Politics ESSENTIAL WASHINGTON

Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington:

Congress

An exercise in civil disobedience gets three congressmen arrested in New York

Sitting in the middle of Fifth Avenue got three congressmen hauled away by New York City police on Tuesday afternoon during a demonstration in front of Trump Tower to protest the president’s immigration policy.

Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), along with New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, were among a group of about 10 protesters taken into custody, according to postings on social media.

“We’re making it clear to Trump, GOP & Dems: we will continue peaceful fight for #Dreamers & immigrants as long as it takes,’’ Guiterrez posted on Twitter in explanation of the protests.

Photographs showed the protesters sitting in the middle of the street holding a white banner, as a cordon of police stood above them. Trump was believed to be in Trump Tower after addressing the United Nations earlier in the day.

 

White House names former NFL player to lead initiative for historically black colleges

President Trump addresses officials from historically black colleges and universities in the Oval Office in February. (Aude Guerrucci / Getty Images)
President Trump addresses officials from historically black colleges and universities in the Oval Office in February. (Aude Guerrucci / Getty Images)

Amid criticism that it hasn’t lived up to its commitment to historically black colleges, the Trump administration has named Johnathan M. Holifield, a former NFL player, author and entrepreneur, to lead a White House initiative on the issue.

Advocates applauded the appointment and said they look forward to working with Holifield, who played for one season with the Cincinnati Bengals, in 1989. But some are still skeptical and called for more substantive changes, particularly a reversal of proposed budget cuts and a greater commitment to Title III of the Higher Education Act, which helps institutions of higher education support low-income students.

Holifield’s appointment was announced Monday at the annual White House conference for presidents and stakeholders at historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. Some attendees said they hoped the event would be a first step to more cooperation with the administration.

Bipartisan group of governors voice opposition to latest Obamacare repeal effort in Congress

 (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

The latest Republican-led effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act has some resistance outside Washington: a bipartisan group of governors.

On Tuesday, nearly a dozen governors, including Bill Walker of Alaska, signed a letter opposing the new repeal legislation sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that in recent days has gained momentum in Congress.

The move by Walker could influence his state's senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, a key vote who has been silent on whether she supports the new legislation. In July, Murkowski, a Republican, voted with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), in opposition to the last Obamacare repeal effort.

Walker’s opposition comes a day after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he supports the legislation. (For his part, McCain, who has not said if he supports the new repeal bill, has said his vote would be influenced by Ducey’s position.)

In voicing their opposition, the group, led by Govs. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and John Kasich (R-Ohio), denounced the legislation for being crafted behind closed doors.

“Legislation should receive consideration under regular order, including hearings in health committees and input from the appropriate health-related parties,” the governors wrote in a letter to congressional leaders. 

Since the summer the bipartisan group of governors has expressed concerns about deep cuts to Medicaid in their states, which, among other things, helps provide funding for drug addiction treatment. 

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office said that it would not be able to produce a full analysis of the Cassidy-Graham bill, including cuts to Medicaid, for several weeks.

CongressWhite House

Trump is all in for GOP healthcare bill; sponsor Graham allies with 'Darth Vader' (a.k.a. Steve Bannon) for support

GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, left, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina confer on their last-minute measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, left, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina confer on their last-minute measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Trump is making a big push to revive the Republican healthcare overhaul days before a Senate deadline, dispatching Vice President Mike Pence from New York back to Washington on Tuesday to tell GOP senators: "This is the moment."

Senate Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass their latest legislation, from Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, with 50 votes plus Pence as the tie-breaker. On Oct. 1, the start of a new fiscal year, the threshold reverts to 60 votes — an impossible hurdle since there are 52 Republicans and the Democratic caucus is solidly opposed.

They face building pressure from angry conservative activists pushing Republicans to keep their promise to "repeal and replace Obamacare." But opponents of the bill, including major medical and patient associations, have mobilized against it.

Pence, who was in New York with Trump and other senior administration officials to attend the U.N. General Assembly meeting, returned to the Capitol to tell Republican senators: "Now is the time. We have 12 days," according to a media pool report from Air Force Two.

Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, both phoned Pence during his flight from New York. Graham told reporters on Pence's plane that Trump had called him on Monday evening to urge action. 

Cassidy and Graham have been working to salvage the party effort for an alternative health insurance program after the spectacular collapse last month of an earlier Republican bill to undo President Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Graham said Tuesday he has made an alliance with "Darth Vader" — referring to former Trump advisor Steven K. Bannon — for support to see the bill to passage. Bannon, who was portrayed as the villain on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," is back to running the website Breitbart, which is influential among conservatives, after being pushed out of the White House. 

"I have got Alan Greenspan, Jeb Bush and Steve Bannon" behind this bill, Graham said. "If anyone can do better, I'd like to meet them."

Even though some senators have been working separately on bipartisan legislation to improve the Affordable Care Act by stabilizing the health insurance marketplace, Pence planned to tell Republican senators that House Republicans would not support those efforts.

More Navy officers fired for collisions at sea that killed 17 U.S. sailors

The U.S. Navy destroyer Fitzgerald after a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal in June. (Associated Press)
The U.S. Navy destroyer Fitzgerald after a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal in June. (Associated Press)

Two senior Navy officers were fired Monday due to a “loss of confidence in their ability to command” after two collisions with civilian ships in the western Pacific killed 17 sailors at sea, the Pentagon said.

Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of the warships on patrol in the Asia-Pacific region, and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commander of guided missile destroyers in the region, were the latest leaders removed since the Navy launched an investigation last month into the deadly accidents.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon he was confident in how the Navy was examining the mistakes that have shaken the military and political leadership. In all, four U.S. warships had collisions or ran aground in the Pacific this year. 

The Navy has “a tradition of holding officers accountable, and they’ll do what they think is necessary,” he said.

In addition to the loss of life in the Navy, Mattis said he was concerned about a string of aviation crashes and other accidents during training exercises that have killed or injured more than 50 troops this year.

“We’re going to look at what happened on the demolition range and we’re going to look at what happened at seamanship on a ship and we’re going to look at what happened when an aircraft came out of the air,” he said.

A U.S. Army special operations service member was killed Thursday and several others were injured during a training incident at Fort Bragg, N.C.

A day earlier, 15 Marines were injured during exercise after their amphibious landing vehicle caught fire at Camp Pendleton.

“What has caused the compilation of these coming in?” Mattis said. “Right now I don’t have that broader knowledge.”

Mattis focused much of his comments on the Navy accidents because so many sailors died.

The Navy has fired several commanders related to the deadly collisions, including Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the Japan-based 7th Fleet that oversees all operations in the Asia-Pacific region

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, the Navy’s top officer, ordered a sweeping review last month to determine why trained crews on U.S. warships carrying radars and other high-tech sensors failed to avoid collisions while underway.

Richardson also announced a rare “operational pause” to give time to the Navy to assess its policies and procedures.

The stand-down was announced hours after the U.S. guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain collided on Aug. 21 with the Alnic MC, a Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker that is nearly three times its size.

Ten sailors were killed in the accident, which occurred at the entrance to the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, near Singapore.

Two months earlier, on June 17, the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald was rammed by a much larger Philippine-flagged container ship, the ACX Crystal, about 50 nautical miles from the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan. 

Seven sailors were killed in that accident. The commander and executive officer of the Fitzgerald were later relieved of command.

A guided-missile cruiser, Lake Champlain, collided with a South Korean fishing vessel on May 9 off the Korean Peninsula. Another guided-missile cruiser, Antietam, ran aground Jan. 31 and gushed oil into Tokyo Bay.

U.S. hasn't yet seen the need to shoot down North Korean missiles

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Monday that the U.S. military has not attempted to shoot down ballistic missiles test-launched by North Korea because they have not been on a trajectory to hit U.S. or allies’ territory.

The comments come after the underground test of a nuclear bomb earlier this month and days after North Korea launched its second missile in less than a month that flew over northern Japan.

The intermediate-range missile was launched Friday near the isolated nation’s capital, Pyongyang, soaring for about 2,300 miles before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The test demonstrated that the U.S. territory of Guam is now in attack range.

Mattis said these launches are testing the U.S. military to see how much North Korea can get away with before triggering a response.

“They are intentionally doing provocations that seem to press against the envelope to see how far they can push without going over some kind of line in their minds that would make them vulnerable,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.

“The bottom line is: The missiles, were they to be a threat – whether it be to U.S. territory, Guam, [or] obviously Japan’s territory -- that would elicit a different response from us," he said.

The U.S., Japan and South Korea have missile defense systems surrounding North Korea, including at sea. Analysts have stressed that knocking a missile out of the sky with interceptors is difficult and has been often been described as “hitting a bullet with a bullet.”

North Korea has conducted 15 missile tests in 2017 and more than 60 since Kim Jong Un took power in 2011.

Thus far, U.S. response to the launches has been sanctions, which have largely cut off Pyongyang from the rest of the world economy, and “show of force” exercises.

On Sunday, U.S. Air Force flew B-1 bombers and F-35 stealth fighter jets over the Korean Peninsula, along with allied fighter jets from South Korea and Japan.

White House

Trump returns to New York, guarded by police cars, helicopters and garbage trucks

New Yorkers generally hate the week of the U.N. General Assembly, when heads of state from around the world gather in the city, snarling traffic and inconveniencing those who actually live here.

This year it means the return of New York's not-so-favorite local son, President Trump, who received just 18% of the vote in his hometown. Police have started barricading a vast swath of Midtown, stretching from the United Nations headquarters to Trump Tower, which is about 15 blocks away on Fifth Avenue.

The building, where Trump maintains a triplex penthouse, was surrounded Sunday by police cars -- and strangely, an effective if low-tech barricade of New York City garbage trucks. Helicopters whirred overhead as a motorcade arrived.

This will be Trump’s third and probably longest trip home since his inauguration. The last two times Trump visited the city, he was greeted by large crowds of protesters with signs reading, “New York Hates You."  This trip is unlikely to be much friendlier.

The New York Police Department and Secret Service would not answer questions about the number of personnel providing security for the visit or the costs involved. Trump has said previously that he avoids coming home because of the security costs.

He arrived Sunday from Bedminster, N.J., where he has a weekend home at one of his golf clubs.

 

Iran's supreme leader warns U.S. against making a 'wrong move' on the nuclear deal

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Associated Press)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Associated Press)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Sunday that Iran would respond strongly to “any wrong move” by the United States on the multilateral nuclear deal struck in 2015.

President Trump has threatened to declare Iran in violation of the landmark agreement next month, which could pave the way for additional U.S. economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iranian leaders have accused Trump of trying to sabotage the deal in which Iran agreed to shelve its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

“Every day they [American officials] play a new trick or expose a new side of their viciousness,” Khamenei said at a graduation ceremony at a police academy, Mehr News reported.

The ongoing war of words comes as world leaders prepare to gather at the United Nations this week. The U.N. nuclear watchdog has said Iran has met its obligations under the nuclear agreement and is cooperating with international inspectors.

The Trump administration has sent mixed signals on the nuclear agreement, which Trump once called “the worst deal ever.”

Last week, Trump effectively endorsed the deal by extending one of its terms, a waiver on certain U.S. sanctions against Iran. But he also accused Iran of violating “the spirit of the deal” and renewed a threat to declare that Iran was not complying with its terms, a move that would give Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions.

“They have violated so many different elements, but they’ve also violated the spirit of that deal,” Trump said last week. “And you will see what we’ll be doing in October. It will be very evident.”

Trump administration officials have argued that Iran must allow U.N. inspectors access to military sites, but Iranian leaders have rejected the idea, saying it would violate their country's sovereignty.

On Friday, firebrand cleric Ahmad Khatami said in the closely watched weekly sermon at Tehran University that “nowhere in the text…of the [nuclear deal] is it mentioned that military sites can be inspected.”

Tillerson: U.S. may close embassy in Cuba after mysterious sonic attacks

 (European Pressphoto Agency)
(European Pressphoto Agency)

The Trump administration is considering closing down the U.S. Embassy in Cuba after nearly two dozen American diplomatic staffers or family members suffered health effects that were blamed on suspected sonic attacks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday.

“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said in an interview aired on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” when asked about calls by some GOP lawmakers to shutter the embassy in Havana. “It’s under review.”

An embassy shutdown would mark an abrupt reversal of the warming ties between the two nations since diplomatic relations were restored in 2015. President Trump has criticized the diplomatic opening, but he has not moved to break ties again.

Tillerson called the health problems stemming from the apparent sonic attacks “a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered,” adding: “We’ve brought some of those people home.”

Those health effects have reportedly included hearing loss, nausea, headaches and ringing of the ears.  

Five Republican senators have urged Tillerson to shut down the U.S. embassy and expel all Cuban diplomats from the United States unless the Havana government takes “tangible action.”

Two Cuban diplomats stationed in Washington have already been expelled in response to the attacks, which only recently came to light after having gone on for months.

The Havana government has repeatedly denied any responsibility for the attacks, which also have affected the Canadian embassy in Havana.

 

Haley: Trump didn't intend to harm British bombing investigation

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said President Trump was “upset and passionate” about last week’s subway bombing in London when he tweeted shortly after the attack about a “loser terrorist” who had been “in the sights of Scotland Yard.”

Haley, in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” said the president had not intended to hinder British authorities in their response to the bombing by seemingly disclosing that an attacker or attackers had previously come to the attention of the Metropolitan Police.

“Look, the president would not want to do any harm to the investigation – let’s be clear,” Haley said. “There was no ill intent.”

Trump has previously tweeted out controversial statements about other terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom. He stirred indignation among many Londoners by attacking the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, after a June attack in London’s Borough Market that left seven dead.

Critics said Trump seized upon an attempt by Khan to calm the public about a stepped-up police deployment, using an out-of-context quote to imply that the mayor had said the attack – rather than the visible armed police presence in its aftermath – was no cause for alarm.

After a bombing in May at an Ariana Grande concert in the northern city of Manchester that left 22 people dead, British authorities were infuriated by a leak of important intelligence that had been shared by them with U.S. officials, as is customary between the two close allies.

Asked about Trump’s comments on the latest attack, British Prime Minister Theresa May, in an interview that was pre-taped and aired separately on ABC, declined to directly criticize the president. But she said: “I don’t think it’s helpful for anyone to speculate on what it an ongoing investigation.”

The rush-hour bombing on Friday at the Parsons Green station and a subsequent stampede left 30 people injured, British officials said. The National Health Service said all but one of those hurt had been released from the hospital.

British officials said Sunday that a second man, age 21, had been arrested late Saturday in West London in connection with the attack, but provided few details. Earlier, an 18-year-old man was arrested at the port of Dover, from which ferries depart for continental Europe.  

 

Trump retweets meme of him hitting Hillary Clinton with golf ball, knocking her down

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

In the latest instance of President Trump seeming to revel in the notion of physical attacks against perceived enemies, the president retweeted an animated GIF showing him hitting a golf ball that then knocks down his onetime rival Hillary Clinton.

Critics swiftly responded. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), appearing on ABC’s “This Week, said: “It’s distressing to have a president that frankly will tweet and retweet things as juvenile as that.” 

The original tweet, from a user whose Twitter handle consists of an expletive, was sent last week and retweeted Sunday by the president, who is spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf property. Here is what he retweeted:

A former Trump campaign strategist, David Urban, brushed aside the controversy. “Retweets do not equal endorsements,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” leading to a sharp exchange.

The president has previously taken to Twitter to retweet animations including one that depicted him pummeling a figure with a CNN logo superimposed on his head. Another presidential Twitter share last month – later deleted – showed a train hitting a person, again with a CNN logo imposed on the figure’s head.

Trump associates have previously dismissed criticism of such retweets, suggesting they were intended to be humorous.

Clinton is out with a new book about the campaign, and Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to deride her as a sore loser.

In the first part of the animation Trump retweeted on Sunday, the president is seen in golf attire, teeing off. The second shows footage of Clinton tripping as she boards a plane, with the video altered to show her being struck in the back with a golf ball.

The tweet refers to “Donald Trump’s amazing golf swing” and uses the hashtag #CrookedHillary, the then-candidate’s most-used epithet for his Democratic opponent.

 

Trump derides North Korea's leader as 'Rocket Man'

 (Korean Central News Agency)
(Korean Central News Agency)

With tensions running high over North Korea, President Trump on Sunday mocked its mercurial leader, Kim Jong Un, referring to him as “Rocket Man.”

Trump, who is spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf property, said on Twitter that he had spoken Saturday evening with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, and that the two had discussed Pyongyang’s latest actions, including the firing of two missiles that overflew Japan and a test detonation of the North's most powerful nuclear device yet.

The White House was more circumspect in a readout of the call, saying that in their conversation, Trump and Moon had “committed to continuing to take steps to strengthen deterrence and defense capabilities.”

Meanwhile, national security advisor H.R. McMaster said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump was determined to contain the threat posed by North Korea. Of Kim, he said: “He is going to have to give up his nuclear weapons, because the president has said that he is not going to tolerate this regime threatening the United States and our citizens with a nuclear weapon.”

Asked whether that meant Trump was contemplating a strike against North Korea, McMaster said: “He’s been very clear about that – that all options are on the table.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, however, emphasized that military action would be a last resort. Interviewed on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” he said the Trump administration’s strategy centered on a “peaceful pressure campaign” against Kim’s government.

“If our diplomatic efforts fail, though, our military option will be the only one left,” Tillerson said.

North Korea is expected to be a major topic as the United Nations General Assembly holds its annual session this week.

White House may reverse itself on withdrawing from Paris climate deal

 (AFP / Getty Images)
(AFP / Getty Images)

A European official said Saturday the Trump administration has softened its stance on the landmark Paris climate accord and may not completely withdraw after all.

If true, this would mark yet another reversal of a Trump campaign promise, one of the most controversial.

But the White House quickly attempted to rebut the report.

"There has been no change in the United States' position on the Paris agreement," said Lindsay Walters, a presidential spokeswoman. "As the president has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country."

At a ministerial summit in Montreal, where the United States participated as an observer, the European Union's top climate official said the administration had backed away from its announcement in June that it was walking out of the historic 2015 agreement.

The U.S. "stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris accord, but they try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement," Miguel Arias Canete said.

It was not immediately clear how far that statement would go. Trump, when announcing his decision to withdraw, was adamant about the U.S. ignoring goals on limiting greenhouse-gas emissions and other elements believed to contribute to global warming.

At the time, it was seen as another abrogation of the United States' preeminent role as a global leader.

But Trump argued the deal was bad for U.S. businesses and that it made Washington foot too much of the bill.

Global warming is an issue with renewed political currency after Hurricane Harvey left epic floods in Houston and the Gulf Coast and Hurricane Irma devastated parts of the Caribbean and left millions in Florida without power. Scientists say warmer waters may have intensified the force of the storms.

Popular priest's speech at Catholic University is canceled because of protests over his support for gays

Pope Francis made groundbreaking comments on tolerance for gays in 2013. (Associated Press)
Pope Francis made groundbreaking comments on tolerance for gays in 2013. (Associated Press)

Catholic University of America has abruptly canceled a speech by a well-known, popular Jesuit priest because of protests over his support for gay and lesbian Catholics.

Father James Martin, at-large editor of the Jesuit-run America magazine and an oft-quoted commentator on Catholic affairs, was scheduled to speak at an alumni event at the university's Theological College on Oct. 4.

The college, based in Washington, revoked the invitation following protests from conservative Catholic groups over Martin's new book, "Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity."

In it, the prolific author advocates for acceptance of and dialogue with gays and lesbians.

Conservatives mounted what the university called a social-media campaign against Martin and his appearance at the school.

Father John Zuhlsdorf, who runs a blog called Father Z, repeatedly labeled Martin a "homosexualist activist" and called for Catholic institutions not to host him.

Martin has said he was planning a lecture on Jesus and his teachings, not on gay Catholics or on his book.

University President John Garvey said the school was not in agreement with the Theological College's decision.

“Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas," Garvey said in a statement posted on the university's website. "Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea."

Jesuits often represent the more progressive ranks of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis, though socially conservative, is a Jesuit -- the first ever to be selected pontiff -- and has also advocated a more tolerant position toward gays.

Francis recently named Martin as a consultant to the Vatican's communications department.

Dealing with Democrats? Protecting 'Dreamers'? That's just fine with these Trump supporters

Donald Trump’s tough talk on illegal immigration was a big part of the reason Dave Hagstrom and many others in this booming Phoenix suburb supported him for president. “Walls make good neighbors,” Hagstrom said.

So when the president moved this week to cut a deal — with Democrats no less — to block the expulsion of 800,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, was Hagstrom disappointed?

Not at all.

“If you were to deport them, where would they go?” Hagstrom, 60, a car-warranty manager, asked on his way to a Bible-study dinner at an upscale shopping mall. “To send them across the border would be inhumane almost. There’s no life for them there.”

CongressWhite House

Trump and Democrats are gambling on each other, and hoping their core supporters will trust them to cut deals

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) with President Trump in the Oval Office. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) with President Trump in the Oval Office. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

President Trump, with his second deal in as many weeks with Democratic leaders, has upended the political calculations of both of their parties: Many Republicans are left fuming of his betrayal, while some Democrats have begun cautioning party leaders against getting too cozy with a president they've vowed to resist.

Trump is betting that he can play the two sides against each other and finally notch some legislative achievements, in turn reassuring centrists and improving his dismal poll ratings. The risk, as the president’s nationalist allies already are warning, is that Trump will alienate some among his loyalists even as his opponents remain resolutely hostile, and he sinks further.

With the latest deal, Trump could not have chosen an issue more likely to test his core supporters. After winning election on an anti-immigration platform, he has agreed with Democrats to seek a law protecting from deportation roughly 800,000 young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children — a group of whom he formerly said flatly, “They have to go.”

ImmigrationWhite House

Trump says travel ban 'should be far larger'

 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Trump signaled he would like his controversial travel ban expanded, writing on Twitter on Friday that his ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries "should be far larger, tougher and more specific" but complaining that enlarging it would not be "politically correct."

Trump wrote the tweet in response to news of an explosion in London on an underground train during morning rush hour. British authorities said they were treating the incident as a terrorist act.

Trump went further than British officials and said the perpetrators were "in the sights" of Scotland Yard investigators before the attack. There is no public evidence to support this claim.

In what seemed to be a response to Trump's tweet, London Metropolitan Police said in a statement, "any speculation is extremely unhelpful at this time."

Later Friday morning Trump called the London attack "a terrible thing," while he was in the Rose Garden watching an 11-year-old boy from Falls Church, Va., mow the White House lawn.

“It keeps going and going, and we have to be very smart and we have to be very, very tough—perhaps we’re not nearly tough enough,” he said in response to a question from a reporter.

Trump said he had been briefed on the London attack, and said he had been told about "new risks of things happening."

Trump has a chance to widen the travel ban later this month.

The 90-day ban is set to expire on Sept. 24, and Department of Homeland Security officials are considering whether to expand the ban to other countries, keep it the same, or take countries off the list. 

Trump administration officials are also reviewing what new vetting procedures for travelers should be put into place, including requiring visa applicants from some countries to submit to checks of their social media accounts. Trump has called similar procedures "extreme vetting."

Currently, foreign nationals are banned from six countries — Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Iraq was dropped from the banned countries list in March in exchange for accepting Iraqi nationals being deported from the U.S.

Refugees without close ties to the U.S. are also barred entry until Oct. 24 under the ban.

Trump administration officials issued a revised travel ban in March that was designed to resolve the legal problems that had led to Trump's original order being blocked in January. The Supreme Court is set to hear a challenge next month of the revised ban.

ImmigrationWhite House

Trump throws a wrench into any immigration deal, saying 'chain migration' can't be included

Just over a day after agreeing with Democratic leaders to make an immigration deal, President Trump on Friday took a hard line against allowing close family members to follow new immigrants, a position that could stymie bipartisan legislation. 

Trump wrote on Twitter that any immigration bill cannot include "chain migration," a term used by advocates of limiting immigrants to criticize how new U.S. citizens can sponsor family members for legal status.

If Trump sticks to that position, it could sap Democrats' support for Wednesday's tentative agreement between Trump and the top two Democrats in Congress to seek a law giving legal status to roughly 800,000 so-called Dreamers. Those are mostly young people brought to the country illegally as children.

Immigration hardliners, including in the White House, are concerned that a law might allow beneficiaries to eventually become U.S. citizens, and they in turn would sponsor their parents and close relatives for lawful permanent residence, enlarging the number of legal immigrants in the country. 

The surprise maneuvering follows Trump's announcement last week that he would phase out Dreamers' protection from deportation under the five-year-old Obama administration program known as DACA -- for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program allows them to work and attend college after a federal background check. Beneficiaries' two-year work permits and deportation deferrals will begin expiring in March if Congress doesn't act.

A significant majority of Americans, including many Republicans, support and sympathize with the group, and Trump immediately sought to allay the impact of his order, reflecting a campaign promise, to end DACA.

Trump came to an agreement over dinner Wednesday night with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer to write those DACA protections into law in exchange for increased spending on border security, though not for his promised southern wall.

Trump campaigned on cracking down on illegal immigration, ending DACA, as well as reducing legal immigration. He now faces intense pressure from his core supporters, some of whom contend he is backing off those promises.

'There for you 100%,' Trump tells Floridians; elderly plight in spotlight after nursing home deaths

 (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Trump told Florida hurricane victims his administration is “there for you 100%” as officials moved urgently to safeguard the state’s vulnerable elderly and restore power to millions of homes and businesses still without electricity.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump arrived aboard Air Force One in Fort Myers on the peninsula’s southwestern Gulf coast, then traveled by helicopter to Naples, 40 miles away. It was Trump’s third disaster-zone visit in less than three weeks.

In a Naples mobile home park, not far from where then-Hurricane Irma made its second landfall in Florida, Trump shook hands with residents, quizzed people about how they were faring and joined volunteers serving lunch.

“We love the people of Florida,” he said, pledging that he would be back to monitor recovery progress. “We are there for you 100% … These are special, special people.”

White House

Trump revives his controversial claim equating white supremacists and anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville clashes

 (Brendan Smialowski /  AFP/Getty Images)
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump on Thursday renewed his widely condemned claim that people protesting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., last month shared equal blame for the violence with the neo-Nazi groups who rallied there against the town's removal of a Confederate statue.

There are some "pretty bad dudes on the other side also," Trump told reporters on Air Force One, referring to anti-fascist demonstrators who faced-off with white supremacists.

Trump's revival of the controversy was all the more surprising given his context: He was describing his meeting at the White House on Wednesday with Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate's only black Republican, who confronted the president about his post-Charlottesville remarks.

Scott, recounting his remarks to the president, said he disputed any such comparison equating neo-Nazis and anti-racism protesters and reviewed the brutal history of the white supremacist movement in the United States. 

Scott's message didn't seem to have sunk in with the president, who mentioned to reporters the anti-fascist movement known as "antifa." Some of its demonstrators have been violent.

“Especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also,” Trump said.

He added, "You look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville — a lot of people are saying, in fact a lot of people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump might have point.' ”

Not Scott.

He reacted to Trump's latest remarks on Charlottesville by rebuking the president in a prepared statement: "Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but white supremacists have been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There's no realistic comparison. Period."

After the Aug. 11 and 12 protests in Charlottesville, Trump's statements shifted widely between suggesting a moral equivalency between both sides and belatedly condemning the neo-Nazis, who marched through Charlottesville with torches and assault rifles. One anti-racism protester was killed, and 19 were injured when a car driven by an alleged white supremacist plowed into a crowd of the counter-protesters.

Trump said he had a "great talk" with Scott, who also urged him to add high-ranking African Americans to his staff.

The White House released a photo of the two men talking in the Oval Office, but its statement mistakenly identified the senator as "Tom" -- prompting much derision in social media.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
65°