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Trump's Mar-a-Lago granted visas for 70 foreign workers

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President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort has been granted 70 visas to bring in foreign workers for the winter season, The Palm Beach Post reports.

That’s a 9 percent increase from last year, when Mar-a-Lago hired 64 workers under the H-2B visa program.

The new visas will go to 20 foreign cooks, 35 waiters and 15 maids and housekeepers for the 2017-18 tourist season, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They’ll earn hourly wages from $10.33 (for the cleaners) to $13.34 (for the cooks). The temporary visas allow them to work from October 2017 to the end of May 2018.

A hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign and a stated push of his administration is that U.S. companies should hire American workers. He has criticized Ford Motor Company, Carrier Corp. and others for moving manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Mar-a-Lago was applying for the foreign worker visas this July when the president launched “Made in America Week.” 

Trump said at the time, “We believe jobs must be offered to American workers first. Does that make sense?”

Over the years, many products sold by the Trump Organization have also been made in overseas factories. Ivanka Trump’s clothing line is exclusively manufactured abroad.

Foreign workers won’t just be laboring at Mar-a-Lago this winter. Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, was granted visas for 10 waiters and six cooks, and Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor, New York, obtained visas to bring in eight waiters.

During a Republican primary debate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) grilled Trump on hiring foreign workers at his resorts. Trump responded that it’s “hard to find” U.S. workers, getting visas for foreign workers is “legal,” and his company had “no choice.”

Companies are required to run two want ads in local newspapers before applying for foreign worker visas. Mar-a-Lago chose to place two hard-to-find classified ads in tiny type with no phone number or email information, according to a Washington Post report in August. Workers could apply only by fax or mail.

CareerSource Palm Beach County, a nonprofit placement agency, told The Palm Beach Post that there are many Americans eager to work at Mar-a-Lago. “We currently have 5,136 qualified candidates in Palm Beach County for various hospitality positions,” spokesman Tom Veenstra said.

CNN reported last summer that Trump businesses have employed at least 1,256 foreign workers — often from Romania and South Africa — in the past 15 years.

Trump Vineyard Estates filed requests for visas to bring in foreign farmworkers at its Virginia winery last December and again in February.

 

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Report: White House Rushed Condolences To Gold Star Families

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At least three families said they received express-shipped packages from the White House after Trump claimed he called “virtually everybody.”

Multiple families of military service members killed in the line duty are now getting rush-delivered letters from President Donald Trump, days after Trump claimed he had called the immediate families of all service members who had been killed since he took office in January.

The Atlantic reported Saturday that their reporters had spoken to three Gold Star families who received condolence packages from the president this week.

Timothy Eckels Sr., whose son Timothy Eckels Jr. was killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship in August, told the magazine he had not heard from Trump until Friday, Oct. 20. His letter from the White House was dated Oct. 18.

The families of Corey Ingram and John M. Hoagland III, two other sailors who died in the USS John McCain collision, also received rush-delivered packages from the White House this week, according to the Atlantic.

The sudden outreach appears to follow mounting criticism over Trump’s reaction to the Niger ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers.

When asked during a Monday press conference why he hadn’t publicly acknowledged the deaths in Niger, Trump pitted himself against past presidents, saying he had written the soldiers’ families personal letters, while “President Obama and other presidents ... didn’t make calls.”

On Tuesday, Trump followed up that remark by claiming he had called “virtually” all Gold Star families who had lost kin since he took office.

“To the best of my knowledge I think I’ve called every family of somebody who’s died,” Trump told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade during a radio interview. “It’s the hardest call to make... the hardest thing for me to do is to do that.”

He later hedged his claim to Kilmeade saying, “I have called, I believe, everybody ― but certainly I’ll use the word virtually everybody.” 

Hours after that Oct. 17 radio broadcast, the White House scrambled to identify and find the contact information for Gold Star families who lost a service member since January, according to an internal Defense Department email obtained by political news site Roll Call.

The email exchange, between the White House and the Pentagon, revealed that senior White House aides knew Trump’s statement about having called “virtually” all Gold Star families was not accurate ― and they needed to correct it as soon as possible.

The White House was attempting to find out which Gold Star families Trump had not yet reached out to, according to Roll Call.

Multiple news outlets have found Trump has yet to reach out to a number of families who lost loved ones since January. In a report published Wednesday, the Washington Post interviewed the families of 13 service members who were killed after Trump took office: Half of the families received phone calls from the president, the remainder had not heard from Trump.

The Associated Press reported it had reached out to the families “of all 43 people who have died in military service since Trump became president,” but only “made contact with about half of the families.”

Some families told AP they were comforted by Trump’s call, while others hadn’t heard from the president.

The family of Army Sgt. Jonathon M. Hunter, who died in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in August, was promised a call from the president but instead heard from Vice President Mike Pence.

Brittany Harris, the widow of Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris who also died in Afghanistan in August, said she had not heard from the president either.

AP identified at least two other Gold Star families who had wanted, but did not receive a call from the president.

 

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Trump Undermines Obamacare By Slashing Subsidies

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U.S. President Donald Trump moved to undermine Obamacare dramatically late on Thursday by cutting off subsidies to health insurance companies for low-income patients, sparking threats of legal action and concern of chaos in insurance markets.

The decision is the most dramatic action Trump has taken yet to weaken the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature healthhcare law, which extended insurance to 20 million Americans.

The move drew swift condemnation from Democrats and threats from state attorneys general in New York and California to file lawsuits.

Trump has been frustrated by Republicans' failure to repeal and replace the law known as Obamacare, thwarting a promise he made during his successful 2016 presidential campaign.

His decision is likely to please those among his political base who detest the Obamacare system, which many Republicans have attacked for years as an unneeded government intrusion in Americans' healthcare.

In a nod to that same constituency, the president signed an executive order earlier on Thursday to make it easier for Americans to buy bare-bones health insurance plans exempt from Obamacare requirements.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi derided the subsidies cut-off in a joint statement, saying Trump would single-handedly push Americans' healthcare premiums higher.

"It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America," they said. "Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it."

Insurers and proponents of Obamacare have implored Trump for months to commit to making the payments, which are worth billions of dollars. Several insurers have cited uncertainty over the payments when hiking premiums for 2018 or exiting insurance markets altogether.

Healthcare stocks have edged lower in recent days. Ending the payments could hurt shares of insurers such as Anthem Inc, Molina, Cigna Corp and Centene, which are offering plans on Obamacare markets for 2018.

Trump has made the payments, guaranteed to insurers under Obamacare to help lower out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income consumers, each month since taking office in January. But he has repeatedly threatened to cut them off and disparaged them as a "bailout" for insurance companies.

LAWSUITS

The White House said late on Thursday that it could not lawfully pay the subsidies anymore.

A White House statement said that based on guidance from the Justice Department, "the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare."

"In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments," it said.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement he was prepared to lead other attorneys general in a lawsuit.

"I will not allow President Trump to once again use New York families as political pawns in his dangerous, partisan campaign to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act at any cost," he wrote.

The payments are the subject of a lawsuit brought by House Republicans against the Obama administration that alleged they were unlawful because they needed to be appropriated by Congress. A judge for the federal district court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Republicans, and the Obama administration appealed the ruling.

The Trump administration took over the lawsuit and had delayed deciding whether to continue the Obama administration’s appeal or terminate the subsidies, but in April Trump began threatening to stop the payments. That case became more complicated in August when a U.S. appeals court allowed 16 Democratic state attorneys general to defend the payments and have a say in the legal fight.

The political turbulence has affected insurers' decisions.

Anthem Inc, one of the largest remaining Obamacare insurers, in August scaled back its offerings in Nevada and Georgia and blamed the moves in part on uncertainty over the payments.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina earlier this year raised premiums by more than 20 percent, but said it would have only raised premiums by about 9 percent if Trump agreed to fund the payments.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that cutting off the insurer payments would cause premiums to rise 20 percent in 2018, and said that 5 percent of Americans would live in areas that do not have an insurer in the individual market in 2018.

Trump has taken a number of other steps to undermine Obamacare. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules that let businesses or non-profit organizations lodge religious or moral objections to obtain an exemption from Obamacare’s mandate that employers provide birth control in health insurance with no co-payment.

The administration also slashed the Obamacare advertising and outreach budget and halved the open enrollment period.

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