Taxpayers charged $34 million to make Trump’s backup jets more ‘presidential’

With the announcement of a new Boeing contract to “update” Air Force Two, the Pentagon is slated to spend $34 million taxpayer dollars to make Donald Trump’s presidential jets fancier.

Defense One reported that over the past 14 months, the Defense Department has spent tens of millions of dollars contracting aircraft monolith Boeing to “refurbish” the interiors of two backup Air Force One planes that are frequently used by the vice president and cabinet officials.

The most recent contract, as first reported by the Washington Examiner, is for more than $16 million to create an “appearance more commensurate with [the] presidential section” of Air Force One on the twin-engine 757. According to the Pentagon, the latest Boeing contract will include “upgraded interior elements,” “refurbished interior elements” and “painting and cleaning.”

This isn’t the first of such contracts the DOD has taken out with Boeing. Defense One noted that on June 30, 2017, the Pentagon awarded the corporation nearly $18 million for “engineering support services for refurbishment of the interior” of the other backup Air Force One.

[Raw Story]

President Trump takes credit for canceling costly military parade he proposed

President Trump claimed Friday that sticker shock led to the scrapping of his much maligned military parade.

Trump accused local Washington politicians of price gouging, despite the fact that the jaw-dropping projected $92 million cost was largely due to Pentagon figures for aircraft, equipment and personnel.

“Maybe we will do something next year when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” the President tweeted.

The claim came hours after the Defense Department had already said the parade wouldn’t happen this year.

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that the military and the White House “have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”

The Associated Press and CNBC reported on Thursday the parade would cost about $92 million — $80 million more than the price first suggested by the Trump administration.

A majority of the taxpayer funds, roughly $50 million, would cover costs for aircraft, tanks, transportation and personnel for the Nov. 11 spectacle.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser knocked Trump and his finger-pointing tweets.
“Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad),” she tweeted.

The President announced that he’ll be skipping town the weekend of Veterans Day, when the parade was planned to take place.

Trump said he “will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th.”

France hosts an annual parade to commemorate the end of hostilities during World War I on Armistice Day, which coincides with Veterans Day in the U.S.

But Trump’s initial plans for a celebration of military might appeared more in line with authoritarian-style displays seen in China and North Korea.

Some critics speculated that there were other reasons beside the price tag for the sudden cancellation.

Several veterans’ groups were expected to launch protests in D.C. to counter Trump’s parade.

Activist and Vietnam era vet John Penley said he received approval to stage an anti-war rally in a park near the route.

“We have no doubt that the rapidly growing number of requests for protest permits in DC and the intel they have on the possible number of protests and people planning to protest Trump’s Military Parade caused the President and the Pentagon to… announce that the date of the parade had been changed to next year,” Penley said in a statement. “Well, as far as I know at this point nobody is cancelling their Veterans Day weekend protests and we definitely are not.”

Common Defense, a progressive group of vets and military families, also planned a counter-demonstration.

“Trump’s arrogant attempt to use our brothers and sisters in uniform as his unwilling political props suffered a major defeat, and that defeat could not have happened without the organizing of veterans and military families,” said Common Defense executive director Pam Campos, a former Air Force military intelligence analyst.

[New York Daily News]

Trump Claims Power to Bypass Limits Set by Congress in Defense Bill

When President Trump signed a $716 billion military spending bill on Monday, he claimed the authority to override dozens of provisions that he deemed improper constraints on his executive powers.

In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.

Among them was a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”

The statement was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s emerging broad vision of executive power. His personal lawyers, for example, have claimed that his constitutional authority to supervise the Justice Department means that he can lawfully impede the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election no matter his motive, despite obstruction-of-justice statutes.

Signing statements, which are generally ghostwritten for presidents by Justice Department and White House lawyers, are official documents in which a president lays out his interpretation of new laws and instructs the executive branch to view them the same way.

Once obscure, the practice became controversial under President George W. Bush, who challenged more provisions of new laws than all previous presidents combined — most famously a 2005 ban on torture championed by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. (Democrats are pressing for access to any White House papers of Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, related to that statement.)

Mr. McCain is now fighting brain cancer, and Congress named the new military law in his honor. But Mr. Trump pointedly did not mention his name when signing the bill, the latest slight in the long-running acrimony between the two men. Mr. Trump’s signing statement also quoted only part of the bill’s title, evading any acknowledgment of the senator.

Last month, Mr. McCain issued a statement calling Mr. Trump’s Helsinki summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

The American Bar Association in 2006 took the position that presidents should not use signing statements, but should instead veto legislation if it has constitutional defects so that Congress has an opportunity to override that veto if lawmakers disagree. But presidents of both parties, including Barack Obama, have continued to use them, with current and former executive branch lawyers arguing that the focus should be on the credibility of the legal theories that presidents invoke when they make their objections.

Mr. Trump’s new statement relied upon a mix of theories, some of which had greater support in Supreme Court precedent than others. For example, in 2015, the court upheld presidents’ constitutional authority to disregard a statute requiring American passports to say that Jerusalem is part of Israel, which could support Mr. Trump’s claim that he could recognize Crimea as part of Russia if he wanted.

But many of Mr. Trump’s challenges invoked his purported powers as commander in chief, a type of objection that the Bush administration frequently made but that the Obama administration generally shied away from.

For example, Mr. Trump also declared that he could bypass a provision in the bill that extended restrictions on certain bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Russia.

He also challenged a provision requiring the Pentagon to create a senior civilian position charged with coming up with uniform standards for counting — and reducing — civilian bystander deaths as a result of American military operations, and a provision that would halt certain in-flight refueling of Saudi and Emirati aircraft over Yemen unless those countries took more steps to bring an end to the civil war there and to reduce civilian suffering and collateral damage from their airstrikes.

And the president said he could disregard a restriction against reducing the number of active-duty troops stationed in South Korea below 22,000, unless Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis were to certify that doing so would be in the national-security interest of the United States and would not undermine the security of regional allies like South Korea and Japan.

In May, Mr. Trump had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down troop levels in South Korea ahead of his Singapore summit meeting with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. But later in June, Mr. Mattis said that current troop levels of about 28,500 would remain in place.

[The New York Times]

Trump blasts Robert Mueller’s spending on Russia probe

President Donald Trump is reacting to a report on special counsel Robert Mueller’s spending, slightly overstating the figure for the Russia probe he has dismissed as a ‘witch hunt.’

Trump tweets Friday: “A.P. has just reported that the Russian Hoax Investigation has now cost our government over $17 million, and going up fast.”

He adds: “No Collusion, except by the Democrats!”

A Thursday report by the Justice Department revealed that Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign cost $10 million between October and March. That’s on top of the $6.7 million spent on the probe the previous four months.

The Justice Department says a large portion of the costs, about $9 million, would have been spent regardless of the special counsel’s appointment.

[PBS]

Reality

Government waste? That’s quaint. Trump has spent $67 million dollars alone on his weekly golf trips to resorts he still owns, operates, promotes, and receives profits from.

The Special Council investigation into Bill Clinton cost $80 million in 1999 dollars.

Trump: We’ll put sanctions on Russia ‘as soon as they very much deserve it’

President Trump on Wednesday said his administration would levy additional sanctions on Russia “as soon as they very much deserve it.”

The comments, made at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, capped a four-day stretch of confusion over whether the Trump administration would punish Moscow for its alleged role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

Trump began to walk away from the microphone, but returned to answer a shouted question about the sanctions. He then went on to tout his record on confronting Russia.

“There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” the president said, restating one of his common talking points.

He noted that he has helped raise money for NATO, as well as touted a recent military strike in Syria that was carried out in coordination with France and the United Kingdom.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haleysaid on Sunday that additional sanctions against Russia would be announced as soon as Monday in response to its alleged role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

However, the White House said Monday that Trump had decided not to impose sanctions, contradicting Haley’s comments.

Haley quickly fired back, saying “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

Kudlow later apologized, but the incident sparked speculation that all of the Trump administration was not on the same page regarding its policy toward Russia.

Trump has faced criticism from lawmakers for being hesitant at times to speak out forcefully against Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

[The Hill]

Trump’s push to redo $1.3T spending bill he signed sparks GOP revolt

A regretful President Donald Trump wants to roll back spending in a massive omnibus bill he signed into law, but Republicans who helped craft the legislation are in open revolt.

“My attitude is, your word is your bond,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said, in his first public comments on the Trump plan.

Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) is among more than a half-dozen appropriators who have voiced skepticism about the Trump administration’s proposal to cancel billions in spending. Nearly all said they feared that it could erode the GOP’s bargaining power in future budget talks. Their objections represented another low point in an often-tense relationship between the cost-cutting White House and GOP members of Congress who write spending bills.

The skeptics included the newly appointed Senate Appropriations chief, Richard Shelby, who met with Trump on Wednesday.

“We need to look at what we agreed on with the other side and keep our word, keep our agreements,” the Alabama Republican told POLITICO just before his one-on-one with Trump.

He added that the Senate has had little appetite for the idea in the past: “Rescissions has never been a big thing over here.”

The White House is seeking to essentially take a scalpel to last month’s $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, scratching out any funding that Trump doesn’t personally back.

Budget experts have said a rescissions package of that scale would likely be unprecedented: One party’s leaders in Congress and the White House have never before unilaterally agreed to unravel a spending deal that has already been sealed.

“I think the whole rescission effort is unrealistic and dangerous,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a longtime appropriator, told reporters. “It’s hard enough to make a bargain around here. But you can’t break your word when you do. … You’d never have another deal ever.”

Multiple lawmakers, including Cole, said they don’t believe House GOP leaders are taking the idea seriously — despite Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s own involvement in the budget scheme. They think it’s really being pushed by Trump’s belt-tightening budget director, Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Most are doubtful that the cutbacks could even land a floor vote.

“It seems like this is just an exercise in appeasing the president and the Republican ‘no’ votes on the omnibus,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told reporters.

“We could have made the original budget framework smaller. I would have been fine with that,” Dent said. But he cautioned that going back on the agreement now, months later, would have a “chilling effect” on future deals.

Republicans, particularly in the House, have little desire to revisit the unpopular spending deal, H.R. 1625 (115), in an increasingly dire midterm campaign cycle. The package included huge boosts to domestic funding, which GOP leaders worked hard to sell to their own members in the name of securing more Pentagon funding.

Ultimately, 90 House Republicans backed the spending bill, in part because they were promised cover by the White House.

But Trump’s 180-degree reversal on that deal left the Republican lawmakers who backed the omnibus feeling spurned. Trump further infuriated members of his own party after he threatened to veto the bill and accused GOP leaders of choosing to “waste money” in the bill.

Those same Republican leaders have sharply disputed Trump’s claim that there was no close scrutiny of spending. “When you put together a $1.3 trillion bill, you look into all these accounts,” Frelinghuysen said in defense of the bill.

“You don’t throw your friends under the bus who did exactly what you wanted them to do,” Cole said, calling it a “hare-brained scheme.”

Just one appropriator out of nine polled by POLITICO this week expressed interest in a rescissions package.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who oversees Agriculture spending, said he was “absolutely” open to the idea.

“We’re all just getting back, we gotta sit around the table and talk about it, but I don’t dismiss the idea at all,” said Aderholt, who is in a tight race to take over as House Appropriations chairman next year.

No lawmaker has seen any details out of the White House or GOP leadership about which programs would be cut. The Trump administration would have until mid-June to submit its request, after which it would be up to the House Appropriations Committee to turn the package into legislative language.

That work would need to be done at the same time the Appropriations panels are knee-deep in drafting bills for fiscal 2019, which begins Sept. 30.

And with an already abbreviated House calendar this year, lawmakers say there’s hardly time or interest to jump back into the previous fiscal year.

“We’ll see how that comes together. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to happen, but we’ll see if it does,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) said.

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have accused the GOP of “buyer’s remorse” after the most recent spending deal. And Democrats are already cautioning that Republican efforts to walk back this year’s spending deal would be seen as an attempt to void the entire two-year budget agreement.

Without that agreement, which also delivered huge increases in defense spending, the Pentagon’s budget would actually shrink next year.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) said he won’t decide whether to support a rescissions package until he sees the details. But he added that Congress’ spending panels tend to take the blame for the nation’s mounting debt — even though nondefense discretionary spending accounts for just 15 cents out of every dollar spent by the government.

“At Appropriations, we’re the most visible and easy target,” he said.

[Politico]

Trump bizarrely boasts about the strength of the military to children at White House Easter Egg Roll

President Donald Trump on Monday welcomed children to the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll with a bizarre rant about the strength of the American military.

In his address to the children at the event, Trump began by referring to the White House as “this house or building or whatever you want to call it because there is no name for it, it is special.” Trump then said that he and his staff keep the White House “in tip-top shape, we call it sometimes tippy-top shape, and it’s a great, great place.”

He then pivoted to talking about the military, which he said would soon be “at a level it’s never been before” and “you see what’s happening with funding” and “just think of $700 billion, because that’s what’s going into our military this year.”

[Raw Story]

Media

 

Trump’s border wall proposal is exactly what Ann Coulter pitched on Fox News Saturday night

On March 25, President Donald Trump released a cryptic tweet proposing to use funds dedicated to national defense to build a wall along the southern border, a plan conservative commentator Ann Coulter had proposed hours earlier on one of Trump’s favorite Fox News shows, Justice with Judge Jeanine.

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted:

The tweet was widely interpreted as a proposal to use military funding to build a border wall, a proposal Coulter had made the night before on Justice with Judge Jeanine. The show’s host, Jeanine Pirro, is a longtime friend of Trump’s and has earned a special place on his watch list through her fawning coverage.

JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): What can the president do? What can the president do as commander-in-chief?

ANN COULTER: Look, on the day after his inauguration, it’s his authority under the Constitution that cannot be taken away from him by any legislature, by any court — I’m quite confident the Supreme Court would uphold this — to defend our borders. I mean, he has — the last war that had a declaration of war from Congress in it was World War II, and we engage in a lot of military actions around the world. I think it can be done right on our border as part of the defense. Have the Seabees do it. But if he needs to —

PIRRO: OK, so where does he get the money? Where does he get the money to build the wall that you can say he can build as national defense. Where does he take the money from?

COULTER: The same place Reagan took the money to invade Grenada. The same place he took the money to bomb Syria. He has money to spend on national defense, and this is a much bigger problem of national defense. This is our people being attacked with chemical warfare, not allegedly Syrians.

 

[Media Matters]

Media

Trump touts $1.6B for wall funding, blasts ‘Dem giveaways’

President Trump marked the $1.3 trillion budget agreement Wednesday night by touting funding for a wall on the southern border while blasting “Dem giveaways.”

“Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming,” Trump tweeted.

Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military, $716 Billion next year…most ever. Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment.”

Trump also added that, “Democrats refused to take care of DACA. Would have been so easy, but they just didn’t care. I had to fight for Military and start of Wall.”

The Trump administration ended DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — last year. The program protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation.

[New York Post]

Reality

From Daily Kos.

Donald Trump is trying to sell the spending bill as a victory for his precious border wall. As is so often the case, he’s lying and the real question is whether he’s lying more to himself or more to the rest of us. Trump tweeted that “Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming.” In reality:

… Democrats pointed out that only $641 million of that money is designated for 33 miles of “new fencing or levees” ― specifically not a concrete wall. The rest of the money is for repairing or replacing existing fencing or border security technology.

Not just Democrats, though:

“Are we going to continue to fund sanctuary cities? Are we going to continue to fund Planned Parenthood? Are we going to continue to raise the debt to levels that quite frankly are unsustainable and bankrupt our country?” [House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows] said. “There is really no wall funding. People will try to spin it as there is wall funding, but the [$1.6 billion] has been in there for some time.”

Trump Believes a Corporate Stock Market Rally Reduces Government National Debt

President Trump falsely claimed Wednesday that, “in one sense,” the stock market rally since his election reduces the $20 trillion national debt.

Let’s break down his astonishing claim.

“The country — we took it over, it owed $20 trillion,” Trump Sean Hannity of Fox News in Pennsylvania.

So far, so good. It’s correct that the U.S. owed nearly $20 trillion when Trump took office.

“As you know, the last eight years, they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So, they borrowed more than $10 trillion dollars, right?”

Also, more or less accurate — $9 trillion to be exact.

“And yet, we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months in terms of value. So, you can say in one sense we’re really increasing values; and maybe in a sense we’re reducing debt.”

Huh? To say this is a head-scratcher is an understatement.

Trump is right that the stock market has added trillions in value since his election.

But higher stock prices reflect corporate profits. Shareholders and investors reap the rewards. When investors get richer, it does not reduce the amount of money Congress and the federal government has already spent and owes.

The national debt, which he correctly states is $20 trillion, is the result of the government spending more than it takes in. To cut the debt, Congress has to spend less or raise taxes. That would free up cash to pay down what the U.S. owes.

“The stock market’s gains have virtually nothing to do with the size of the national debt, which continues to rise because government spending far exceeds government receipts,” political economist Greg Valliere told CNNMoney.

“A higher stock market encourages consumers and companies to spend more, which helps the overall economy,” said Valliere of Horizon Investments. “But it’s absurd to contend that the national debt has fallen because of this.”

In fact, the president wants to cut taxes and potentially add to the debt if spending cuts cannot be found to offset those tax cuts.

The White House, in a statement, said Trump “was simply making the point that we’ve seen enormous growth in the stock market since his election, that means more money in the pocket of everyday citizens, and more circulating in our economy as a whole.”

As for that stock market rally, the Standard and Poor’s 500 is up nearly 20% since his election — an impressive rally. No question investors cheer this president’s pro-business, anti-regulation, lower taxes agenda. But under the Obama Administration that same index rose 235%. And no, that stock market rally did not reduce or offset the national debt either.

[CNN]

Media

Watch on CNN

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