This Week in Trump

This Week in Trump: Bad Report Card

The administration walks back an accusation and gets a bad grade for its health plan.

Repeal and the ACA
A print-out of the Affordable Care Act sits next to a copy of the plan introduced to repeal and replace it during the daily briefing at the White House on March 7.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Welcome to This Week in Trump, Slate’s weekly look at Donald Trump’s presidency. Every week, we’ll catch you up on the events of the past seven days, point you to further reading, and keep an eye on the @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed.

CBO Speaks

The Congressional Budget Office delivered its long-awaited assessment of the proposed Republican replacement for Obamacare. The verdict? The plan would almost double the number of Americans who are uninsured over the next decade from 10 percent to 19 percent. That means 24 million fewer people would have coverage. The only sliver of good news from the forecast: The federal deficit would be cut, thanks to slashed spending on Medicaid and insurance subsidies. The biggest losers from the Republican plan? Older, low-income Americans between the ages of 50 and 64. Yes, that’s a lot of Trump voters. The report put Republicans on the defensive as they struggled to figure out how to respond and the White House downplayed the assessment. Still, the report will almost certainly lead to changes in the measure, making it harder for party leaders to woo moderates to back a bill that has already been widely panned by conservatives.

Wiretap Walk Back

When Trump accused his predecessor of wiretapping the phones at Trump Tower, it turns out he didn’t mean it literally. When the commander in chief wrote on Twitter that Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump tower,” he “used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities,” press secretary Sean Spicer said. Spicer was hardly alone in what looked like a concerted attempt to row back Trump’s explosive accusation. Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared to go into full-on tinfoil hat territory by noting there “are many ways to surveil each other,” including “microwaves that turn into cameras.” Conway later said she was taken out of context and insisted she is “not in the job of having evidence. That’s what investigations are for.” Meanwhile, the Department of Justice asked lawmakers for more time to collect evidence on Trump’s wiretapping claims.

Abrupt Dismissals

The Justice Department surprised prosecutors’ offices around the country when it suddenly ordered 46 U.S. attorneys who had been appointed by the Obama administration to resign immediately. Although it’s normal for new presidents to get rid of holdover prosecutors, the quick nature of these firings meant there was little time for prosecutors to prepare their successors, which could affect morale. The move got more attention once U.S. Attorney for New York Preet Bharara, known for high-profile insider-trading convictions, refused to step down and was outright fired. Trump had assured Bharara in November he would be staying on (and tried to call him two days before he was fired to “wish him good luck”). There are questions about Trump’s ability to fill the empty spots at a time when key positions at several agencies are still unfilled. And the reasons for the abrupt dismissals remain unclear. The firings took place a day after Fox News commentator Sean Hannity called on Trump to “purge” Obama holdovers who are “embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy” and “are hell-bent on destroying President Trump.”

Also This Week

A federal judge in Hawaii blocked the administration’s revised ban on refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. Trump paid $38 million in federal taxes in 2005, meaning he paid an effective tax rate of 24 percent, according to documents revealed Tuesday night by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. It’s unclear who leaked the documents, and some are speculating that it was Trump himself. Nonetheless, the president took to Twitter to blast the story as “FAKE NEWS.” Trump signed an executive order to try to slash the cost of the federal government by ordering the Office of Management and Budget to analyze what is being wasted. Trump has reportedly handed the CIA more power to carry out drone strikes, a reverse from his predecessor’s efforts to limit the agency’s paramilitary role. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used the email alias Wayne Tracker to discuss climate change issues while he was head of Exxon Mobil, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Democrats will shut down the government if there are efforts to use the budget process to defund Planned Parenthood or pay for a border wall. The Trump administration is so far behind in filling crucial jobs across the federal government that some have called it the “slowest transition in decades.” A company owned by the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is set to receive more than $400 million from an unusually favorable deal with a Chinese company.

What to Read

In the New Yorker, Andrew Marantz takes a look at the new White House press corps:
President Trump, by most accounts, is rarely too busy to watch TV, especially when he is the topic. “Look at his daily schedule, and you’ll notice how few events are held between 1 and 2 p.m.,” the radio correspondent told me. This is the hour during which Spicer almost always conducts his briefings. …
Another correspondent pointed out how often press aides deliver notes to Spicer while he’s at the lectern, and how obediently Spicer seems to respond to the notes’ directives, cutting a response short or abruptly ending a briefing. The reigning theory is that the notes are transcribed messages from the President, watching live from elsewhere in the building.
The increasing, and seemingly indiscriminate, immigration raids ushered in by the Trump era have forced an already marginalized population further into the shadows, writes Delphine Schrank in the Guardian:
In anticipation of crackdowns, people say they have stopped driving, stopped shopping, stopped sending remittances to countries of origin. Small businesses fret about closures from fewer customers. Families are forgoing medical care, afraid to have their identities examined in hospital emergency rooms. Children wonder aloud if they’ll come home from school to find their parents gone.
When former national security adviser Michael Flynn registered as a foreign agent last week, it illustrated just how extensively the Trump White House lies, writes Slate’s William Saletan:
Recent disclosures about several Trump advisers—Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Carter Page, J.D. Gordon, Jeff Sessions, and Jared Kushner—have exposed a pattern of foreign lobbying, secret meetings, and cover stories. The cases vary, but the common theme is deceit. …
Every time you think you know the full extent of Trump’s web of money, conniving, and lies, another thread turns up.

This Week in @realDonaldTrump

The commander in chief became a one-man publicity machine for Fox News, retweeting the news network twice and including the channel’s graphics in two other tweets. He also retweeted the Drudge Report and linked to two Bloomberg stories. In a marked change of pace there was little in the way of personal attacks, although Trump did criticize the media for being “rude” to his staff and twice called on his followers to ignore naysayers because “healthcare is coming along great.” The commander in chief criticized Snoop Dogg for a video in which the rapper fires a toy gun at a clown by the name of Ronald Klump and wondered what would have happened if the same had been done to an Obama impersonator. “Jail time!” he wrote.

Final Take

Trump, who is well known for exaggerating his charitable donations, has yet to donate his presidential salary as promised. But not to worry, the White House says there’s a very real plan in place to turn the campaign promise into a reality. And it involves asking for help from the president’s favorite punching bag: the press. At a news briefing this week, Spicer said, “The president’s intention right now is to donate his salary at the end of the year and he has kindly asked that you should all help him determine where that goes.” No word yet on Trump’s promise that his hotels would “donate all profits from foreign governments’ patronage.” Maybe the press will help with that too?

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