White House Watch: The Dream Will Never Die

Are Republicans in the Trump era deficit-hawks-in-name-only? Or does the party still have faithfulness toward reducing the federal deficit in meaningful ways. Between last week’s Republican-forged budget deal that ended a severely flawed, but effective, system of spending caps and the advent of President Trump’s infrastructure spending proposal, the GOP’s credibility on fiscal discipline has all but evaporated.

Which is what made House speaker Paul Ryan’s comments Tuesday morning to Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo so intriguing. Ryan, the budget hawk who led his party to embrace serious reforms for mandatory spending programs like Medicare and Social Security, said Republicans (at least in the House of Representatives) have proven they still care about curbing the biggest drivers of the deficit. “No two ways about it,” he said. “We have to go after mandatory.”

Calling health-care entitlements as the source of the “stubborn structural deficits,” Ryan directed the blame at other Republicans in Washington—the Senate and the White House, it was implied. “The problem is we need to get our other partners in government to be willing to do the kind of entitlement reform that we’re willing to do in the House,” Ryan said.

I asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about Ryan’s comments and how the president disagrees with the speaker on how entitlements are causing structural deficits. “I know the president certainly would like to reduce the deficit, and it's one of the reasons that his budget, this budget reduced the deficit by $3 trillion, which is one of the largest in history,” Sanders replied. “And he's going to continue to look for ways to do that.”

But what about Ryan’s position on the fundamental problem of unreformed entitlement spending—does Trump disagree with? “I'd have to ask him what the specifics are that he doesn't agree with him on,” Sanders said.

One More Thing—Elaine Chao, the Transportation secretary, made a brief appearance at the White House podium Tuesday to promote the administration’s new infrastructure proposal. I was struck by this remark from Chao: “The goal of the president's proposal is to stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment, which includes a minimum of $200 billion in direct federal funding.”

A senior White House official told me Trump was willing negotiate on the price of his proposed $200 billion (over ten years) in federal spending on infrastructure. But this is the first time I’ve heard an administration official suggest that amount was a “minimum.”

Photo of the Day

Kellyanne Conway, senior advisor to President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a meeting with the National Sheriff's Association in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 13, 2018. (Alex Wong/Pool via Bloomberg)

Christopher Wray, the Trump-appointed director of the FBI, said Tuesday that the Bureau had “followed established protocols” conducting their background check of disgraced White House staffer Rob Porter. Wray’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee contradicts White House claims that Porter had been working with a temporary security clearance while his FBI background check remained ongoing.

“The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” Wray told the committee Tuesday morning.

“Soon thereafter, we received a request for a follow-up inquiry, and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November, and then we administratively closed the file in January. Then, earlier this month, we received some additional information, and we passed that on as well.”

Wray’s timeline aligns with the Washington Post’s report last week that White House counsel Don McGahn knew of the allegations in early 2017 and was aware that they were responsible for holding up Porter’s security clearance.

At the White House, both Sarah Huckabee Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah have claimed in recent days that Porter’s background check had not been completed.

“The allegations against Rob Porter are serious and deeply troubling,” Shah said last Thursday. “He did deny them. The incidents took place long before he joined the White House. Therefore, they were investigated as part of the background check, as this process is meant for such allegations. It was not completed, and Rob Porter has since resigned.”

But on Tuesday, Sanders specified that the investigation was still held up by the White House’s own security office. “The White House Personnel Security Office, staffed by career officials, received information last year in what they considered to be the final background investigation report in November,” she said. “But they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the White House because the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned.”

Must-Read of the Day—From Elle: “Louise Linton Is Super-Duper Sorry”

Could Obama-Trump voters, those not insignificant number of Americans who voted for both the 44th and 45th presidents, be swinging away from the Republican party ahead of November’s midterm elections? My colleague David Byler takes a look at those places where Trump outperformed the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, and sees in the special elections of 2017 and 2018 an underperformance by GOP candidates:

When you feed both variables—Trump’s victory margin and how he compared to Romney—into a model that predicts Democratic overperformance in specials, both have a statistically significant effect. The fit isn’t perfect; for example, a lot of the variance in how much special election results differ from the baseline goes unexplained in the model. But the basic pattern is simple: Republicans are, in general, underperforming in red districts and districts that have voters who swung from President Obama in 2012 to Trump.

Turnout could explain this underperformance. There’s evidence that some Trumpy Republicans—rural, white, blue collar voters—failed to turn out for Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s gubernatorial race or Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate race, and that Republican turnout may be down more generally. (It’s worth nothing that Moore may be a somewhat special case, since he was credibly accused of having improper sexual contact with teenagers while he was in his 30s, and a more generic Republican may have seen better results.) That would be consistent with a picture of an electorate where Democrats are excited to vote against Trump and Republicans aren’t ecstatic about the president.

2018 Watch—From the Morning Consult poll: “Trump Makes Gains Ahead of Midterms but Risks Remain for GOP”

Whatever Happened?—Remember that $130,000 payment just before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels, who once claimed to have had an affair with Donald Trump? Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen tells the >New York Times Cohen himself paid Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) out of his own pocket—and wasn’t reimbursed.

“He declined to answer several follow-up questions, including whether Mr. Trump had been aware that he made the payment, what the motivation was or whether he had made similar payments to other people over the years,” reports the Times’ Maggie Haberman.

Programming Note—The WEEKLY STANDARD’s podcast, the Daily Standard, has returned with a new host, radio veteran Charlie Sykes. Listen to the first new episode, with our editor-in-chief Stephen F. Hayes, here.

Song of the Day— “When I Paint My Masterpiece” by Bob Dylan

Source : http://www.weeklystandard.com/white-house-watch-the-dream-will-never-die/article/2011579

White House Watch: The Dream Will Never Die


White House Watch: The Dream Will Never Die