G.O.P. Health Bill Would Leave 23 Million More Uninsured in a Decade, C.B.O. Says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Protesters demonstrated outside the Capitol as Republican members of the House narrowly passed the health care bill this month. CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would increase the projected number of people without health insurance by 14 million next year and by 23 million in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That 10-year figure is slightly less than originally estimated.

It would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over a decade, less than the $150 billion in savings projected in late March for an earlier version of the bill. And in states that seek waivers from rules mandating essential health coverage, the new law could make insurance economically out of reach for some sick consumers.

“Premiums would vary significantly according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums,” the budget office concluded.

GRAPHIC

New C.B.O. Score: G.O.P. Health Bill Would Save Government Billions but Leave Millions Uninsured

A look at crucial numbers in the Congressional Budget Office report.

OPEN GRAPHIC

The new forecast of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper, is another blow to Republican efforts to undo President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The Senate has already said it will make substantial changes to the measure passed by the House, but even Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, is sounding uncertain about his chances of finding a majority to repeal and replace the health law.

Continue reading the main story

“I don’t know how we get to 50 at the moment,” Mr. McConnell told Reuters on Wednesday. “But that’s the goal.”

The new report from the budget office is sure to influence Republican senators, who are writing their own version of the legislation behind closed doors. The report provided fresh ammunition for Democrats trying to kill the repeal bill, which they have derided as “Trumpcare.”

 

Video

How the GOP Health Plan Would Treat the Sick

Reporter Margot Sanger-Katz examines high-risk pools, the controversy at the heart of the health care debate.

By ROBIN STEIN, MARGOT SANGER-KATZ and SUSAN JOAN ARCHER on Publish DateMay 24, 2017. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »

Republicans in Congress generally focus more on reducing health costs than on expanding coverage. Their proposals will inevitably cover fewer people than the Affordable Care Act, they say, because they will not compel people to buy insurance.

Republicans have been trying to repeal Mr. Obama’s health law since the day he signed it in March 2010. But the task is proving more difficult than they expected. Many parts of the law have become embedded in the nation’s health care system, and consumers have risen up to defend it, now that they fear losing its protection. At the same time, other consumers, upset about the mandate to buy insurance they can barely afford, are demanding changes in the law.

The budget office issued two reports on earlier versions of the House bill in March. Both said that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured by 14 million next year and by 24 million within a decade, compared with the current law.

GRAPHIC

The Parts of the Affordable Care Act That the Republican Bill Will Keep or Discard

A comparison of the amended bill with key components of the Affordable Care Act.

OPEN GRAPHIC

Republican senators appear as determined as ever to replace the health law.

“The status quo under Obamacare is completely unacceptable and totally unsustainable,” Mr. McConnell said Wednesday, a few hours before the budget office issued its report. “Prices are skyrocketing, choice is plummeting, the marketplace is collapsing and countless more Americans will get hurt if we don’t act.”

“Beyond likely reiterating things we already know — like that fewer people will buy a product they don’t want when the government stops forcing them to — the updated report will allow the Senate procedurally to move forward in working to draft its own health care legislation,” he added.

The instability of the health law’s insurance marketplaces was underscored again on Wednesday when Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, a nonprofit insurer, announced that it would not offer coverage under the law for 2018. The insurer lost more than $100 million in 2016 selling individual policies under the law, said Danette Wilson, the company’s chief executive.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, speaking to reporters in Washington on Tuesday.CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

“This is unsustainable,” she said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to our members and the greater community to remain stable and secure, and the uncertain direction of the market is a barrier to our continued participation.”

While the vast majority of people the company covers get insurance through an employer or a private Medicare plan, Blue Cross of Kansas City covers about 67,000 people in Kansas City and western Missouri under the federal health care law. The company’s departure could leave 25 counties in western Missouri without an insurer, said Cynthia Cox, a researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Democrats say much of that instability stems from Republican efforts to repeal and undermine the Affordable Care Act. The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, harshly criticized House Republicans for voting on their revised repeal measure without an updated analysis from the budget office.

“Republicans were haunted by the ghost of C.B.O. scores past, so they went ahead without one,” Mr. Schumer said. That action, he said, was reckless — “like test-driving a brand-new car three weeks after you’ve already signed on the dotted line and paid the dealer in full.”

The House repeal bill was approved on May 4 by a vote of 217 to 213, without support from any Democrats. It would eliminate tax penalties for people who go without health insurance and would roll back state-by-state expansions of Medicaid, which have provided coverage to millions of low-income people. And in place of government-subsidized insurance policies offered exclusively on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces, the bill would offer tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 a year, depending on age.

A family could receive up to $14,000 a year in credits. The credits would be reduced for individuals making more than $75,000 a year and families making more than $150,000.

Senior Republican senators say they want to reconfigure the tax credits to provide more financial assistance to lower-income people and to older Americans, who could face much higher premiums under the House bill.

The House bill would roll back a number of insurance requirements in the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans say have driven up the cost of coverage.

In the weeks leading up to passage of the House bill, Republican leaders revised it to win support from some of the most conservative members of their party.

Under the House bill, states could opt out of certain provisions of the health care law, including one that requires insurers to provide a minimum set of health benefits and another that prohibits them from charging higher premiums based on a person’s health status.

Insurers would not be allowed to charge higher premiums to sick people unless a state had an alternative mechanism, like a high-risk pool or a reinsurance program, to help provide coverage for people with serious illnesses.

Senate Republican have been meeting several days a week, trying to thrash out their differences on complex questions of health policy and politics, like the future of Medicaid.

Asked why Democrats had been excluded, Mr. McConnell said, “We’re not going to waste our time talking to people that have no interest in fixing the problem.”

Democrats have said they would gladly work with Republicans if the Republicans would renounce their goal of repealing Mr. Obama’s health care law.

Nearing 100 days, Trump’s approval at record lows but his base is holding

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Nearing 100 days, Trump’s approval at record lows but his base is holding

April 23 at 12:01 AM
President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.Trump’s first months in office have produced some tangible successes. Beyond the continued enthusiasm of his most loyal supporters, a small majority of Americans see him as a strong leader. A bigger majority approves of his efforts to pressure U.S. companies to keep jobs in this country. Those who say the economy is getting better outnumber those who say it’s getting worse by the biggest margin in 15 years in Post-ABC polling.

But the president’s balance sheet overall tilts toward the negative. Majorities of Americans say Trump has not accomplished much during his first months as president. Meanwhile, he shows little improvement on his temperament and honesty, and while he’s gained ground on empathy, over 6 in 10 still say he does not understand the problems of people like them.

[Read full poll results | How the poll was conducted]

With a week remaining before his 100th day in office, Trump has yet to achieve a major legislative accomplishment, having been dealt a major setback when Republicans in Congress decided not to proceed with a vote on a health-care bill supported by the White House. His clearest achievement is the successful nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court seat previously held by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Executive actions on trade, immigration, climate and government organization have pointed the direction he wants to take the country, though his controversial proposed travel ban that affects a number of Muslim-majority nations remains blocked by the courts. Trump and others in his administration have attacked the courts, accusing them of overreach, but nearly 6 in 10 people see their actions as a legitimate role for the judicial branch.

Overseas, he has demonstrated his willingness to use military force, with targeted strikes in Syria and the use of one of the biggest non-nuclear devices in the U.S. arsenal in Afghanistan. But tensions with North Korea remain high and the administration’s policy in the Middle East remains cloudy.

The 100-day marker is in part an artificial measuring post for any president, but by comparison, Trump has reached this point in his presidency faring worse to much worse than other recent presidents. An electorate that was deeply divided throughout the 2016 campaign remains so today, with opposition seemingly hardened and unyielding on most questions regarding his presidency.

The president’s approval rating stands at 42 percent, the lowest recorded at this stage of a presidency dating to Dwight Eisenhower. Trump’s 53 percent disapproval rating is 14 percentage points higher than Bill Clinton’s 39 percent disapproval in April 1993, the worst before Trump. Eight years ago, then-president Barack Obama’s approval was 69 percent, his disapproval 26 percent.

The Post-ABC poll finds 43 percent of Americans said they strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance. That’s also the worst by far of any president since George H.W. Bush by more than double. In the spring of 1993, 21 percent said they strongly disapproved of Clinton’s performance.

Americans split at 35 percent apiece on whether Trump is doing a better or worse job than expected, with the rest saying he’s neither above nor below their expectations.

There are no signs of major slippage in support among those who voted for Trump. His approval rating among those who cast ballots for him stands at 94 percent. Among Republicans, it is 84 percent. Asked of those who voted for him whether they regret doing so, 2 percent say they do, while 96 percent say supporting Trump was the right thing to do.When asked if they would vote for him again, 96 percent say they would, which is higher than the 85 percent of Hillary Clinton voters who say they would support her again.

Trump is also satisfying the substantial share of the electorate that voted for him with some reservation. Among Trump voters who say they were “somewhat enthusiastic” or less excited about supporting him, 88 percent approve of his current performance and 79 percent say he understands the problems of people like them.

Bill Clinton also had a rocky start to his presidency, which colored public judgments of his presidency by the 100-day mark. Although just 42 percent say Trump has accomplished either a great deal or a good amount so far, that is slightly higher than the 37 percent who said the same about Clinton in 1993.

Similarly, judgments on whether campaign promises have been kept put Trump on about equal footing with Bill Clinton — 44 percent and 42 percent respectively. Also, Trump’s 53 percent positive rating on strong leadership is almost identical to that of George W. Bush’s at this point in his presidency, but much lower than Obama’s 77 percent rating.

Of those who say Trump has not accomplished much, 47 percent pin the blame on him while about a quarter blame congressional Republicans. Only 7 percent say Democrats are to blame.

One of Trump’s biggest deficiencies compared with other presidents is whether he is honest and trustworthy. Fewer than 4 in 10 (38 percent) say he is. At this point in their presidencies, 74 percent said Obama was honest, 62 percent said George W. Bush was honest and a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed 61 percent said Clinton was honest.

Another gap is on the question of whether Trump can be trusted in a crisis. The poll finds that 43 percent — about the same as Trump’s approval rating — say he can be trusted; 73 percent said so for Obama and 65 percent for George W. Bush at this point in their presidencies.

On the specific question of how Trump has dealt with North Korea, 46 percent say he has been about right in his posture, 37 percent say he is too aggressive and just 7 percent say he is too cautious.

On most questions about his performance or characteristics, Trump receives more negative than positive ratings. The most notable exception is his effort to pressure U.S. companies on the issues of keeping jobs at home, where 73 percent of Americans approve, including 54 percent of Democrats.

Another issue where the public sides with Trump rather than his critics is whether it is a conflict of interest for Trump to spend time at his own properties. A 54 percent majority say he has the right to travel where he wants to go. But on another question, about 6 in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the major White House roles Trump has given to his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner.

Trump has net negative ratings on such questions as temperament — just as he did during the campaign — as well as on judgment to serve as president, and on whether he operates from a consistent set of principles. He has said he likes to be unpredictable.

Half disapprove of the major changes he has proposed for government spending, while nearly 6 in 10 say he is out of touch with the concerns of most people. But on this question, the public is even harsher in judging the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Democrats have lost considerable ground on this front. The 28 percent who say the party is in touch with concerns of most Americans is down from 48 percent in 2014 and the biggest drop is among self-identified Democrats, from 83 percent saying they are in touch to just 52 percent today. That is a reminder that whatever challenges Trump is having, Democrats, for all the energy apparent at the grass roots, have their own problems.

The Post-ABC survey reveals a persistent gender gap, with women generally more negative toward the president than men, including double-digit gaps on Trump’s attributes such as honesty and temperament. Just over one-third of women (35 percent) approve of the way he is handling the job of president compared with 48 percent of men. Even fewer women, 29 percent,say they approve of the changes he is proposing for government spending compared with 45 percent of men.

Despite the public’s skepticism of Trump’s first 100 days, the survey finds little evidence voters would render a different verdict from last November, when Trump won key states needed to secure victory in the electoral college despite Clinton winning more votes nationwide.

The new survey finds 46 percent saying they voted for Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, similar to her two-point national vote margin. Asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 43 say they would support Trump and 40 percent say Clinton.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 17-20 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults interviewed on cellular and landline phones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

So Far Trump And Obama Don’t Act Much Different When It Comes To Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

New York (CNN) As a candidate, President Donald Trump pulled no punches in his criticism of the Obama administration’s multilateral pact with Tehran to curb the Iranian nuclear program. The deal stank, he said then.

Now his secretary of state is, for the time being, certifying it.
“I’ve been doing deals for a long time, I’ve been making lots of wonderful deals — great deals — that’s what I do. Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran. And I mean, never.”
It was September 9, 2015, a few months into his presidential campaign, and Trump was in Washington, where he was addressing a rally against the Obama administration’s historic nuclear pact with Tehran. Trump by then had established himself as a Republican primary player. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz welcomed his rival to the event, reasoning that where Trump went, the cameras followed.

Trump: "I've been doing deals for a long time"

Trump: “I’ve been doing deals for a long time” 05:06
That much has remained the same. But when it comes to the Iran deal, Trump has, for the moment, changed. Blaring skepticism has given way to (yet another) pragmatic adjustment. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday delivered a letter to Congress confirming that Iran has kept up its end of the controversial bargain.
The letter pads what will be an unpopular conclusion among GOP hawks with word that Trump has ordered a review of plans to lift sanctions in accordance with the deal, citing the Iranian government’s ties to assorted terror groups. To follow through on the implicit threat would, ironically, put the US in defiance of the terms of the agreement.

Explore Trump’s progress on key campaign promises

Which is to say, it’s not happening. At least not yet. By fate or fancy, the Trump administration has effectively taken on the foreign policy of its predecessor. The missile attack on Syria — a one-off tactical jab — was initially celebrated (or denounced) as a departure from Obama’s caution, but the reality is that American strategic positions in multiple foreign theaters remain essentially indistinguishable from a year ago.
Democrats will, of course, use this as another example of Trump betraying his campaign promises. That’s fair enough. Candidates make outlandish claims at their own political peril. But the reality here is that reality, more than any president, rules. Who saw it coming? Former Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson, kidnapped by Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, in 1985 and held for nearly seven years, offered a pretty good preview.
“The Iranians aren’t at Trump’s beck and call, and they won’t be if he’s elected president,” Anderson told The New Yorker after the 2015 speech. “It’s so idiotic that I don’t know how to address it. One of the first things a president learns when he comes into office is that he can’t simply order things and make them happen — in our government, let alone anyone else’s.”
If he hasn’t yet learned that, then Trump has surely experienced it. Though largely true to his campaign pledges as a matter of effort, he has been repeatedly turned back by the same forces he vowed to tame. Obamacare remains, thanks to in the intransigence of his own party. NATO? “Obsolete” no more. Tax reform? That could be the most difficult feat of all.
President Trump’s reversals
before becoming president
after becoming president

NATO
March 27, 2016
“I think NATO’s obsolete. NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger, much larger than Russia is today. I’m not saying Russia’s not a threat. But we have other threats.”
April 12, 2017
“I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change. Now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”

China
June 28, 2016
“I’m going to instruct my treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator.”

Attacking the Syrian government
August 29, 2013
Tweet: “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.”
April 6, 2017
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched…” Trump did not ask for nor receive congressional approval to launch his attack.

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen
September 12, 2016
“She’s keeping (rates) artificially low to get Obama retired … I think she is very political and to a certain extent, I think she should be ashamed of herself because it is not supposed to be that way.”
April 12, 2017
I like her, I respect her … It’s very early.”

Executive orders
July 10, 2012
Tweet: “Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?”
March 31, 2017
Trump has issued 23 executive orders, including his controversial travel ban, since taking office on January 20.

The unemployment rate
March 12, 2016
The numbers are phony. These are all phony numbers. Numbers given to politicians to look good. These are phony numbers.”
March 10, 2017
White House press secretary Sean Spicer: “I talked to the President prior to this and he said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.’ “

Presidential golf
October 13, 2014
Tweet: “Can you believe that,with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.Worse than Carter”
February 11, 2017
Trump has visited his golf courses 16 times since taking office. In early February he tweeted: “Played golf today with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and @TheBig_Easy, Ernie Els, and had a great time. Japan is very well represented!”

The Export-Import Bank
August 4, 2015
“I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s necessary … It’s sort of a featherbedding for politicians and others, and a few companies. And these are companies that can do very well without it. So I don’t like it. I think it’s a lot of excess baggage. I think it’s unnecessary. And when you think about free enterprise it’s really not free enterprise. I’d be against it.”
April 12, 2017
“It turns out that, first of all, lots of small companies are really helped, the vendor companies. But also, maybe more important, other countries give [assistance]. When other countries give it we lose a tremendous amount of business.”

Federal hiring freeze
October 23, 2016
“On the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue … a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce the federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health).”
April 12, 2017
Trump signed a presidential memorandum freezing federal hiring days after taking office. Then, on his 82nd day in office, budget director Mick Mulvaney announced this: “What we are doing tomorrow is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that we put into place on day one in office and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan.”
Even China, an ever-present campaign trail piñata, has been spared in deference to existential concerns on the Korean Peninsula. “They’re not currency manipulators,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal a week ago, after more than a year of guarantees that he would order his treasury secretary to label the country a currency manipulator.
His explanation was simple. Pyongyang and its nukes were the priority.
“What, am I going to start trade war with China in the middle of (Chinese President Xi Jinping) working on a bigger problem with North Korea?” Trump said during an interview with Fox News. “I’m dealing with China with great respect. I have great respect for him. We’ll see what he can do. Maybe he won’t be able to help. That’s possible. I think he is trying. Maybe he won’t be able to help. That’s a whole different story.”
And so it goes for the Iran deal. Is Trump going to begin unraveling the dense, multinational accord in the middle of a ramped-up war on ISIS and escalating tensions with Syria (plus Russia and Iran by proxy)?
Not yet. His tactical unpredictability, for now, only stretches so far. Through nearly 100 days in office, Trump’s foreign policy has a familiar ring.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo: WikiLeaks Is A ‘Hostile Intelligence Service’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

CIA director Mike Pompeo: WikiLeaks is a ‘hostile intelligence service’

Story highlights

  • Pompeo made a public appearance and blasted WikiLeaks
  • “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is”
  • He also offered his take on threats from Iran and North Korea

Washington (CNN) CIA director Mike Pompeo gave a speech Thursday, railing against WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service.”

His appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, among his first forays into the public eye since being confirmed, came several months after WikiLeaks’ publishing stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta as well as the Democratic National Committee and just over a month since WikiLeaks published a trove of files it said were from the CIA. The CIA has neither confirmed nor denied their veracity.
In his Thursday speech, Pompeo accused WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, a former contractor who leaked NSA documents to journalists, of disseminating classified information to “make a name for themselves.”
Pompeo has in the past called for Snowden to receive the death penalty.
He said people at the CIA found praise for WikiLeaks “both perplexing and deeply troubling.”
“As long as they make a splash, they care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security,” Pompeo said. “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors, like Russia.”
During the question and answer portion of the event, Pompeo said because Assange was not a US citizen and lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, he “has no First Amendment freedoms.”
Although WikiLeaks describes itself as a media organization exposing powerful governments and companies, Pompeo said he viewed this as false.
“These are not reporters doing good work,” Pompeo said. “These are people who are actively recruiting agents.”
Pompeo said past administrations had been “squeamish” about going after people who published secrets he considered harmful to the US.
During the campaign rally in October, Trump said he loved WikiLeaks and regularly touted their disclosures. For a time before taking office, Trump did not endorse a report from the US intelligence community accusing Russia of being behind the hacks and using WikiLeaks to disseminate them in order to hurt the Clinton campaign.
Russia has denied any wrongdoing, and Assange has said WikiLeaks’ source was not Russia.
WikiLeaks responded to Pompeo’s comments in part by referencing a now deleted tweet he sent during the campaign referencing WikiLeaks’ DNC trove.

Iran and North Korea

Until Trump tapped him to lead the CIA, Pompeo was a Republican member of Congress from Kansas. He was an outspoken critic of the Obama administration and the US nuclear agreement with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.
As CIA director speaking at CSIS on Thursday, he was considerably less outspoken about his issues with the Iran deal, but did say Iranians were “on the march” and cited missile launches, their support of the Houthis in Yemen and military involvement in Iraq in the past two years.
“The list of Iranian transgressions has increased dramatically since the date that the JCPOA was signed,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said he viewed working with both European and Middle Eastern allies as integral to countering Iran, but also said the US’ recent cruise missile strike on Syria likely sent a message of US strength to Iran.
“What I mean by that is, this was a decision-making process that was decisive, thoughtful and truly based on a factual understanding of the geopolitical importance of the things that are facing our nation today.”
He went on to say the Iranians “ought to take note of the fact that this administration” is willing to take different measures than past administrations.
Pompeo also spoke about nuclear proliferation in North Korea and the potential of another nuclear weapons test in the coming days.
“Multiple administrations have tried to deal with the threat of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of putting a nuclear warhead into the United States, and we’re simply closer now than we have ever been at any time in North Korea’s history,” he said. “As the knowledge base increases and the capacity to deliver that increases and draws closer, it both reduces the option set to prevent it and makes more likely that you get a bad decision on a tough day from the leader of North Korea.”
Like Trump, Pompeo said China was of utmost importance to solving the issue.
Asked if there was hope China could turn back or end the North Korean nuclear weapons program, Pompeo said, “I’m counting on it.”

Trump: Germany Owes US, NATO Vast Sums of Money

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

Trump: Germany Owes US, NATO Vast Sums of Money

Trump

Washington –President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Germany owed “vast sums of money” to NATO and the US, and that Berlin “should pay.”

Trump’s statements come following his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington.

Trump took it to twitter where he said: “Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

The two leaders did not show any signs of agreement on several pending issues, including NATO and defense expenditures.

During a joint press conference with Merkel, Trump complained that other NATO members have not paid their dues for years. He insisted they pay for “their fair share of the defense they receive.”

NATO countries are asked to contribute 2 percent of their GDP to the alliance’s defense spending.

Merkel said that Germany agreed on the need for “increasing expenditure” to meet the 2 percent goal.

Trump then criticized the way the media had dealt with the meeting saying on Twitter also: “Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

Expenditure was not the only point of disagreement between the two. A German journalist brought up the case of wiretapping and Trump’s accusations that British Intelligence was working with Obama to spy on him.

Despite constant negations and absence of evidence, the US President continued with his allegations and even joked that Merkel had also been a victim of wiretapping.

Since his arrival at the White House, the Republican billionaire had written several controversial tweets, none of which had damaged his credibility as much as the one he wrote on March 4.

He tweeted: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism.”

Media reports reveal each day new findings on Trump’s or his close personnel’s contacts with Russia.

Trump had repeatedly denied any affiliations to the Kremlin, but he could not control the flow of information and therefore decided to attack his predecessor.

Since then, Obama, former intelligence director James Clapper and many democratic and republican officials have denied those allegations.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to apologize to the UK for press secretary Sean Spicer’s allegation that the GCHQ had spied on Trump Tower for Obama. Spicer almost caused a diplomatic crisis by defending the president.

On Thursday, Spicer quoted a series of articles that discussed surveillance. He referenced comments made earlier this week on Fox News TV by Andrew Napolitano in relation to Trump’s controversial claim that wiretaps had been installed at his New York residence.

“Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ,” Spicer said in the press conference.

British officials were quick to comment on Napolitano’s claims, saying they were “rubbish”.

A government source reportedly said the claim was “totally untrue and quite frankly absurd”.

It told Reuters that under British law, GCHQ “can only gather intelligence for national security purposes” and noted that a US election “clearly doesn’t meet that criteria”.

“As for as wiretapping, I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said during his press conference with Chancellor Merkel, referring to reports that the National Security Agency had tapped Merkel in 2010.

Such incidents do not reassure US Congressmen, including those in Trump’s camp. Trump promised to reveal next week new evidences that prove his allegations.

Chairman of the House intelligence committee, Devin Nunes confirmed Friday that the Justice Department had “fully complied” with the committee’s request.

He did not provide any further details.

FBI Director James Comey is set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday.

The public hearing is the first of several that the intelligence committees are expected to hold on alleged Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

More PostsTwitterFacebookGoogle PlusYouTube

Trump The Moron At It Again: Saying Obama Got The British Intelligence Agency To Spy On Him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

White House Seeks to Allay British Concerns Over Unfounded Wiretapping Claim

11:43 AM ET
White House officials tried to calm the concerns of British allies after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated an unfounded claim that the British spy service spied on President Trump. But the White House is stopping short of saying it offered an apology to its closest foreign ally.

“[British Ambassador to the U.S.] Kim Darroch and [National Security Advisor] Sir Mark Lyall expressed their concerns to Sean Spicer and General McMaster,” a White House official said Friday. “Mr. Spicer and General McMaster explained that Mr. Spicer was simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story.”

Several British outlets reported Friday that the White House apologized to the U.K. government, but the White House would not confirm those accounts.

The row began Thursday, as Spicer repeated the claim of Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano, who suggested that former President Obama had ordered GCHQ, the U.K.’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, to spy on his successor. For nearly two weeks the White House has been struggling to justify Trump’s assertion in a March 4 tweet that Obama had him “wire tapped.”

On Thursday, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee jointly stated they’ve seen no evidence of any surveillance of Trump Tower. Even Trump allies in Congress are staying away from the claim, though Trump maintained Wednesday in an interview with Fox News that he would be vindicated by new information “very soon.” The White House has argued that Trump’s use of quotation marks around the phrase wires tapped implied he meant all manners of surveillance against him, but hasn’t offered any official proof of the claim, beyond reports in the press.

Reading a long list of media reports that mentioned alleged signals intelligence about Trump and his ties to Russia, Spicer quoted comments.

“Last, on Fox News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement,” Spicer said during the daily White House briefing. “‘Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI, and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ, what is that? It’s the initials for the British Intelligence Spying Agency. So simply, by having two people saying to them, “The President needs transcripts of conversations involved in candidate Trump’s conversations involving President-elect Trump,” he was able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this.'”

Within hours GCHQ responded in a rare statement calling the claim “utterly ridiculous.

“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense,” a GCHQ spokesperson said. “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

Asked by a reporter whether the subject of GCHQ’s alleged involvement had raised between the two governments and whether it would affect the so-called “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K., Spicer backtracked.

“No, no, it has not been raised,” Spicer said. “But I do think that, again, we’re not — all we’re doing is literally reading off what other stations and people have reported, and I think that casts into concern some of the activities that may have occurred during the ’16 election. We’re not casting judgment on that. I think the idea is to say that if these organizations, these individuals came to these conclusions, they merit looking into.”

The claim is all the more incendiary given the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the two countries. The U.S. and the U.K., along with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, form the Five Eyes — a decades-old intelligence cooperative in which the countries share much of their signals intelligence and pledge not to spy on each another.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May told The Independent that the White House would not float the claims again. “We’ve made clear to the Administration that these claims are ridiculous and they should be ignored and we’ve received assurances they won’t be repeated.”

US Releases $221 Million Fund To Palestine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

US Releases $221 Million Fund to Palestine

USAID

Ramallah – US has announced the release of the $221 million for Palestinians, which President Donald Trump had previously frozen and put under review after former US President Obama had ordered at the “last minute” of his presidency.

US State Department had confirmed that the money will be used for services in the West Bank and will not go directly to the authorities’ treasury.

A Palestinian official told Asharq Al-Awsat that most of this money had been allocated to foreign organizations working within the Palestinian territories.

Speaking during a press briefing on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that to his understanding the money had been released, but also said that the issue was still under review.

“220.3 million that was released was for West Bank programs such as water, infrastructure, education, renewable energy, civil society, municipal governance, and the rule of law, as well as Gaza recovery. And a smaller amount was to go directly to Israeli creditors of the Palestinian Authority as well as East Jerusalem hospitals. None of the funding was to go directly to the Palestinian Authority,” explained Toner.

The official stated that these funds were never assigned to the authority and were not a donation from former President Obama.

“We don’t know why Trump decided to freeze them, and then released them,” said the official.

He added that the majority of these funds will be given to international organizations in Palestine. “Most of the money will be given to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for projects within the Palestinian authorities,” according to the official.

The funds included $180 million from USAID, $25 million to support Palestinian hospitals and $45 million to pay for fuel purchased from Israel.

He then explained that the funds were supposed to be given before the end of 2016, but they were delayed until Obama ordered the transfer, few hours before leaving the White House.

On January 20, and just few hours before Trump’s inauguration, Obama informed the congress that he will send the money. The money was frozen after the Congress’ recommendation as a punishment for the authorities’ attempts to join UN organizations and for instigation.

Though it is not legally binding, the White House abode by the Congress’ decision. Hours before Trump’s arrival, former US secretary of state John Kerry informed the Congress of the transfer.

Trump’s administration then announced it had frozen the grant in order to make adjustments to ensure it complies with the new administration’s priorities.

The relations between Trump’s administration and the Palestinian authority are not exactly strong, despite the few meetings made. Major conflict rose when Palestine stated it won’t accept any solution other than the two-state solution, while Trump declared it is not the only solution available.

Palestinians are afraid Trump will transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that this will be an admission that Quds is Israel’s capital, thus ending any US role in the peace process.

Yet, Palestinians are seeking better relations with the US. Chief of Palestinian Intelligence Majid Faraj met with US security officials.

Then, US Director of CIA Mike Pompeo met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. But, till now, no contact has been established at the level of the White House or the State Department.

Trump Accuses Obama Of “Nixon/Watergate” Type “Bugging” Of Trump Tower Phones

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.

Citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of five tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”

Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities.

A spokesman for Obama did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency. He has ordered internal inquiries to find who leaked sensitive information regarding communications during the campaign between Russian officials and his campaign associates and allies, including ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

What is next for Trump and the intelligence community?

Washington Post reporter Adam Entous breaks down Friday’s intelligence report on Russian involvement in the 2016 election. (Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)

Some current and former intelligence officials cast doubt on Trump’s assertion.

“It’s highly unlikely there was a wiretap on the president-elect,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity. “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power.”

A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility, the official said, without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power — or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can’t just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.

Trump sent the tweets from Palm Beach, Fla., where he is vacationing this weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago estate. It has long been his practice to stir up new controversies to deflect attention from a damaging news cycle, such as the one in recent days about Sessions and Russia.

Trump’s tweets took numerous top White House aides by surprise, according to a second White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly. There was an expectation that Saturday would be a “down day, pretty quiet,” this official said, and there was little if any attempt to coordinate the president’s message on the wire-tapping allegations.

Recent Immigration Raids in U.S. Cities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AGENCY)

What to Know About Recent Immigration Raids in U.S. Cities

10:26 AM Eastern

Hundreds of undocumented immigrants were arrested in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in cities across the U.S. this week — the first widespread enforcement of President Donald Trump’s policy aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

Trump campaigned on a promise to take action against illegal immigration, pledging to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants by targeting those with criminal records. Notably, experts have challenged Trump’s estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes.

The raids took place at homes and workplaces in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, the Los Angeles area, North Carolina and South Carolina, the Washington Post reported, citing immigration officials.

Here are some key details to know:

This action follows Trump’s executive order on immigration
Trump signed an executive order last month aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. It set a priority of deporting any undocumented immigrant who had been charged with a crime, convicted of a crime or had “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”

But immigration officials said the recent raids were a “routine” enforcement practice.

“These are existing, established fugitive operations teams. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” said Gillian Christensen, acting press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, according to CNN. “ICE only conducts targeted enforcement of criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws.”

Raids caused panic in immigrant communities
Recent arrests and deportations have affected people who were not considered a priority for deportation under the Obama administration.

Protests broke out in Phoenix this week over the deportation of a mother who had lived in the U.S. for 21 years and was arrested during a routine meeting with ICE on Wednesday. She had been convicted of a felony in 2008 for using a fake social security number to gain employment, but she was not previously considered a deportation priority.

Officials conducted similar raids during Obama’s presidency but prioritized immigrants who were deemed a threat to national security or public safety. Still, more than 2 million people were deported under Obama, leading some critics to label him “Deporter in Chief.”

The raids this week caused fear and confusion in immigrant communities, and immigrants’ rights advocates argued it was different than typical law enforcement action. Some groups issued guidance for dealing with ICE officials. In Austin, Texas, teachers handed out flyers to students, explaining “what to do if ICE comes to your door,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Democratic leaders and lawmakers spoke out about the arrests
“Angelenos should not have to fear raids that are disruptive to their peace of mind and bring unnecessary anxiety to our homes, schools, and workplaces,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday. “The Administration should take a just, humane, and sensible approach that does not cause pain for people who only want to live their lives and raise their families in the communities they call home.”

Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro confirmed there was a “targeted operation” taking place in the state and said he was “concerned” about the raids.

“I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state,” he said in a statement.

Tehran Worried after Drone Flies Near Khamenei Office

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ASHARQ AL-AWSAT NEWS)

Tehran Worried after Drone Flies Near Khamenei Office

Tehran

London – Iranian authorities were worried on Friday after a drone flew near the office of the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

Iran’s anti-aircraft forces extensively fired at the drone as it approached the Pasteur strategic area, where the office of the supreme leader is located.

The drone later appeared to have been operated by a film crew shooting aerial footage for a documentary.

Tehran’s deputy governor general for security affairs, Mohsen Hamedani said the state television crew was filming Friday prayers and “did not know about the prohibited airspace.”

He added: “The drone did not respect the no-fly zone” in central Tehran.

Pasteur Street in central Tehran is highly secured due to the presence of key government institutions there, such as the office of the Iranian President, the center of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Intelligence leadership, the center of the Assembly of Experts for the Leadership, and the Supreme National Security Council. The street also includes several military schools and the center of the Armed Forces Logistics.

Iran’s Air Defense Base issued a statement on Friday saying the drone had entered Tehran’s airspace without coordination and permission, Mehr new agency said.

The statement said the drone was shot down by the anti-craft forces in a central district of the capital.

ILNA news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying that the drone was shot down as “it approached the no-fly zone” near the office of the supreme leader.

The source later explained that the drone belonged to a documentary-making team that had permission to film but “unintentionally started moving it towards the no-fly zone,” Reuters reported.

The commander of Tehran air defense forces said in August that the capital’s airspace was under full control and “no aircraft can enter it without permission.”

Meanwhile, experts expected on Friday that the U.S. decision to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) would engender a new crisis between Washington and Tehran that could negatively reflect on the Nuclear Deal, already criticized by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

On Dec. 15, U.S. President Barack Obama allowed U.S. sanctions against Iran to be renewed, but have rejected in a surprise move to actually sign the legislation that brings the sanctions into force.

AFP said on Friday that the White House said renewing ISA was pointless since it remains suspended so long as Tehran sticks to its promises to curb its nuclear program.

“The US Congress never liked the deal and now that Obama is leaving office, they’re trying to find ways of violating the deal without being too obvious about it,” Foad Izadi, a world politics professor at the University of Tehran told AFP.

Iran also fears that keeping the sanctions would affect Tehran’s economic relations with the rest of the world. Tehran therefore believes that the U.S. Treasury should take more measures to comfort banks that are hesitant in dealing with Iran due to the sanctions.

When the banks ask the U.S. Treasury for guidance, the answers are slow and ambiguous, said Izadi.

“They ask for a green light, and they are given a yellow light, which is not enough.”

Shashank Joshi, from the RUSI think tank in London said, “Iran is showing they’re looking into doing something tough, without actually doing it… that they’re willing to tear up the deal if pushed too far.”

Asharq Al-AwsatArab

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

More PostsTwitterFacebookGoogle PlusYouTube

This blog, trouthtroubles.com is owned, written, and operated by oldpoet56. All articles, posts, and materials found here, except for those that I have pressed here from someone else’s blog for the purpose of showing off their work, are under copyright and this website must be credited if my articles are re-blogged, pressed, or shared.

—Thank You, oldpoet56, T.R.S.

The Budding Flower

An aspiring artist in search of a path that reflects her strength

Red Letters

Following Jesus, Loving life

bienvenido

El mundo es un libro y aquellos que no viajan, solo leen una página.

Syeda Maham Riaz

Art - Fashion - Beauty - Travel - Lifestyle - Books - DIY - Food

Tales from the Conspiratum

Warning: This site may contain conspiracies

MyYellowFeather

Your guide to style! 💛

tonnie6

instagram @tonnie_ke

%d bloggers like this: