Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington:
- Trump downplays his "100-day" contract
- Trump wants a border wall but few in Congress want to pay for it
- Lawmakers say Michael Flynn sidestepped disclosure rules
- White House lowers expectations for Trump's tax announcement
- State Department deletes promotional website post about Mar-a-Lago
- Trump declines to describe mass deaths of Armenians as genocide
Nine former U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations on Tuesday warned against Trump administration plans to slash funding of the world body, portraying such a move as a grave danger to American power.
The ambassadors' warning, contained in a letter to congressional leaders, came a day after President Trump received members of the U.N. Security Council at the White House and gave them an undiplomatic lecture on what they've been doing wrong.
Trump has threatened to drastically reduce the sizable U.S. contribution to U.N. peacekeeping, health and other missions, which are made inefficient, as the president put it, by "bloat."
Madeleine Albright, a former U.N. ambassador and the country's first female secretary of State, said cutbacks at a time of numerous global crises would in fact weaken U.S. power and its position as a world leader.
"The United States needs to be doing more in the world, frankly, not less," Albright said in a telephone briefing with reporters.
She was one of nine former ambassadors to the world body, from five Democratic and Republican administrations, who called on congressional leaders to resist the cuts Trump has outlined in budget proposals.
Withholding money, the ambassadors said, "undermines essential U.N. activities that promote core American interests and values," deprives the U.S. of the moral authority to demand critical reform within the U.N. bureaucracy, and "costs us more over the long term."
"It also cedes the agenda to countries that can be hostile to our interests and more than willing to see the U.S. give up its seat at the table," the ambassadors said.
Albright said countries like Russia and China would be eager to fill any leadership void vacated by the United States. And she said the United States loses its ability to demand U.N. reform if it becomes the cause of a severe financial crisis at the organization.
The letter was signed by every living former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. since and including Andrew Young (1977-79), except for three: John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad, all of whom served under Republican presidents.
Trump, in public remarks with the Security Council members on Monday, said he had long considered the U.N. an "under-performer" but that it has "tremendous potential."
He scolded the members for not "taking on certain problems" like Syria's chemical weapons and North Korea. (He failed to observe that it is Russia, a country Trump never criticizes, that has repeatedly vetoed U.N. resolutions against Syria.)
He said U.N. costs "have absolutely gone out of control."
"We need the member states to come together to eliminate inefficiencies and bloat," Trump said.
About that border wall with Mexico.
President Trump backed off demands that Congress fund his promised border wall with Mexico after the political opposition threatened a government shutdown, averting what could have been an embarrassing moment Friday on the eve of marking his first 100 days in the White House.
Trump's reversal was welcomed on Capitol Hill as tensions cooled and negotiators continued talks Tuesday to reach an agreement. But it does not completely eliminate the drama surrounding the shutdown threat.
Congress will likely be forced to approve a stopgap measure allowing government offices to remain open while budget negotiations continue into next week.
Democrats welcomed Trump's changed course, but it drew swift criticism from conservatives who support the wall as a way to curb illegal immigration, as Trump promised in one of the most prominent issues of his campaign.
“It looks like President Trump is caving on his demand,” talk radio host Rush Limbaugh said on his show.
Trump tweeted Tuesday that building the border wall remains a top priority for him, but the White House said the president was willing to shelve the fight until the next budget go-round in the fall.
“Nothing has changed on the president’s priorities,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. “In that next budget, we’ll go for the next group of money.”
House and Senate negotiations have been working nonstop on a compromise to fund the government for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year by Friday’s deadline.
Even though Republicans have the majority in Congress, they are almost certain to need Democratic votes to pass the measure because their own party remains split over how much to spend on government functions.
Republicans submitted their latest proposal Tuesday — minus the $5-billion border wall funds, sources said — but outstanding issues remain.
Democrats want assurances that Trump won’t yank funding for subsidies to help some Americans afford healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, as he has suggested.
And both Democrats and Republicans are trying to salvage a coal miners' pension fund that tanked during the Great Recession and now is at risk of going insolvent unless the government intervenes.
Dozens of miners, many of them retirement age, walked the halls of the Capitol complex in matching camouflage United Mine Workers of America T-shirts on Tuesday to urge support.
Republicans, meanwhile, are seeking to boost defense spending Trump has requested, and have also tried to include anti-abortion measures — including the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit public agencies that receive federal funds from blocking healthcare facilities or doctors who refuse abortion services.
Trump wanted $34 billion for the military, but talks now appear to be focusing on about half that amount, about $15 billion, sources said.
Instead of the wall money, the final deal will likely include about $1 billion for other security measures — possibly surveillance — on the border.
Trump has long promised that Mexico would pay for the wall along the southern border, something officials in that country have said is not going to happen.
Lawmakers in Congress had little interest in footing the bill — costs could be as high as $70 billion, according to one new report — and even less interest in shutting down the government over it.
The growing criticism of the border wall plan, along with the apparent lack of enthusiasm in Congress to funding it, haven’t yet caused any reassessment of the plan by Homeland Security, the agency that will be tasked to build it.
Spokesman David Lapan said Tuesday that the department will move forward with building barrier prototypes using $20 million redirected from the current budget.
“Our directive is to continue to find ways to meet the mission of building the border wall, but we need the funding to do that,” Lapan said. “We can’t do anything until funding is provided to continue construction.”
Actual construction will have to wait for the 2018 or 2019 budget years, he said.
"No one knows what the wall will cost,” he said.
Trump later Tuesday, though, insisted his wall with Mexico would become a reality.
“The wall’s going to get built, folks," he said during a White House meeting with agriculture executives. "In case anybody has any questions, the wall is going to get built."
Among the more puzzling cuts in the Trump administration budget proposal is the one that eliminates all funding for the popular -- and cost-effective -- Energy Star program, which awards its vaunted label to products and properties that utilize the most energy-efficient technologies.
The voluntary program is credited with saving consumers billions of dollars on their electricity bills, curbing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging companies to innovate. The plan to eliminate it reflects the substantial influence in the administration of a small group of advocates in free-market think tanks who argue that even the voluntary measure reflects too much government interference in industry.
But it turns out those think tanks are not the only organizations that have an interest in seeing the program disappear. Trump’s businesses do too. A report on CNN details how Trump’s buildings consistently receive low Energy Star ratings, which diminishes their value. If the program goes away, so does that business problem.
Conflict of interest? "You bet your life that it is," Norman Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, told CNN. The Trump Organization and the White House did not respond to the network’s requests for comment.
President Trump delivered a sober and uplifting speech Tuesday recognizing the Holocaust and emphasizing the need to speak out against evil, two weeks after his press secretary apologized for a series of awkward remarks about the dark chapter in Jewish history.
Trump struck a far more formal tone than usual, sticking closely to written remarks in front of a group at the Capitol that included survivors and lawmakers as part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Days of Remembrance.
“We must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth about evil in our time,” Trump said.
“Evil can only thrive in darkness, and what you have brought us today is so much more powerful than evil,” he added. “You have brought us hope.”
Trump told stories of American soldiers liberating death camps, warned against those who would deny the Holocaust and praised survivors who offered hope to the world, including Elie Wiesel, a writer and intellectual who died last year.
“Through their suffering they have persevered, they have thrived and they have enlightened the world,” Trump said.
Trump also pledged to confront anti-Semitism and stand by Israel.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer attracted unwanted attention two weeks ago, the first day of Passover, when he inaccurately compared Adolf Hitler with Syrian President Bashar Assad, stating that Hitler did not use chemical weapons during World War II. Clumsy attempts to clarify included a reference to “Holocaust Centers,” likely referring to death camps.
The administration also neglected to mention Jews in a January statement observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day. And Trump personally lashed out at a reporter in February during a news conference when he was asked how the government would respond to an uptick in bomb threats against Jewish gathering places.
Tuesday’s remarks came a day after some Armenian Americans criticized the White House’s refusal to use the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of more than 1 million Armenians in a statement commemorating the 102nd anniversary of the killings at the hands of Ottoman Turks.
The senior members of the House Oversight Committee say classified military documents show that the Trump administration's former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, did not ask permission or inform the U.S. government about payments he received for appearances before Russian organizations in 2015 and for lobbying that helped Turkey's government.
Flynn's failure to obtain permission from military authorities for the payments raises concern whether Flynn violated a constitutional ban on foreign payments to retired military officers. That's according to Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.
The two leaders of the oversight committee said there was no evidence Flynn complied with federal law. They said Flynn could be criminally prosecuted, and they said Flynn should surrender the money he was paid.
The standoff, between the White House and lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats — has escalated tensions toward a possible government shutdown at midnight Friday as Congress races to meet a deadline to fund federal offices and operations.
Cooler heads will likely prevail. Talks are underway for a stopgap measure to keep the government running for another week or so while negotiations continue.
But the stalemate over Trump’s signature campaign promise — that he would build a wall along the border to deter illegal immigration and that Mexico would pay for it — remains a political divide.
It’s not that Trump’s Republican allies in Congress, who are the majority, don’t support the notions underpinning a border wall. Most of them do.
They just disagree with Trump’s approach for a physical barrier when other deterrents may prove more effective at stopping illegal crossings. And they don’t view the huge expenditure – as much as $70 billion by the latest estimate — a top priority right now.
In the closing weeks of his campaign last year, President Trump laid out what he called a “100-day contract” with voters — an ambitious flurry of administrative and legislative steps that he vowed would start the process of “draining the swamp” and protecting American workers.
With many of those promises as yet unfulfilled or abandoned, Trump and his aides scrambled Monday to present a glowing picture of vast accomplishment even as they downplayed the significance of the 100-day deadline looming Saturday.
Trump isn’t the first president to try to balance high expectations against harsh reality in the first months of a new administration. But the traditional temporal benchmark has become a case study for what the news cycle has come to mean in the Trump era.
The media — and cable news, especially — love a good round-numbered milestone, and Trump is a voracious consumer of cable news. So Trump’s aides are contributing to a spectacle that they simultaneously dismiss as meaningless, knowing it is a priority for their boss as he juggles bold campaign pledges against the difficulty of heading the vast U.S. government.
The Trump administration moved Monday to impose a 20% tariff on softwood lumber entering the United States from Canada, escalating an intensifying trade dispute between the two countries.
The president announced the decision during a gathering with conservative media outlets at the White House on Monday evening. Trump's initial comments were relayed by four people who were in the room and confirmed by an administration official.
On Twitter, Breitbart News White House correspondent Charlie Spiering quoted Trump as saying, "We're going to be putting a 20% tax on softwood lumber coming in — tariff on softwood coming into the United States from Canada."
The Commerce Department later announced it had reached a preliminary determination and would impose countervailing duties ranging from 3%t to 24% on imported softwood lumber, with an average of about 20%.
One person in the room said Trump threatened that dairy could be next.
The U.S. and Canada typically enjoy a friendly trading relationship, but things have soured in recent months.
For the first time in years, almost as many Americans want more government spending as those who prefer less, according to a new study released Monday.
The survey from Pew Research comes as Congress and President Trump face a possible government shutdown this week over government spending levels.
After years of Republican-led attempts to slash federal spending, the study shows an emerging shift in Americans' attitudes in recent months.
Now, 48% of Americans prefer increased spending and 45% favor less, a narrowing not seen since then-President Obama was elected in 2008.
That's a seven-point difference from September, when 50% wanted fewer government services and 41% wanted more.
Support for increased spending was found among 14 government programs surveyed but was particularly high for expenditures involving veterans, education, infrastructure and healthcare. Backing for programs for Americans in need shot up from 27% to 45%.
The findings, however, may do little to bridge the partisan divide in Congress.
Overwhelmingly, among Republicans, 75% supported smaller government. Among Democrats, 65% preferred more government programs.
The divide narrowed in only a few areas -- spending on veterans and infrastructure -- providing just a few opportunities for common ground.
President Trump's oceanside Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida has gained considerable airtime and tweet time since Trump took office and dubbed it his winter White House.
It now has received official attention from the State Department.
The State Department's "Share America" website, which shares "compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate," published a blog post about the compound ahead of Trump's April 6 meeting there with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The post has since been deleted.
"We regret any misperception," it reads.
The original post did not note the discussion and debate over whether the U.S. government should promote Trump's privately owned club, which charges $200,000 to join.
The post described the history of the Palm Beach estate, which heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post donated to the U.S. government in her will in 1973 – 12 years before Trump purchased it.
At least one U.S. embassy, in London, shared the post online as well.
Washington Post reporter Abby Phillips noted the post Monday on Twitter, and Hillary Clinton's former campaign spokesperson Josh Schwerin criticized it as inappropriate government promotion of Trump's business interests.
Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago eight times since he took office in January. According to Politifact, each trip costs taxpayers millions of dollars.
Updated at 4:00 p.m. with information about deletion of post.
President Trump prides himself on speaking bluntly on the international stage and, at times, breaking with diplomatic norms. But he continued a tradition on Monday that has infuriated many Armenian Americans -- refusing to use the word "genocide" in describing the killings of more than 1 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks.
Trump issued a statement on Monday, the 102nd anniversary of the massacre, commemorating "one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century."
"Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire," he said. "I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many."
The language was similar to that of President Obama and other Trump predecessors who were concerned with upsetting Turkey, which disputes that a genocide took place, and potentially impacting U.S. foreign policy priorities in the Middle East.
The Turkish government has spent millions lobbying Congress on the issue, succeeding in persuading Obama to reverse a campaign promise to label the killings a genocide. Trump has forged a close relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, becoming the first Western leader to congratulate him by telephone after a referendum last week granted him sweeping new powers. Trump drew heavy criticism from human rights and pro-democracy groups for the move.
Activists in the United States continued to voice frustration over the omission of the word "genocide" in marking the history. It is a particularly sensitive issue in California, which is home to the country's largest population of people of Armenian descent, with more than 200,000 living in Los Angeles County.
Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said in a statement that "President Trump is effectively outsourcing U.S. genocide-prevention policy to Recep Erdogan, an arrogant and authoritarian dictator who clearly enjoys the public spectacle of arm-twisting American presidents into silence on Turkey's mass murder of millions of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other Christians.”
Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, was asked twice about the omission during Monday's briefing with reporters. "It is perfectly in keeping with the language that’s been used over and over again,” Spicer said.
In his first weeks as attorney general, Jeff Sessions has kept a relentless focus on his plans to crack down on illegal immigration and violent crime.
On Monday, he said that doesn’t mean corrupt businesses will get a pass.
"As we re-double our efforts to combat violent crime, we will still enforce the laws that protect American consumers and ensure that honest businesses aren’t placed at a disadvantage to dishonest businesses," he said. "These kinds of frauds are always paid for by innocent people."
Sessions was trying to counter concerns that under President Trump, who still owns vast worldwide business holdings, the Justice Department would ease back on pursuing white-collar fraud and corporate corruption.
“Focusing on these challenges does not mean we will reduce our efforts in other areas,” Sessions said.
An early draft of the speech cited the department’s recent case against Takata Corp., which pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and was fined $1 billion for providing false test data about its automotive air-bag inflators.
The assembled lawyers handle compliance work, making sure companies are on the right side of the law. Good compliance procedures will help companies get a break when prosecutors make charging decisions, Sessions said.
Sessions also pledged that Justice would aggressively enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime for businesses to pay bribes to foreign officials to win deals.
“Companies should succeed because they provide superior products and services, not because they have paid off the right people,” Sessions said.
Trump has in the past been harshly critical of the anti-bribery statute, saying it was “a horrible law’ that placed American businesses at a "huge disadvantage" overseas.
Answering questions afterward, Sessions said the department will look toward charging individuals responsible for corporate misbehavior or mismanagement – and less about prosecuting the corporations, which could affect the stock price.
“I just have always felt that having stockholders paying the price for corporate mismanagement isn’t always the best solution,” he said.
“We do not need good companies, trying to run a good ship, be subject to criminal penalties,” Sessions added.
Sessions made headlines last week when he appeared to ridicule a federal judge in Hawaii who had ruled against the White House attempt to block people from mostly-Muslim countries from traveling to the United States.
"I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power," Sessions said Wednesday in a radio interview.
His comment quickly spurred a backlash, with critics accusing Sessions of speaking as if Hawaii wasn't a state or was less important because of its location.
Sessions appeared to acknowledge the flap on Monday.
"Some of us and all of us get frustrated with judges' rulings we've had at various times," he said.
Following up on a limited U.S. military strike against Syria, the Trump administration on Monday announced new "sweeping" sanctions on the Syrian government agency it blames for producing chemicals used in a deadly attack on Syrian civilians earlier this month.
The announcement names 271 members of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center in what the Treasury Department called one of its largest sanctions actions in history.
It said the Syrian agency was responsible for developing and producing "nonconventional weapons and the means to deliver them."
"These sweeping sanctions target the scientific support center for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's horrific chemical weapons attack on innocent civilian men, women and children," the department said in a statement.
Later, appearing at a White House press briefing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin amplified the U.S. will to punish users of chemical weapons.
"We intend to hold the Assad regime accountable," he told reporters.
A senior administration official said the 271 people cited included chemists and other scientists or researchers who have worked for the agency since at least 2012.
The sanctions mean that those individuals named may not have business dealings with U.S. companies or persons, and any assets they might have in the United States would be frozen. The move also complicates travel for some.
Successive U.S. administrations have used economic sanctions for punishment in cases involving such wrongdoing as human rights abuse and drug trafficking, but the success of the measures is spotty. Countries such as North Korea often find ways to circumvent the prohibitions.
Monday's action came in response to several chemical attacks blamed on Assad's government, most notably the April 4 massacre of nearly 100 people, including children, in northern Syria. U.S. officials blamed the attack on Assad's forces, backed by Russia, and said the banned nerve agent sarin was used.
In immediate response, the U.S. military blasted a Syrian military airfield with 59 Tomahawk missiles.
The sanctions send the message that "we will hold those responsible accountable," the senior administration official said, "and will serve as a strong deterrent."
Officials briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The administration suspects Assad still has chemical weapons despite a 2015 agreement to get rid of them.
In January, the administration also imposed sanctions on 18 senior Syrian government officials and five branches of the Syrian military in response to Assad's use of chlorine gas in three attacks in 2014 and 2015.
North Korea expects to use the American citizen it detained last week as a "bargaining chip" to force negotiations with Washington, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley asserted Monday.
She also warned Pyongyang: "It's not gonna work."
"What we're dealing with is a leader who is flailing right now," Haley said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "And I think what he's trying to do is show his citizens that he has muscle, whether it's through his rhetoric, or whether it's through his actions."
Haley, speaking on the CBS "This Morning" television program, was commenting on the reported detention in North Korea of Tony Kim, a 58-year-old academic who also goes by his Korean name, Kim Sang-duk.
He was reported arrested at the Pyongyang international airport, where he was attempting to board a flight after a monthlong teaching stint at a university just outside the capital.
The arrest comes at a time of particularly high tensions, as Kim and the Trump administration have traded high-pitched insults over North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear power.
Previous detentions of American citizens by the hermetic nation have triggered visits by high-level envoys, including former U.S. presidents and ambassadors, to secure their release.
North Korea apparently sees these moves as a way to force engagements with the United States, though successive U.S. governments, including the Trump administration, have refused a dialog with the regime.
"I think it's absolutely a bargaining chip; I think that's what their intentions are," Haley said.
But she remained adamant that the administration will not "appease" a "misbehaving" North Korea by opening formal talks.
Haley echoed President Trump in praising China for its support in trying to pressure North Korea, its ally.
"Station, this is your president, do you hear me?”
President Trump spoke live for about 20 minutes Monday morning with a pair of astronauts at the International Space Station, including commander Peggy Whitson, who set a new record for accumulated time in space at more than 534 days.
Trump -- asking questions from the Oval Office with his daughter Ivanka by his side, and with astronaut Kate Rubins and top advisers filling out the room -- clearly relished the drama of the unusual call. He mentioned several times that it was being streamed live in classrooms across the country, and asked the astronauts about their daily routine and how they successfully did their jobs.
"That's what we like, great American equipment that works," Trump responded when Whitson told the president that his voice was being heard at the space station.
Jack Fischer, the second astronaut speaking from the space station, seemed just as impressed with his trip, noting that he had been drinking a "floaty ball-form coffee" the morning before.
"Now, I'm talking to the president of the United States while hanging from a wall," Fischer said. "It's amazing.”
He added that even drinking recycled urine to save precious water in space was "really not as bad as it sounds.”
Trump, an avowed germaphobe, deadpanned: “That’s good. I’m glad to hear that.”
Trump was eager to talk about the potential for further space travel, including a greater role for entrepreneurs and a human trip to Mars. When Whitson said a Mars trip would likely happen in the 2030s, Trump joked that NASA would have to speed up its timeline to complete the mission, "at worst, during my second term."
Trump congratulated Whitson and repeatedly praised her work. He said he would never travel 17,000 mph "but that’s what you do.”
Whitson said she was proud of the honor but credited the vast crew on Earth for making it possible.
“I've been dealing with politicians so much," Trump said. "I'm so much more impressed with these people.”
Astronaut Peggy Whitson has another record under her space belt.
Early Monday, the International Space Station commander surpassed the record of 534 days, two hours and 48 minutes for most accumulated time in orbit by an American. That record was set last year by Jeffrey Williams.
Whitson already was the world's most experienced spacewoman and female spacewalker and, at 57, the oldest woman in space. By the time she returns to Earth in September, she'll have logged 666 days in orbit over three flights.
As part of the celebration, Whitson is getting a special phone call. President Trump will speak to Whitson from the Oval Office, along with his daughter Ivanka and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins.
The world record — 879 days — is held by Russian Gennady Padalka.