Trump mocks ‘elites’ at campaign rally

President Trump mocked the elite class at a campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota on Wednesday, saying he has a better apartment than they do.

“Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do,” Trump told supporters.

“I’m smarter than they are. I became president and they didn’t. And I’m representing the best people on earth, the deplorables,” he continued, referring to the term his former opponent Hillary Clinton used to once describe his supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The president was at the rally to support Republican candidate Pete Stauber, and was joined by Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sean Duffy(R-Wis.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), and Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.).

The rally came hours after the president signed an executive order intended to end family separations at the southern border, giving into bipartisan pressure to end the policy.

Trump invoked immigration at the rally, vowing to defend the U.S. border.

“I will always fight for an immigration system that defends our borders, and takes care of our sovereignty as a nation,” Trump said. “I will never sacrifice the safety and security of the American people.”

Trump also took an opportunity at the rally to slam the news media.

“So we’ve created 3.4 million new jobs since Election Day,” Trump told the crowd of supporters.

“And I’ve said before if I would have said that to you during the campaign, those very dishonest people back there, the fake news. Very dishonest.”

[The Hill]

Judge rules against Trump administration in teen pregnancy prevention case

A federal judge in D.C. ruled Thursday that the Trump administration’s cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program were unlawful.

Last summer, the administration notified 81 organizations that their five-year grants through the program would end in 2018, rather than in 2020, prompting multiple lawsuits.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled in one of those cases Thursday, ordering the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to accept and process applications of four grantees as if they had not been terminated.

“We are disappointed with today’s ruling. As numerous studies have shown, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is not working. Continuing the program in its current state does a disservice to the youth it serves and to the taxpayers who fund it. Communities deserve better, and we are considering our next steps,” said HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley in a statement. 

The Public Citizen, a consumer rights group in D.C., represented Policy and Research LLC, Project Vida Health Center, Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens and the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy — four of 81 grantees who had their funds cut short by the administration last year.

Several other lawsuits are still playing out in court.

“The court’s decision today is a rebuke of the Trump administration’s effort to kill a program that is working effectively to lower teen pregnancy rates,” said Sean Sherman, an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group. “Because of the court’s ruling, the four grantees will be able to continue to serve their local communities and to conduct important research. The court’s decision confirms that HHS must administer the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in accordance with the agency’s own regulations and the requirement of reasoned decision-making.”

The administration abruptly cut the grants off last year, arguing that the programs were ineffective at curbing teenage pregnancy.

The program, created in 2010 under former President Obama, funds organizations working to reduce and prevent teen pregnancy, with a focus on reaching populations with the greatest need.

But it has long been criticized by conservatives for its focus on comprehensive sex education, which can include teaching about safe sex and abstinence.

[The Hill]

With Vice President Pence breaking tie, Senate passes anti-Planned Parenthood bill

Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking Senate vote Thursday to pass legislation that will allow states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that perform abortions.

The measure, which now goes to President Trump for his signature, dismisses an Obama-era rule banning states from denying federal funds to such organizations.

Pence’s vote was needed to break a 50-50 tie. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke with their party, voting against the measure.

Republicans have said the Obama rule should be overturned to allow states the right to steer funds away from abortion providers, if they choose.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said the measure reverses a rule that “attempted to empower federal bureaucrats in Washington and silence our states.”

Democrats condemned the measure throughout the day, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York calling it “another example of the Republican war on women.”

“It would let states treat women as second-class citizens who don’t deserve the same access to health care as men,” he said.

The House in February had voted 230-188 largely along party lines to reject the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn recently enacted regulations.

The rule prohibits states from withholding family-planning funding from providers for reasons other than their ability to offer family-planning services. It took effect Jan. 18, two days before President Obama left office.

Since 2011, 13 states have restricted access to such grants, disrupting or reducing services in several instances.

[USA Today]

Trump order targets wide swath of public assistance programs

The Trump administration is seeking to completely revamp the country’s social safety net, targeting recipients of Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance.

Trump is doing so through a sweeping executive order that was quietly issued earlier this week – and that largely flew under the radar.

It calls on the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and other agencies across the federal government to craft new rules requiring that beneficiaries of a host of programs work or lose their benefits.

Trump argued with the order, which has been in the works since last year, that the programs have grown too large while failing to move needy people out of government help.

“Since its inception, the welfare system has grown into a large bureaucracy that might be susceptible to measuring success by how many people are enrolled in a program rather than by how many have moved from poverty into financial independence,” it states.

The order is directed at “any program that provides means-tested assistance or other assistance that provides benefits to people, households or families that have low incomes.”

Democrats have blasted the effort, arguing the order blends the issues of welfare and broader public assistance programs in a deliberate way they say is intended to lower support for popular initiatives.

“Welfare” has historically been used to describe cash assistance programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Democrats and liberal activists say the Trump administration is seeking to expand the definition of welfare to mean food stamps, Medicaid and other programs as a way to demonize them.

“This executive order perpetuates false and racist stereotypes about certain groups supposedly taking advantage of government assistance,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement reacting to the order.

President Trump “is trying to erect a smokescreen in the shape of Reagan’s ‘welfare queen’ so people don’t see he’s coming after the entire middle and working class,” said Rebecca Vallas, managing director of the Center for American Progress’s Poverty to Prosperity Program.

Welfare reform has long been a goal of GOP lawmakers, and there’s broad support in the Republican conference for changing the federal safety net to impose stricter work requirements and block grant state funding for programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

While noting that he hadn’t seen the specific text of the executive order, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said he supports the concept.

“For able-bodied, single adults, I certainly favor work requirements,” Cole said.

With Republicans in total control of the government, conservatives have been hoping for a major legislative push to overhaul federal assistance programs.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) late last year said he wanted Republicans to work on entitlement reform, with a focus on promoting work and career-based education.

“We want to smooth the path from welfare to work, pull people out of poverty, pull people out of welfare,” Ryan said in December.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Institute, said the executive order is meant to signal support to congressional Republicans.

“[Administration officials] have been talking to Congress, and the executive order is designed to set the table for them,” Rector said. “Do what they can in the executive branch, and give support to similar efforts on the Hill.”

But a short legislative calendar and a slim Republican majority in the Senate mean the administration may be largely on its own.

Agencies are limited in what changes they can make to their programs, so comprehensive welfare reform may be off the table without major legislation.

Republicans have already acknowledged they won’t be able to cut spending on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

“I think it’s very tough to get this thing through the Senate when it requires 60 votes. I certainly don’t have any problem with the president taking initiative,” Cole said.

The executive order doesn’t set any new policy, but Center for American Progress’s Vallas said the order is important as a messaging document, and it shows that Trump is willing to act without Congress.

“This is more of President Trump not being content to wait for Congress to dismantle these programs. This is him wanting to take matters into his own hands,” Vallas said.

The order follows policy shifts already underway at various agencies.

Health and Human Services officials have encouraged states to pursue work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries. Arkansas, Indiana and Kentucky have already been granted such waivers, and several other states have waivers pending with the administration.

Earlier this year, the Agriculture Department sought input on “innovative ideas to promote work and self-sufficiency among able-bodied adults” participating in the food stamp program.

In Congress, House Republicans unveiled a provision in the 2018 farm bill to expand mandatory work requirements in the food stamp program. The broader legislation will be marked up later this month, but it faces a long uphill battle.

The administration’s effort could also face legal challenges. Medicaid advocates in Kentucky have already sued over the work requirements, and additional safety net changes could provoke even more lawsuits.

[The Hill]

Trump HUD appointee spread conspiracy about Hillary Clinton’s satanic ritual

Joe Gibbs, one of President Trump’s appointees in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, spread the false rumor that Hillary Clinton is a Satanist during the 2016 election, CNN reports.

John Gibbs was a conservative commentator tapped to join HUD as the head of a program aimed at spurring economic development and now holds the title of senior adviser in the community planning and development division.

On Twitter, Gibbs used the “#spiritcooking” hashtag, helping spread the rumor that Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta participated in a Satanic ritual involving the consumption of bodily fluids. #Spiritcooking evolved into the better-known #pizzagate despite being debunked at every turn.

The tweets from Gibbs are archived on the Wayback Machine.

He also used the term “cucks” in a defense of Milo Yiannopoulos and defended anti-Semitic alt-right commenter Ricky Vaughn when he was banned from Twitter.

[RawStory]

Don Jr. Applauds Poor Indians For Smiling Unlike People in ‘Other Parts of the Emerging World’

Don Jr., President Donald Trump’s eldest adult son and most industrious online defender, is in India this week to peddle luxury apartments bearing the family name.

And Jr., who has oft been referred to as the “smart Trump son,” had some cringeworthy comments about poor Indians that he expressed in an interview with CNBC TV18 in New Dehli.

“I think there is something about the spirit of the Indian people that is unique here to other parts of the emerging world,” Don Jr. started.

“You go through a town — and I don’t mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face,” he said. “It is a different spirit that you don’t see in other parts of the world and I think there is something unique about that.”

Don Jr. concluded with a comment that sounds like it was inspired by a fortune cookie: “I know some of the most successful people in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world.”

The Trump son’s career in punditry was launched by a rousing speech he gave at his father’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, which led many to speculate the scion harbored political ambitions. Since, Don Jr.’s political career has been mostly confined to his very active Twitter profile, which he recently used to tout fringe conspiracy websites suggesting the victims of the Florida school shooting are FBI plants.

[Mediaite]

Media

VA cuts program for homeless vets after touting Trump’s commitment

Four days after Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin held a big Washington event to tout the Trump administration’s promise to house all homeless vets, the agency did an about-face, telling advocates it was pulling resources from a major housing program.

The VA said it was essentially ending a special $460 million program that has dramatically reduced homelessness among chronically sick and vulnerable veterans. Instead, the money would go to local VA hospitals that can use it as they like, as long as they show evidence of dealing with homelessness.

Anger exploded on a Dec. 1 call that was arranged by Shulkin’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans to explain the move. Advocates for veterans, state officials and even officials from HUD, which co-sponsors the program, attacked the decision, according to five people who were on the call.

“I don’t understand why you are pulling the rug out,” Elisha Harig-Blaine, a National League of Cities housing official who was on the call, said in an interview afterward. “You’re putting at risk the lives of men and women who’ve served this country.”

“The VA is taking its foot off the pedal,” said Leon Winston, an executive at Swords to Plowshares, which helps homeless vets in San Francisco, where he said the VA decision is already having an impact. HUD recently put up 100 housing vouchers for veterans in the program, but the local VA hospital said it could only provide support for 50.

The agency’s move came as HUD on Wednesday released its annual survey showing a 1.5 percent increase in veteran homelessness over 2016 — the first rise since 2010. Most of the jump occurred in Los Angeles, where housing costs are skyrocketing.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who sits on a veterans’ affairs subcommittee, called the VA decision “a new low” for the Trump administration that was “especially callous and perplexing” in view of the latest data on homelessness.

In a statement late Wednesday, Shulkin insisted that overall funding for veteran homelessness was not being cut, and seemed to suggest he might reverse the decision. He promised to get input from local VA leaders and others “on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most.”

HUD data show there were nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in 2016, and even those with housing still need assistance. The program has reduced the number of displaced servicemembers, serving 138,000 since 2010 and cut the number without housing on a given day by almost half. More than half the veterans housed are chronically ill, mentally ill or have substance abuse problems.

[Politico]

HUD Secretary Ben Carson: Poverty is Largely ‘A State of Mind’

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said in an interview Wednesday that having “the wrong mindset” contributes to poverty.

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind,” the retired neurosurgeon said during an interview with SiriusXM Radio released on Wednesday evening. “You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you could give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”

The former 2016 presidential candidate, who was appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed to his Cabinet post in March, argued parents can help prevent their kids from developing the “wrong mindset.”

“A lot of it has to do with what we teach children,” he said. “You have to instill into that child the mindset of a winner.”

He went to say that “there’s also a poverty of spirit. You develop a certain mindset.”

Carson said the government can provide help to those in need.

“I think the majority of people don’t have that defeatist attitude, but they sometimes just don’t see the way, and that’s where government can come in and be very helpful,” he added. “It can provide the ladder of opportunity, it can provide the mechanism that will demonstrate to them what can be done.”

[CNN]

Reality

This is not the first time Carson’s opinions have been viewed as controversial.

In March 2014, in an interview with conservative news outlet Breitbart, Carson compared the modern American government to Nazi Germany.

In 2015, Carson made headlines for saying he believes Egyptian pyramids were used to store grain.

And for reference, Ben Carson has never known poverty and currently lives in his third home in Virginia, estimated at $1.22 million dollars.

Media

Trump’s Budget Director Convinced Him to Cut Key Program Because ‘He Didn’t Know’ What It Did

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget contained a lot of cuts to key programs that help Trump’s own voters, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission that has been responsible for helping slash high poverty rates in rural America.

In an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said that he was able to convince Trump to slash the Appalachian Regional Commission and similar programs in his proposed budget because he had no idea what the program did.

“My guess is he probably didn’t know what the Appalachian Regional Commission did,” Mulvaney said of Trump. “I was able to convince him, ‘Mr. President, this is not an efficient use of the taxpayer dollars. This is not the best way to help the people in West Virginia.’ He goes, ‘Okay, that’s great. Is there a way to get those folks the money in a more efficient way?’ And the answer is yes. And that’s what’s we’re going focus on doing.”

Harwood then asked Mulvaney if Trump was aware that his budget cuts might hurt his own voters — and Mulvaney responded that the best way to help all voters was to spur higher economic growth.

“I think what the president will tell you is, ‘The best thing I can do for those folks, whether or not they voted for me, is to figure out a way to get 3.5 percent economic growth,’” he said.

Elsewhere in the interview, Mulvaney said he’s working on getting Trump on board with making some changes to Social Security, including the disability benefits program, which he said has “become effectively a long-term unemployment, permanent unemployment program.”

(h/t Raw Story)

Trump Says Black Communities Worst Off Ever, Forgets Slavery

Donald Trump has faced criticism after declaring that African Americans are in the worst shape “ever, ever, ever”, in a town named after a slaveholder.

The Republican nominee’s latest outreach to black voters, at a North Carolina rally, drew a swift backlash.

Many on social media questioned whether Mr Trump had considered the US history of slavery and segregation.

It follows a report that his charity used funds to settle lawsuits for which he was personally liable.

At Tuesday’s campaign event in Kenansville, the White House hopeful said: “We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before.

“Ever, ever, ever.”

He continued: “You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street.

“They’re worse, I mean honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.

“And I say to the African-American communities, and I think it’s resonating, because you see what’s happening with my poll numbers with African Americans. They’re going, like, high.”

The businessman-turned-politician is continuing his outreach to African-American voters by meeting a group of pastors Wednesday in Cleveland, Ohio.

The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher says Mr Trump’s recent overtures to the black community may be aimed primarily at assuring moderate white voters of his racial sensitivity.

According to recent polls, he still faces an uphill climb in winning over even a modest level of black support.

Aside from a blip in one unconventional tracking poll, Mr Trump’s black support continues to be mired in low single digits.

This is roughly equal to the levels earned by the Republicans who ran against Barack Obama, the first black US president.

Last month, Mr Trump also raised eyebrows when he asked black voters: “What do you have to lose?”

He told a nearly all-white audience in Michigan that African Americans “are living in poverty” and their “schools are no good”.

Mr Trump said his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, “would rather provide a job to a refugee” than to unemployed black youths.

(h/t BBC)

Reality

One need not be a scholar to be familiar with generations of slavery, discrimination, state-sanctioned bigotry, red-lining, lynchings, segregation, and Jim Crow laws.

But as NPR points out, the data shows Trump is wrong. For example:

  • The black unemployment rate is more than 8 percent – that’s more than three points higher than the national average. But it’s halved from the recent post-recession high of 16.6 percent.
  • Plus, black employment rates have always been higher than the national average.
  • Eighty-six percent of African Americans are high school completers.
  • African Americans with a bachelor’s degree or more has more than tripled (from 6.6 percent to 22.2 percent 40 years ago) and roughly one-third of 18-24-year-olds are enrolled in college.
  • Because of the Obamacare that Trump is vowing to begin repealing on his first day in office, the number of uninsured African-Americans dropped by nearly 10 points over the last three years.
  • While there was a slight uptick in some cities since last year, crime is at an all-time low.

Media