went to American businesses [fighter jets, tanks, etc.]as well as the military [paying personnel, training, etc.]. It’s not like it all went directly to the Middle Eastern countries.

Over the past 40 years, the deficit has averaged about 4% of gross domestic product, the measure of the nation’s total economic output. The Congressional Budget Office recently projected that the recently passed tax-cut bill will move the deficit up to 5% of GDP. But that was before the deal, which slaps on another $300 billion and puts us on track to have deficits as high as 7% of gross domestic product.

Trump, in a speech and in tweets, mentioned only that the shooter in Florida had a mental illness but mentioned nothing about guns [his friends at the NRA must have been happy]. Meanwhile, the leader of a white nationalist militia called the Republic of Florida said the shooter was a member of his group and participated in exercises in Tallahassee but did the shooting on his own without the group’s knowledge.

Trump tweeted “Am also working with Congress on many fronts.” Where have we heard this before. He will probably announce some initiative regarding his Trump Wall or maybe immigration. Somehow equating that the alleged shooter wasn’t born in the US. And that will be it.

Student Sarah Chadwick, who survived the high school shooting that left 17 dead in Florida, wants Trump and Congress to “do something” about gun control, rather than simply offering thoughts and prayers to the victims of America’s latest mass shooting. “I don’t want your condolences you f—ing (piece) of s—, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead,” Chadwick wrote. “Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the shooting a “tragic event”, adding: “We’re going to work on it in many ways to do something about it.” Good luck there….

Sessions spoke in generalities, and did not address reports that the weapon used in the shooting was acquired legally. Instead, he spoke of gang violence and the threat it poses to children. I don’t think the mass murderer was part of a gang. You don’t need a permit or license to buy a gun in Florida and you don’t have to register it either.

Amid renewed debate over gun control after the school shooting in Florida, House Speaker Paul Ryan is arguing that now is not the time to wage political battles.

“This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings,” he told reporters at a news conference at the Capitol. Sure Paul. And that’s what the government has said probably after every mass shooting in the last 20 years and then after “stepping back” nothing happens and then there is another mass shooting.

The Trump administration was working to kill a bipartisan deal on immigration that could be the best chance to get a bill through the Senate. The legislation from a group of 16 bipartisan senators would offer nearly 2 million young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children before 2012 a path to citizenship over 10 to 12 years. The deal and three others were defeated in the end. Wasn’t it trump who wanted more bipartisan deals?

The plan would also place $25 billion in a guarded trust for border security, would cut a small number of green cards each year for adult children of current green card holders, and would prevent parents from being sponsored for citizenship by their US citizen children if that child gained citizenship through the pathway created in the bill or if they brought the child to the US illegally. Some of these parts were endorsed by Trump in a previous plan.

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the case. Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He’s had what criminal lawyers call a “Queen for a Day” interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.

Nearly a year into Trump’s administration [based on last November’s information], senior-level staffers — including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Rob Porter — remained on interim clearances even as other senior advisers were granted full security access. It requires those with full permanent clearances to remain vigilant about what information is shared with those still operating on an interim basis.

Now there are still more than 100 staffers in the Executive Office of the President who were operating on interim clearances more than a year after Trump was elected. Some officials who started on January 20, 2017, and were without permanent clearances by November include a special assistant to the president for national security affairs and the National Security Council’s senior director for international cybersecurity.

Some others had been approved for permanent access to top secret information but were still working off interim access to Sensitive Compartmented Information including Don McGahn, the White House counsel, and Sarah Sanders, the press secretary. Other notable staffers, like former NBC “Apprentice” star Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who has since left the White House, had no security clearance nor applied for one.

In a five-page memo to the White House counsel, national security adviser and deputy chief of staff for operations, chief of staff John Kelly called for all background check investigations into potential top White House officials to be delivered directly to the White House Counsel’s office by the FBI and for the FBI to share “significant derogatory information” uncovered in the course of investigations into senior staff with the White House within 48 hours.

Kelly also directed his staff to discontinue top level security clearances for any staffer whose background investigation or adjudication process has been pending since before last June.

Porter was involved in serious discussions to be promoted when he abruptly resigned from the White House last week amid allegations that he abused his two ex-wives. Porter had been actively lobbying to take on new policy portfolios outside the traditional scope of the staff secretary. One of the areas Porter was set to delve further into was trade policy, according to the person. Porter was a regular attendee at a weekly trade meeting among top-level administration officials. He was also being considered for the deputy chief of staff position.

The FBI obtained photos of the bruised face of Colbie Holderness [ex-wife of Porter] seven days after Trump’s inauguration last year raising questions about what information McGahn had at his disposal regarding Porter.

Several White House officials, including Kelly, were receptive to promoting Porter. Kelly had told associates that Porter was one of the few competent professionals on his staff and wanted to ensure that he was being used to his full potential. Senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump also viewed Porter as a professional, competent staffer and worked to elevate his standing inside the West Wing.

White House Press Secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders claims that Trump and the White House takes “domestic violence very seriously”. But Trump never said anything. He never addressed the victims – just Porter and very positively [such as have a great career elsewhere].

Ryan said the “Vetting system needs fixing” as the House Oversight Committee’s investigation of the White House’s handling of Rob Porter’s employment following domestic violence allegations. Maybe they should apply Trump’s “extreme vetting”.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions [“incidents”] with other travelers. Pruitt used a $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight in June from Washington to New York City. Pruitt’s ticket cost six times what EPA paid for his aides seated in coach. Federal regulations allow government travelers to fly business class or first class when no cheaper options are “reasonably available” or if there are exceptional security circumstances.

Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour security detail that accompanies him at all times, even at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. He has also taken other security precautions, including the addition of a $25,000 soundproof “privacy booth” to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and spending $3,000 to have his office swept for hidden listening devices. Is his job more secretive than the chief of staff or even the President?

Records show Pruitt has taken at least four flights on non-commercial aircraft, costing more than $58,000. EPA has said all of those flights were necessary and pre-approved by ethics lawyers. Nominated by Trump, Pruitt has previous had issues with his travel arrangements as well as “winning” the job considering his anti-environment stance he has.

Fannie Mae, the government-controlled mortgage company, said its net worth sank to a negative $3.7 billion after it had to “remeasure” its deferred tax assets to the tune of $9.9 billion as required by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by Trump just before the end of the year.

Puerto Rico’s Housing Department said Wednesday it will suspend a $133 million deal with a U.S. company hired to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Maria because a review board found the contract was improperly awarded. But a company vice-president, Daniel Craig, had been nominated by Trump to the No. 2 position at FEMA but later withdrew from consideration. As an ex-FEMA official under former President George W. Bush, had faced a 2011 federal investigation that concluded he falsified government travel and timekeeping records — findings he has rejected as being the result of a poor investigation.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said that he paid $130,000 of his own money to porn star, Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had a sexual encounter with the President before his time in office. “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.” I guess Melania Trump won’t be happy.

Just weeks before the 2016 election, Cohen reportedly created a private LLC to pay Daniels following an alleged July 2006 encounter with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported in January. He says he neither told Trump nor anyone else in the Trump Organization he was making the payment. And he was not paid back in any way, shape or form.

Why would he spent $130,000 to make Daniels go away — and not tell her story — if her story was fundamentally without merit? It has been reported that Cohen was shopping a book proposal that would touch on Daniels’ story.

Meanwhile, The New Yorker published a report based on a handwritten account from Karen McDougal who detailed her alleged affair with Donald Trump for nine months from June 2006 to April 2007, when Trump was two years into his marriage with Melania Trump.

More than one in three Trump administration staffers have left the White House in its first year, a pace that far eclipses the rate of departures in the previous five White Houses, according to a study done by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institute. The pace of resignations, firings and other assorted departures from the Trump White House is twice what it was in George W. Bush’s first year as president and triple that of Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Trump administration is proposing to replace nearly half of poor Americans’ monthly cash benefits with a box of food. It would affect households that receive at least $90 a month in food stamps, or roughly 38 million people.

Instead of receiving all their food stamp funds, households would get a box of food that the government describes as nutritious and 100% grown and produced in the U.S. The so-called USDA America’s Harvest Box would contain items such as shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. The box would be valued at about half of the SNAP recipient’s monthly benefit. The remainder of their benefits would be given to them on electronic benefit cards, as before.

The proposal would save nearly $130 billion over 10 years, as well as improve the nutritional value of the program and reduce the potential for fraud, according to the administration. Consumer advocates questioned whether the federal government could save that much money by purchasing and distributing food on its own. Also, families would not know what food they would get in advance nor have any choice regarding what they receive and it could be difficult for families to pick up the box, especially if they don’t have a car.

The wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Louise Linton, goofed again by posing in the March issue of ELLE in a provocative poses [see also here]. Remember that not only did she emerge from a government jet in designer clothes [whose labels she initially tagged in her photo] she got into a spat with a commenter who questioned whether such a display of wealth was appropriate. She’s since apologized, but she still regrets how she handled it.

Trump tweeted “4.2 million hard working Americans have already received a large Bonus and/or Pay Increase because of our recently Passed Tax Cut & Jobs Bill….and it will only get better! We are far ahead of schedule.” With the tax cuts, shouldn’t every worker in the US [and not just 4.2 million] have received tax cuts in their paychecks by now? And what schedule?

No to Democratic memo, a few resignations, but no shutdown [for now]

The spending bill Donald Trump signed only ensures that the government is funded through March 23 — which means there could be another shutdown in just six weeks. The bill also raises the debt ceiling by the appropriate amount until March 2019.

Trump tweeted “This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes. Fortunately, DACA not included in this Bill, negotiations to start now!” Shouldn’t that be “Unfortunately” or he doesn’t want DACA in any legislation. I’m almost sure that anything the Democrats proposed will help people in the US.

Senate leaders unveiled a two-year budget deal, but the plan needed to pass the House where it’s already facing strong headwinds. Some senators from the  Republicans [adding to debt] and Democrats [DACA/Dreamers] are opposed to the bill.

“The other thing is there is a huge hypocrisy factor here,” said Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul. “Republicans lambasted President Obama to no end for trillion dollar deficits and now they have put forward a trillion dollar deficit. And I don’t know I think the American people are going to be surprised, upset, hurt that so the so-called conservatives got elected and turned out not to be much different than the people they were criticizing.” Paul is pushing for an amendment to maintain budget caps, but Senate sources say leaders have no plan to give Paul such a concession.

Trump said he supports a government shutdown if Democrats won’t agree to tighten immigration laws, undercutting ongoing bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill. Not much of a negotiation if you are trying to force a deal down someone’s throat. “We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.” Ummm. “Worth it?”

Trump won’t release the Democratic rebuttal to the Republican intelligence memo alleging FBI abuses of its surveillance authority at this time, and has sent it back to the House Intelligence Committee for changes. The claim is that the Democratic rebuttal contains numerous classified and sensitive sections. But earlier in the day Trump told reporters at the White House “It’s gonna be released soon.”

The FBI and Department of Justice were supposed to verify the Democratic rebuttal didn’t contain anything that could cause a security problem before it got sent to Trump to sign. So if it got sent to Trump, then the FBI and Department of Justice approved of it – which means the rejections is nonsense and/or just political.

Senior aides to Trump knew for months about allegations of domestic abuse levied against top White House staffer Rob Porter by his ex-wives, even as Porter’s stock in the West Wing continued to rise. Trump himself supposedly first learned of the allegations this week but has expressed no sympathy towards the women who are accusing Porter of abuse.

Porter’s ex-wives detailed the allegations to the FBI over the course of a routine background check. A year into the administration, Porter does not hold a security clearance. Porter has now resigned.

By early fall, it was widely known among Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff John Kelly — both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining the clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them. No action was taken to remove him from the staff. Instead, Kelly and others oversaw an elevation in Porter’s standing. He was one of a handful of aides who helped draft last week’s State of the Union address. Even an ex-girlfriend from 2016 complained about abuse.

Fox News barely mentioned Porter’s issues and resignation unlike other news outlets. [Fox News spent much of the day hyping a debunked story suggesting that former President Barack Obama had waded into the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.]

Add to this mess is that White House communications director Hope Hicks was dating Porter. Hicks helped defend Porter with a supportive statement that was put out in chief of staff John Kelly’s name. Hicks is also caught up in Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice and other matters. She was dating ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski earlier in 2016. [Those on Twitter imagine Keri Russell or Allison Williams someday playing Hicks in a movie about how she sabotaged Trump and saved the country.]

Trump seemed to like Porter calling him a very smart person who has a Rhodes Scholar and a law degree. Unsure if true [probably] or a joke [less likely], Trump said he could be a Supreme Court nominee.

Questions will need to be answered such as if Trump knew about Porter’s past as well as how many more staff member in the White House still don’t have the appropriate security credentials [an estimation of between 30-40 require a clearance]. Did Kelly, a former general, ignore this as if he was in the military where abuse tends to sometime go unnoticed?

Speech writer, David Sorensen, who worked for the Council on Environmental Quality, which is part of the Executive Office of the President, has resigned for alleged spousal abuse. He denied the allegations though. His position did not require a security clearance.

To add to the weirdness, after Trump was impressed with the parade in Paris in July, he now wants a parade in Washington – as if there was none before. In Paris, he called it “one of the greatest parades” he had ever seen. Military planners will now look not only at dates and locations for the parade, but also costs, logistics and whether it is feasible to hold a parade displaying large weaponry such as tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Robert O’Neill, the former Navy SEAL, who claims he fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden is blasting Trump’s desire for a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. “A military parade is third world b——-. We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation,” O’Neill tweeted. Will Trump go after the guy who supposedly killed Bin Laden and face a probably backlash?

Jared Kushner is trying to have a request of exactly who are the major foreign shareholders in Kushner Cos, the holding company primarily controlled by his family.

District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose impartiality was questioned by then-candidate Trump because of his Mexican heritage, is set to hear a case involving the Trump’s border wall. The case, which is being brought by the state of California and multiple groups, challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s power to waive environmental laws in their construction of a border wall.

Rachel L. Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, plans to step down after nine months on the job as the country’s top law enforcement agency has been under attack by Trump. Brand’s profile had risen in part because she is next in the line of succession behind the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein – who has been under attack by Trump on the Russian investigation. Brand’s assistant, Currie Gunn, has also left the department.

Twitter announced that more Russia-backed troll accounts were active during the 2016 US presidential election than previously thought. The social network also announced that it plans to notify some 677,775 users who either followed, retweeted or liked a tweet from more than 50,000 automated bots Russia-backed Twitter accounts during the 2016 election cycle. Add Internet Research Agency (IRA) with a total of 3,814 accounts.

Mike Revis, a 27 year old, won a state House seat in a Missouri district Trump won by 28 points, making this the 35th legislative seat Democrats have flipped nationally since the inauguration. Missouri is a deep “red” state.

In a series of hypothetical 2020 one-on-one contests conducted by SSRS, Trump trails Sen. Bernie Sanders by a 55% to 42% margin among registered voters. He lags further behind former Vice President Joe Biden by a wide 57% to 40% split, and trails television personality Oprah Winfrey by a 51% to 42% divide. Neither Sanders, 76, and Biden, 75, has ruled out a presidential bid in 2020.

While unemployment is quite low in the US, it is the Democratic leaning counties that are scooping up most of the jobs. Of the 30 counties that generated the largest share of new jobs from 2014 through 2016, Trump carried only two.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won fewer than 500 counties and Trump won more than 2,600. But the counties that Clinton carried accounted for 72% of the nation’s increased economic output from 2014 through 2016, the most recent years for which figures are available, according to Brookings. The Clinton counties accounted for 66% of the new job growth over that period as well.

Trump has found an excuse not to go to England with all the backlash: He is complaining that the cost of the new embassy in London was too much. Yup.

With all the hoopla regarding the US announcing that their embassy will move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv against the majority of the international community, Trump claims that they are “way ahead of schedule by years.” He said the US anticipates “having a small version of it open sometime next year.” How does he define this? Well, the embassy will be moving into another building the US currently occupies in Jerusalem.

Basically, it looks like a “token” embassy housing minimal staff while [for a while at least] most of the embassy staff will still be in Tel Aviv. This is basically the equivalent of saying you moved to a new house and just dropped off a box in the new house but still live in the old one.

Microsoft said in its earnings report that it took a $13.8 billion charge in the final three months of 2017 due to the Trump tax bill signed into law in December. With the charge, Microsoft posted a $6.3 billion net loss for the quarter. Without the charge, Microsoft’s profits hit $8.7 billion, up 10% from the same period a year earlier. Microsoft did not specify whether the charge was due to a new repatriation tax.

In November, Moody’s estimated that U.S. companies held about $1.4 trillion in cash overseas. Five large tech companies — Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle and Cisco — accounted for nearly $600 billion of that.