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Trump's chaotic first 100 days

President Donald Trump had an action-packed first 100 days, but mostly it was just chaos. Story by Shane Goldmacher. Edited by Sarah Hashemi and Matt Sobocinski.


Hopes for Trump's military buildup dimming


President Donald Trump's supplemental request for Pentagon funding for the rest of this fiscal year and his broad outline for fiscal 2018’s defense spending face serious hurdles on Capitol Hill. | Getty

Hopes for Trump's military buildup dimmingDefense hawks are starting to lose hope in President Donald Trump’s promises of a “historic” military buildup.

Trump vowed during the campaign to make the military so big and powerful that “nobody — absolutely nobody — is going to mess with us,” and since his inauguration he has rattled sabers at North Korea, launched an airstrike on Syria and dropped an enormous bomb on Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.

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But nearly 100 days into his presidency, Republican legislative stumbles have fueled doubts that Congress will approve the $84 billion defense boost he has proposed for this fiscal year and next — a jump that many advocates have already slammed as too small.

And without serious new spending, military leaders have warned Congress, the services’ readiness will continue to erode.

For example, three Navy ships set to deploy this year to Europe and the Middle East will stay in their home ports without the supplemental funds Trump requested. And the Marine Corps has said it will have to ground all of its planes from July to the end of September unless Congress gives it more money in a fiscal 2017 spending bill.

Over the long term, Trump’s plans to grow the military simply won’t happen without more money.

Building and operating a 355-ship Navy would cost $102 billion a year through 2047, about a third more than the amount appropriated in fiscal 2016, according to a Congressional Budget Office report . And personnel costs for the Army and Marines would increase dramatically under Trump’s proposal, which would add more than 70,000 troops between the two services.

“The industry is certainly frustrated that the initial hopefulness has not borne out, or at least not borne out yet,” said Doug Berenson, a managing director of the defense systems practice for the consulting firm Avascent. “A lot of people in the industry, myself included, sort of allowed ourselves to get ahead of ourselves in the first weeks following the election without fully realizing the budget politics that have been with us for the last five or six years are not completely gone.”

The dimmed hopes are already having an impact on defense companies, which are holding back on major investments or hiring decisions until they see whether the boosted Pentagon budgets materialize, said Marc Numedahl, executive vice president at the lobbying firm Crossroads Strategies.

For example, he said, shipbuilders would need to ramp up to handle the type of buildup Trump has called for, including expanding the Navy to at least 350 ships. That would include modernizing shipyards and hiring skilled workers like welders, who can take years to train. But he doesn't expect the defense industry to invest big money until it’s sure more federal dollars are coming.

“Industry is going to be ready to pull the trigger


Trump caves on the wall — and Democrats think he will again

President Donald Trump was supposedly girding for battle. Not even a week ago, ahead of a possible government shutdown, his aides said the president would insist on funding his border wall and the president himself was prepared to sabotage Obamacare to gain leverage.

But after several days of chest-beating from his administration, Trump backed away from both positions in short order, ending the game of chicken before it began. Democrats were not forced to take a single tough vote and suffered no defections from their ranks. The president deferred his fight for wall funding until the fall and grudgingly agreed to continue funding Obamacare subsidies.

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The episode has left Democratic leaders with the impression that Trump may never go full bore to get his wall funding, no matter his administration’s future threats. Indeed, Democrats believe that Trump himself is coming to the realization that he won't get Congress to pay for the wall.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he spoke to Trump several times during the monthlong funding saga, but Trump never brought up his public demands that Schumer give the president a down payment on the wall as a condition of funding the government.

“He’s called me a few times during this. But he never brought it up,” Schumer said in an interview. “I have found that to be a pattern. He talks to me occasionally now, but it’s not on the main issues.”

As for the broader funding standoff, “I thought one of two things. I thought he’d either back down. Or he’d do [a shutdown], and it would be a fight we’d win,” said Schumer. “When the president just puts together his own plan, which is almost always hard-right given who the people around him are, he has problems.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. But in a tweetstorm Thursday, Trump excoriated Democrats for wanting “illegals to pour through our borders” and trying to “bail out their donors from insurance companies,” a reference to the party’s insistence on continuing Obamacare payments.

“I promise to rebuild our military and secure our border. Democrats want to shut down the government. Politics!” Trump wrote.

Lawmakers in both parties are struggling to reconcile Trump’s blustery public persona with his flexibility on his signature campaign pledge of getting Mexico to pay for the wall, which has morphed into a demand that Congress do so. Schumer deliberated this winter over whether to make public his caucus’ specific opposition to the wall, ultimately deciding to send Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a letter vowing explicitly to block a spending bill that includes funding for it.

Now that that strategy has succeeded, with little more required than sticking to their message, emboldened Democrats say they're taking the president’s threats with a big dollop of salt.

“His folks are beginning to recognize that getting a deal done in Congress requires listening, engaging and sometimes strategic or tactical retreats,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “The more he


House delays Obamacare vote, denying Trump 100-day win

House delays Obamacare vote, denying Trump 100-day win

House Speaker Paul Ryan and his leadership team need 216 votes to pass their Obamacare replacement bill. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

GOP leaders are still struggling to round up enough moderates to get their repeal-and-replace bill through the chamber.

By Kyle Cheney , Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan

04/27/17 03:06 PM EDT

Updated 04/27/17 07:04 PM EDT


House Republican leaders on Thursday delayed a vote on their Obamacare repeal bill until next week at the earliest, denying President Donald Trump a major legislative victory during his first 100 days in office.

Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants decided during a late-night huddle in the Capitol that they still do not have the votes to pass the stalled health-care legislation. At least 15 House Republicans remain solidly opposed to the bill, with another 20 leaning no or still undecided, according to GOP lawmakers and aides.

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House Republicans can only lose 22 votes.

"We are not voting on health care tomorrow," Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters upon emerging from the meeting. "We're still educating members."

White House officials, after striking a deal with conservatives, had publicly raised expectations that the vote would occur this week. And they privately pushed Ryan (R-Wis.) to hand Trump something he could tout as a major legislative victory before Saturday, his 100 th day in office.

But GOP leaders are still struggling to secure the votes, though some are hopeful they can vote next week. More than 15 lawmakers publicly declared their opposition in recent days, though most of those members also rejected the original draft that Ryan yanked from the floor last month. More foreboding for House leaders, Republicans who backed earlier versions of the proposal, including Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, said they were now undecided. Some even came out against the bill.

“Protections for those with pre-existing conditions without contingency and affordable access to coverage for every American remain my priorities for advancing health care reform, and this bill does not satisfy those benchmarks for me," said Rep. Ryan Costello, a centrist Pennsylvania Republican who voted for an earlier version of the bill in committee. "I remain a no vote on this bill in its current form.”

Multiple senior House Republican sources said Ryan and his top lieutenants have made progress and are increasingly confident that they'll eventually garner enough support to force the bill through the chamber. They've locked down the most recalcitrant conservatives in the 238-member House GOP conference. And they say they're making headway with some moderate Republicans wary of a constituent backlash if they support the health care overhaul.

Case in point: Three senior House Republican sources sounded confident Thursday that they’ve now secured a “yes” vote from House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who came out against the bill several weeks ago. The influential New Jersey Republican’s office did not return multiple requests for comment.

But leadership still has a ways to go until they hit 216, the number


NAFTA talks after Trump's turnaround: What each country wants

President Donald Trump said Thursday he’s going to start talks “very soon” with Canada and Mexico to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement — a day after his aides said he was thinking of withdrawing completely.

But sitting down at the negotiating table won’t be easy. Each country wants something from the others. And the three-way negotiation could lead to months of give-and-take over everything from lumber subsidies to immigration policy.

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Trump also will have to work within the complex negotiating structures set out by law — and appease the many competing American interest groups that will be jockeying for a good deal for themselves.

Here's POLITICO's look at what each country wants as Trump tries to make a deal with our neighbors to the north and south — after insulting both countries in recent weeks.

United States

He’s blamed NAFTA for a loss of American jobs, but Trump hasn’t been very specific about what he wants from a new agreement. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday the U.S. is looking to better the pact's agricultural, manufacturing and services provisions, and give it an overall modernization.

He said "some trade imbalances" have come up, referring to the deficits the U.S. runs with Mexico and Canada, and that the White House wants to talk about areas outside of NAFTA, like access to Canada's dairy market.

The administration is consulting with Congress over precise negotiating objectives, but a draft notification letter circulated among key lawmakers in late March revealed its initial thinking.

Market access: In a nod to U.S. farm and business groups worried about losing valuable sales to Canada and Mexico, the draft said Trump will “seek to maintain and expand current market access” between the three countries.

Trump also wants to reduce or get rid of non-tariff barriers to U.S. exports. An example of such a barrier: Canada’s controls on the prices and supply of poultry and dairy, which affect whether U.S. producers can sell their products there.

Rules of origin: In one potentially challenging area, the letter said U.S. negotiators will seek changes in the “rules of origin” that dictate how much of a final product must be made from material produced in the U.S., Canada or Mexico to qualify for duty reductions.

Digital trade: The administration would seek commitments from Canada and Mexico to refrain from imposing customs duties on digital products and avoid discriminating against products delivered electronically. It also wants a pledge to prohibit any restrictions to the cross-border flow of data or local data-storage requirements.

There also are a host of other U.S. objectives — from investor protections comparable to U.S. law, to a safeguard mechanism that allows for tariffs to be re-imposed in response to an import surge.


In Mexico City, officials have stood firm against Trump as he has flirted with a pledge to implement a hefty tariff on imports and called for Mexico to pay for a wall along the U.S. southern border. They are not

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